Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you are likely just beginning your journey into cloth diapering and that deserves applause. By considering reusable diapers you are taking a big step by veering away from the norm which isn’t always easy. Choosing to use the best cloth diapers can be intimidating, especially if you’re a first time parent.
Let’s face it: that voice of self-doubt might be telling you that you don’t have enough time, patience, and energy to commit to ditching the disposables.
It’s time to put those voices to rest. Regardless of if you’re concerned about reducing your environmental impact, saving money, protecting your baby from harmful chemicals, or you just like a challenge- there is a reason you’re considering reusable diapers vs. disposable diapers. So trust your gut.
Why Cloth Diapering Matters to Me
I am a soon-to-be first time mom, and I’ve decided to use cloth diapers. I’ve never changed a diaper in my life and I often fear that the challenge of a newborn alone may be too much for me to handle. But I’ve spent countless hours researching the types of cloth diapers that will work best for us and I hope to share that insight with you, to make your decision easier.
Hopefully by the end, you will feel more confident in your understanding of different cloth diaper types, the top cloth diaper brands, and find helpful recommendations on where to begin.
To start, here are some of my big takeaways:
- Don’t get overwhelmed. There are an incredible amount of cloth diaper brands and styles to choose from. This is great! However, for someone like me that doesn’t like to waste money or make an ill-informed decision, that means I have a lot of details to sift through.
- There is no “best brand of cloth diaper”. However, there WILL be the best brand of cloth diapers for you and your baby. Each style and brand have subtle differences that some parents love and some parents hate. But the only real way to know what works for you is to give a few a try. That being said…
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Like I said, there are so many options, it is best to do your homework and find the brands and styles of reusable diapers that you like (maybe narrow it down to 3 or 4) then purchase a few of each. Luckily, we’ve done some of the work for you.
- YouTube is an incredible resource. Up until getting pregnant, I had only used YouTube to re-watch Beyonce’s Lemonade album a million times. But little did I know there are some talented and experienced bloggers out there with great how-to and cloth diaper 101 videos. (My favorite is Naturally Thrifty Mama.)
- Other parents are also great resources (who knew?!). Find local Facebook groups related to cloth diapering or clothes swapping. You can learn a lot and even find amazing deals on high-quality used cloth diapers. Another great resource is from Mom Loves Best- a website featuring articles great for pregnancy and beyond. Make sure to check out their article on the benefits of cloth diapering.
Now let’s dive into the important stuff.
In this first section, we’ll go over some of the best cloth diapers out there, and check out their features in benefits. After that, is a rundown of what types of cloth diapers are out there and how they work.
9 Best Cloth Diapers Reviews
Below is a quick summary of highlights from multiple brands and types of cloth diapers. I’ll likely be adding to this section as I get the chance to test out some more types and brands of cloth diapers throughout the months to come!
- Double gussets to protect blowouts
- One size to grow with baby
- Trim fitting
- Inside made with hemp and organic cotton–known to be very absorbent
- 8-40 lbs.
- Made in USA
Thirsties is a popular name among cloth diaper enthusiasts. They have a ton of color options available in the All-in-Ones, but shoppers be aware! They are on the spendier end of the scale.
- Double gussets to protect blowouts
- Trim fitting
- Three Size Ranges
- 6-18, 18-40, 40-60+ lbs.
- Made in USA
Thirsties also makes a great waterproof duo snap cloth diaper cover to use over fitted, prefold, and flat cloth diapers. They come in 3 different sizes from 6lbs clear up to 60+ lbs.
- Trim sizing to fit smaller babies
- Grows with baby
- Leg elastic may not hold as well over time
- 8-35 lbs.
- Made in USA
Flip One Size Comfort cover is compatible with three different insert types, and will grow with your baby for added use. I did note from my research that the leg elastic stretches out a bit faster than what is typical.
- Inserts aren’t completely sewn in for better wash
- Inserts at made with polyester and nylon
- One Size so grows with baby
- 7-35+ lbs.
- Made in USA
bumGenius designs these All-in-One cloth diapers to be easy to use and clean at all stages of baby’s growth. The inserts are made with a polyester and nylon blend, and they will work for baby until roughly 35+ lbs.
- Includes adjustable leg elastics to conform to baby’s leg size
- Pocket is made from microfiber and fleece material
- Trim fit
- Comes in multiple sizes
Having an adjustable leg elastic on a diaper can save you from a lot of unnecessary messes. From what I’ve read, this FuzziBunz pocket style has actually been discontinued by the manufacturer, so buy them while you still can!
- Trim fit that will fit very small babies and preemies
- Drop down in front to protect newborn’s stump
- 4-10 lbs.
Amazon’s choice for newborn cloth diapers is this cover from Rumparooz. The trim fit works for small newborns and even preemies. It’s also available in the velcro form.
- Trim fit that will fit very small babies and preemies
- Drop down in front to protect newborn’s stump
- 4-10 lbs.
Another top newborn cloth diaper has patented double inner gusset leak technology. The snap down in the front will help protect the umbilical cord stump on your newborn.
- Cheap option
- Thick layers of absorbency
- Can use for multiple uses after baby outgrows
High quality prefolds can be great for more than just diapering! These super absorbent unbleached prefold are worth the investment, as they can double as burp rags and more as baby outgrows the sizes.
- Thick layers of absorbency without being overly bulky
- Comes in options for unbleached and organic cotton
- Can use for multiple uses after baby outgrows
Types of Reusable Diapers
There are a large number of brands and types of cloth diaper products. While it is nice to have options, it also makes it utterly confusing when you are a first-timer.
Compare Types of Reusable Diapers
Here is a quick overview of the different types of reusable diapers to choose from and what makes them unique. I’ve put them in table form to make it easy for you to compare features, as well as see a few examples. If you’re on a smaller screen, tablet, or phone, you might have to click the small green “+” symbol to view the collapsed table data.
|Flats||One large, square layer of fabric. These can be folded into a rectangular strip and inserted into a waterproof cover or folded and wrapped around baby and secured with pins or a Snappi.||These are the most “old school” style of cloth diapers. A waterproof cover is needed to go over these but the cover can be reused multiple time before wash (see description below).||Oso
COzy Birseye Flat Unbleached Diapers
|Prefold||A layered sheet of fabric with three sections; AKA burp cloths. The two outside sections typically have less absorbency and the inside section has the highest absorbency. (Example 4x8x4 means 4 layers of fabric on the outside sections and 8 layers in the middle).||These can be folded into a rectangular strip and placed into a cover or folded and wrapped around baby and secured with pins a Snappi. A waterproof cover is needed to go over these but the cover can be reused multiple time before wash.||GroVia Prefold Clothe Diapers|
|Fitted||A Prefold style fabric that has been sewn to fit baby without any folding. These can come with or without straps/buttons to secure.||A waterproof cover is needed to go over these but the cover can be reused multiple time before wash.||Cloth-eez Workhorse Fitted Diaper|
|A waterproof cover with a soft liner and pocket sewn into the inside.A waterproof cover with a soft liner and pocket sewn into the inside. The pocket is designed to have cloth inserts (such as a Prefold or single inserts) stuffed in before use so you can adjust the needed absorbency.||Inserts are typically sold separately. The entire diaper (cover and inserts) will need to be washed when dirty.||bumGenius One-Size Pocket Cloth Diaper|
|A waterproof cover with the ability to insert cloth or disposable inserts. These can come with snaps on the inside to snap in single reusable pads; can be lined with a flat, prefold, or fitted; or can insert a disposable liner.||Each liner option is removed and washed (or thrown away) when dirty and the cover can be used again 2-4 times unless soiled.||GroVia Hybrid Cloth Diaper|
|All-in-One||A waterproof cover with thick layers of fabric sewn in.||These are the most like disposable diapers because they don’t need liners added but can just be placed on baby then removed and washed when dirty.||Thirsties Snap Natural All In One Cloth Diaper|
Cloth vs. Disposables: 5 Important Things to Consider
1. Cost Comparison of Cloth Diapers and Disposables
The table below shows a cost comparison between disposable and cloth diapers assuming you are changing diapers between 8-10 times a day. This also does not calculate the cost for accessories or the utilities such as trash or water services.
(There are more accessories that you can purchase with cloth diapers, such as pins, wet bags, pail liners, etc. which will increase the overall cost.)
|Estimated Cost of Generic Brand Disposables for 2 years||$1100-$1800|
|Estimated Cost of Organic Brand Disposables for 2 years||$3500-$4000|
|Estimated Cost of 20 All-in-One (use for 2 years)||$400-$600|
|Estimated Cost of 6 Covers + 30 Prefolds (use for 2 years)||$200-$400|
2. Environmental Benefit of Cloth Diapers
When choosing cloth diapers, many parents cite the reduced environmental footprint as a major benefit. I am an environmental professional that has worked in both waste reduction and water quality, and I must say, cloth diapers have the ability to cut down significantly on landfill waste and water quality health.
According to a case study performed by Women’s Environmental Network, disposable diapers in the US are the 3rd largest consumer item that contributes to landfill waste. And diapers, unlike other consumer products, can be even more harmful when thrown in the landfill. They contain feces and urine, that when broken down over time, release the Greenhouse Gas, Methane.
If landfills are not set up to properly collect the Methane, it flows unregulated into the atmosphere, contributing to the negative emissions that contribute to climate change. According to the EPA, Methane is the second most prominent Greenhouse Gas, behind Carbon Dioxide.
Additionally, landfills are open pits that, on top of garbage, also collect rainwater. When mixed with the landfill waste, it creates leachate, a toxic substance that is required to be collected and properly disposed of so it doesn’t reach water sources.
However, as well know, accidents happen.
Adding human waste from diapers into leachate can increase the chances of negative water quality impacts and the spread of harmful bacteria. By choosing an option that cuts down on post-consumer waste, the environmental benefits certainly begin to stack up. It’s important to remember that just like any “green” product if it is misused the benefits can slowly disappear.
Keep reading for more information and tips on how to be environmentally conscious when diapering.
3. Are Cloth Diapers Better for the Environment?
Cloth diapers can be a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. However, there are a few habits that could be costly to you and the environment. Don’t let your good intentions go to waste.
- Don’t get sucked into purchasing more than you need. I’ve seen many cloth diapering parents that have 30-50+ cloth diapers in their stash. While you’re cutting down on the amount of waste you’re producing on the back end by not using disposables, purchasing that many new cloth diapers are still wasteful. Consider all of the energy and resources it took to make each one of those diapers. To truly cut your impact, do your homework, find the styles that work for you, and only purchase what you need.
- Purchased used. The great thing about high-quality cloth diaper brands is that many of them can last beyond the typical 2-3 year potty training time of a child. By purchasing used, you’re not only saving money but also cutting down 100% of the emissions associated with production.
- Consider purchasing cloth diapers with natural fibers or organic natural fibers. These are non-petroleum products such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo and are renewable. While there are still extensive emissions associated with growing and producing these crops, it is the lesser of two evils. Organic products also reduce the number of pesticides used on those crops as well as the chemicals that end up against your baby’s toosh.
- Find a reasonable wash schedule. If you wash your cloth diapers every day with multiple rinses (hot and cold), you’re quickly going to increase your energy and waste footprint. (The hot water heater in your home is the biggest energy pull so using excess hot water is costly). Typically diapers can go 2-4 days before being washed, so find a balance.
- Don’t overdo the soap. When washing your diapers, be conservative with how much detergent you use. Soaps and chemicals often don’t get filtered out of our water supply, so the excess is never good. But excess detergent can also clog your diapers or leave a residue on baby’s bottom.
- Air dry when possible. Using the dryer is probably one of the next biggest energy pulls in your house (next to the water heater). Many diaper covers can just be air-dried and often times placing inserts and diapers out in the sun will naturally remove bacteria and stains.
- Use cloth wipes, too. Sometimes cloth wipes can get overlooked but since you’re already creating a stash of laundry, using reusable wipes is a logical option. Cloth wipes are often sturdier, softer, and can get baby’s bottom cleaner.
- Don’t flush disposable wipes. Even if the package says “flushable”. These are a wastewater employee’s worst nightmare because they clog drains, cause sewer overflows, and extensive, stinky damage. And even if they do make it to the sewer plant, they are removed and taken to the landfill anyway. So remember to can the wipes.
- Find other ways to reduce your waste around your home. What other things can you replace with reusables? I think you’ll find that once you get in the habit, it will become second nature and you’ll never miss, say, your disposable coffee cup.
4. Health Benefits of Cloth Diapers
Have you ever taken the time to read the packaging on a box of disposable diapers?
If you’re a first-time mom like me, you probably haven’t. And to be honest, I probably never would have thought about it. That is until I attended a work conference related to consumer products and water quality impacts.
The conference was led by the Department of Environmental Quality who was updating us on their latest research related to consumer products found in rivers, lakes, and streams. Their number one product of concern was pesticides (not surprising).
Their number two product of concern…Flame retardants and other chemicals found in baby/kids products (WHAT?!). At the time, I knew I was pregnant but hadn’t told anyone, so this freaked me out to no end.
5. The Research
I went home and immediately began researching. But, the problem with baby and kids products is that for most of them, materials and added chemicals aren’t listed anywhere on the packaging! So even if you had read the packaging of your disposable diaper box, there would be no way for you to know the material, fragrances, or chemicals that will be touching your child’s most sensitive areas.
However, you could rightfully assume that there are disinfectants, fragrances to eliminate smell, petroleum-based plastics, and man-made materials created for peak absorbency. But for me, the lack of transparency is enough to persuade me from using these products.
(As a side note, many parents have also noted a decrease in diaper rash when using cloth diapers, which I would assume is because there are fewer chemicals on baby’s skin.)
If you are interested in knowing more about the health and safety of the products used for your baby, check out this initiative by Healthy Babies, Bright Futures that helps you locate products for you and your baby that are free of toxic chemicals.
My Cloth Diaper Purchase Plan
Like I said before, I find it challenging to make a decision unless I have scoped out all of my options, written extensive notes, and created at least one Excel spreadsheet. My husband hates going to the grocery store with me because I can stand in the peanut butter aisle for hours analyzing my options.
You can likely imagine- with all of the cloth diapering options out there- how long it took me to make a decision on brands and style. But I finally feel like I’ve narrowed my options and found what I think will work best for our home and I wanted to share my plan of attack with you in case it is in anyway helpful.
Again, I know I cannot be 100% prepared since I won’t know baby’s size or preferences, but I’ve tried hard to cover my bases with an array of different options.
The table below will outline the type, brand, and number of each item I have purchased with an estimate for the retail cost. I have actually found most of my options used through consignment shops and Facebook groups which cut my overall cost in half but this will give you an insight on my choices and the rough cost if you were to purchase brand new.
Cloth Diaper Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s a bonus FAQ section on cloth diapering! Click on each question to expand the answer. We’ve even included videos and photos to help you out. Feel free to contact us, and send any more questions you may have.
From the time your baby is first born, up until they are eating solid foods, their diapers will likely be filled with runny poo and pee. Most of this will get absorbed into the cloth diaper and unless there it doesn’t absorb into the cloth, all you need to do is place the cloth into the diaper pail, and eventually into the wash.
When your baby is having solid poo, you will simply scrape it into the toilet and flush. For this reason, it might be convenient to have your changing area near the bathroom with a diaper pail or wet bag in bathroom as well. Some folks use a diaper sprayer (a hose hooked up to your toilet’s water supply) to spray the poo into the toilet.
Here is a great video on what to do with the poo from NaturallyThriftyMom.
Just like you would at home except traveling with cloth diapers might require a bit more planning. Be sure to pack your wet bag (to store the dirty diaper), the right amount of inserts, prefolds, fitted, covers, etc. that you will likely need for your time on the go, and wipes.
You can scrape the poo into the public toilet once you’re done changing baby and just store the dirty diaper until you get home. However, if the thought of storing a dirty diaper in your purse or diaper bag makes you queasy, you can opt for a disposable liner that you can just throw away. All in ones are also a quick alternative for using on the go, which requires less time folding the diaper on baby.
This should be something you address with whoever is babysitting. If you are taking baby to daycare, you might need to check with your provider to make sure they are able to accommodate (although it really shouldn’t be a problem). But if someone doesn’t like the idea of cloth, you can make the transition easier for them by using fitted diapers, all-in-ones, or disposable liners until they are comfortable.
Learning how to wash cloth diapers can be tricky at first. Be sure to read your diaper labels as they typically will provide the best recommendations for their product. Some products may need a special detergent to get out bacteria without clogging the absorbency of the diaper and some may not.
Typically, you can rinse a load with cold water, wash on a hot cycle with a small amount of detergent, another cold rinse to get out any extra detergent, and thoroughly spin to get out all of the excess water. You usually can throw them in the dryer, but air dry with sun exposure and a light tumble in the dryer to keep them soft works great too. Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets when washing as these can add chemicals and clog the fabric absorbency. Here is a special detergent that is popular among cloth diapering parents.
There are a number of cloth diaper specific detergents out there, but a lot of them are extremely expensive. For most fabrics, regular detergent will be safe however you will want to be sure to find a brand that is free from whiteners, brighteners, fabric softener, fragrance, colorants, and enzymes. These can all disrupt the absorbency and lifespan of the fabric while also adding harsh chemicals against baby’s skin.
This depends on what you find challenging about cloth diapers. For most people, All-in-Ones are going to be the easiest to use because application and removal are so similar to disposables. There is no folding, no special snaps, and when you’re done, you throw the whole thing in the laundry instead of the trash.
For others, it may be that the washing is the challenging part. In that case, prefolds and covers might be a good option because they are easier to clean. The dirtied fabric can be separated from the outside cover ensuring a more thorough clean.
Additionally, if you are concerned about how to dispose of the poo, a hybrid diaper with a disposable insert might be the way to go at first. You can place the disposable insert into the reusable cover and just toss the insert when it’s dirty (this still reduces your waste, but only by a little). Then when you’ve got the hang of it, swap the disposable for a reusable insert!
If you’re buying new, the most economical option is typically going to be prefolds and covers. Prefolds can range from 50 cents to 4 dollars a piece depending on fabric type and quality. The waterproof covers and range from 10 to 25 dollars. But if you change baby 8 times a day and wash every 2 days, you would only need 16 prefolds and about 5 covers.
In this scenario, this could cost a minimum of $58 and a maximum of $189. If you used All-in-Ones, you would need about 16. Those can be anywhere between 15-30 dollars each costing a minimum of $240 and a maximum of $480. Using prefold and covers will also save you some money on your water and electricity bill since you will be washing less compared to if you washed a bundle of All-in-Ones.
The biggest concern for newborn babies when using cloth diapers is fit and protecting their umbilical cord stump. Because you won’t know the size of baby until she/he is born, it is hard to know which diaper will be a good fit. So if you want to be prepared, you can purchase newborn-sized diapers which will be trimmer and have a drop down in the front so it won’t rub against their stump.
There are a number of one-sized diapers that claim to have a weight range starting at 4lbs. So be sure to check the specifications of each diaper to see if a one-size might be work for your newborn.
This depends on how often you plan to do laundry and the age of your baby. 0-1 month will have between 8-10 changes a day. 1-3 months will be about 7-9 changes, 3-6 months will be 6-8 changes and so on. Here is a simple math equation to figure out the number of cloth diapers you will need:
(number of changes a day) X (number of days between washes) = number of diapers
For my newborn, I anticipate up to 10 changes a day and I want to wash every 3 days. 10×3=30. If you use prefolds and covers, you will need a new cover every 3-4 changes. I will need a combination of 30 prefolds, fitted, one-size all-in-ones, and about 6-10 one-size covers (since those will be my go-to options). Also, keep in mind that you will want to buy an array of sizes so baby can grow with the diapers instead of having to purchase 30 new sets every time baby outgrows the capacity.
Assuming that overnight you will have less changes, you will want more absorbency and potentially a way to protect baby from sitting too long in their own pee, causing irritation. Pocket diapers are great for both of these concerns because the pocket allows you to customize absorbency by adding as many inserts as needed.
Pocket diapers also typically have a softer fabric touching baby’s bottom that will wick away moisture into the insert and away from baby’s bottom. However, any option that allows you add absorbency for heavy wetters and longer times between changes will work.