Thursday, January 13, 2011

So Many Options!

Now to address possibly the most overwhelming aspect of cloth diapering- all the diaper options! Having so many choices can feel like a burden, when really it should be a blessing. The way I see it, there is a cloth diaper for every need and occasion. I’ll outline the most common varieties here, along with a few brand-name examples. I’m going to briefly discuss pros and cons to the best of my ability. I encourage any experienced CDing mamas, if you are reading, to add your two cents regarding diaper options.

Here we go...

All-In-Ones (AIOs)

These diapers most closely emulate a disposable because everything you need is already sewn to the diaper. Your only task is to fasten it on your baby. When the diaper is dirty, you put the entire thing in your diaper pail. Many brands offer AIOs, and people have varying degrees of success with them. Just a few you might check out include BumGenius!, GroVia, and Bumkins.

Pros: Easy to use! Simple storage- no sifting through covers and inserts to find matches. Some are very trim. Great for use by a babysitter, daycare, grandparent, etc. Moisture-wicking fabrics available.

Cons: Can be slow to dry. More diapers required for full-time CDing. Some are pretty bulky. More to carry along when out of the house.

Pocket Diapers

This style is also quite similar to the design of a disposable diaper, with one notable difference. A pocket diaper, you may have guessed, contains a pouch in the diaper into which you stuff various inserts. The insert pulls back out once soiled, and both pieces go into your laundry bin. Some examples of pocket diaper brands include FuzziBunz, Rumparooz, Sunbabys, Thirsties, Happy Heineys, BumGeinus!, and Kawaii.

Pros: Fast-drying since the shell and insert will be dried separately. Customizable- you can place different types of inserts into the diaper, or double up for heavy overnight use. Usually a pretty trim fit. Easy to use, especially when pre-stuffed, for a secondary caregiver. Moisture-wicking fabrics available.

Cons: You have to stuff the pockets before using. More diapers required for full-time CDing. With extra inserts, can be very bulky. More to carry along when out of the house.

Fitteds & Covers

This option is hailed as one of the most trim available for a wee bum. A fitted fabric inner is fastened around baby completely. These fitted diapers often resemble a plain disposable diaper, but some have fun prints or colors. A waterproof cover is then placed over the fitted diaper. Depending on the material used for the cover, they can sometimes be reused between changes. Kissaluvs, v, and Mother-Ease are some popular examples of F&Cs. Wool covers are an option that seems to be growing in popularity. Wool has antimicrobial properties and does not need to be washed between every use. It is also very breathable.

Pros: Very trim fit. Less laundry to do. Wool covers are breathable and antimicrobial. Moderately easy to use. Fairly quick to dry.

Cons: Could be daunting for a secondary caregiver. More steps to fasten diaper on a squirmy baby. Wool is expensive.

Prefolds/ Flats & Covers

This style is what most people think of when they imagine cloth diapering, though with many advances you are not very likely to see CDing families using the old-school plastic pants! A piece of absorbent cotton fabric is wrapped and often fastened around baby, and a waterproof cover is added. Unlike fitteds, the inner part of the diaper is not already sewn to fit your baby’s shape. It is up to you to fold and fasten the insert around your child.

A “flat” is one large piece of woven fabric which can be folded up to add thickness and the shape desired- think origami with cloth. A “prefold” is the same fabric, already stitched into a smaller rectangle to create several layers of thickness. With both types, you can choose a folding style that works for you. Videos of folding styles can be found on YouTube from other CDing mamas. Most use some kind of fastener- pins are okay (protected ends, of course) but even easier and safer is a snappi. A snappi is a three-pronged soft plastic fastener with teeth on each end. The tension between the prongs holds the teeth in the fabric and keeps the diaper on baby. Of course there is always the lazy woman’s option- just trifold the fabric and lay it in the insert. Your cover is more likely to get dirty, but it’s a nice option when 3am arrives and you’ve barely had any sleep!

Covers come in many colors, patterns, and waterproof materials. A few examples include covers by Thirsties, Bummis, Imsie Vimsie, and Econobums; but there are many more!

Pros: Very cost-effective. Easy to prepare for use. Easy to clean.

Cons: Can be difficult to learn to fold and fasten. Moisture remains against baby’s skin.

Hybrid/ AI2 Diapers

These are my personal favorites for daytime use. Hybrid diapers really offer a wide variety of options to fit your lifestyle. Sometimes called AI2s (depending upon the construction), hybrids consists of a shell and some type of insert. The insert is usually specially made to lay in the shell. Most companies will make an organic cotton option, a combination microfiber and microfleece option (often called “stay dry”), and a biodegradable flushable option. You can mix and match the inserts based on your needs. For example, families who travel often for long periods of time might enjoy using the biodegradable inserts on a trip, because it cuts down on the amount of laundry and the smells associated with carrying dirty diapers around for a few days. Another great feature is that most of these diapers allow you to use the shell more than once before washing due to the type of fabric used inside. Examples of hybrids include Flips, GroVias, and gDiapers. Best Bottoms are also a great diaper, though they don’t offer the biodegradable option at this time.

Pros: Flexible and customizable. Easy to wash. Cost-effective. Fewer shells to purchase for full-time CDing. Covers can be reused several times in a day. Easily fit in diaper bag for days out or extended travels.

Cons: Most can be bulky on small babies. Buying biodegradable inserts will get costly. Some styles are not cut well for multiple cover uses.

There are a few more things to consider, namely your choice of sized or one-size diapers, and of snaps or velcro fasteners. Sized diapers can be great for getting the perfect fit on your baby, but of course you will need to buy more diapers overall in order to CD from birth through potty learning. One size diapers offer a way to save money because you won’t need to buy new diapers every time your baby outgrows a size, but they tend to be very bulky on newborns. One solution to this problem is to purchase one sized diapers for the majority of your stash, and to pick up a limited newborn stash of diapers to get you through those first few weeks. Of course if you are blessed with a “bigger” baby you might be fine going straight to OS diapers!

Snaps versus velcro ends up being a very personal opinion based on your own baby and your comfort with the diapers. Snaps can be more difficult to get a perfect fit, but they tend to stay in good shape longer. Velcro is a bit easier to fasten on a squirmy baby, while still achieving a snug fit around the legs and torso. Velcro (also called hook and loop) can wear out more quickly with frequent use. Additionally, many moms tell cautionary tales of their older babies figuring out how to undo the velcro and removing their diapers. Snaps are typically much more difficult for tiny hands to unfasten. Many diapers are now available in your choice or snaps or velcro, and some companies are making conversion kits for diapers that used to be exclusively available with velcro.

I’ve offered a lot of information, so how do you choose? The great thing about the cloth diapering community is, someone is always selling gently used diapers for a great price. This is good for you now- cheap buying options, and later- you can recoup some of your investment when you’re done with the cloth. Additionally, many online retailers offer trial packages that give you a variety of diapers to test for a period of time. You simply return the ones you don’t like, and then they resell them at discounted prices. (Oh hey, another way to save!) Purchasing a trial package is another one of those pieces of advice that been-there-done-that moms love to give. DiaperJunction dot com and KellysCloset dot com both have popular variety packs.

I personally believe that variety is key, especially at first. Pick up a few different brands and types of diapers because you can not be sure of what will work for you until you test them out. From my own experience, I can tell you that I thought I would never want to use AIO diapers because of the cons I listed. I ended up getting just a few to test out (BumGenius! Elemental OS) and it turns out I love them! I just don’t want my whole stash to be that particular diaper. They are great for night time, but I prefer my AI2s for daytime.

Think about which pros and cons matter most to you and your lifestyle. Prefolds / flats and covers will usually be the cheapest route, but for some people it makes more sense to buy a more expensive diaper that will last a long time and be more convenient for daily life. There are so many options that CDing is not what it was in the past. You can try different styles and customize your stash to fit your needs, budget, and personality.

Prepare Yourself! - Check out a diaper site (I am a huge fan of and look at the diapers they sell by variety to get a feel for the look and construction of these styles. Do a search on or to see budget and work-at-home-mom options.

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