Entering the world of cloth diapers can be daunting. There are SO many diaper choices and numerous different styles. I researched like crazy when I was pregnant with my first, trying to determine the style that would work best for us as well as the most economical option that would take us the furthest. At the time, it was mind-boggling.
I had always planned to use the cloth diapers for more than one child, so I knew I wanted a good enough stash that we could rotate enough without the diapers wearing out too quickly. We ended up trying out a bunch of different styles at first until we narrowed down what it was we loved the most. Cloth diapers are amazing in the sense that they are re-usable and can be used for more than one child. I also think many baby bums do better with the soft fabric of cloth versus the plastic of disposable diapers.
The amount of diapers that you keep out of the landfill alone is a huge feat.
The average family will use around 8,000 diapers in total per child, with the average cost being around $2500 per child.
It seems so high when you break it down like that! Even compared to the initial cost of getting set up with cloth (which can range depending on the choices you make) combined with water usage to wash them, the price does not come nearly close to the cost of using disposable diapers, especially if you plan on using the cloth diapers for more than one child. So if you’re looking to go green on a budget when it comes to raising a child, cloth diapering can help out in a big way.
In this Introduction to cloth diapers, I’ve outlined the main style types as well as our favourites of all of them.
Cloth Diapering 101
Prefolds are essentially a piece of multi-layered fabric that normally has a thicker middle part. They must be used with a cover and you fold them so they fit snugly around the baby in order to absorb everything. We used Bummis organic cotton prefolds and were really impressed with how absorbent they are. They come in different sizes (Newborn, Infant and Premium), so it means having to get new stashes along the way, but they are still the most reasonably priced of the cloth diaper options, ranging from $2-$5 per diaper. Plus, they make awesome rags once you are all through with diapering.
Covers are necessary with any type of prefold, and we started out with the Bummis Super Brite covers. These come in all sizes beginning with a tiny newborn that we started using when our little guy was just one week old. Bummis also makes a great starter pack that will help you get going to begin with. Another great cover option is the Thirsties diaper cover. I highly recommend velcro, at least at the start, if you are going the pre-fold and cover route as it is less to fuss with. We eventually switched over to snaps though when we moved primarily to pocket and all-in-one diapers as I find they hold up to washes very well and can last longer than velcro.
Wool covers are another cover option if you are looking for something completely natural against your baby’s skin, as well as naturally bacteria-resistant. Wool covers are a great nighttime solution since they are soft, very absorbent, and you won’t have to worry about any irritation on baby’s skin. Just ensure beforehand that your baby doesn’t have a sensitivity to wool. The best one I’ve been able to find is the Aristocrats cover.
Fitted cloth diapers are similar to conventional disposal diapers in style, using snaps or velcro to fasten around the baby. They have an elastic waist as well as elastic around the legs to help contain any messes. They are easier than pre-folds to get the hang of since there is no folding involved. However, you do need to use a waterproof diaper cover over top of these as well, which can make them a bit bulky. You’ll also likely need to buy different sizes of the fitted diapers as your child grows. We’ve tried the Kissaluvs fitted diapers and really liked the soft cotton fleece material, though we did find they weren’t as irritation-friendly as the organic cotton prefolds. I’m also really hoping to try the Tots Bots Bamboozle fitted diaper as I am a huge fan of this UK-based bamboo diaper company.
Pocket Cloth/2-in-1 Diapers
Similar to the all-in-one style, the pocket cloth diapers are a 2-in-1 style diaper and really easy to use. They are made up of a cloth diaper cover and a separate insert that is “stuffed” into the pocket. The insert is very absorbent and is typically made up of cotton, hemp or microfiber. The diaper cover itself has two layers: a soft interior generally made of a micro fleece material, and an outer waterproof layer. There is a pocket in the back opening where you stuff in the insert or material of your choice. The only downside in my opinion is that they can get quite messy with any poops once in a while, though you can generally just shake the insert out into your bag/pail. The pocket diapers were our number #1 choice for ease-of-use and absorbency. Our favourites are the Bumgenius 4.0 and Applecheeks.
Applecheeks can be used as either a pocket, by placing the insert inside the pocket (we used their bamboo inserts) or by using the insert as a prefold with the cover. The material for the Applecheeks diaper covers is nice and soft especially for little babies, and I like the snap closure system. These covers come in two sizes – 1 and 2 – so you’ll have to buy some of each as your child grows.
Bumgenius 4.0 is the one diaper we have the most of in our stash. They are a one-size diaper so ideally, you should be able to use them for the entire time your child is in diapers. I did find we used the Applecheeks, Totsbots and prefolds for the first few months though as the Bumgenius were still a bit big around the legs. They have a great snap closure system that allows you to adjust the size accordingly though so they literally grow with the child. We never had any leakage issues with the Bumgenius 4.0.
All-in-one diapers are similar to pocket diapers and the closest you’ll find to the disposable diaper. They’re really convenient and you don’t need to worry about stuffing or folding anything. The waterproof liner is built in with the cover as well as the main diaper absorbing area. They are the most expensive of the diapers, but still cheaper than disposables. Tots Bots Easyfits are an awesome all-in-one diaper with a great, trim fit. The liner is attached to the diaper and folds into the pocket. The bamboo material is nice and soft, and the velcro allows for a snug fit, so there are no issues with leaking. Tots Bots also makes a teenyfit for small babies so you can literally use these diapers from birth on, which is hard to find with a cloth diaper. We’ve also tried the Bumgenius Elemental organic all-in-ones. While I love the organic inside, I found these didn’t contain messes as well and were much more difficult to clean up the tough messes than the Bumgenius 4.0. My favourite all-in-one diapers are the Tots Bots Easyfits.
On top of the regular diapers, there are other items that can be really helpful when cloth diapering.
- Liners are great, especially for that first bit when poops are abundant! Both Applecheeks and Bummis make some great flushable liners, as well as reusable liners, which are great for helping keep the mess out of the main diaper and helping conserve the diapers/making them last longer.
- Boosters can give an added protection especially for naps and overnight. They come in all sorts of materials, but I especially love Applecheeks bamboo boosters.
- Cloth wipes are a great economical, eco-friendly alternative to disposable wipes. Making your own solution is really easy. You can pick up reusable wipes made by diaper companies or even make your own.
- Diaper bags are a must. I love the Bummis cloth diaper bag as it has both a drawstring and zipper to keep the smell out. This works REALLY well. It comes in a few different sizes, including a travel size bag.
- Diaper sprayers are not necessary, but are definitely really helpful to help get any solids off before washing. They hook right up to the toilet. Bumgenius makes a great one.
- Laundry Detergent – Make sure you use cloth diaper-approved laundry detergent. Many mainstream lines will strip the diapers of their absorbency, which is why most cloth diaper companies will recommend natural detergent options like Nellies, which I often find for a great price at Costco or even Homesense.