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Choosing Cloth Diapers, Which diaper is best for your baby?

Posted by Becca on 12/5/2011 to Getting Started
So, you’ve decided to cloth diaper but there are so many options out there you’re not sure where to go, right? There are lots of different diapering systems and styles available and which one you choose really depends on your needs and preferences. The first step in choosing the right cloth diapers is to read through a list of what’s available. You might find our list of cloth diapering terms and definitions handy. Once you’re aware of the options, it’s time to make a decision.A couple of things you should keep in mind when you choose to cloth diaper are your budget, the different systems available, and the type of fabric you prefer.

Your Budget 

One of the main things to keep in mind when choosing to cloth diaper is your budget. You are going to save money with cloth diapers, even if you decide to go with a pricier option, but it’s sometimes hard for parents to shell out $20 a diaper when they first switch from disposables. Not all diapers are the same and not all diapers have the same price tag. You can pay as little as $2 for a cloth diaper, and as much as $30 if you go with a pricier WAHM (work at home mom) option.Take a look at the following price tags for a couple of the different diapering systems out there:

Disposable Diapers:
1 year of disposables (bought in bulk)-$430-$7302 years of disposables (bought in bulk) $860-$1,2503 years of disposables (bought in bulk)-$1,290-$1,770  These prices were taken from both the generic and name brand disposable diapers on sale at and are based on 10 diaper changes a day for the first year, and 6 diaper changes a day for the second and third years.

Prefold Diapers:
1 year of prefolds (24 prefolds and 6 one size covers): $89-$1602 years of prefolds (36 prefolds and 6 one size covers): $119-$1903 years of prefolds (48 prefolds and 6 one size covers): $152-$226  These prices account for the need to buy a size up on your diapers each year, buying a new stash of 12 prefold diapers in the next size up. The prices vary due to a differently priced one size diaper covers.

AI2 (All in Two) Diapers: 1 year of one size AI2 diapers: $200-$6782 years of one size AI2 diapers: $200-$6783 years of one size AI2 diapers: $200-$678 These prices include 6-12 shells and 24 inserts. The prices vary depending on different brands of AI2 diapers out there.

One Size Pocket Diapers:
1 year of OS pocket diapers: $240- $5642 years of OS pocket diapers: $240-$5643 years of OS pocket diapers: $240-$564 These prices are based on the cost of buying 24 OS pocket diapers.

The System

Rather than worrying over the specific brand of cloth diapers you might need, consider instead the type of cloth diapering system you want. What is your daily grind? Is your child an especially heavy wetter during the day, or only at night? Do you enlist the services of a childcare provider or grandparent to help you with your child while you're at work? Is your caregiver comfortable and familiar with cloth diapers or have they expressed concern over the inconvenience?

Some diapering systems are best for parents and caregivers who want quick, easy diaper changes, and other systems work well for those who don’t want to spend lots of time with laundry. It’s important to buy a system that will cater to yourself and any other caregivers who will be changing your baby’s diapers. You can refer to our list of different cloth diapering definitions to help you out, but a condensed list has been included here for easy reference.

All in One Diapers (AIOs)
AIOs are the most like disposable diapers in their fit and how they fasten. They are perfect for quick, easy diaper changes and require no extra folding, stuffing, or pins. They have an inner, absorbent layer against the baby’s skin, and an outer, waterproof layer—they are a cloth diaper and diaper cover all in one! They often require a few extra rinses when being washed, and take a couple of times through the dryer, or a few extra hours on the line to dry. They are often the choice for babysitters and daycares because they’re very recognizable to those who are accustomed to disposables.Fitted

Diapers (Fitteds)
Fitted diapers are much like AIO diapers except that they do not include a waterproof layer and they do require a cover. Many times, they are more economical than AIOs because you don’t need to buy as many cloth diaper covers as you do diapers—the covers can be used for a couple of diaper changes before needing to be washed. Fitted diapers are easy to use because they do not require any folding or pins, and they attach to your baby much like a disposable. Since they require a diaper cover, there are two steps to complete at every diaper change, attaching the fitted diaper and then covering it.

One Size Diapers
Many different systems of diapers (Pockets, fitteds, AIOs, etc) come in a one size option which basically means that the one diaper will probably fit your baby throughout all of their diapering years. Diapers that boast one size status usually fit your baby from about 7lbs-35lbs. These diapers generally adjust their size with either rise snaps or adjustable leg and waist elastics, plus a generous amount of snaps or Velcro at the waist. For smaller babies, they tend to be bulky, and many parents wait to start using them until their children are no longer newborns. Buying a stash of one size diapers will ultimately help you save even more money in the long run because you won’t be buying your full stash 2-4 times in each size.

Pocket Cloth Diapers
Pocket cloth diapers, also called pocket diapers or even just pockets, are a great diaper if you want to be able to adjust your absorbency, and have the convenience of quick and easy diaper changes. In addition to either snaps or Velcro at the closures, they have an empty space between a waterproof outer layer and a stay-dry inner layer where you can stuff diaper inserts. These inserts are usually made of microfiber, but can be made out of any absorbent fabric. What’s great is that with a pocket diaper you’re not limited to using the inserts that come with the diaper. You can use just about any insert from any brand, and you can stuff in as many as you need. You can also stuff your pocket diapers with trifolded prefolds, or pad folded flats.

Prefold Diapers
Prefold diapers are the most economical cloth diapering choice, but they also require more steps. They consist of a flat, layered rectangle of cotton that has a thicker strip of absorbency in the middle. They are folded and attached to your baby with pins or a snappi, and need a diaper cover. They require a bit of practice to get started, and they aren’t for everyone, but many parents prefer prefolds to more modern pocket or fitted diapers because they’re so soft and absorbent. However, when leaving your child with daycare or a sitter, it might be wise to use AIOs or pocket diapers to make cloth diapering more successful for those without prefold practice.

The Fabric

There are two options when it comes to choosing fabric for your cloth diapers—synthetic or all natural fibers. The great thing about synthetic fibers is that they boast amazing absorbency and also offer a stay-dry option. Microfiber, microsuede, and microfleece are examples of synthetic fibers commonly used in cloth diapers.All natural fibers require a little more laundry prep before using (because of the natural oils), and they don’t have a stay-dry option, but they are very absorbent and usually get better and more absorbent wash after wash. All natural fabrics include cotton, bamboo, and hemp. When searching for all natural fibers, you may also want to consider the organic option. Organic fabrics should not contain chemicals as the plants harvested for the fabric have not been treated with any harsh pesticides that could compromise baby's immune system. If a cloth diaper boasts an organic fabric, there will not be any synthetic (artificial) fibers woven into it. Organic fabrics are more expensive to produce, and therefore costlier to buy, but they are easier on the environment and therefore, a more sustainable cloth diapering choice.With so many cloth diapers on the market today, it can seem impossible to choose just one style. Learning the different Cloth Diapering Definitions and Terms will help you select the cloth diapers, diaper covers and accessories to develop your own personalized cloth diapering system.

Guest Blogger:

Becca G is a guest blogger for the Cloth Diaper Blog. Becca is a part time Spanish Teacher, a part time stay-at-home-mom, and the wife of the best husband imaginable. Becca’s absolute favorite thing to do is to spend time with her little family. She also enjoys doing anything crafty – from making jewelry, to writing, to sewing, to photography.Support a fellow cloth diapering mom! Becca’s etsy shop: Cloth Diaper Mommy