All-in-one vs. Pocket Diapers: Which Are Better?

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Two pocket cloth diapers on the left and two all-in-one cloth diapers on the right.

Ready to buy your first cloth diapers but have no idea which type to choose?

There are so many types of cloth diapers on the market, but you’ll often hear that you should have some all-in-ones or pocket diapers in your stash for convenience.

Which should you choose?

Will you prefer all-in-one cloth diapers, or will pocket diapers be a better fit for you?

Both all-in-one and pocket cloth diapers are very convenient to put on the baby, but pocket diapers need to be stuffed before use and disassembled after use. Nevertheless, pocket diapers are more adjustable regarding absorbency than all-in-ones.

Read on to learn more about each type and how they compare in more detail. I believe you’ll have enough information at the end of this post to decide which will you try (first).

All-in-one cloth diapers spread apart.

What Are All-in-one Cloth Diapers?

All-in-one cloth diapers – often referred to as AIOs (affiliate link to Amazon) are diapers where the absorbent parts and the water-resistant layer are sewn together.

They are designed to be the most like disposable diapers regarding ease of use where you take the diaper, put it on your baby, take it off completely after use and store it in a pail liner or a wet bag until wash day.

If you’re practicing elimination communication, you might be annoyed that even if the AIO is only a little wet, you still have to toss the whole diaper into the diaper pail and can’t just change the absorbent part.

I’d highly recommend a different type of cloth diapers for elimination communication.

If you’re still unsure about all the possibilities, take a look at this post, where I explained the different cloth diaper types and suggested when they would be a good choice.

Materials in All-in-one Cloth Diapers

The absorbent parts are almost always made of natural materials, such as cotton, bamboo, and hemp blends, meaning your child will feel the wetness when they eliminate unless changed immediately.

Some brands also have synthetic materials (microfiber) as the absorbent layer. They are, of course, topped with microfleece since microfiber should not be in direct contact with baby skin so as not to dry it out. The microfleece top gives them a stay-dry feeling.

If you’re interested in which materials in cloth diapers will make your baby feel wet and which will keep them dry, read this post.

All-in-one Cloth Diaper Styles

There are also different styles of AIOs available.

Some AIOs have a thick absorbent layer sewn onto the PUL layer, while others are sewn in minimally and have a long insert that needs to be folded before being put on the baby. Some even have a little pocket under the sewn absorbent layer where you can put an extra insert to increase absorbency. Others will have two flaps of absorbent layers that overlap, making for quicker drying. There are probably some other designs available that I haven’t seen yet.

The photos show two different all-in-one cloth diapers. The first one has overlapping flaps of absorbent layers, and the second one has an insert sewn in. They are put together in the first photo and spread apart in the second.

If you’d like the quickest drying AIOs, I recommend you choose the ones that don’t have a thick layer of absorbent material sewn together. I’d prefer the ones that need to be folded or overlapped for absorbency, like both diapers in the above photos.

The opposite goes for convenience; choose the ones where all the absorbency is already sewn onto the PUL (like these on Amazon) or the ones where you can add an extra insert. The AIOs where you need to fold the insert can be hard to put on a wiggly baby without falling apart.

As you can see, there are many possibilities even inside one type of cloth diaper, so definitely check out what is on the market and choose what feels best.

Remember that there are no wrong choices here; all cloth diapers should do their job properly. If you do not like what you choose, you can always resell them.

What Are Pocket Cloth Diapers?

Pocket cloth diapers (affiliate link to Amazon) are diapers that consist of a pocket shell with microfleece topping and inserts that go inside the pocket. Once they are stuffed, they are very convenient to put on a baby, making them an excellent choice for nannies, daycares, and caregivers that aren’t so skilled in cloth diapers.

As mentioned above, it is necessary to stuff the pocket shell with absorbent inserts since the shell does not absorb any moisture; it only wicks it away from the skin to the inserts.

Pocket cloth diapers need to be washed after every use because the shell layer will still get soaked with urine even if the child won’t feel it due to it being stay-dry.

There is a trick that I’ve learned from other moms: you treat the pocket shell like a cover and place the inserts on top of it instead of putting them inside. In this case, you can probably reuse the pocket shell a couple of times if the shell doesn’t get wet.

Just keep in mind the microfiber inserts shouldn’t come in contact with the baby’s skin unless they are topped with microfleece. If you’re placing inserts on top of the shell, use inserts with a stay-dry layer or use natural materials like cotton, bamboo, and hemp.

Stuffing pocket diapers is an additional step that many cloth diaper users dislike because it is a bit more time-consuming than just taking an AIO cloth diaper.

Some choose to stuff the diapers directly after drying, and some do this step right before they put the diaper on the baby. Either way is fine – whatever suits you better.

I stuff them in small batches of 3 to 4 diapers because I usually only use pocket diapers for daycare, and they typically don’t go through more than that in a day.

Another thing to consider is that you generally have to take it apart before you wash it; otherwise, the inserts won’t come out.

In my opinion, two of the most significant advantages of pocket diapers are the rapid drying and the fact that you can stuff them according to your baby’s needs. If you have a heavy wetter, you can just add additional bamboo or hemp inserts to increase absorbency.

Materials in Pocket Cloth Diapers

Most pocket diapers already come with inserts when you buy them, but you can also find only pocket shells to buy.

In my experience, the original inserts in pocket diapers are usually made of microfiber, which may work fine initially. Still, as the baby starts peeing more or applying more pressure to the diaper (by sitting up, for example), they turn out not to be absorbent enough or start causing compression leaks.

(By the way, if you don’t want to make mistakes that will end up with leaking cloth diapers, I recommend you read this post immediately!)

I recommend buying additional bamboo (affiliate link to Amazon) and/or hemp inserts (affiliate link to Amazon) and starting pairing them with the original microfiber or skipping the microfiber altogether and only using natural fibers.

Doing so will vastly increase the absorbency of the diaper and likely make them a bit less bulky (compare the thickness of two microfiber inserts with a microfiber & bamboo/hemp insert, and you’ll see that natural fabrics are much thinner).

By the way, if you want to learn more about which cloth diapers are the trimmest according to real moms, I wrote this post for you.

You can also use flat diapers and prefolds as inserts for pocket diapers or just make your own out of old towels, T-shirts, flour sack towels, etc.

Pocket Diaper Styles

There aren’t that many styles with pocket diapers, but they do differ in the place where the pocket opens to stuff it with inserts.

Some open in the front, some in the middle, and some in the back.

Two different pocket cloth diapers. The left one has a pocket in the back, and the right one has it in the front.

If I’m practicing elimination communication with my baby, I prefer using pocket diapers that open in the front so I can check immediately if the diaper is wet. Some will say this is a disadvantage because you definitely need to touch pee when disassembling the diaper after use.

Some pocket diapers open in the middle, claiming that you don’t even have to disassemble them after use because they will do that on their own in the washing machine. The idea is good, but I haven’t had a chance to test out a diaper like this yet, so I’m not sure it works every time you wash the diapers.

The ones that open in the back will probably be the best for those that don’t want to touch any wetness, but they are kind of impractical if practicing elimination communication. You have to pull out the inserts almost entirely to check for wetness.

Comparison of All-in-one and Pocket Cloth Diapers

I’ve compared the main properties of AIOs and pocket cloth diapers in the below table.

All-in-one cloth diapersPocket cloth diapers
ready to put on baby without additional stepsrequire stuffing with inserts before putting on baby
mostly made of natural materialsmostly made of synthetic materials
ready to put in diaper pail after use until wash dayneed to be disassembled before storing in a diaper pail
slow dryingquick drying
due to mostly natural materials child will feel wetdue to mostly synthetic materials child won’t feel wet
not very adjustable regarding absorbency very adjustable regarding absorbency
no inserts requiredadditional natural fiber inserts are recommended
convenient for other caregivers if they are absorbent enough on their ownvery convenient for other caregivers
Comparison of all-in-one cloth diapers and pocket cloth diapers

As you can see in the table, both types have their advantages and disadvantages.

I prefer all-in-one cloth diapers for a doctor’s appointment or some other opportunity where you need a quick solution, and haven’t stuffed any of your pocket diapers.

On the other hand, pocket cloth diapers are winners for me when it comes to daycare, where I can ensure enough absorbency by choosing my inserts, and besides that, my child won’t feel wet if they don’t change him right away.

If you’re curious about all the other cloth diaper types available, read this post to learn more!


When I first became a mom, it shocked me how much more waste we produced by adding a tiny little member to our family. Since then, it's become very important to me to be more sustainable as a family. I'm excited to share with you what I'm learning along the way!

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