On any one of my shifts, I knew that I some point I would encounter it. I could spot the look from across the store. I knew it well, you see. I had had it once (or twice, or many times) too. What is the look, you ask? The look of “Holy crap, that is a whole freaking wall of diapers! What are they all? How are they different? I just want to make sure my kid doesn’t pee on me and all my things!”
Cloth diapering sounds simple in theory. I mean, for the longest time it was the only option out there. So, why is it when we start looking in to it do we find ourselves completely and totally overwhelmed by information? Because, my friends, this is a time when you are already being told by a million companies and stores that you NEED all this baby stuff, and without x, y and z, you will have a miserable child who will never sleep or eat or thrive blah blah blah. Look at the options! The colours! The features!
My goal here to is avoid all that pressure and insanity. Like anything else in the commercial baby world, cloth diapers can be as insane and as complicated as you want it to be, OR as simple. Try to remind yourself, that at the end of the day, we are talking about things that catch pee and poop. No matter what you choose, your kid is going to be ok.
Say it with me, please. Your kid is going to be ok.
So, take a deep breath and walk with me into the world of cloth. Take your time. Any of these options will do the job. There is no right or wrong answer here.
We live in a world, at least here in Canada, where disposables are tops. With that in mind, how about we start with the diapers that are closest to throwing a disposable on, moving towards the types that your parents or grandparents would recognize.
All in Ones (commonly known as AIO)
What is it: An All In One is exactly that. It is a diaper that has everything you need, sewn right in. It is the closest to a disposable in both look and use. You literally just put it on your kid. For a long time, these were favoured by those who wanted the easiest cloth option out there, including daycare providers and those who were a little more cloth shy.
Why is it awesome? With minimal prep, these bad boys are ready to go. After washing, all you need to do is throw it on your baby. Some require you to make sure the sewn in insert lays flat or is tucked in, but that’s it.
Why might I not like it? Firstly, because all the pieces are attached, they take longer to dry, which can be annoying if you have a smaller stash. Also, they tend to be the most expensive option because everything is there. They are a bit more of a pain to customize. You have a heavier wetter and you may struggle a bit to add a booster. Want to try a different fiber? You may have to buy a completely different brand or diaper. Also, you really only get one use at a time with AIOs. Kid pees or poops? Into the wet bag it goes to be washed.
What brands do you recommend? BumGenius offers two AIO options in either Freetime or Elemental. Thirsties is a great, affordable brand as well and I love their new prints. You can also try Imagine, Funky Fluff and Sweet Pea.
What is it: A pocket diaper is a water proof cover that is lined with a soft and absorbent fabric that has a pocket. In the pocket you put an insert. Some pocket diapers come with inserts, usually microfiber. Other inserts can be fleece, bamboo, hemp, cotton, or a blend or combination.
Why is it awesome? I love pocket diapers. They are my personal favourite. Why? Well, they are incredibly versatile while still being easy to use. What do I mean? Well, if you need to add boosters, or change the kind of insert you use, you just need to buy the insert or booster and throw it in the pocket. Taadaa! Done. This means a pocket diaper will work for different kids with different needs, and for different phases of cloth diapering. You can mix and match different brands of inserts and boosters as well, so if you find one you love, you don’t have to stick with whatever insert came with the diaper.
In terms of prep and use, they are still really easy (though a bit more hands on). All you need to do is wash, dry, then stuff your insert into the pocket and you’re good to go! Once stuffed, they basically look like an All In One and go right on the kiddo. They are usually cheaper than All In Ones too, which is a nice bonus.
Why might I not like it? It is a bit more work than just diapering your kid. You do have to stuff the diaper, and, when it comes to washing, most brands require you to remove the insert from the pocket first (which means you may come in contact with pee or poop). Like an All In One, they are a one use before wash diaper, which means they need to be washed once they come in contact with pee or poop.
What brands do you recommend? My personal favourites have changed a bit over the last year. Currently, I’m a big fan of Bum Genius, Apple Cheeks, and Rumparooz.
What is it: A waterproof cover, usually without any kind of lining. Cover has buttons to which you can attach their insert directly, without any pocket or covering.
Why is it awesome? The big seller for Hybrid diapers is that they are quick and easy to prep and you can reuse the cover. To prep, all you have to do is wash, dry, snap in their insert and put the diaper on the baby. Most hybrid brands offer different kinds and sizes of inserts so that you can customize your diaper as baby grows and their diapering needs change. A big plus is that so long as the cover itself doesn’t get poopy, you can reuse it between uses. So, baby does their business? You remove the soiled insert, wipe down the cover’s waterproof lining, put in another inset and you’re good to go. This means you need fewer covers, which is great for when you’re out and about, for storage and, in theory, for the pocket book. One thing that’s nice is that if you have a mixed stash, you can use the hybrid covers as regular covers with prefolds or fitteds.
Why might I not like it? Well, despite the idea of not needing many covers, hybrid systems tend to be a bit more expensive than one would expect. Inserts are shaped to the diaper and aren’t always swappable between brands, which means you usually need to buy the correct insert for the same brand of cover.
What brands do you recommend? I loved these when L was little. They made for quick changes and less bulk in the diaper bag. I am a big fan of Best Bottoms, Grovia and the new Bummis hybrid.
Prefold Diapers and Covers
What is it: A prefold diaper is pretty similar to what previous generations would have used for diapering, but have been upgraded for better fit, use and absorbency.
The prefold itself is a square piece of cloth with two seams sewn in. The middle portion is usually thicker with more layers of absorbent fabric. The seams are what make this “prefolded”. You would then fold the square into whatever shape works best for you and baby, and then you would cover the prefold with a waterproof cover of your choice. Without the cover, the prefold isn’t waterproof on its own.
Why is it awesome? Firstly, these are the cheapest diapering option out there. This is where you can save some serious money, especially compared to disposables. Secondly, prefolds only get more absorbent with use. The more you wash them, the more the fibers loosen up. Thirdly, they are incredibly versatile. You can change the kind of prefold you use if you want, you can buy different prefolds in different fibers and different sizes. You can fold the prefold however you want, with different folds to serve different purposes. Prefolds themselves are also awesome burp cloths and rags, which can give them a second life if you decide not to sell. Oh, and if you have a mixed stash, you can use prefolds as inserts in your pockets or use your hybrid covers with your prefolds.
I actually really love how you can have a bunch of really awesome covers, and a bunch of different kids of prefolds. Also, like the hybrid, these are a multi-use diaper. Toss the prefold into the wash, wipe down the cover and use a new prefold to keep on going. This keeps you from having to carry around as much and keeps costs down. For multiple kids of different genders, if you want to go girlie or boyish, you can cheaply pick up a couple more covers and reuse the prefolds you already have. Oh, and for washing, these babies dry up much much faster because they are all separate pieces.
Why might I not like it? These are probably the most labour intensive and intimidating cloth option, but I promise, they aren’t as complicated as they seem.
They require more bits and pieces, from the prefold, to the cover, some people like to use either pins or snappis to fasten the prefold on baby before putting the cover on.
Also, the obvious: Folding. I know, it looks fussy and crazy, especially when you add a baby to the mix. You don’t need to be a fancy origami expert to do this, I promise. You can go from as easy as a rectangle (outside flaps folded in, to create a pad) to something more diaper like. There is a learning curve, and it isn’t for everyone, but I swear anyone can figure it out.
What brands do you recommend? For the prefolds themselves, Bummis is tops for me. There is just something about that puffy cotton quilted looking fluff. Baby Kicks are also awesome for different fiber blends. As for covers, Thirsties, Rumparooz, Planet Wise and wool have my vote.
What is it: A fitted diaper looks more like your disposable, but unless you know what a prefold is, it’s hard to explain, so I’ve put them here. Basically, a fitted is a prefold that has been sewn into a diaper shape for ease of use and fit. Most are not waterproof on their own, so you would put the fitted diaper on baby and then put a cover over top.
Why is it awesome? The ease of use of any of the other fitted types (AIO, Pocket. No folding!). The ability to mix and match a fitted with a diaper cover, the multi-use like a prefold. They are insanely absorbent. Like, crazy absorbent. A lot of people use these for over nights, for heavy wetters or long trips.
Why might I not like it? Because of their shape and the need to have a cover, they tend to be bulky. This can make clothing baby a bit of a pain. They are also far more expensive than a prefold, because of their tailored fit. Because of this, I don’t know many people who just use fitteds for all their diapering needs. Also, because of the way they are made, they take a while to dry.
What brands do you recommend? Sustainablebabyish, Baby Kicks and Kissaluvs.
There you have it. There are always new products popping up, but these are the ones you are most likely to come across. If you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me a line. I am by no means an expert, but I will try my best to help. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and found it helpful as you consider starting your cloth diaper journey.
The rest of the Baby Basics Series: