Today only around 10% of American parents opt for cloth diapers in spite of the fact that advances in cloth diapers have made them very manageable and pretty similar to disposables, as far as convenience is concerned. Also cloth diapers are much more environmentally friendly simply because they have been in existence for hundreds of years and have not aggravated the environment in a noticeable way. The reason could simply be lack of awareness – most people are so overwhelmed with parenthood in general that they would rather have one less decision to deal with. The choices in cloth diapers seem overwhelming and they anticipate difficulty in keeping up with it.
In this section I will provide you everything that you need to know to understand cloth diapers so as to take the right decision. The main types of cloth diapers are as below.
- Basic Cloth Diapers – Before the advent of disposables around 50 years ago most people used cloth diapers for their babies. The ones that people used in the past are still available – in the simplest form it includes a plain piece of cloth that is folded correctly around the baby’s bottom, fastened with safety pins and snaps and then enclosed in a waterproof diaper cover to prevent leakage. There are three variations
- Flat – Square sheets which are uniformly thick.
- Pre-folds – Rectangular is shape with a thick padded center section.
- Contoured – Contoured diapers are similar to flat and pre-fold except that it is designed to fit around the baby’s legs and has tabs that fit around the baby’s legs. It does not have snaps or velcro and so will need be secured with pins or fasteners.
Here is an example of flat diaper cloths – Gerber Birdseye Flatfold Cloth Diapers
and pre-folds – OsoCozy Prefolds Unbleached Cloth Diapers
and contoured – Pooters One-size Contour Diaper-Organic Cotton NATURAL
and the most popular diaper fasteners – Snappi Cloth Diaper Fastenersand diaper covers
- Fitted Cloth Diapers – This is especially for those who are looking for cloth diapers that resemble disposables – they have multiple layers of absorbent material, elastic at the legs and back and have built in snaps, hooks or velcro. This is a great convenience and in addition these are better at containing messes – which goes a long way in reducing diaper cover usage. Fabric options may include cotton, hemp, cotton fleece, cotton terry and bamboo. Generally, they dry faster than all-in-ones, saving energy and time, but they still need a waterproof cover. These diapers are sized and therefore you will need to buy larger diapers as the baby grows. On the whole these are more expensive than pre-folds or contoured but are easier to use and better at holding the mess.
Here is an example
- Pocket or Sleeve Diapers – These are hourglass shaped with elastic in the legs and waist. They have a waterproof outer layer and a stay dry inner layer, usually fleece or suede cloth. An insert is stuffed into the middle which soaks up the pee leaving the layer near the skin dry. There is no additional cover need and it fastens with hook and loops or snap closures. The separate insert makes for a quicker drying time, plus it’s much easier to adjust to your baby’s wetting needs (you can add extra liners to increase absorbency). As mentioned earlier – they do not need a separate waterproof cover. The problem with pocket diapers is that they are more bulky and fit poorly and the process of unstuffing the pocket is difficult.
Here is an example
- All in one Cloth Diapers – These are similar to fitted diapers in that they have elastic around the waist and legs, built in snaps, hooks or velcro to fasten them and have a set of absorbency layers sewn inside of a waterproof cover. Thus there is no need for separate cover since the waterproof cover is sewn right over the absorbent cloth lining. This is easier to operate and hence a good choice if you are leaving the child with non primary caregivers – grandparents, relatives etc. The disadvantage obviously is that they are pricey and cost more (in addition to taking more time) to wash and dry as they are composed of multiple layers. But a big plus is the sheer simplicity of design, the good fit and the fact that they are a good all round choice- without any problems in effectiveness.
- All in Twos – Hybrids – These diapers are designed to make things easier and are composed of two pieces(hence the name all in twos ) – an outer shell into which one can insert a variety of absorbency layers. They are called hybrid because the absorbent layers can be made or cloth or can be disposable, chosen according to the need. Key advantage obviously is the flexibility and that outer cover need not be washed as often. These can appear complicated at the outset, though parents get used to it pretty easily. In addition the lack of contoured fit increases the chances of leakage.
- Flushable – This is a new category called flushable cloth diapers- a notable example is gDiapers. They come with diaper covers called gPants and flushable disposable inserts. Once the inserts are used up you can either flush the poopy inserts, compost them or dispose of them with the garbage. They are biodegradable and come without any of the side effects of disposables.
If you do decide to choose cloth diapers then you should be cognizant of the criteria that you need to prioritize
- Effectiveness – Ultimately you want to diaper to accomplish the two primary purposes – absorbing the fluid and preventing leakage, and as long as it accomplishes these objectives you are good.
- Easy to Use – Your cloth diapers should not be load on your cognitive capacity, especially when you have so much to worry about. Ideally you prefer a cloth diaper that mimics disposables as much as possible.
- Flexible to use – You want cloth diapers that can be used repeatedly on a growing child. If you have to change sizes the way you change disposables – that sort of defeats the purpose.
- Covers that be used more than once – Ideally you want to use the covers even after a change, or it increases your laundry drastically.
- Long lasting – you may not be thinking of your future kids at this point, but it really helps to have a cache of cloth diapers lying around when the next one comes. Knowing that you are saving on at least one thing will help a lot.
So what diapers are recommended by experts and mommy bloggers. Let us have a look.
- Fitted Diapers – If you are looking to buy fitted diapers here are a few recommended by a lot of people.
- Kissaluv’s Cotton Fleece Fitted Diaper
- Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted Snap Cloth Diapers
- Happy Heiny
- Nicky’s Diapers
- Pocket Diapers – If the one obvious disadvantage with pocket diapers – unstuffing the liners is not a problem, go for one of these.
- Rumparooz G2
- Fuzzy Bunz
- Nicky’s Diapers
- All in One Diapers – Best all in ones are as below
- Thirsties Snap All in One
- Charcoal Bamboo All in One
- Daisy Doodles
- All in Two Diapers – Best all in twos or hybrids are as below
- GroVia Hybrid
- Flip Hybrid
- Tuck and Go
Since I did not use cloth diapers myself, my information is at best a compilation of opinions. It gives you pointers to the best brands, but if you are interested in detailed reviews I would suggest the website Kitchenstewardship.com.
You could also peruse some books which have specially been written for parents interested in cloth diapers