There are so many kinds of cloth diapers out there, it can be difficult to choose which cloth diapering system will work best for your family. You research and research and finally decide, Yes! I will cloth diaper my children. Then, you are faced with which cloth diapering system to buy! It can be overwhelming trying to figure out the pros and cons of each system, especially since you’ll be pulling from individual diaper reviews and diaper sites.
As a mom of 9 who has been cloth diapering for a decade and a half, I often get asked why I chose the cloth diapering system I chose, why I like my cloth diapers, and would I choose again the same way if I had to do it all over again. Well, here is an overview of different cloth diapering systems and what I think is nice about them and what I think is awful about them.
Prefolds (or Flats) & Covers
+ They are the cheapest cloth diapering system available.
+ They provide a level of excitement, providing the daily challenge of achieving that perfect fold.
+ Dry quickly.
+ All natural fibers against baby’s skin.
+ Easiest to launder without a washing machine. (Yes, you can hand wash diapers!)
+ Double layers great for contained newborn explosive poos.
– They are the most intimidating system, especially to husbands and child care providers.
– Pins or snappis are usually required.
– Can be difficult to get the absorbency just right.
– Often bulky.
– Can be difficult to get on a squirmy baby or toddler.
– Different sizes are usually needed. (Except for flats. A full flat can pretty much be folded to fit most babies.)
Fitteds and Covers
+ Cute and often trim.
+ Great for containing messes. (Really great fro holding in newborn poo!)
+ Very absorbent and usually require little “fiddling” to get absorbency right.
+ Easier to use.
+ Can easily use all natural fibers only.
+ Can make yourself or buy from a work at home mom.
+/- Can be the most expensive cloth diapering system or a very affordable system depending on your personal choices.
– The most addictive cloth diapering system. (Yes, cloth diapers can be addictive.)
– More difficult to adjust absorbency if the absorbency isn’t right for your little one from the start.
– Take more time to dry.
– Usually need various sizes. (There are a few brands that offer a One Size fitted diaper and you can find One Size covers.)
+ Easy to use. (Some babysitters or grandmothers will still think they are overcomplicated and somehow mess up putting them on.)
+ Most common type of One Size diapers.
+ Dry quickly.
+ Easy to adjust absorbency.
+ Only require one diaper “layer.” No extra cover is needed.
– Require “assembly” of diapers after each wash.
– Usually made of man made fibers.
– Can be expensive, depending on the diaper you choose.
-Can get bulky if you have to add more layers to get them to absorb.
+ Easy to use. (For you, your husband, your childcare provider– although some grandmothers will still mess them up.)
+ No assembly required. Ready straight from the wash.
+ Only one diaper “layer” is needed. No extra cover necessary.
– Can take quite a while to dry.
– More difficult to adjust absorbency if you need to.
– Likely the most expensive cloth diapering system.
-Do not have quite the same life span as other cloth diaper systems. (I’ve found all-in-ones last about half as long as a pocket diaper.)
+ Fairly easy to use.
+ Dry faster than an all-in-ones cloth diaper system.
+ Theoretically, you can reuse the outer cover, meaning you’ll have less diaper laundry and less cost.
– Not a good system for babies with loose poo. (The poo contaminates the cover, eliminating the chance of reusing it.)
– Require “assembly” before use.
-Realistically, the outer cover will always be contaminated and have to be changed.
-Essentially a pocket diaper without the pocket.
-Snaps for the liner can be uncomfortable on baby.
-Often have a man made fiber that sits against baby’s skin.
How can I use this information to choose the best cloth diapering system for my family?
Look at all the variables and figure out what is the most important to you. What are your needs? Who will be primarily changing the baby’s diaper? Do you have access to a washing machine and dryer on a daily basis? Is the material touching the baby important to you? What is your budget?
I looked at everything and narrowed down the most important for me. Knowing I would be drying my diapers in my dryer, so I’d want something that dried quickly. And I knew I needed something that would work immediately without a lot of trial and error. The Pastor was barely on board with cloth diapering, so I needed it to work and be easy for him.
I wanted a one size solution, since I have multiple children in diapers at one time, and didn’t want to have to separate and keep several different sizes out all the time. One stash for all the children I was diapering (except newborns) was the ideal. I did not want to use snappis or pins because that was just something else for me to lose.
What cloth diapering system did I choose?
So, with all that information, I chose to buy one size pocket diapers. They worked without any playing around with them. They were easy to use. The only real downside for my family is that I had to assemble them when they come out of the dryer and that takes time. Pocket diapers were the perfect cloth diapering system for our family at first.
When we added newborn diapers to the mix, we opted to buy fitteds and covers. I wanted double layers to help with explosive newborn poo. I hoped to have more natural fibers touching the tiny baby. And I still wasn’t ready for pins or Snappis.
Now, we use flats and prefolds. They dry so much faster. Baby always has nothing but natural fibers on their skin. Folding them isn’t any trouble anymore. And I put a basket on the wall to contain the Snappis and pins. Having different size refolds doesn’t bother me since we no longer have three in diapers, so I’m not having to keep multiple sizes out at once.
So, what should I choose?
That is up to you. You shouldn’t feel like you have to choose just one system. I knew that in the beginning, it would make it easier for The Pastor if I only had one system. But many families use on system at home and one system while out. Or one system during the day and another at night. Choosing an easier system at first will make your transition into cloth easier. (Some people find prefolds very frustrating and quit cloth diapering because of these frustrations. Same for pocket diapers with their microfiber inserts that tend to have detergent or ammonia build up issues.) It is up to you!