Types Of Baby Diapers

saggy diaper on a toddler

I’ve lost track on the amount of money my wife and I have spent on diapers for both our children, as well as the number of changes we’ve done over the years. In fact, it’s probably best not to think about it. I figure my toddler has at least another year to go before he can start potty training.

We all know babies wear diapers, but you may be surprised to find out that there are lots of different types. Each family has their own way of doing things and will find the diaper method that works for them. There may be some trial and error along the way as you figure out your options. Let’s look at the types of baby diapers available to you and assess the pros and cons of each kind.

Different features of diapers

With all of the various types of diapers on the market it can be hard to know what makes them different from one another. In addition to the standard disposable diapers you see in most stores there are all kinds of cloth diapers, pull up diapers and more. All diapers have a similar goal: to collect your baby’s waste and protect their clothing. However, each kind of diaper does this in different ways.

Standard disposable diapers

Standard disposable diapers are incredibly common and you will have seen them on your travels. Parents buy them in bulk and they are a popular choice for many. They are made from paper and usually a thin layer of waterproof plastic called polyethylene, although it is becoming more common to see disposable diapers made from bamboo or other materials. 


  • Disposable diapers can be bought in bulk so you can feel confident that you won’t run out
  • They can be inexpensive depending on the brand you choose
  • They are thrown away after each use so there is no need for storing, washing and drying them
  • They are convenient to use for travel and when you are out and about with your baby
  • They are known for being good at keeping moisture away from a baby’s bottom which can prevent diaper rash, especially if they have sensitive skin. The layers absorb liquid and keep your baby dry.


  • While individual packs of disposable diapers can be inexpensive, the cost does add up over time. Most children are in diapers for 2-4 years which equals a lot of diapers!
  • Single use diapers are wasteful and take a long time to break down. There are brands made from more environmentally friendly materials, but even so no diaper biodegrades overnight.
  • Some people believe that disposable diapers delay potty training for children because they do not feel wet when they pee. Often the discomfort of being wet prompts older toddlers to want to use the potty.

Pull ups

Pull ups are essentially diapers without tabs to open and close them. They pull on and off like underpants and many toddlers can do this themselves. Pull ups are best suited to toddlers who are getting ready for potty training rather than young babies since they don’t fit as securely as diapers. You will find day time and night time pull ups in the store and the main difference is the level of absorption to cope overnight.


  • Toddlers who are potty training find pull ups easy to pull up and down themselves. This is helpful when they need to get to the potty in a hurry.
  • Pull ups help to prevent accidents and extra laundry for potty training toddlers
  • They are convenient, easy at to use and dispose of at when out and about
  • Most disposable pull ups are inexpensive when you look at an individual packet


  • Pull ups are one use items and therefore add to our waste problem.
  • Although the cost per diaper reduces when you buy in bulk, the overall cost does add up over time.
  • If you use pull ups for too long, some experts believe that it can delay potty training because children do not feel the damp and moisture in the diaper.

Related Post: Diapers vs Pull Ups

Cloth diapers

Cloth diapers are not new, although they have had quite the resurgence in popularity over the last decade. Today, however, there are a lot more options to choose from with different cloth diaper designs and styles. It’s time to look at those choices and assess the pros and cons of each one.

Prefold diapers

Prefold diapers are basically a modern take on traditional, flat cloth diapers. The material is pre-folded and sewn to the correct size and shape to save time for parents. They are popular with cloth diaper services and with families who choose to launder diapers at home.


  • Prefold diapers can be sewn to the right size for your baby at each stage
  • They are made from a variety of materials such as cotton, bamboo and blended options to suit your preference
  • All the layers are sewn together and there is no need to worry about putting pieces together and lining parts up correctly each time you change your baby’s diaper
  • Many cloth diaper services use them and so if you are looking for that, prefolds may be your best choice
  • Reusable diapers can reduce the impact of excess waste for our planet


  • Prefold diapers do not dry as quickly as traditional, flat diapers.
  • Once your baby grows out of each size the diapers need to be resewn.
  • All the layers are sewn together and so it can be tricky to get prefold diapers completely clean and odour free.

Pocket diapers

Pocket diapers are cloth diapers with a waterproof external layer and a pocket to place an absorbent liner inside. The idea is that the absorbent layer collects any moisture and prevents leaks.


  • The external layer of pocket diapers is usually adjustable with either velco or popper tabs to fit your baby
  • They tend to be easy to put together and take apart before and after washing
  • It is easy to adjust the absorbency level of pocket diapers by using different inserts for different babies and times of day
  • Pocket diapers often come in fun designs
  • Reusable diapers are better for the environment.


  • Pocket diapers are expensive to buy at the outset. They are an investment.
  • Since the absorbent layers are tucked inside some parents report more frequent leaks
  • They are adjustable to a degree, but not always exactly to your baby’s size. Look out for elastic legs and lots of adjustable poppers or velcro space.

All-in-one diapers

All-in-one diapers are similar to pocket diapers in that they have a water resistant outer layer, but here the absorbent layer is sewn into the outer part directly. There are no pockets or clips to insert liners into.


  • All-in-one diapers are usually adjustable with either velco or popper tabs to fit your baby
  • There is no prep work to be done to get these diapers ready 
  • They often come in fun designs
  • They are reusable, which reduces waste.


  • All-in-one diapers are expensive to buy initially. You should think of them as an investment.
  • They can take a while to dry after washing
  • Although they are adjustable, they may not always fit your baby exactly.

Standard cloth diapers

Standard cloth diapers are the original cloth diapers used by parents for generations. They are essentially large, flat pieces of cotton cloth that are folded into a diaper and pinned or clipped into place. Many parents add in a liner to collect pee and poop which makes the cleaning process smoother.


  • Standard cloth diapers are inexpensive to buy
  • They wash well and dry quickly
  • They are versatile and adjust to your growing baby
  • Many cloth diaper services use standard cloth diapers which can help with washing  and cleaning.
  • Reusable diapers are much better for the environment.


  • Standard cloth diapers take time to get used to and parents need to learn to fold them correctly to avoid leaks
  • They tend to be bulky and you may need to size up your baby’s clothes to fit over them

Hybrid/fitted diapers

Hybrid/fitted diapers are similar to pocket diapers in that they have a water resistant outer layer, but the absorbent inserts pop into the outer directly. There are no pockets to insert liners into.


  • The external layer of hybrid diapers is usually adjustable with either velco or popper tabs to fit your baby
  • An outer layer of a hybrid diaper can often be used for several diaper changes because it is protected by the inner liner. This can save washing.
  • They tend to be easy to put together and take apart before and after washing and depending on the material, can dry quickly
  • You can use hybrid diapers over and over again, which is great for the environment as it minimizes waste.


  • Hybrid diapers are an investment, so be prepared to pay more money up front (when compared to disposable diapers)
  • They might not always fit your baby exactly, but there are usually some features to make them more comfortable to wear.

Baby swim diapers

There are two kinds of baby swim diapers available to you. Some parents prefer disposable swim diapers that are readily available at the grocery store. They work for one swim and look like pull up diapers, but are made especially to use in the water. Alternatively, you can opt for reusable swim diapers that can be washed and used again and again. 


  • Swim diapers, disposable or reusable, are designed to stay together in the water so they are safe to use at the pool
  • Reusable swim diapers can reduce the impact of excess waste on our planet


  • Swim diapers can and do still leak from time to time, especially for poops so you will want to keep an eye on your baby
  • Disposable swim diapers are only good for one use and must be thrown away every time which is wasteful
  • Both disposable and reusable cloth diapers are more expensive than their everyday counterparts

Night time diapers

Night time diapers are designed to provide more absorbency for your baby overnight. The idea is to avoid night time diaper changes and disturbed sleep for parents and babies.


  • Some babies may sleep for longer without needing a diaper change
  • You may need to use fewer diapers throughout the day which saves money and waste
  • Night time diapers are convenient for travel


  • Night time diapers are more expensive than day time ones
  • Night time diapers are disposable and therefore contribute to the waste issue
  • A baby may sleep in a dirty diaper for too long and develop diaper rash

What is the most popular type of diaper?

The most popular type of diapers are disposable ones. Parents like the convenience factor and the ease of use. They are widely available and there are more options coming on the market all the time to improve their environmental impact.

Cloth diapers have benefits too and many parents choose to use them, with pocket and hybrid diapers being the most popular. Parents find these easiest to clean and to fit their baby.

What is the most popular brand?

Here is chart showing the most popular brands of diaper (based on a poll of 120 people on Baby Center).

Which is the best type of diaper for your baby?

The best type of diaper for your baby is the one that works best for your family. For some parents it is no big deal to do extra loads of laundry or pay for a cloth diapering service. Yet for others the time and cost of cloth diapering is prohibitive. Disposable diapers are the right choice for many parents who like and/or need the convenience and ease of use they provide. Sometimes it comes down to what fits your baby best with the minimal amount of leaks and diaper rash.

Whichever type you choose, as long as your baby is comfortable, then that is the right choice. Be prepared for some trial and error whether you choose disposable or reusable diapers, as each brand fits differently. Some parents use a mix of diaper types depending on their needs at the time. For example, disposable diapers when they travel or overnight and then cloth diapers at home. It’s okay to be flexible and change your mind.


Can you exchange diapers for a larger size?

It’s easy to go over the top and buy too many diapers for your baby, so they outgrow them and you can’t use them anymore. Fortunately, in most cases you can exchange a pack of diapers for a larger size as long as you have the receipt or proof of purchase.

Can you wear diapers to school?

If it’s taking your child a bit longer to get to grips with potty training and you feel they still need to wear a diaper, that’s ok. In fact, it’s more common than you think. Just let the school know so they’re aware of the situation. Here is some advice on what to do if your child needs to wear a diaper to school.

How do you attach a diaper?

Here is a useful video on how to attach a diaper. Just make sure for the first month or so, the diaper is below your baby’s belly button.