in the ring: pockets vs. prefolds

Now, we all know everyone has their own opinion about which cloth diapers are best. You never really know how a diaper is going to work for you until you’ve tried it. What works great for one baby may be a disaster for another. Nine months into cloth diapering, I had never even seen a pocket diaper, and had regularly been using only prefolds and covers. Many friends of mine, and many women on various cloth diapering online communities, have chosen prefolds and covers as their favorite go-to diaper, and so I stuck to what I had. It’s taken a long time to build up my stash, but now that I have experience with both prefolds and pockets, I’m going to give you my take on what is my favorite and why.

Prefold cons: 
  • They take practice. It can be very difficult to Snappi or pin a prefold on a very wiggly baby (believe me), however, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. It only took me a couple tries to get it, but it did take me a couple weeks until I finally felt comfortable and could adjust a Snappi in a snap. ;) 
  • Prefolds are a bit bulky and give your infant baby a giant (and very cute) cloth butt, but that’s just something you get over. River has grown into his prefolds and they no longer look funny on him. 
  • Sometimes when baby poops, the poop gets all in the folds and if you don’t have a diaper sprayer, you have to get down and dirty and get in there to get all the chunks off. (Forgive me for the mental image I know I just gave you.) 
  • When using prefolds with covers, you must make sure everything is tucked in really well, so that nothing wicks out. You learn quickly (and through many changes of clothes) to watch for this. 
  • For some reason, I have prefolds that were just a few months old when they started tearing – I have no idea why, but my theory is either the spin cycle on our new used washer was too intense, or the velcro from a cover tore the fabric, or a Snappi was washed with the diapers and ate it up. In any case, this made me very sad, and I have had to throw these diapers away. 
  • A simple prefold and cover will normally not suffice for night wetting.
Prefold pros: 
  • One of the best things about prefolds is how affordable they are. One could spend about $100 for four dozen diapers in two different sizes, and another $100 for 6 to 8 one-size PUL covers, and you have an entire stash that will last until potty training. Used prefolds are very affordable – I once bought ten prefolds for a dollar each, practically doubling my stash at the time with a lunch’s worth of money. In my own personal experience, I bought River’s prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers and two Thirsties Duo Wraps in size two when he was four months old, and today at 21 months old, all of these still fit him with room to spare. 
  • Despite needing a little time to practice using a Snappi or pins, it’s really not that difficult. Yes, it takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s simple. In fact, I don’t even use Snappis anymore. I just tri-fold the diaper and stick it snuggly in the cover, folding it over if it’s too long to fit in the cover. It is much less time-consuming and a lot easier to diaper a very wiggly baby, and works just as well.
  • Despite just being a few pieces of fabric sewn together, they come in a variety of choices, such as organic or non-organic, unbleached or bleached, dyed or natural, and many work-at-home-moms embellish them with swatches of fabric in the middle, making them adorable and customized. The most fun I’ve had with prefolds is turning them into fitted diapers! 
  • Other than my few mysteriously torn prefolds, the rest of my prefolds are still in good condition, and I can tell now that I will be able to use them for this next baby as well, and possibly for more kids in the future. I have a friend who has been using the same prefolds for all three of her girls.
  • You can reuse the cover for two or three diaper changes. Covers dry very quickly, so a cover can be rinsed and rung, hung on a box fan, and be completely dry in ten or fifteen minutes. 
  • Many covers come in one-size options, which I like a lot more than small, medium, and large. I think they fit a lot snugger, and it is more cost-efficient. 
  • And as far as night-wetting, I have found that a prefold with a microfiber insert tucked underneath works great for us at night, and is not nearly as bulky as two prefolds.

Pocket diaper cons: 
  • I would say that the biggest con about pocket diapers is that there are so many brands and styles to choose from, and even the greatest, best-reviewed brands will not work for everyone. BumGenius and Happy Heinies are two of the most popular brands and they work great for us, but I can tell you that I have met plenty of people who do not like them at all. Knickernappies is another popular brand and while I have friends who love them, River leaks from them like crazy! Most of the pockets I have purchased have worked for us, so I really haven’t found this to be an issue. And mamas are crazy for cloth, so even if you do end up with a brand you don’t like, you’re sure to find someone who will be willing to do a diaper swap with you for another brand! But this is a good reason not to go out and make an entire stash out of one brand until you’ve tried a few and find one you love. 
  • I have found that pockets wick more than prefolds. Because the fleece lining and the PUL are sewn right up against each other at the edge of the diaper, sometimes wetness gets on the outside. But when I say sometimes, I really do mean only sometimes, and not with all brands. 
  • They are not made of natural materials, and I have not seen an all-natural option, which might bother some parents looking to use only natural materials. Pockets are made from synthetics, like polyester, microfiber/fleece and polyurethane laminate. If using all-natural materials is a big thing for you, prefolds and wool or wool fleece is the way to go. 
  • Stuffing the pockets takes time, and is something you have to get the hang of to do swiftly. Sometimes I just use the folded prefold/cover combination because I was too lazy to stuff my pockets ahead of time.
  • Pocket diapers also tend to be more expensive than a prefold/cover combination.
Pocket pros:
  • I find them easier to use than prefolds, especially if you are new to (and a little scared of) cloth diapers. I purchased my first pocket diapers about nine months ago, just to have a few to have on hand for sitters and grandparents, and I fell so deeply in love that I immediately neglected my prefolds for more pocket diapers. They go on like a disposable diaper, which is a big thing for me. I’ve been able to leave River with people who don’t cloth diaper (like my own stepdad, who is very afraid of cloth diapers) and it isn’t a problem, because they are just as easy to put on as disposable diapers, especially if they have hook and loop closures, as opposed to snaps. 
  • While stuffing the pockets does take time, it’s probably takes just as long as folding and pinning a prefold; however, the great thing is you can do it ahead of time so that changing a diaper happens very quickly and easily. After ten months of folding and Snappi-ing prefolds and then putting a cover on separately (often when he was younger, River just wanted to GO already), I loved just picking a diaper out of the drawer and putting it on my little monkey in a flash. 
  • Another thing I like is that the microfiber insert just soaks up all the wetness, and the fleece lining stays very dry against baby’s skin, just like a disposable. I had to see it to believe it. I imagine he is much more comfortable between diaper changes when his little bum feels dryer. 
  • Pocket diapers work during the night if I double up the insert. 
  • I have also noticed that pocket diapers are generally trimmer than prefolds and covers and don’t look silly underneath pants. I never liked how prefolds fit on River, and he couldn’t even wear a pair of jeans until a few months ago, because his diapered butt was so huge! 
  • Just like covers for prefolds, many pocket diapers come in one-size options (however, I have often seen a one-size option not fitting super chunky babies for long. River still has a while to go before he's grown out of his one-size pockets, and I think they'll last through potty training.)
A comparison and some final notes:
  • Both are of about the same absorbency when used correctly – while inserts tend to hold more ounces of liquid than a prefold, covers tend to hold in the wetness in better than a pocket diaper shell. 
  • Prefolds are generally less expensive, especially in the long-run. They often can last through numerous children, while pockets may need to be replaced more often because of wear to the PUL or elastic -- it's cheaper to replace a cover than it is to replace an entire pocket diaper (I'm not sure if there are many places where you can just buy a shell and not the insert as well).
  • I have a theory that prefolds clean easier than the microfiber inserts that are used in pockets. Since the inserts absorb a lot, I imagine they absorb detergent and minerals in hard water easier than prefolds. I have no idea though, it’s just a theory based on my experience with both, and my inserts needing to be stripped more often and holding stains longer.
So the verdict is this. I like them both about equal. I have found that plain, old-fashioned prefolds are good and trusty. I can generally rely on them more than the pockets. The pocket diapers (some, not all) tend to leak at weird times, and like I said, they tend to acquire build-up faster, and the inserts get crunchy, while I put the prefolds through the same wash routine and they come out soft. However, pockets are great because they are easy and quick and they pack well. I am happy I have a good amount of both. They both do the job and serve their own purpose, and on any day, you’ll see me choosing one or the other mainly based on my mood – do I want stripes, or zoo animals? ;) 


  1. Love that pic! Diaper rainbows are the best. *drool* I need to get more colors like that for little girl's stash. She's got primarily pinks and as much as I love it I need more variety.

  2. I wanted to let you know that I have given you 'The Versatile Blogger Award'! Check out the details here: http://obsessionsottw.blogspot.com/2011/05/versatile-blogger-award.html



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