A diaper by any other name
November 6, 2011 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Cloth diapers: what's your experience with brands, fit, value, and performance?

Baby Litnerd will be here in just six-ish short weeks. I was all set on going the cloth diapering route, but now that we're getting to the point where I'm going to have to order the darn things soon, I'm going into buyer confusion panic. The trouble is that the reviews are getting to me--every brand has equal parts "These things leak!" and "These things never leak!," "These things are impossible to clean!" and "These things are a breeze to clean!," etc.

Of course I trust Metafilter strangers more than standard internet strangers, so what's your experience? I'm definitely going the AIO or Pocket Diaper route, was going to get something one-size with snaps. I had decided on the bumGenius 4.0, but now I'm not so sure--what about Fuzzibuns, Oh, Katy, SmartiPants? Is there something else I need to look at?
posted by litnerd to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
We use the Bum Genius ones on our 4 month old. They work fine. No problems at all and I have no complaints. Just throw them in the wet bag and wash every other day.

I think we bought 20 of them. For normal day to day wear we use one pad and for overnight we use one of the thick pads and a normal pad. We haven't had any problems with leaking. Maybe once a week or so, but that happens with normal diapers too.

Just an FYI, you might want to pick up some regular disposable diapers for the first month or so. The cloth diapers don't fit very well on newborn tiny critters.
posted by sanka at 6:16 AM on November 6, 2011

I used Bum Genius (with velcro) and fuzzy bunz (by size S, M and L, not "one-size"). While I liked the BumGenius brand in general, the velcro stopped holding after awhile. We now only use the FuzzyBunz on Little Murrey (he just turned 2). They are great because the various snaps account for varying leg and waist sizes.

(we also used prefolds with covers, and while I liked them, it was more work).
posted by murrey at 6:19 AM on November 6, 2011

I was initially skeptical when my wife proposed cloth diapers--although at that point I thought they were still big pieces of fabric secured with a diaper pin. After about 7 months of use, I give them a big thumbs up!

We just started introducing solid foods instead of just milk, so I cannot really speak to any soil issues, but otherwise it's been a breeze. You didn't mention your laundry situation. If you have a machine in the house, then it's no problem. We have a washer, but no dryer here, so it's been easy to keep one batch washing and drying while we use the last batch cleaned. You really don't need a million diapers and inserts if you are going to do a load once a day (which is not as much of hassle as I imagined). I seem to remember going to the laundromat with them once, with no problem. They're really not that gross and I don't think you'd have any objections unless someone was standing right over your machine and cranky to begin with.

As far as specific brands, we have a variety and I gravitate toward the Fuzzibuns. They just seem more solid to me, although everything has been equally reliable as far as leaks except for Cushies (Kushies?). They are an all-in-one style and they just don't hold poops as well.

It's not hard to load up these diapers with the inserts, and you can adjust your insert count to the situation (we put a pre-fold, a thin pad, and a long pad in for the long nighttime sleep and it works great). I personally think the all-in-ones are good for carrying around in a diaper bag for a backup, but they are limiting.

I wish I could help you on the one-size front: we didn't use any when our guy was small, and he's not on the upper end of the spectrum yet. So we have some of those snappy one-sizes in play now, but we never have had to use the snaps to size them.

I think depending on the day, depending on the movement of the baby, the alignment of the stars, you're going to see a leak with any of these diapers. But not so much to make these unfeasible. They really do work and it's fantastic to not put all of that plastic in the ground (let alone against your baby's skin).

One last thing: we were lucky enough to have a cloth diaper store near us, and our first visit/orientation was really helpful. They had a "test drive" deal where you went home with one of each style/brand and you could either bring them back and just give up a small deposit, or keep them all and go forward after the trial. This was immensely helpful and set my fears and questions to rest. If something like this is at all possible for you, take advantage of it.
posted by bobbyno at 6:27 AM on November 6, 2011

I think bumGenius 4.0s are a great choice, I have been using mine for a year and a bit and they are still in great shape and they have never leaked. You can get them shipped for free in the US from cottonbabies, too, and they often have deals on buying them in bulk.

I think that the AIOs are all pretty similar at the end of the day, though. Looking back I'm not sure why I was determined to be super brand-loyal and bought almost all BumGenius.

If you are thinking of going cloth all the way, you might want to look into finding some options for if your babe gets diaper rash. I have some diapers in towel material that are great if I need to slather baby with rash cream. Because rash cream will destroy bumGenius diapers.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 6:30 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

We use Smartipants pocket diapers and have used them since he was 2 weeks old and we ran out of the gifted newborn disposables. They're one size, have snaps and work like a charm. We bought some extra inserts to double them up at night.

A lot of people don't know not to use diaper creams with their cloth diapers. The creams will cause the diapers to repel liquids and get leaky. Whenever my baby has had a rash (like twice, I think), we buy a pack or disposables and slather the butt cream on and it resolves itself in less than a day. A lot of people recommend cloth-friendly creams, but it just seems to become a hassle for everyone I know that has gone that route.

We bought 27 and that got us through one day when he was a newborn because by the time the last load was dry on the rack, we had used up all the clean ones. He's 1 now, and I can go 2 full days before washing.

Our wash routine is as follows: dump diapers in the top loading washer (smartipants pockets are open on both ends so you don't have to pull out the insert prior to washing - big bonus for me), wash on hot with less than a quarter cup of All Free and Clear, and a half cup of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. Rinse twice on cold. I throw the inserts in the dryer because they would take forever to air dry and hang the diapers on a drying rack in the hopes that less exposure to heat will make the elastic last longer.

Feel free to memail me if you have questions!
posted by chiababe at 6:33 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a bumgenius 4.0 that I won in a contest and it's a little more trim than the smartipants, but I hate having to pull the wet insert out before laundering. I also don't like that it doesn't have extra snaps that allow you to snap it up in a little bundle after you've changed the kid and you need to contain a mess when you're out and about. I know wetbags solve that problem, but I hate the idea of poo sloshing around and getting all the other diapers covered in it in there too.
posted by chiababe at 6:36 AM on November 6, 2011

One more thing to add...This website is a great resource for all things cloth diapers. One thing in particular that helped me was choosing the right detergent for washing them because not all detergents are as "pure" as they advertise. As others noted above, diaper rash cream does a number on cloth diapers and can cause issues. I chose "Country Save" detergent (which is recommended on the attached website) and have never had any issues with diaper creams reducing the absorbency of the cloth diapers**. You can buy it on Amazon.

**Diaper creams will, however, stain your cloth diapers.
posted by murrey at 6:46 AM on November 6, 2011

Why do you need to decide on a single brand right now? Get one of everything you have your eye on, then when the baby gets here and you diaper them for a while, get more of the ones you like the best. Some (most?) cloth diaper stores have a relatively cheap sampler pack, and some will let you return the ones you don't like for credit towards the ones that you do.

That being said, the ones I liked the best at 1 month were different than my favorites at 6 months, are different than my favorites now, at 21 months. Velcro is excellent for newborns, but by the time baby started walking, Velcro sucks.

So, I have a bunch of BumGenius (love), Fuzzibunz (love), nubunz (eh, they were cheap and it shows), a Bummis AIO (hate), a bumkins AIO (eh), and a sized BumGenius AIO (love love love. If I could spend the money to have a stash that consists entirely of these, I would do it... But alas, too expensive).

I should also mention that the AIOs were essentially useless until my kid was about 4 months. I used prefolds with covers until then... And I still use prefolds with covers mixed in with the rest of my stash. They last forever and I am trying to extend the life of my pockets/AIOs for a couple more babies. They seem intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy. They also hold a lot of pee (much more than a pocket or AIO), which may be something useful at night (with a wool cover).

Something I am excited to try with my next kid (due in the spring) are fitted diapers with covers for the newborn stage. I hear they are great at holding in the poosplosions- if you are very opposed to prefolds, these might be something to consider.
posted by LyndsayMW at 6:58 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Young master McTootsalot's diapers are a mix of Bum Genius and Fuzzibuns, with a few Fishnoodles mixed in. We've had some major nighttime leakage issues with the Bum Genius and Fuzzibuns. We tried everything, we stripped them down, use the right detergent, no diaper cream, and stuff them properly, but they still leak at night. The problem seems to be that he just pees too fast for them to absorb it all.

We solved this by using the Fishnoodles at night. Those things are pretty fantastic. There's nothing more frustrating than getting a baby to sleep only for him to wake up screaming because he's laying in a pool of wetness.

I also have to chime in, using cloth diapers is much, much easier than some people make it out to be. It's just an extra load of laundry a day, which isn't that bad.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:01 AM on November 6, 2011

+1 for Gdiapers. We typically carry the disposable cores for when we're out and about, and use the cloth cores for when we're around the house. It's made our 'diaper bag' a little rolled up toolkit that fits into either of our daily backpacks. They're a bit spendy, but comparable with other options out there. The ability to switch back and forth between disposable and cloth with the same outer layers is pretty rad.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:04 AM on November 6, 2011

Oh, and yes, get some disposables for the newborn-creature. Totally worth it regardless of your eventual method of choice.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:05 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just want to second the recommendation for Fishnoodles. The BGs leak, and if they're velcro, the velcro will eventually start to wear out, and that sucks.

If you're really set on BGs, get something different for nighttime. Either Fishnoodles or something like Kissaluvs with covers. I know you're after AIOs and pocket diapers, but I promise you, getting something like Kissaluvs with a cover is just as easy (possibly even easier, since you don't have to hang them out). I thought I'd prefer AIOs, too, but if I was doing this again, I'd go entirely with Kissaluvs + covers & Fishnoodles, as long as I could get 'em secondhand. I ended up with a bunch of BGs 'cause I got a great deal on them.

I know there's an issue with size, here, and you probably want to avoid buying more than one set of diaper as your child ages. I get that, but I am just not a fan of the BG AIOs we have and want things sized a little more properly.

(I'm sorry--I'm talking in brands rather than types, as I've never really gotten into the whole lingo part of cloth diapering!)
posted by hought20 at 7:23 AM on November 6, 2011

We never used anything but Nikkis, because we never had a reason to. Just fold the diaper in thirds and put the cover on. I cannot remember many accidents.

There might be other brands that work better, but we did not need to seek out anything else.
posted by Danf at 7:35 AM on November 6, 2011

Let me add that the leaking thing really does vary, so you should take any recommendation with that in mind.

I want to clarify, 'cause I know you're seeing conflicting information and that's because it's a different experience for different people. We seem to have a very strong pee-er, so what we need is something right by his skin that is SUPER absorbent. The BG AIOs, for some reason, just don't work right for that. It's best to have something very soft, like fleece, right where the pee is coming out, and apparently our little dude pees so fast that even the very thin layer of fabric between him and the absorbent stuff stuff in the BG prevents it from getting absorbed fast enough.

Unfortunately, you just aren't going to know this about your kid until they're here, right?

Let me try again to recommend things in a useful way (I'd delete my other comment if I could). Here's what I'd do if I was about to have a brand new baby and needed to stock up on cloth diapers:

I'd try to find something like the Kissaluvs fitted for sale on craigslist or eBay (http://www.kissaluvs.com/fitted-diapers.php or maybe something like http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/diapers.htm#workhorse), or I'd register for them so someone else would buy them for me. I'd probably buy 16 or so of these. I'd get two or three covers to go with that, because you really don't need to wash covers often. I might also get a woolie cover (like this: http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/covers.htm#doubleknit)

I'd start there, and then see how it's all going. After a while, maybe I'd watch craigslist for someone selling a variety, and pick up a few different kinds to try, hoping to get a couple of BGs or Fuzzibunz to try, along with other varieties (like Fishnoodles, which I do love).

That's how I'd build my collection if I was starting again, rather than buying a whole lot of used BGs from someone selling them cheap.

Good luck!
posted by hought20 at 7:35 AM on November 6, 2011

I have the Bum Genius 3.0s, and love them! My baby had skinny legs so they leaked and looked funny until about 4 months, so honestly we just used disposables until then, all while the cloth diapers sat on the shelf and made me feel guilty. But he's 15 months now, and the cloths are used mostly exclusively. Overnight we use a disposable or if we are going out for a long time and I don't want to have to change him for a few hours.

There is a debate over snaps v Velcro, especially with the BG. We have the Velcro, and it's starting to look frayed and curl, but it works perfectly and no annoying snaps to deal with!

No matter what brand you get, have a bottle of BioKleen Bac Out to soak them in the pre-wash.

There is a learning curve with cloth, but once you get it and feel comfortable, you will never look back!
posted by katypickle at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2011

Oh! One more thing. We bought 24 to start and 8 are still brand new and not used! So you probably will need less than you think. We get by perfectly with 16.

Good Luck!
posted by katypickle at 7:44 AM on November 6, 2011

we did the BumGenius with the inserts - loved 'em

Go ahead and order a few singles of different types. I did, and it was good to try a few before we settled on the BG. For us those worked the best.
posted by hms71 at 8:03 AM on November 6, 2011

We use the BumGenius 4.0 pocket one size. No complaints at all after a year now. We use Velcro for overnight and snaps for daytime. We have enough to wash every other day (you don't want to go longer than that.) We also line dry when weather permits. Also recommend diaper sprayer for the toilet (to rinse solids) and hemp inserts for overnight absorbancy.
posted by Jacob G at 8:15 AM on November 6, 2011

You might be interested in this woman who did a three-part series of posts on cloth diapers on her blog. I read the first part then filed it away for possible use in the future. She seems to have a lot of great tips on getting started.
posted by apricot at 8:26 AM on November 6, 2011

I'd suggest starting with a few of each brand (BumGenius, FuzziBunz) to see what you like.

We're on year 3 of our cloth diapering and the BumGenius have lasted the longest - but the velcro is hard to maintain. Crap gets stuck in it and you have to tear it out.

And while I preferred the velcro when kiddo was little, our nanny prefers snaps. I do now too that kiddo is older.

We did pockets and one-size. My kid is now 35 lbs. and still rockin' the same diapers that he did at 2 weeks.

We do not dry our diapers - that adds a lot to longevity, but we also had to buy more diapers because we don't have as many on hand. I think that we started with about 24 and now we easily have close to 35.
posted by k8t at 9:30 AM on November 6, 2011

Oh - a word to the wise -- the washing is something that you'll have to work on.

We've moved 3 times since cloth diapering and every new washer requires a new regime for washing diapers. And the HE washers are the worst for this. You want to use as much water as humanly possible and you'll probably have to turn your water heater up a few degrees.

Our current regime is - 1 cold rinse, 3 hot washes with soap (we use Rock N Green - you'll want to get a cloth diaper detergent to reduce residue), and then 1 cold rinse.
posted by k8t at 9:31 AM on November 6, 2011

And although you can probably use your normal dipes at night for awhile, after a few months we were double and triple stuffing dipes for nighttime and at about age 1 we gave up on cloth at night.
posted by k8t at 9:33 AM on November 6, 2011

We inherited a bunch of the actual cloth diapers. I forget which brand they were, but they were curved, filled with terrycloth, and seamed with rainbow-colored thread. Even though they'd been used on 2 babies before us, they held up really well. For covers, we had a mix, but the Nikkis were by far the best. Fit well, held up in the wash, stayed on. Japanese engineering, I guess.
posted by rikschell at 10:15 AM on November 6, 2011

Hit craigslist and buy different brands used, so you can figure out what you like. After trying a lot of different brands, I resold on craigslist (for a profit!) the ones we didn't like and went out to find more of what we did. We ended up with one size gro-baby/gro-via, prefolds + homemade second hand covers and some fuzibunz. They all do a decent job. Prefolds rocked during the newborn phase, then we moved to the grow baby, then eventually to the fuzibunz.

I think your particular baby's shape will impact a lot of the performance, so trying a bunch of different things is the way to go. Good luck! Its really very easy!
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:48 AM on November 6, 2011

I'm an expecting father that is also planning to cloth diaper. I found this 7 part YouTube series to be VERY helpful and my wife and I developed a pretty solid plan of what to buy after watching it. Good luck!
posted by bwilms at 12:05 PM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seriously, check Craigslist & Ebay, buy a bunch of different ones, sell the ones you don't like. We use prefolds with covers, but some friends of ours LOVE their Fuzzibunz. I think they're way cuter than ours, and slightly less bulky (especially in this phase, while our dude is in prefolds that are slightly too long for his covers).

We have huge problems with leaking overnight. Our eight-month-old sleeps for ten or twelve hours, blammo, at night (has since about 4 months), and he pees a LOT. I've heard this is generally more of an issue for boys than girls. We've tried all sorts of diaper combinations -- flat prefolds, fitteds, with all sorts of inserts and doublers. We even borrowed a Fuzzibunz and a couple of inserts from our friend. We still have to use disposables at night. And not regular ones -- the 12-hour super-soaker kind.

The point is, your experience will probably vary from others', so get a bunch of stuff and try them out. Our local hippie parent stores have all sorts of secondhand cloth diapers (in addition to Craigslist) and will often sell on commission.
posted by linettasky at 1:20 PM on November 6, 2011

Another factor - before you invest a lot - is if your childcare solution will support cloth.
posted by k8t at 3:16 PM on November 6, 2011

Hey, there, I have an 11-month-old who has never worn a disposable diaper! Our history goes like this:

First few weeks: Kissaluvs size 0 with Thirsties diaper covers (I bought mine, but a friend just rented Kissaluvs for a few weeks so apparently that's also an option, and much cheaper)

At around 6 or 7 weeks, we started using BumGenius one-size pocket diapers. We also had FuzziBunz, but those were totally gappy around his legs when he was that little -- the velcro on the BG seemed to allow for a better fit. At night we would use 2 inserts in the BG.

3-4 months to 6 months: mix of FuzziBunz and BumGenius. I had only about 8 or 9 of each, so I bought 16 mediums BumGenius AIO diapers off Craigslist. I loved them, they are so convenient and seemed to fit better but OMG do they take forever to dry. 90 minutes in the dryer at least.

So from about 6 months to 11 months, it was medium BG AIO all day every day. At night, though, I still use a BG pocket one-size and I stuff it with either a thick prefold + insert or a microfiber cleaning cloth (you know, those really absorbent ones) + insert and that seems to hold 12 hours worth of pee.

He is outgrowing the medium BGs now, and because those take so long to dry, I replaced them with 16 Bumkins AIO diapers. They're a different design, the insert is sewn at both ends but open in the middle for better washing and faster drying. He has just now started growing into them so just this past Friday I put the med BG AIO's away and took out the Bumkins to use daily. I'm still using the BG one-size with insert + prefold or microfiber cloth for overnight.

I primarily use the FuzziBunz as the diaper bag stash that we use if we run out of other stuff -- I have a VERY wriggly baby and it's so much easier to use velcro with him, because the snaps are REALLY frustrating to get done right when he's trying to crawl away mid-diaper-change. For that reason alone I would recommend velcro, especially for when your baby is older and mobile.

All of my diapers were bought off Craigslist -- I started looking early so I was able to take my time and buy when I found a good deal. All the FB and BG one-size pocket diapers that I got were actually never used but they were much cheaper than retail. There are also sales sometimes though, so look around. I never even thought to look on ebay, that would be another good place to look.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:43 PM on November 6, 2011

We're on kid number 2 and have had a great experience with cloth diapering. We went the cotton route, and use a mix of pre-folds and flats. The flats are awesome because they dry so fast. While on the topic of drying, let me say the number one way to avoid stinky and stained diapers is to hang them outside in the SUN! The UV radiation is an unbeatable disinfectant.

The laundering routine will involve some trial and error. Be patient and you'll arrive at something that works for you. We started with Charlies detergent but have found Planet works well too. Good detergent info at PinStripes and PolkaDots

I haven't dealt with fleece/synthetics but would be surprised if they're as good for absorbing liquid in a hurry as a cotton properly broken in by several initial launderings. I wonder if this could explain some of peoples' leaking problems. For overnighting, we have a bunch of hemp doubler pads we wrap up as part of the package.

I love the velcro covers, infinitely adjustable and we've pretty much just had 3 different sizes for our 2 year old. Most of them are ready for a second tour of duty.

Mrs. Maniabug seconds Amalah—check out the Advice Smackdown section on cloth diapering.

If you do reconsider and go with separate diapers and covers, get yourself some Snappi fasteners for the diapers. Way better than safety pins, which I do occasionally use when the Snappis have been maliciously dropped behind the changing table.

Some garments don't fit as well over cloth diapers which tend to be a bit bulkier. (On the other hand, cloth diapering cured Bug #1's hip dysplasia to the amazement of her fancy orthopedist who told us we looked forward to many months of intervention... hooray!)
posted by maniabug at 5:48 PM on November 6, 2011

Oh, one other thing about the BumGenius AIO diapers: not only do they take forever to dry, but they also seem to not get as clean, again because of the design (the insert is sewn inside). Sometimes a BG AIO will appear clean, but as soon as it's wet, it smells disgusting. So sometimes I have to wash them three times to get them really clean. All the other diapers (the pocket diapers that get taken apart and the Bumkins AIO) get washed twice if poopy, once if only peed in.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:52 PM on November 6, 2011

We went with 24 Fuzzibunz when I was pregnant with our little guy. Now he's 5 months old, and if I could do it again, I'd go with BumGenius. I have a few BG, and find that they leak less even though the legs can't be adjusted like FB. Plus they aren't as bulky as the FB. I have heard from some other moms that SoftBums and TotsBots are great. My plan is to scan online and buy one of each brand that looks appealing to me. Then once I find the diaper that is best for us, I'll sell most of our FB and replace with the winner brand. Everyone I talk to seems to have a different favorite, and sometimes different favorites for different kids (makes sense since babies come in all shapes and grow). So my advice to you is to buy a popular brand with high resale value (FB or BG) at 50% off or better. There are a lot of sales online if you keep an eye out for them - especially if you buy bulk. Then once your baby is bigger and you have an idea of whether you like your diapers or not, you can choose to sell them and re-buy - at very little cost.
posted by rabbitfufu at 7:05 PM on November 6, 2011

Like bobbyno we went with a "trial" program first. We rented 24 newborn-sized cloth diapers from a local cloth diaper shop in varying styles.

This had two main benefits:
1. We were able to diaper our little guy in cloth for the first few weeks of his life, when he would have been too tiny for a "one size" diaper.
2. We got to try tons of different styles and brands and pick the one we liked best.

We pretty much knew going in that we wanted to go with one-size pockets but were not sure of velcro vs snaps, which exact brand etc. We ended up going with BumGenius velcro because my husband preferred them and I needed him to be on board. ;)

While velcro is definitely subject to more wear-and-tear than snaps, and it might not have been my first choice, in the end I think it was a good choice for our family. Because the diapers fasten pretty much like disposables we haven't had any issues with daycare, babysitter, grandparents, etc. figuring out how to use them. Our son is now almost 15 months old and the velcro is still holding strong - though I do occasionally need to clean the velcro tabs as threads and fluff tend to get in there and reduce their stickiness.

I just did a quick web search and it looks like this place offers a newborn trial service by mail:
posted by sanitycheck at 11:23 PM on November 6, 2011

I forgot to mention that we also have a few gDiapers, and I dislike them intensely -- the inserts don't seem to stay in the liners very well, so with every diaper change you're peeling a poopy (or if you're lucky just pee-ey) insert off your baby's butt with your bare hands. They also seem to especially like to leak poo. I was very disappointed.

I do have a pack of the biodegradable inserts, which I will use if we have a power outage that makes washing and drying our regular diapers impossible, but seriously, only in an emergency will I use those things.

Also, one of the four cloth outer covers the velcro stopped sticking after only about two uses.

A shame, because the little g on the butt is quite adorable.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:35 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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