In this guide:
Are you thinking of ditching disposable diapers and turning to the cloth diapering way of life?
It’s no secret that, while there are days when disposable diapers seem they like the best thing in the world, they are certainly not the best thing for the world. They end up in landfills (unable to biodegrade) by the billions each year.
Turning to cloth diapers is certainly a significant way to lessen your carbon footprint. And it’s easier to do these days as big bundles of cloth and safety pins are now officially a thing of the past. Many brands are just as simple to use as disposables and, with a little bit of know-how, keeping them fresh and clean is also a sinch.
As parents of two cloth-diapered babies, we’re big fans of this way of life. We’ve written this guide to give you the information you need to switch to cloth diapers, and we’ve listed our favorite brands so you don’t have to clean up a ton of blowouts before finding that perfect match.
The Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapers
If you are researching how to change over to cloth diapers, or even just trying to find out if it’s doable for your lifestyle, there is no shortage of things to ruminate over. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
- Price – Most estimates put your savings at least $400 over the course of three years once you switch to cloth diapers. That’s a good chunk of change you can save, and it ends up being even more if you are planning on having another child. At that point, you already have your diaper supply and just need to buy products for cleaning and maintenance. So your savings really will tot up.
- Cloth is safer – Every parent worries about what they’re putting against their infants skin. When it comes to diapers, cloth is an all around safer alternative. You won’t have to worry about what is making those disposable diapers so absorbent (spoiler alert, it’s called Super Absorbent Polymer, and it’s even in most ‘green’ diapers). Cloth is just that, cloth. No chemicals. No unnatural fibres. Just cloth.
- Laundering – There’s no need to fret about washing your cloth diapers. You start by shaking any solids into the toilet and storing the dirty diaper in your diaper pail. Once laundry day rolls around, you will put the diapers through two cycles with your detergent of choice and two rinse cycles to cleanse the diaper of any remaining soap residue. Dry on hot, and you are good to go!Another option, especially if you live in a city, is to use a diaper service. These businesses will pick up your infant’s unmentionables, wash them thoroughly and return them to you good as new. Be sure to consider the expense of using this service as, while it’s convenient, it can add a few thousand dollars over a three year period to your baby budget.
Nothing in the world is perfect, and cloth diapers are no exception. Here are some of the drawbacks when it comes to making the switch.
- Laundering – While you aren’t adding to a landfill, you are doing more laundry. That means using more water and electricity. As of yet, there is no study to clearly determine how much this offsets the green benefit.
- Convenience – You lose the convenience of being able to throw away a dirty diaper when you are on the go, and must always have a way to transport it back to your home base;
- Diaper Creams – You can’t just grab any old diaper rash cream when you need one. Some creams stain cloth diapers, so you’ll have to do a little bit of research before you head to the store.
Cloth Diapers 101
Here are a few bits you need to know about cloth diapers. People often make them seem more complicated than they are. We’ve gone the other way and made it super-simple.
The Different Types of Cloth Diapers
- Flats: Usually made of cotton, these are a single layer of cloth that you can fold in several ways
- Prefolds: You fasten this rectangular piece of cloth around your baby by folding it and securing it with pins or a cloth diaper accessory called a snappi. You will also need to use a waterproof diaper cover.
- Fitted Diapers: These are no-fold cloth diapers. They are typically made from hemp, fleece, bamboo, or cotton, and come with snaps or velcro for a secure fit. They also require a diaper cover.
- Contour: A sort of marriage between a pre-fold and a fitted diaper, these are hourglass shaped and need a fastener, like pins, if there isn’t a system built into the diaper. And don’t forget the diaper cover if you go this route.
- Pocket Diaper: These have their own fastening system (usually snaps or tabs) and elastic bands around the legs and waist. These diapers have two layers, the outer portion being waterproof while the inner portion is designed to stay dryer for your baby’s comfort. Before you put this diaper on your infant, you put an insert in the “pocket” and then you’re both off to the races.
- All in One: Much like a disposable diaper, this product has an inner layer for comfort, an absorbent layer, and a waterproof exterior.
- All in Two: This diaper also resembles a disposable diaper. An insert is placed into the diaper and, when soiled, you can swap it out for a clean one without having to change the whole diaper.
- Hybrid: Basically, this is very similar to the All in Two. You can use a cloth or disposable insert, depending on what you prefer, for absorbency.
How Many is Enough?
One of the first questions posed by parents thinking of making the switch is how many diapers they need to buy. This is going to depend largely on how often you do laundry. If you do the wash every third day, experts recommend having between 24 and 36 diapers on hand. If you prefer to do laundry weekly, you want to purchase 75-80 cloth diapers.
Inserts for added absorbency
You can buy inserts for some types of diapers separately, which can enable you to customize how well the diaper absorbs. If, say, your baby is a heavy “unloader”, you’ll want an insert that’s really going to suck in moisture. Pay attention to the material type of inserts as different fabrics have different purposes. For example, bamboo is very absorbent, and hemp can hold a lot of liquid without adding a lot of bulk to the diaper. You will also see inserts made from cotton, microfiber and, more recently, Minky.
These are an optional accessory, but they make cleaning out that messy diaper much, much easier. They also protect your cloth diapers from diaper rash creams that might leave stains and, most importantly, can help keep your infant’s skin drier. If you decide to add liners to your cloth diapering regimen, you can buy either reusables or disposables.
Four of the Best Cloth Diapers
If you think that cloth diapering is something you want to try, we came prepared for you. Here are four of our favorite cloth diapers.
These are our absolute favorite cloth diapers, and it seems that many other parents agree! They use the hybrid system so, just like a disposable diaper, the inner and outer part of the diaper is one piece. You just have to stuff the pocket with inserts that you can pull out and change when the diaper is wet.
Each diaper comes with 2 inserts allowing you to work with your baby’s absorbency needs. We found that by using both inserts at night time, we had no leaks with either of our babies – hurrah! And the inserts are made from super soft, microfibre fleece meaning your wee ones’ bottom will enjoy some extra cozy comfort.
They are a one-size, adjustable diaper and fit most babies from newborn – 30 months (6 – 35 pounds). They come in a variety of styles and in packs of 1, 3 or 6.View on Amazon
This handy video from Charlie Banana demonstrates how to use these diapers:
These diapers are really easy to work with, so they’re great if you are new to cloth diapering or have someone watching your child who is unfamiliar with cloth diapers.
They come with a snap closure system making it very easy to secure them to the correct size for your baby.
The two included inserts can be combined to create the Rumparooz signature 6r soaker system giving you 6 absorbency settings with the different combinations below:
Unfortunately, once soiled, you do have to wash the entire diaper. On the plus side, they’re hypoallergenic, adorable, and fit babies from 6 to 35 lbs.View on Amazon
If you’re not into stuffing inserts into diaper pockets, here’s an all in one that we’ve gotten along with really well.
Babies from 7 lbs to 35 lbs will fit into this All in One diaper, which has easy to close snaps, dries quickly after being cleaned, and comes in a variety of colors.
While it can be a bit bulky, it offers absorbent protection for your baby, has an inner layer that wicks away moisture, and comfortable elastics on the leg openings. It’s also easy to use, so it’s perfect for newcomers to the cloth diaper world.View on Amazon
If you’re looking for ways to cloth diaper on a budget, this is a great place to start.
Naturally, because these diapers are pre-folds, you will probably have to practice a few times to get them just right. You’ll also need to invest in a waterproof diaper cover.
However, they’re absorbent and comfortable, ideal for the bargain shopping family or perfect for someone who would like to dip their toe in the cloth diaper pool before making an expensive commitment.View on Amazon
Here’s a helpful video demonstrating how to fold the Osocozy. It looks tricky at first, but after a few attempts, you’ll have it down. Easy-peasy-Osocozy:
Don’t miss the rest of our Diapering series
Okay, so things are going to get messy! But it doesn’t have to be that bad. Our guides and reviews will help you to keep the poop under control whilst remaining cool and calm.
The other articles in our Diapering series:
Hopefully, cloth diapering no longer seems as intimidating as it once did. It’s one of those lifestyle options that, like menstrual cups, can feel incredibly empowering once you do it (after all, they work out better for the environment and save you cash).
However, if you are still unsure about making the big switch, you don’t have to throw out all those traditional diapers all at once. By all means, purchase a few cloth diapers and see if they work for your family’s lifestyle. You might decide that regular diapers are simply a better fit (no pun intended). Or, you might be surprised at how easy cloth diapering really is and completely switch over. And let’s not forget the third option. After all, there’s no rule that says you can’t alternate between cloth and traditional diapers.