Diapers generally come in one of two types:
One size (OS): This diaper is typically sized for 12 to 35 lbs and is the most comon.
Advantage: one diaper will last through birth to potty training.
Disadvantage: Can wear out more quickly, may have trouble fitting small babies or bigger toddlers.
Sized: Available in sizes such as S, M, L.
Advantage: Less wear and tear, they generally fit better, may have higher re-sale value. Disadvantage: Need to buy more diapers.
There are several different styles of diapers, each one has its advantages and disadvantages and it really is about trial and error, what may work for one baby and family, won't work for another.
Prefolds: Rectangular piece of fabric made of several layers. You fold them around the baby and fasten with pins, a Snappi or simply lay them inside a cover. Need a waterproof cover.
Contour (also known as workhorse): Made with layers of an absorbent fabric, cut into an hour-glass or diaper shape. May or may not have elastics and needs pins or a Snappi to fasten them. Need a waterproof cover.
Fitteds: Similar to contour diapers, except have snaps or Velcro, and elastics in the legs and waist. Need a waterproof cover.
Pockets: Most common type of diaper. Consists of an outer waterproof shell and an interior stay-dry layer, as well as an insert that you stuff in between the two layers. They are similar to disposables, are easy to use, easy to wash and keep baby feeling dry. They are also available in a multitude of colours and patterns.
All-in-One (AIO): Most like a disposable diaper and require no pinning, stuffing or folding. Generally they are the most expensive cloth diapers, however they are still cheaper than disposables.
All-in-Two (AI2): Consists of a shell and a snap-in liner. At diaper change, you replace the liner and re-use the cover (unless it is soiled).
Flip system: Similar to an AI2, except the insert is tucked into flaps at either end of the diaper.
Some diapers require a cover, while others have a waterproof material built in. There are three basic materials to make a diaper waterproof.
Polyurethane Laminate (PUL): Laminate applied over cotton to make it waterproof, leak proof and mildew resistant. It is lightweight, soft, pliable and breathable.
Fleece: Soft, lightweight and breathable. Can be quite bulky and is not the most suitable choice under cute baby outfits.
Wool: Is all-natural, soft, breathable, can hold 30% of its weight in liquid, has anti-bacterial properties and self-cleaning characteristics. Natural, untreated wool is soft and comfortable and it only needs to be washed and lanolized every 2 weeks or so. It can NOT be machine washed, however washing consist of simply soaking in a sink.