What’s the best kind of cloth diapers? Ask three different cloth diapering moms, and you’ll probably get three different answers. Which type of diaper is “best” depends on many factors–not just price, features, and appearance, but also fit and your baby’s build. The best diaper for one baby might leak on another. Even moms who’ve cloth diapered their first sometimes find themselves trying new brands with their second. If you really want to find the best fit and style for your baby, a little trial and error is inevitable. However, you can narrow your options by deciding what features are most important to you.
Best Price: If your main goal is to save money, then prefolds or flat folds and covers are the clear winner. In this two-part diapering system, you’ll wrap your baby in an absorbent inner layer and cover it with a waterproof cover made of PUL, fleece, or wool. If you really want to save money, and you have a sewing machine and basic sewing skills, you can make your own covers and flat folds out of old wool sweaters and cotton or flannel sheets. If you, like me, have no crafting ability, you can make no-sew wool diaper covers. And you can use pretty much anything for your absorbent inner layer, from cut-up towels to old t-shirts. The only trick to this method is learning to fold or wrap the diaper effectively so it contains everything, especially newborn poop. Once you get the hang of it, however, you can get a better fit with this method than with any other type of diaper, because you wrap the diaper around your baby every time for a perfect fit. Babysitters, however, may have difficulty with this, resulting in leaks.
Trimmest Fit: Again, your choice is easy here: either pocket diapers or trainers will give you the trimmest fit. Trainers are usually designed to absorb no more than one pee, so unless you’re practicing EC, you’ll need the absorbency of pocket diapers. Pockets are one of my favorite types of diapers. The wicking inner layer helps the baby feel drier than cotton would (although not as dry as disposables, which is a good thing), and the pocket gives you the ability to adjust absorbency. For the most absorbency and the trimmest fit, use hemp, microfiber, bamboo, or zorb inserts. The top pocket diaper brands are Fuzzi Bunz, Bum Genius, and Happy Heinys. For the trimmest fit, avoid the one-size diapers (the adjustable size gives them extra bulk, especially when your baby is smaller), and spend the extra money on the perfect size.
If you are practicing EC, then switching to trainers early will let your baby have the freedom of movement and comfort of trim, underwear-like diapers at a young age. Ecapants are a top choice for EC’ing families, because their unique design makes it easy to potty your baby quickly–without really taking off the diaper. The EC store pants are another favorite of mine, and since they’re all custom-made, you can design your own.
Best for Nighttime: If you’re trying to get your baby to sleep all night without needing a diaper change, then there are two things you should look for in a nighttime diaper: absorbency (lots of it!) and wicking ability. Wet cotton against your baby’s skin all night can cause rash, and most babies wake enough to pee several times during the night. I always preferred pocket diapers at night because of their adjustability and the wicking layer, but as my daughter grew older, I simply couldn’t stuff enough absorbency into my Fuzzi Bunz to hold her nighttime pee. I found the best option was a pocket diaper covered by fleece or wool pants or a soaker. This, however, was a very bulky and probably somewhat uncomfortable option. Next time around, I’d love to try Ecobubs’ wool pocket diapers. I’m not aware of any other pocket diapers with a wool outer layer, but I think that would be the perfect nighttime solution.
Best for Skinny Babies: If your baby doesn’t have the typical chubby baby thighs, then it can be a challenge to find a diaper that doesn’t leak. There’s no single brand that works best on skinny babies, but there is one feature you should look for: leg gussets. Leg gussets are an extra line of elastic that goes halfway around your baby’s leg, ensuring a snug fit. Most PUL covers have leg gussets; favorite brands include Thirsties, Bummis, and Weehuggers. Some all-in-one diapers also have leg gussets, such as Rumparooz. Pocket diapers are also good for skinny babies, because they’re trim, but most do not have leg gussets. The new Fuzzi Bunz one-size pocket, however, has adjustable elastic in the legs, which worked wonderfully on my skinny girl. And, of course, prefolds and flat folds can be folded into a perfect for for your baby (but getting a tight fit around skinny legs can be tricky: attend a cloth diaper workshop to learn how!).
Best for Plump Babies: The challenge for chubby babies is finding diapers that don’t leave marks on thick thighs or big tummies. Especially if your baby has thick thighs but a small waist, or vice versa, it’s hard to find a diaper that fits everywhere. The key here is adjustability. Chubby babies need diapers that have elastic in both the waist and the legs to allow for extra room everywhere. Look for side-snapping diapers or covers: they allow you to adjust the thigh snap at a different setting than the waist snap. And again, the Fuzzi Bunz one-size diaper will let you adjust the elastic in the thighs and waist independently to create a perfect fit. Prefolds and flat folds will also allow you to fold the diaper to perfect fit your baby.
Easiest for Babysitters: Every cloth diapering family should have at least a few diapers that babysitters can use with ease. Depending on how willing your babysitter is to learn new skills, you may be able to teach her how to use a flat fold like a pro (I’ve even met nannies who practice EC with their charges!). But if you have family who are willing to babysit but are uncertain about cloth, or if you ever want to be able to call a new sitter and not spend half an hour teaching them about your diaper stash, then you’ll need a few all-in-one diapers. Just like they sound, all-in-ones (or AIOs) are cloth diapers that are all one piece. Look for AIOs that attach with velcro instead of snaps, and you’ll have a diaper that functions exactly like a disposable: simply velcro it on. Then the only thing you’ll have to teach the sitter is how to dispose of poop.
What other features do you need in a cloth diaper stash? Tell me in the comments!