featured photo | pocket diaper and prefold with a cover

Prefolds vs. Pocket Diapers: Which Cloth Diapers are Best?

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The Pros and Cons of Pocket Diapers vs. Diaper Covers With Prefolds, Fitted, or Flat Cloth Diapers

Which cloth diapers are best: Pocket diapers? Prefolds with a diaper cover?

If you’re debating between prefolds vs. pocket diapers, you’re in the right place.

Today, we’re going to compare and contrast these two types of cloth diapers and figure out which type will work best for your needs.

Before my first baby was born, I started to build my stash of cloth diapers. I’m not really sure what drew me to pocket diapers, but they seemed to be popular among cloth diapering families, so we decided to give them a go.

For a few different reasons, we stopped cloth diapering after about seven months and used disposables for a couple years.

We recently decided to start cloth diapering again. However, the elastic on our pocket diapers was shot, which meant there was a lot of leaking.

So, I decided to invest in some diaper covers and prefolds, and it’s certainly been a different experience. There was a bit of a learning curve at first, but I’m glad we gave them a chance.

Between prefolds vs. pocket diapers, which of these cloth diapers are best?


pinterest graphic | Which Cloth Diapers are Best? pocket diapers vs. prefolds with a cover


Overview of Prefolds vs. Pocket Diapers

First, let’s go over how each of these two types of cloth diapers works.


What is a Pocket Diaper?

A pocket diaper is a complete cloth diapering system that is made up of three different layers.

The waterproof outer material is sewn to a “stay dry” material, which makes up the inside of the diaper. These two layers form a pocket, which is stuffed with the third layer, or an absorbent insert.

Pocket diapers are as easy to put on your baby as disposables. They typically have either snaps or hook and loop (Velcro) closures. Simply slide the diaper under baby’s bottom, secure the closures, and you’re set.


What are Prefolds?

Prefolds are rectangular cloth diapers with multiple layers of fabric sewn together on the sides, plus an extra thick section in the center.

There are multiple ways to fold a flat or prefold cloth diaper, and it’s just a matter of figuring out which way works best for you. Some folds require a fastener, while others do not.

You will need to use a diaper cover over a prefold, since it’s not waterproof. As with pocket diapers, cloth diaper covers usually have snaps or hook and loop closures. The prefold goes inside the cover; secure both around baby’s bottom and you’re good to go.


Pros and Cons of Pocket Diapers

What do we love and hate about pocket diapers?


photo of a pocket diaper showing the insert


Pros of Pocket Diapers

The benefits of pocket diapers:


  1. They are incredibly easy to use. Putting a pocket diaper on a baby is no harder than a disposable diaper.
  2. You only have to buy one or two sizes. We bought a set of smaller pocket diapers to start out, which I believe fit babies up to 22 pounds. We also bought a bigger set that lasts through toddlerhood. Technically, the bigger size starts when baby is eight pounds, so you could potentially get by with one size.
  3. They are babysitter-friendly. Again, they are as easy as a disposable, and anyone can do it.
  4. They are easy to wash. You just have to remove the insert and spray or scrape off solids. Washing cloth diapers is pretty simple; if you can wash clothes, you can wash cloth diapers.
  5. Pocket diapers come in lots of cute designs. 


Cons of Pocket Diapers

And the drawbacks are:


  1. They can be expensive. Some brands are relatively inexpensive, while others are over $20 just for one diaper.
  2. You have to remove the inserts to wash. Yes, I’m talking about soggy, pee-covered inserts.
  3. Then you have to stuff them back in. This is the most tedious part of using pocket diapers. I used to sit down and stuff the pockets all at once, which was annoying. Of course, you can always stuff them right before each use if that’s easier.
  4. There’s more leakage. At least, this is true in my experience. I’m not sure why exactly, but I think that the elastic around the legs doesn’t always fit snugly enough. (Check it out! I found some pocket diapers on Amazon with double leg gussets, which helps immensely against leaking.)


Pros and Cons of Diaper Covers With Prefolds, Fitted, or Flat Diapers

What do we love and hate about cloth diapers with a cover?


photo of a prefold diaper in a cover


Pros of Diaper Covers

Here are a few benefits of prefolds and diaper covers:


  1. Prefolds (and covers) are affordable. I paid $25 for a set of 12 organic cotton prefolds, plus $13 per cover.
  2. They are durable. Prefold diapers will last practically forever, and they’re versatile, too. (You can use them as dusting rags when you’re done cloth diapering.)
  3. They’re easy to wash. It’s as simple as throwing them into the washing machine and running a wash cycle. You do have to be a little more careful with the covers to avoid destroying the elastic or PUL coating.
  4. No stuffing required. Simply fold them and put them away.
  5. You don’t need many covers. You can get away with one cover for every 3-4 diapers.
  6. There is less leakage. Since switching to prefolds with covers, we’ve experienced virtually no leaking. The covers we use have double leg gussets, which provide advanced leak protection.
  7. Covers come in lots of cute designs. 


Cons of Diaper Covers

And here are the drawbacks of using prefolds with covers:


  1. There is a higher learning curve. There are many different ways to fold a prefold or flat diaper, and it can take some experimentation to figure out what works best for you.
  2. Prefolds can take longer to dry. I usually take my covers out of the dryer after half an hour, then let the prefolds finish drying.
  3. Certain covers can retain an odor. Throughout the day, diaper covers with PUL retain that urine smell, which is kind of gross. It helps if you alternate between two covers, wiping them clean and hanging to dry until the next change. And the smell completely disappears after washing in the machine.
  4. There are multiple sizes to choose from. Covers typically come in only one or two sizes (although that could vary depending on the type of diaper cover). You will likely have to buy a few different sizes of the prefolds as your child grows, though.


Prefolds vs. Pocket Diapers: Which Cloth Diapers are Best?

So, which cloth diapers are best? Prefolds with a cover? Pocket diapers? Something else?

Obviously, I can’t make that decision for you, but I can tell you what I like — and don’t like — about the two types of cloth diapers we have used.

I love how easy pocket diapers are to use. As you might have noticed, I don’t enjoy stuffing them. Also, I’ve had a lot of problems with leaking.

However, I recently discovered the existence of pocket diapers with double gussets, which help provide leak protection. (I haven’t personally used them, so let us know if you decide to try them!)

Prefolds and diaper covers are a little more difficult when first starting out. However, I’m all about making things easier for myself, so I use a simple pad fold, or a tri-folded diaper laid flat inside the cover.

Since switching to prefolds and Thirsties covers, we haven’t had problems with leaking at all.


Now that you know the pros and cons of both pocket diapers and prefolds (or fitted and flats) with covers, which will you use? Let us know which cloth diapers are best for you!


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