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Thanks to Karyn for this Frugal Baby Tip!
In my experience, terrycloth has been the MOST absorbent material. Also, it is my *favorite* for at least two other reasons:
(1) When wet, terry feels more pleasant to the touch (in my opinion) than wet flannel. Flannel, when wet, has a clammy feel that seems to kind of stick to the skin; I just don't like the feel of wet flannel. I think the loops on the terry seem to kind of hold much of the wetness slightly away from the skin, whereas with flannel, the wetness is right on the skin.
(2) The terrycloth loops are wonderful at catching onto runny bowel
movements (breastfed babies' poop) and helping to contain them so they don't leak out of the diaper as easily. With flannel, the runny BM's seem to slide right off the surface of the diaper, and unless it's a fitted diaper with REALLY good fit around the legs, you get leaks.
I use primarily fitted terry diapers (Mother-Ease mostly), but I do also have some prefolds. I have never really got the hang of using the prefolds as an everyday diaper, but regarding the fabric, I find it to be about halfway between flannel and terry in terms of catching runny poops and in terms of feel when wet. My prefolds are Gerber. They are a sort of twill weave, which I certainly prefer over flannel as far as feeling less gross when wet, but they aren't nearly as soft as my terry diapers.
I've never used Birdseye fabric, but I've heard only good things about it as far as absorbency and pleasant feel on the skin.