A friend recently asked about the difference between pockets and all in ones. There are actually several different types of diapers and all of them have pros and cons.
The name says it all! These are the most similar in use to disposables (except you don't throw them away!). The inside is absorbent, the outside is waterproof. Depending on the brand, they are available as "one size" or sized.
Pros - Very user friendly, all one piece, available in cute prints, most have a stay dry lining that helps wick moisture away from baby (great for night time)
Cons - They tend to be thick, can take a long time to dry --even in the dryer, take up lots of room in a diaper bag, the "one size" versions aren't usually recommended for babies under 10 pounds.
Examples: Thirsties($15-16), GroVia($15-$24), Bumkins ($17) , Bumgenius ($18)
These consist of a waterproof shell with an absorbent insert that snaps in. Available as sized or one size.
Pros - The shell can be used multiple times before you have to wash it, quick drying since the absorbent piece is separate, having two pieces allows you to hang the cover to dry to prolong its life, easy to use, inserts are available in "stay dry"(usually a synthetic like microfleece over a natural fiber), natural fibers like cotton, hemp, or bamboo, and even disposable.
Cons - Fairly thick, inserts and shells are sold separately which can make them more expensive than all-in-ones, some brands (I'm talkin' to YOU, GroVia!) don't have a wipeable cover...probably solely to make you have to buy more covers. Shady, shady!
Examples: GroVia Shell($17) and Insert($17-18 for two), Best Bottom Shell($17) and insert ($4-10 each)
Pockets combine the ease of all-in-ones with the ability to separate the soaker from the cover. Available as sized or one size.
Pros - separate soaker allows you to customize the absorbency and hang covers to dry, most have a stay dry lining, great for night time, some brands come with two soakers per diaper so that you can double up for night time.
Cons - you have to take the soaker out of the pocket before tossing into the pail, you have to re-stuff them after they are dry (adds a little time to your diaper routine).
Examples: Fuzzibunz ($20), Blueberry ($29), Thirsties ($17-19)
I've mentioned before that prefolds are our main diaper right now. They are several layers of fabric stitched together and must be used with a cover to prevent leaks. They are sized. One word of caution -- you will see "prefolds" sold in retail stores like Walmart and Target. Those prefolds are great....as burp cloths! Don't use them as diapers. You'll want to buy Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) prefolds or you will probably be disappointed in their performance.
There are several different natural fibers that can make up a prefold and they all have different absorbency. Cotton is the cheapest, then there are hemp (25% more absorbent than cotton) and bamboo (I think it's more absorbent than cotton too, but I can't remember how much more) versions.
They are probably similar to the mental image you have of a traditional cloth diaper (except you don't use diaper pins anymore!).
Pros - These are GREAT for tiny babies since you can adjust the size down as far as you need to with the use of a Snappi, very trim, super absorbent, inexpensive, quick drying, can double as burp cloths, covers can be wiped down after each change, so you don't need a ton of covers.
Cons - Have to be used with a cover and you have to make sure that none of the prefold is "peeking" out of the cover or you will have leaks, if you're using a snappi it will take a little longer to get baby diapered than if you're using an all-in-one or pocket.
Prefold Examples: Bumkins Indian Prefolds (cotton - $2.33 each), Osocozy Chinese Prefolds ( cotton $2.25 each) , Thirsties Hemp Prefolds ($7.75 each) , GroVia Bamboo Prefolds (3 for $12)
Cover Examples: Thirsties Duo Wrap ($12.75) , Bummis ($12.95)
(I should mention that you can also use wool covers, but they require special care so I won't consider them even though my husband wants to get one every time we go to the diaper store!)
Think of fitteds as prefolds with elastic around the legs and snaps/velcro closures. They are very easy to use and ours seem a little more absorbent than the regular prefolds, but that probably varies from brand to brand. You will use the same covers that you use for prefolds with these diapers.
Pros - Easier to put on a baby than prefolds, more absorbent
Cons - More expensive than prefolds by a landslide!
Examples: Sandy's ($12), Sustainable Babyish ($30), Bumkins ($13-$15), GroVia Kiwi Pie ($27), Osocozy ($7.50)
Are you good at origami? Want to try it out with a diaper while your undiapered child writhes around on the changing table, just begging to flop off on the floor? Well that makes one of us!
Pros - I have no idea! I guess since it's such a big piece of fabric, you can probably use one size for a very long time.
Cons - Haven't I made that obvious?
Examples: Seriously? You want examples? You can look here.
There are probably other types of diapers that I haven't listed, but those are the ones I know about. If you aren't sure which ones are right for you, you might want to try just getting a couple of each kind and trying them out.