Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cloth Diapering Manifesto: Part II

Modern cloth diapers are not your mama’s cloth diapers. If you are pregnant and mention to someone that you’re planning to use cloth diapers, there’s a good chance you’ll get a condescending, pitying smile at your naiveté. “Oh, sure,” they think. “She says that now, but she’s not going to want to deal with the hard work of cloth diapers when she’s faced with an actual infant instead of hypothetical dream baby who never poops.” But this sort of attitude just makes using cloth diapers all the more sweet, because you can rub your success in their faces. Not that I am the sort of person who would do that.

So what makes today’s cloth diapers so much better? First of all, no pins. Second of all, one-step diapering. And third and holiest of all, the diaper sprayer. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s just start with the different types of diapers.


Prefolds are the old-fashioned diapers your parents used on you, back in the day. (Please don’t tell me that you are old enough to have worn modern disposable diapers and are now considering cloth for your own children. Let’s all pretend that you are the same age as me. Or older! Older is fine.) They come in two flavors*: Indian and Chinese. Frankly, I only just discovered the difference between them. It seems that Indian prefolds are softer, but therefore less durable than Chinese prefolds. Both kinds cost somewhere around $1 each.

Prefolds must be used in conjunction with a diaper cover. They can be fastened with a pin, a Snappi, or you can just use the diaper cover to hold the diaper in place. Snappis are rubbery little things with teeth that hold the diapers in place by tension. Here, just look at one. They are hard to describe in words, but easy to use.

Prefold Pros: Cheap cheap cheapity cheap cheap. Remember how I said in Part I that cloth diapering costs $400-$500 at the start? Not if you use prefolds. Also, these are easy to rinse because there is no elastic to trap the… uh… particles.

Prefold Cons: Fancy diaper covers and Snappis aside, these are kind of tricky to put on a squirmy baby. Probably not as tricky as you think, but certainly much more difficult than disposables. Also, the prefold-plus-diaper cover is very bulky.

Fitted or Contoured Diapers

Contoured diapers are, well, contoured. There is no messing around with folding a square diaper into the correct shape because they are already shaped like a diaper. Fitted diapers are contoured diapers with elastic legs so that they… fit. Both fitted and contours usually also have snaps or other fastener built into the construction, so they are pretty easy to put on; they work pretty much like disposable. They are still made of only cloth, though, so just like prefolds, they must be used in conjunction with a diaper cover.

There are a lot of different brands of fitted diapers. The ones I am aware of off the top of my head are Mother-ease, Kissluvs, and Swaddlebees. They all look adorable to me, but I can’t be bothered with a diaper cover, so I’ve never used them.

Fitted and Contour Pros: These are much easier to put on a baby than a prefold. They can be made of natural (and even organic) fibers. Um. Have I mentioned I don’t use them?

Fitted and Contour Cons: They are easier to use than a prefold, but also more expensive. A quick look online gave me a range of price from about $7 - $15 each, depending on the brand. They still require a separate diaper cover, which is an extra step.

Pocket diapers

Pocket diapers are kind of like a diaper cover but with a cloth lining that makes a pocket against the waterproof material into which you stuff something absorbent. The fasteners are built in as either snaps or Velcro tabs. No diaper cover is required, but you do have to take the diapers apart to wash them.

Pocket Diaper Pros: These are very easy to use because they go on just like disposables. Absorbency can be adjusted by stuffing them with more or less material, depending on your baby’s needs. They dry very quickly.

Pocket Diaper Cons: These babies ain’t cheap. The brand I use costs $18 new. That is the only con I have though, because I love these diapers.


AIO diapers are just like pocket diapers except without the pocket. There is no stuffing with absorbent material, and no diaper cover. The fasteners are built in as snaps or Velcro. Basically, these work exactly like disposables in every way except that you wash them instead of throwing them out.

All-in-one Pros: Easy easy easy easy easy. No stuffing, no diaper covers, just wash and wear. They’re also pretty trim and take up relatively little space in a diaper bag.

All-in-one Cons: These are just as pricey as pocket diapers, but they dry more slowly. The absorbency cannot be adjusted.

My reviews

We have a stash of Chinese prefolds seeing as how they are so cheap, and there have been occasions when we have used them as something other than a changing pad. They work just fine. We use Snappis, but sometimes I just let the diaper cover hold the diaper on. As for diaper covers, we have three each of the small, medium and large Bummis Super Whisper Wraps. I also tried a Pro-Wrap, but I hated it. I think the Bummis are worth the extra money because they stay in place much better and because there are places to fasten the Velcro tabs while washing them. My advice is to just buy a bunch of prefolds and a couple of diaper covers even if you’re planning to use one of the other types. They are cheap and come in very handy in an emergency.

As I said above, I love our pocket diapers. Currently, we use bumGenius One Size, and yes, the “One Size” does mean that they fit babies for their whole diaper-wearing life. I know that Maggie had issues putting them on her SMALL BABY back in the day, but I secretly think that they probably would have worked even if they did look ridiculous. And so far, Jack has not outgrown them. So that is another benefit of these particular pocket diapers: they are three times as cheap as diapers that come in three sizes.

We also used FuzziBunz pocket diapers when Jack was a newborn. I liked them well enough, but I had two complaints. First, they fasten with discrete snaps instead of the continuum that is Velcro, and sometimes Jack was in between snap settings. I also think the snaps would be harder to fasten on squirmy one-year-old Jack, but that wasn’t an issue for newborn Jack who lacked the gross motor skills to squirm. Second, they come in small, medium and large and are therefore three times as expensive as the BGOSes. Otherwise I liked them.

I can’t tell you a thing about fitted or contour diapers. I think I have one Mother-ease One Size that I bought on Ebay in Jack’s closet, but it seemed ridiculously huge when he was new, and then we got into a rhythm with the bumGeniuses, so I have still never tried it.

We also have five bumGenius AIOs in medium and five in large. (We didn’t need any smalls because of the FuzziBunzes**.) I like using the AIOs when I’m out and about, because they take up less room in the bag, but also because it is kind of gross to take apart the pocket diapers when they are wet and cold. I don’t know why wet and warm is less disgusting, but there you go.

There are plenty of other brands of pocket diapers and AIOs out there, but I was drowning in a sea of diapering choices, so I just picked one. Well, I picked a few. What I actually did was buy a few each of the different kinds and try them out before ordering a whole supply, and that is my advice to you. Unless you are going to use prefolds, the best diaper for your baby is going to depend on what shape your baby is, as some diapers are better for chubby little pudgy legs, and others are best for skinny little chicken legs.

I should also mention that there are mysterious wool diaper covers available for people who use diapers that require covers. Apparently, wool is waterproof, but only if you treat it with lanolin? Or something? I don’t really understand the wool diaper covers, but they are an option for those of you interested in natural fibers. The BG diapers have PUL on the outside, which is a synthetic waterproof material.

For reviews of diapers all the other diaper brands out there that I haven’t tried, check out It is a fantastic resource.

Places I have bought cloth diapering stuff (in no way a complete list of places out there):
Cotton Babies
Jillian’s Drawers
Wildflower Diapers

Coming tomorrow: Part III in which I explain how to wash the diapers. (Short version: Rinse poop into toilet. Put in washing machine. Wash.)

*In proofing this post, it occurs to me that maybe “flavor” is not the best word choice when describing diapers.

**The brand names are a benefit of cloth diapering that I have so far neglected to mention.

***Gently used bumGenius and FuzziBunz diapers sell for almost full price on Ebay, so be careful if you’re buying. If you’re selling, more power to you!

Manifesto Part I: Why cloth?
Manifesto Part III: Washing the diapers
Manifesto Part IV: Accessorize!


Tracy said...

I appreciate this manifesto - I love seeing the new options. DH said "no" years ago to cloth after seeing the options, but I think he'd say "yes" to these. Of course, I'd to have another baby to even think about that decision!

Anonymous said...

What kind of diapers do you think you wore?
Big Sis #1