15-piece set includes 7 pocket diapers, 7 reusable diaper inserts, and a wet bag to hold dirty diapers until laundry day. Reusable diaper inserts are made of an eco-friendly, 4-layer material that sucks up moisture to keep baby's skin dry. The outer shell resists moisture and stains, and gathers securely for leak-free protection. The snaps adjust to grow with baby from 10 to 33 pounds.
Not small enough for newborns. A handful of parents complained the diapers leaked.
Suitable for boys and girls, and available in numerous print options. Come in several sizes, so options are available for babies weighing about 6 1/2 to 33 lbs. Snaps are simple to fasten, making adjustments easy. Environmentally-friendly. Pack includes 6 diapers and 12 inserts.
Occasional leaks are possible, but this is a concern with almost any diaper.
Leg gussets contain the mess, while the hip snaps keep the covers comfortably fitted around baby's waist. Waterproof polyester is durable, pliable, and breathable. Size 1 fits babies from 6 to 18 lbs., while size 2 accommodates toddlers between 18 and 40 lbs.
Adorable, but a little pricey for diaper covers.
Use your favorite prefold or fitted plain cotton diaper underneath this waterproof, stain-resistant, and comfortably soft cover. Solvent-free polyester is nontoxic and less harmful to the environment than regular polyester. Available in several colors.
More expensive than diaper covers for larger babies.
Adjustable to grow with baby, these pocket diapers have waist tab overlaps to fit even a very small waist. Soft organic cotton is gentle against a baby's tender skin, and the microfiber inserts are very absorbent to help trap moisture.
Some parents felt these diapers leaked more often than other brands.
In the U.S. alone, around 20 billion disposable diapers go to landfills every year, which equals roughly 3.5 million tons of waste. Increasingly, parents are choosing to opt out of this and buy cloth diapers instead of disposables for their babies.
If you're new to cloth diapers, it can be daunting. You'll find a wide range of diaper varieties, along with a whole lot of lingo that can seem impenetrable to the uninitiated. And don't bother asking your parents or grandparents for advice because things have come a long way in the world of reusable diapers since they were tending infants.
To help get to the bottom of things, we spoke to Aimee Ketchum, a pediatric occupational therapist, who has over 20 years’ experience with babies – and cloth diapers.
Read on for our full guide to cloth diapers, or scroll up to see our top five picks.
It's clear that disposable diapers are more convenient, but cloth diapers do have a range of advantages.
Cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly. By the time he’s potty trained, the average child goes through about 6,500 to 7,000 disposable diapers – that's over 11 tons of waste to the landfill.
Cloth diapers save you money. The average parent can spend between $1,400 and $2,500 on disposable diapers for each child, whereas you can spend as little as $300 (though most parents spend closer to $700 or $800, including laundering costs) on a cloth diapering system that will last through to potty training and can be reused if younger siblings come along.
Cloth diapers are better for your baby. According to our expert Aimee, one of the great things about cloth diapers is that they contain fewer chemicals that can be harmful for babies. Disposables can contain dioxin, which is carcinogenic, and tributyltin (TBT), which can cause hormonal changes.
Cloth diapers are likely to be more comfortable. While you can't ask infants whether a cloth or disposable diaper feels more comfortable, ask yourself whether you'd be more comfortable in paper or cotton underwear.
All-in-one (AIO) diapers are the most similar to disposables and extremely easy to use. This type of cloth diaper is fully fitted and features all the absorbent padding sewn inside a waterproof cover, so it's ready to put on straight out of the wash – no fiddling around with folding or stuffing. They fasten with either snaps or Velcro. AIOs are daycare, grandparent, and babysitter friendly. However they can take a long time to dry after laundering.
Flat diapers are simple squares of material – usually cotton, terry, or muslin – that must be folded and pinned in place. Prefolds are similar, but have a thick section of fabric in the middle for absorbency, so minimal folding is required. Both kinds require a diaper cover over the top to prevent leaks. These types of cloth diapers are trickier to use than others, so they're not the most popular choice. However, they tend to be less expensive, so they're ideal for parents on a budget.
Fitted diapers are much like AIOs, minus the waterproof cover, so you'll need to cover these diapers separately. Since the waterproof cover is separate from the absorbent padding, each part takes less time to dry than an AIO diaper does (plus you don't need to wash the cover every time if it isn’t soiled).
Pocket diapers are essentially fitted waterproof shells with a pocket sewn inside. They don't have any built-in padding, but the pocket is designed to be stuffed with absorbent liners, usually made of cotton or bamboo. The liners often come included, and you can buy more separately. You can easily increase the absorbency by adding extra liners into the pocket, which is ideal for nighttime use or heavy wetters.
All-in-two (AI2) diapers fall somewhere between AIO diapers and pocket diapers. Like pocket diapers, the absorbent padding is separate from the waterproof cover, but the padding goes next to the baby's skin rather than in a pocket. The liner snaps into the waterproof shell, so they look and fit just like AIO diapers when assembled. AI2 diapers are ideal for anyone who likes the idea of AIO diapers but finds they take too long to dry.
Hybrid diapers are like AI2 diapers except the insert can be either cloth or disposable. These are great for anyone who likes the idea of cloth diapers but is worried about the process of cleaning them. These are also a good option for anyone who might occasionally want to use a disposable insert for convenience while on the go or for a babysitter who has no experience with cloth diapers. The main drawback of hybrids is that they’re more expensive.
Check the size of your chosen cloth diapers before buying. Most will tell you the weight range in pounds of the babies they fit, much like disposable diapers. While you can buy different cloth diapers for different stages of development, one-size options are becoming more popular. These diapers have snaps in different positions, making them adjustable to suit babies from around 10 to 35 pounds. While these diapers are advertised as "birth-to-potty," they're usually too large for newborns and may not fit all children right up to the potty training stage, depending on the child’s size and age at which she’s toilet trained.
Color and pattern
You can find cloth diapers in a wide range of solid colors, as well as all kinds of patterns from dainty floral, sailboat, and animal prints to punky skulls and crossbones. You'll easily be able to find a color or pattern that you love, no matter what your tastes. Of course, some cloth diapers, such as flat or fitted diapers, are generally plain white, but the covers that go over the diapers are colored or patterned.
Although you could buy all the cloth diapers you need separately, it usually saves money to buy them in bulk. You can find large sets that contain all the diapers, inserts, and padding you'll need to take your baby from birth through potty training, as well as smaller sets that contain two to eight diapers. Some parents prefer a single type or brand of diaper that they stick with, while others use a range of diaper types depending on the situation – or what's clean.
While you don't need too many other accessories to start cloth diapering, you'll need a few essentials, as well as some other items that aren't essential but are nice to have.
Diaper pail (for storing dirty diapers until laundry day)
Wet bag (for storing dirty diapers away from home)
Various extra inserts (for pocket or AI2 diapers)
Snappis (diaper pin alternative for flat diapers and any others that require pinning)
Diaper sprayer (Some parents who choose cloth diapers say they can’t live without this attachment for the toilet.)
Cloth diapers range in price from $1 to $30.
You can find single flat diapers for $1 or $2, and you can pay up to $30 for an all-in-one or hybrid option from a high-end brand.
There's lots of middle ground between these two prices, however, so you really don't have to pay more than around $10 for a diaper unless you want to – even for AIO, AI2, pocket, and fitted diapers, which are costlier than flats and prefolds.
Decide how many cloth diapers you need. Most parents find around 40 is a good number, if you only want to wash a load of diapers every few days. You can get away with fewer if you're willing to launder them more often.
Check if your daycare is cloth friendly. If your baby goes to daycare, check that the facility is willing to deal with cloth diapers and, if so, which kinds. Some daycares accept easier types, like AIOS, but not complex flats or prefolds.
Consider flushable liners. Parents can't afford to be too squeamish about poop, but if the idea or scraping out dirty diapers fills you with dread, consider using flushable liners on the inside of your cloth diapers, which catch solid waste and can simply be rolled up and flushed down the toilet.
Q. Are cloth diapers hard to put on?
A. How difficult a cloth diaper is to put on your baby depends on the type. Fitted diapers and AIOs are just as easy to put on as disposable diapers, but some varieties, such as flats or prefolds, have a bit of a learning curve to them. Once you learn the technique, however, it shouldn't be a problem. Our expert Aimee recommends, "Users should read the insert or look online for directions for use."
Q. Can I get any other reusable changing products for babies?
A. You can also get reusable wipes for changing your baby, which is a much more eco-friendly option.
Q. Can cloth diapers prevent diaper rash?
A. Many people find that babies who wear cloth diapers are much less likely to suffer from diaper rash than those who wear disposables. This could be due to the chemicals found in disposable diapers or because disposable diapers are so absorbent that parents tend to change them less frequently, which could lead to diaper rash. Doctors recommend that you change your baby's diaper every two to three hours during the day.
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