Cloth Diapers

Which Cloth Diapers to Buy

In  Part One of my Cloth Diapering Series, I discussed my reasons why I chose to cloth diaper as well as some hurdles I overcame. I hope after reading it, you are all-in on the cloth diaper journey. In this installment, I want to help you choose the perfect cloth diaper. There are a lot of choices when deciding on which cloth diapers to buy.  So many styles exist, it can make your head spin. Each style has its own pros and cons, and a perfect style for each individual baby and family.

The best thing you can do before choosing a cloth diapering system is to think about your own needs and what you want to get out of cloth diapering. Are you hoping to save as much money as possible? Make the smallest carbon footprint?  Perhaps you want to reduce the number of chemicals your baby is exposed to, but don’t want too much hassle during changing time. Do you have some money to invest and hope to re-sell your diapers later? How much laundry do you want to be doing?

Once you have figured out what you want out of your cloth diaper system, consider the pros and cons of each diaper style and you can choose which best fits your needs.

Choosing a Cloth Diaper

Here is an overview of the basic styles:

Which Cloth Diapers to Buy: Two Piece Systems (Require a Diaper Cover)

FYI: Diaper covers are the outer layer of the diaper, usually made of PUL or another waterproof fabric. Diaper covers require an absorbent layer (this could be a flat, prefold, or fitted diaper) underneath for absorption. Because there are two steps when diapering baby, the two-piece system can appear more complicated, especially to others who may be diapering baby (family, friends, husbands/partners).

Diaper Cover
A diaper cover requires an absorbent layer (flat, prefold, or fitted) underneath.
Diaper Cover
Diaper Cover: Inside

Flats

A flat is a large, thin piece of absorbent fabric you wrap around baby and fasten with diaper pins (think old-school cloth diapering), or their modern counterpart, Snappis or Boingo. There are a ton of YouTube tutorials for a variety of tutorials different folds.

Flat versus prefold
Flat versus Prefold
Image courtesy of wellroundedny.com
Snappi diaper fastener
This is a “Snappi,” the modern equivalent to diaper pins. Image courtesy of Snappibaby.com

Pros:

  • You can customize the fold to give you extra absorbency for boys/girls or better fit depending on your baby.
  • They are usually very affordable.
  • They dry quickly and are ideal for those who want to hang to dry.
  • You can change the flat while reusing the cover unless the baby has pooped on the cover. Usually covers can be used 3-4 times or more before needing to be changed. This means you can buy fewer covers (again, is affordable).
  • Flats have other uses (e.g. receiving blankets, burp clothes, even rags after your little one is done with diapers).

    Cons:

  • These can be a bit tricky to fold up, especially when you have a wriggly or fussy baby on the change table.
  • They appear complicated to family and friends who might be caring for the baby (or a daddy who is trying to get the hang of changing diapers!).
  • You will need a something to hold them together (diaper pin or Snappi).

Prefolds

A prefold is similar to a flat, but already folded and stitched together into a smaller rectangle so you have to fold them fewer times. Again, you wear these under a diaper cover.

Prefold Diaper
A Prefold

Pros:

  • Lots of options on how to use these. You can use Snappis to fasten them, or just fold in thirds and place inside your cover.
  • Like flats, these are very affordable.
  • Have many other uses such as burp clothes, changing pads and rags.
  • You won’t need to change the diaper cover each time (just the prefold), only every once in a while or when baby poops on it.
  • Less folding required compared to flats.
  • Can be thrown in dryer to dry quickly.

Cons:

  • Can be tricky to fold and fasten the correct way when changing a squirmy baby.
  • Some people find the two-part system (cover and prefold) to be too much maintenance.
  • Can seem overwhelming to family or friends who are taking care of baby.

Fitteds

Fitteds are the third option that requires a cover. This kind of diaper is sewn together to be in the shape of a diaper (no folding needed) and often have snaps to hold the diaper on. They take longer to dry, but usually have excellent absorbency. You will still need a diaper cover on top of a fitted.

Fitted Diaper
Fitted Diaper
Fitted Diaper
Fitted Diaper opened

Pros:

  • Very absorbent-good option for nighttime or heavy wetters.
  • Easier to fasten compared to flats and prefolds.

Cons:

  • Take a long time to dry.
  • More expensive than other two-part system options.

Some mommas will buy prefolds or fitteds for the day and several fitteds for nighttime, especially as baby starts sleeping through the night.

Which Cloth Diapers to Buy: One Piece Diapers

One piece diapers already have a waterproof layer attached to the outside of the diaper (no cover needed). These styles are a bit more expensive, but (in my opinion) worth it because they make diapering that much easier. These systems seem more accessible to family, friends and husbands because they look more like a disposable diaper.

Pockets

This is my favorite kind of diaper. This one has a waterproof cover with a soft inside that has a pocket that needs to be stuffed by something absorbing (microfibre insert, bamboo, charcoal, hemp, even a pre-fold,  flour sack towel, old t-shirt, or whatever you’ve got handy).

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Pros:

  • Pocket diapers dry quickly-put the insert in the dryer and hang the outer part to dry.
  • Simple to use-you stuff the insert in the pocket, no tricky folds to make.
  • You can do the “prep work” before changing baby. Stuff the diapers while folding laundry, rather than while you have a wiggling baby on the change table.
  • You can change the absorbency as your baby grows by adding boosters or switching inserts.
  • Looks like a “real” diaper and is more accessible to family/friends

Cons:

  • You will need to stuff the pocket before diapering baby (this adds an extra step to laundry). Some dads find stuffing the diaper tricky as their hands don’t easily fit in the pocket.
  • You will need to unstuff it after the diaper is dirty (though Applecheeks make a pocket diaper that is designed to unstuff itself in the wash).
  • Can be a bit more expensive, depending on what brand you choose.

All-in-Ones (AIO)

These diapers actually have the absorbent part sewn right into the waterproof cover.

All-In-One Diaper
All-In-One Diaper
All-In-One Diaper
All-In-One Diaper Opened-the absorbent material is sewn right in…no stuffing needed

Pros:

  • No stuffing or folding; as soon as it dries it is ready to be used again.
  • Looks like a “real” diaper and is more accessible to family/friends

Cons:

  • Often quite expensive.
  • Take longer to dry (recommended to hang to dry, as the waterproof cover can be damaged due to the heat of the dryer).

All-in-twos (AI2)

This diaper combines the best of the All-in-one and Pocket. Usually the insert will snap in. Unsnap the inserts to put in the dryer.

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Pros:

  • Easy to assemble.
  • No annoying stuffing (dads often like this because their hands are larger and don’t always fit inside the diaper).
  • You can put inserts can be put in the dryer, so they dry quicker than AIO’s
  • Looks like a “real” diaper and is more accessible to family/friends

 Cons:

  • These are also on the pricey side.

Hybrids

These are diapers that have cloth and disposable options. Basically they have a diaper shell in which you can either put a disposable or cloth insert. These offer flexibility for travel when you don’t want to carry a bunch of used cloth diapers on the road (or on a plane!).

hybrid diaper
An example of a hybrid diaper. Photo courtesy of clothmoms.com

Pros:

  • Flexible option or those who travel.

Cons:

  • Still produce waste when using disposable inserts.
  • Disposable inserts can be expensive.

Picking the Perfect Cloth Diaper

Conclusion

That about wraps up the choices of diaper styles. It’s up to you to pick on that fits your lifestyle and needs. For example, if your goal is to spend as little as possible, some flats or prefolds and a few covers are the way to go. If you have a larger budget and want as little hassle from laundry as possible, I would go for All-in-ones or All-in-twos. Pockets are a happy medium that let you adjust absorbency as needed.

If you are still uncertain of which cloth diapers to buy (or maybe you’re a first-time mom who doesn’t know what her needs will be yet!), there is nothing wrong with experimenting with lots of different diaper styles. You may find one style you love and re-sell the diapers you don’t love. There’s also nothing wrong with using a variety of styles. Variety is the spice of life, right? Personally, I tried a little of everything and found some pockets and All-in-two’s fit the ticket for me.

If you have experience with cloth diapers, which system or style did you end up loving? What tips do you have for newbies?

How to Choose a Cloth Diaper

15 thoughts on “Which Cloth Diapers to Buy

    1. Thank you! We’ve been so happy with them too. Every time I put one out to dry I see dollar signs in my head because we are saving so much money!

  1. wow so much helpful and detailed information on cloth diapers! I wish I would have looked more into cloth diapers when my kids were little! My kids are way beyond diaper age but I am going to share this post with a few preggo friends!

  2. I almost did cloth diapers for my 3rd child, but I ended up going with what I knew, disposable. I hear cloth diapers are amazing though! Great post!

  3. This is a great and detailed post. When my oldest son was born, we wanted to try cloth but I felt like it was impossible to gather all the info in one place. We weren’t sure which way to go. I look forward to sharing this with new moms because this post is very helpful.

    1. Thanks so much, Candy. I hope to simplify what can, at first, seem overwhelming. If any of your mom friends want to reach out, I am happy to answer questions!

  4. I wish I would have known this when my littles were babies. I’ll definitely have to pass this along to my sister as she is expecting her first soon.

  5. So many different options for cloth diapers. I dabbled with the idea for a bit but went a different route. Thank you for all the information included the pros and cons of each.

  6. I never used cloth diapers but, I heard the organic ones are the best for baby’s skin. My child is going off diapers very soon but, if I had another baby I would try cloth diapers for sure.
    wwww.marieavenue.com

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