Cloth Diaper Comparison

I was given a few cloth diapers when our baby was born, and also bought some. We’ve never gone full-time cloth, in part because we don’t have an in-house washer/dryer and it took me ages to figure out how to hand wash and hang dry them in between proper washes. Since it actually relies on the heaters being on, I’m not sure what we’ll do once it gets and stays warm outside. But, since I’ve used a few different brands, I figure I’ll comment on the strength and weakness of different varieties.

One thing, though: I really can’t comment on absorbing power.  If we don’t change them right after they get wet, our baby soaks through all of them and even soaks through disposables. Yes, I could buy the more absorbent materials- but they’re expensive and I don’t want to find out they soak through them as well, I know people who’ve had this problem even with the more expensive materials.

First:

I want to gush about prefolds. I love them. Even if you have no desire to use cloth diapers, get some prefolds, because they are the greatest rags. Super absorbent, soft, long lasting. My mom still uses the ones she put me in as rags. I’ve mostly bought prefolds because I know I’ll use them even if we never have another baby and give up on cloth diapers tomorrow.

One Size Fits All vs Different Sizes

When you’re using a prefold diaper cover/pocket diaper, I prefer one size fits all, hands down. They can, however, be very bulky on newborns so I can see why some people dislike them, especially if your baby is particularly small.

The only brand of diaper cover we’ve used that uses different sizes is gbabies and I am very unimpressed. Our baby is 21 lbs, maybe has gained a little bit, but has already grown out of their 16-28 lb diapers. Just be aware that they can tend to be a bit small (also a problem with some disposable brands) so you’ll want to have the next size up sooner than later.

Most brands use different size prefolds depending on the age of your baby, Econobum is the only one I’ve seen that doesn’t and it instead is designed so that you can fold it either widthwise or lengthwise- which I actually really prefer. When we’re using a diaper cover, we can still use even the smallest size prefolds we have, although I’m not sure if this will be true in a year or two. The largest ones stick out quite a bit, though, so, again, I can see why you’d want to use different sizes.

However, if you want to use a prefold diaper belt, the prefold size is a big deal, and you may want to go a size up depending on your baby. The smallest ones don’t fit, the right size (16-28 lb) barely reaches all the way around our ~21 lb baby, and the largest ones stick up so much that it’s comical. The largest ones would be far too huge to use on a newborn.

Velcro vs Snaps vs Snappis vs Prefold Belt

Snappis: Okay, honestly, I could not figure out how to use Snappis. I was given a bag of them and just could not get them to stay on. Obviously other people have had success, but I was not one of them. Maybe you need a different kind of diaper?

Velcro: Dislike. The only brand we have that uses velcro is gbabies and I already mentioned how unimpressed with the brand I am, so it could just be that gbabies sucks. The velcro stuck to other clothes and blankets, especially hand-knit ones, which was annoying, and didn’t stay together very well, especially near the end.  I don’t know if this is because it was getting too small or because the velcro was failing.

Snaps: Not bad, but it can be a bit frustrating and it has slightly more limited sizing options than velcro or snappis give. We have both Alva Baby and Econobum that use snaps, and it’s an interesting system. The back ‘flaps’ each have two snaps on them that you use to attach to a series of snaps on the front. Honestly, I usually only attach one per side, especially since we’ve got a squirmy older baby who hates diaper changes. Alvababy only uses the back flaps while Econobum also has a series of snaps so that you can fold it up to decrease the length.  We’ve only gotten Econobum recently, so I can’t say how this works for a younger baby, but it seems like it’d make the diaper less bulky on a small baby.  We used Alvababy when our baby was smaller without problems- it lets you be a little lazier than Econobum’s method.

Prefold Belt: I made one of these myself and really love the idea. Our baby has sensitive skin so even the cloth diapers leave marks (especially the gbabies since they’ve gotten too tight). It’s easiest to tell if they’ve wet or not, it’s basically the closest to going diaper free you can get while still using a diaper. They aren’t as secure, though, so accidents are more likely to happen- especially with poo (fortunately, our baby has never pooed while wearing this). Unfortunately, our baby is a very heavy wetter and so leaks happen and we can’t do prefolds without a cover. Oh well.

Prefold Covers vs Pocket Diapers vs Prefold Belt

Prefold Covers: We have gbabies and econobum for this. I’m pretty neutral on these, but when we go cloth they’re what I prefer. They can be a bit hard to put on, because you have to keep the prefold in place while struggling to get the cover on over it. (again: very squirmy baby who hates diaper changes) I have a hard time telling if the diaper is wet, though, which really annoys me. I think this is just a matter of experience- I have most experience with disposables, so I can tell the second they’ve wet and if it’s freshly wet or been awhile by feel and also if they’re wet just by looking at them. No, we don’t always use the ones with an indicator line

Pocket Diapers: Alva Baby is the only pocket diaper we have, and while I want to love the brand, I really don’t like pocket diapers because the inside gets dirty so easily. With diaper covers, if the diaper gets dirty the cover can usually be easily cleaned and reused. However, it’s easier to put them on because the insert stays in place. It also wicks the water away better than the prefold covers (it honestly barely feels wet, even though the insert is soaked, however I’ve heard of problems with Alva leaking). If you’re doing EC and using cloth because you want your baby to be more aware of when they wet, this is a bad thing.

Prefold Belt: Again, I really like this in theory. It’s easiest to change because you can leave the belt on and only have to slip the prefold in on both sides. It’s also the easiest to come off, especially if the prefold isn’t big enough (we haven’t had a problem with larger ones coming off but it could). Because there’s no cover, if your baby is a heavy wetter then you’re going to have problems with wet furniture and carpets. I don’t know if anyone has, but I wouldn’t try using a prefold belt underneath pants for this reason. If it’s cold- legwarmers are really helpful. I’m a fan of Rock-A-Thigh Baby.

Cloth vs Disposable

Disposables are easier, at least they were for me. In part because people threw, like, 10 different brands at us when our baby was born so we could experiment (we had problems with leaks from the beginning- also, our baby SCREAMED the second Pamper’s Baby Dry got wet). We’ve never had a problem with diaper rash, but since our baby has gotten more mobile we’ve had more problems with marks and blisters from the diaper rubbing. Again, we also have some problems with this with cloth diapers.

They’re also way expensive. If we weren’t using cloth as well, I think we’d be spending over $20/week on diapers. I bought the Econobum starter pack with 3 prefolds and a diaper cover for $12, and that will last as long as our baby is in diapers. HOWEVER- if you don’t have a washer/dryer in your house, cloth becomes a problem. Using a laundromat can get expensive, it’s massively inconvenient, and you may not have the time or energy for handwashing all the time.  I really, really hope we will never, ever again have to live in a place without a washer/dryer.

I found cloth diapers very overwhelming, it took months to get the hang of them. Just figuring out how to clean them, which laundry detergent to use, how to deal with the hard water around here (baking soda), etc. If you have a knowledgeable person in your life to tell you how to handle cloth, that’ll make it easier. Cloth gets easier, and if you have a washer/dryer it’s probably more convenient and less expensive than having to buy diapers all the time. You can get diaper liners, and disposable liners are less landfill-filling than disposables.

Also, leaks. Cloth leaked way more for us. If your baby is a heavy wetter, cloth is difficult. I know people who got the more absorbent, expensive fabric cloth diapers and still had leak problems. Every time we try using cloth at night, our baby wakes up lying in a puddle of pee, and is not happy with it. (we aren’t, either)

For EC: I didn’t see a difference. Our baby seems to tell when they get wet in disposables just as much as cloth, and I can tell when they get wet much quicker in disposables. If you start EC early and have such success that you basically don’t need diapers, disposables could end up cheaper than cloth diapers on the whole. If you prefer keeping your baby in diapers all day, even when your baby stays dry, I’d go with cloth. While you can take a dry disposable diaper off and put it back on, they aren’t made for it. Prefolds are still handy no matter which.

My Conclusion

Next time, if we have a washer/dryer (we better), we’ll probably try doing cloth full time, although may still do disposables for when we go out. Once you get the hang of cloth, if you already have the diapers, the lower cost is definitely attractive. I’m on the fence about whether or not to try EC or when to start. It really depends on how things go with this baby. We’ve had to back off of EC pretty much entirely.

If you managed to use cloth from the very beginning, with the meconium, I salute you.

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