Flats and Pre-Folds

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All cloth diapers are comprised of 2 main components: An absorbing part AND a waterproofing part.  All diapers require both of these components.

Flats and prefolds require a cover.
Flats are essentially large squares of fabric (think the size of a receiving blanket) that you fold up and secure to your baby with pins or a Snappi. These are a popular option because the area of absorbency can be easily adjusted based on how you fold the flat.
Prefolds are essentially flats that are “pre” folded and sewn into a rectangle. They also require pins or a Snappi to attach to your baby. 
Both Flats and Prefolds require a separate cover to make them waterproof, and you can forego pins/Snappis if you want to simply lay them in the diaper.
Flats and Prefolds are easily the cheapest option. They cost about $1-3 each, and covers range from $5-15 each. If you use covers that have a wipe-clean ability, you can re-use a cover through multiple diaper changes. The average household has 36 Flats/Prefolds and 6-8 covers to have a stash large enough to wash every 2-3 days.
The main drawback to the Flats & Prefolds option is that they tend to be a bit messier than other options. Most daycares will not use  them, so families have other diapers when daycare is needed.

(Special thanks to Elizabeth for article content.)

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