Best cloth diapers
August 13, 2019 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Best cloth diapers? I see this as a part of larger askme questions, but not by itself. Obviously there is a lot available online but I trust askme hivemind judgement.

Priorities: convenience and lack of fuss (all in ones probably?), functionality, adjustable fit from 8 lbs to potty training. Cuteness has value.

I'm willing to splurge on the costly ones if I'm confident they'll be worth it. I'd like to avoid lots of experimenting w different ones. Right now I'm leaning towards getting a set of 5 from whatever brand I'm hoping will work out, and then getting more of them when they do hopefully work out.

Baby coming is a boy fwiw. We have an in unit washer/dryer. We are lazy people who like the environment.

Ps- my drive to do this is heavily influenced by my success in happily using $118 of reusable menstrual pads over the past 5 years based on your recommendations.
posted by cacao to Shopping (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Didn't originally include this info because I feel like I'm asking for too much, but this site does produce miracles: I have a strong preference for natural materials, especially cotton. For at least the parts touching baby's skin.
posted by cacao at 8:58 PM on August 13

We used cotton prefolds + Snappi clasps + the waterproof covers with rows of snaps for month three of life through age two. They were cheap, effective, and easy to wash. One thing I didn’t understand was that you have to get bigger prefolds as your kid grows (more surface area to cover) - I think we ended up going through 3 sizes of them, purchased mostly on the Green Mountain website. Once you get the knack of folding the prefold with the crotch in the right spot, you don’t get any surprise leaks. The Snappi was essential for a good fit (they come in a couple sizes, too). In later years our kid’s bladder outgrew the diaper absorbency for overnights, so we experimented with additional liner inserts with varying degrees of success. We also used thin fleece liners for easier poop disposal when he started eating solids.

I wasted money on a couple fancier all in one cloth diapers, which I saved for outings and doctors appointments, and they usually resulted in my son peeing on me in public due to leg hole gaps turned fountains.
posted by Maarika at 9:03 PM on August 13 [2 favorites]

With my first kid I did cloth diapers from Bumgenius and they were all in one... I stuffed microfiber inserts into pockets inside the diapers. At that time each diaper was $25/new. Each diaper did last for 3.5 years and I sold them used.
I spent SO MUCH TIME doing laundry. The inserts took a long time to dry. Stuffing the diapers was time consuming.
I know I saved money but with needing to wash the diapers for multiple cycles (some of them hot water), it probably wasn't as much savings as I would have liked. I also didn't dry the diapers. That would have been more.

With kid 2, I did cloth diaper covers (easily acquired used for free or cheap, or new for $4-8) and a diaper service for the inserts. The diaper service is $100/month and they deliver the inserts weekly to the door. The covers can be used 2-4 times before needing to be washed. There is far less laundry work but lining the diapers with the service inserts is more work... Like it adds maybe 2 minutes to a diaper change.

I guess if I didn't live in a city with a service, I'd do the bumgenius again but in a city, no way.
posted by k8t at 9:04 PM on August 13

As a former owner of a small cloth diaper service, I would like to +1 exactly what Maarika said above!

All in ones seem like they'll be more convenient, but they're way more expensive, so people tend to own less of them and you are doing laundry more often, and you can't clean them as well because they have very restrictive laundering instructions.

You can get prefolds much cleaner and more sanitary than all in ones because you can use hot water, bleach, and high dryer heat on the 100% cotton prefold. Also, don't believe anything you read recommending "stripping" diapers. If your diapers have to be periodically stripped, you aren't cleaning them properly in the first place. Use a normal amount of fragrance free detergent and chlorine bleach, it is very reactive and decomposes into table salt pretty much by the time it gets to the sewer main line.

If you get enough prefolds and covers for 2-3 days, your laundry burden won't be bad at all. The covers can generally be used for several changes if they don't get dirty.
posted by Calyx Valerian at 10:57 PM on August 13

I use all cloth with my kiddo, and have done so since she was 3 weeks old. I bought a range of nappies, and my absolute favourites are the cheapest - Alva pocket nappies. You can get 'em on Amazon, but honestly I bought a ton through Aliexpress.

Here is why I like cheapie Alva nappies
1) They fit super well. They have hip and waist snaps, unlike Bumgenius, which means you can really tailor the fit. They also have crossover snaps at the waist so you can make 'em super teeny.
2) They wash and dry crazy fast. They come with microfibre inserts that were great when kiddo was super tiny. I actually pair the microfibre inserts with slower drying bamboo inserts from a British company called Little Lamb now that she's older and more active, which brings me to...
3) They're super customizable. You can stuff the pockets with anything you like - even prefolds - so you can really fiddle with the absorbency.
4) They're SUPER affordable! This means you can have a ton on hand. I also like that they come in a range of solid colours - I don't know why so many cloth nappies come in the ugliest prints possible, and I don't know why the really expensive brands are extra fug, but they do.
and 5) They're really fuss free to use. I keep pre-stuffed nappies in the top drawer of the dresser we use as a change table. This means they're as easy to use as a disposable, and we toss used nappies in a regular pedal bin lined with a fabric wash bag (Tots Bots washbags with an elastic, they're great). The only slightly fussy part is that it's best to pull the insert out of the nappy before washing, but that's NBD. When the bucket is full I put the whole wash bag in the machine.

The only slight downside is they're not super awesome at night. I used to use disposables at night, but have since switched to shaped sized nappies plus a wrap. There are a range of brands of shaped sized nappies, we use Little Lamb. Shaped sized nappies are pretty bomb proof when it comes to absorbency and leaks, but Christ on a cracker are they ever fiddly to put on, which is why I personally wouldn't use them as my daily driver nappy.

Edited to add: all pocket nappies have a synthetic fleece lining touching the baby's skin. This is a good thing! Urine and other liquids pass through the synthetic fleece into the absorbent core, keeping kiddo's skin dry. I find my super absorbent bamboo and hemp inserts get super crispy and crusty after a few wash cycles - you want them to - but the synthetic liners stay really soft and lovely. We've never had any nappy rash issues at all with our nappies.
posted by nerdfish at 11:18 PM on August 13 [1 favorite]

What we did was collect used cloth diapers of different types from individual sellers via different apps, sometimes people sell them for cheap. We needed up going with grovia which we love and was perfect for our small baby (she is 14 months and 18 lbs, she started at 5lbs).

We have moved to pocket diapers at night as her volume changed. The bum genius are just a little to wide for her. The flip inserts have worked the best for us for that.

Sometimes she's had a couple weeks of akward sizing when she grew one way but not the other (she goes wide then spurts and Little in height and is skinny again, then bulks back up.) When she on the skinnier side she sometimes leaks, but we have some extra diapers built a bit differently that make up the difference.

It is alot of laundry. But overall it's worked for us.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:16 AM on August 14

Prefolds prefolds prefolds. Snappis and covers. I did not find all in ones to be more convenient cuz you have to disassemble then to wash then restuff them before using. Prefolds are forgiving in the laundry (we just washed them like regular clothes, no need for elaborate rituals), inexpensive, and make the best cleaning cloths you have ever used once you move on to a new size. (They do also have resale value. I sold most of my stash but kept a few around as cleaning cloths and 7 years later they are still in active circulation.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:19 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]

We have some Bambino Mio all-in-ones, and they're pretty good, but for a single workhorse solution that will last you I would go for prefolds and covers. They're not much more hassle than the all-in-ones once you've got a bit of practice in and they're a lot more flexible. Our all-in-ones are fine but the absorbency isn't as good and they don't last overnight.

Also lots will advertise one-size "from birth" - I have NEVER found this to be the case, and I have chunky babies. 12lb and enough chub to avoid up-the-back poo geysers is about the minimum size for the all-in-ones I've tried. Prefolds are more flexible there (although you can get different sizes too) - we had Little Lamb wraps, one size from birth to 2/3 months ish, next size from there to potty training.
posted by Catseye at 3:26 AM on August 14

I loved Cloth-eez fitted diapers from Green Mountain diapers. I used Snappi clasps and diaper covers (wool was my favorite: cute and snuggle factors high), but I also had several PUL covers for days when I needed a smaller bum profile and/or I knew there was going to be a lot of pee. You have to buy the fitted diapers a couple of times in a couple of different sizes, but the covers will often be adjustable enough to cover a few sizes.

Before I found this combo, I used a lot of different all-in-ones and pocket diapers (Bum Genius, g-diapers with reusable inserts, Gro-via), but I really disliked the fleece that was generally next to baby's skin, and if I used any kind of diaper cream, the fleece would become repellent unless I "stripped" the diapers when I washed them. Too time-consuming! Cotton washes up so well.

Good luck. Enjoy your fluffy bum baby!
posted by weezetr at 5:47 AM on August 14

Ok so you've unexpectedly convinced me to do snappis and prefolds with covers.

Does it then matter what covers I use? Kawaii seems cheap and cute. Again willing to pay for premium, but if it doesn't make a difference with prefolds...
posted by cacao at 5:50 AM on August 14

I really liked our Thirsties covers. They come in both snap and velcro (which gave us options as our little one changed shape), have cute designs/colors, and are pretty affordable.
posted by timestep at 6:02 AM on August 14

We had Thirsties with the velcro (velcro doesn't last as long but is more convenient).

The one challenge I found with prefolds is if you have other people caring for your baby, it can take a LOT of convincing for people to accept that a flat prefold can be turned into a workable diaper quickly and easily. With AIOs, people are like, "Okay that looks like a diaper, maybe this cloth diapering thing isn't so weird/hard" People see a prefold and are just automatically like NOPE NO CAN DO, WHAT IS THIS, THE 18TH CENTURY??? Even though it takes approximately 5 seconds to lay the dipe out and fold it up (and 5 minutes to practice doing it the first time), it's not what people are expecting and there can be a lot of weird irrational resistance. Just stick to your guns because seriously it is so easy (it's the Snappi that really makes the difference here--people are picturing safety pins and stuff). Get more Snappis than you think you'll need because they are key and can get lost during nighttime diaper change and eventually they do get kind of stretched out.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:03 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]

Snappis are AMAZING. Cotton diapers are good too, we didn't do bamboo or anything like that.

Greenmountaindiapers is a site you'll want to visit at least to read their informative material regarding sizing, washing, and terminology. If you can't find local/2nd hand diapers then they're going to be hard to beat for what you want, doubly so since their colored stitching/size options are great.

I'm not going to go into the depths of our experience (2 kids, cloth all the way) with prefolds vs oldschool-fold-yourself-flats.

You need the following: covers (note: velcro dies after enough uses, snaps tear out eventually but that's usually after 1 kiddo is done with that size), diapers of varying sizes as kiddo grows (flats or prefolds, likely just a set of 2 or 3 sizes worked for us), snappis (seriously the best invention ever, they never failed us and I can't imagine a life with safety pins), and a few flushable diaper liners for the first day or three (merconium is bad, bad, bad shit) and for later when you're done with breast milk and/or the poop becomes more solid and just flushing it and liner is better. Alternately you could use a bidet spray handle to rinse poop off...

Memail me for other tip requests.

*Prefolds are easier to use, doubly so for infants, but bit harder to clean and less flexible, Flats are more flexible and really not that much harder to manage when you do laundry/fold them and they clean easier since they aren't as thick/stitched, also cheaper I think. They also [line] dry easier.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:47 AM on August 14

People see a prefold and are just automatically like NOPE NO CAN DO, WHAT IS THIS, THE 18TH CENTURY??? Even though it takes approximately 5 seconds to lay the dipe out and fold it up (and 5 minutes to practice doing it the first time), it's not what people are expecting and there can be a lot of weird irrational resistance. Just stick to your guns because seriously it is so easy (it's the Snappi that really makes the difference here--people are picturing safety pins and stuff). Get more Snappis than you think you'll need because they are key and can get lost during nighttime diaper change and eventually they do get kind of stretched out.

Quoted for m**fing truth. Or just let substitute care givers (family, babysitters, etc) use disposable diapers. Honestly that's what we ended up having to do. No amount of tutoring/mentoring/begging will get people on board who don't explicitly want to be on board. Yes, even if those people are the people who used cloth diapers on your own bottom 30 years ago. They just turn ignorant/stupid/unwilling so buy a brick of diapers to use for them and for complicated travel where carrying poop diaper(s) might be impossible/rude.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:49 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]

Oh yea, one or two wool covers for nighttime soaking use will pay for itself, even though they seem expensive (because they are). Some folks make these out of thrift store ugly sweaters and, honestly, I can see that working just fine if the maker is skilled enough.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:59 AM on August 14

I used cloth prefolds that laid in covers that Velcroed shut. I never used Snappis. The covers didn't need to be washed every time a diaper was wet; just switch out the prefolds. I preferred fleece covers but PUL ones were fine (and cheaper).

Pocket diapers, for me, had almost all the downsides of all-in-ones plus no matter how I laundered them, would end up not absorbing well through the inner layer of the pocket.
posted by metasarah at 7:27 AM on August 14

In my cover inventory spreadsheet I have this pasted...

"We recommend purchasing 6-8 diaper covers for a newborn, 4-6 diaper covers for an older baby and 2-3 diaper covers for a toddler."

We also have a ton of one sized ones too.

If you're not on BuyNothing and your local parenting social media pages, get on them now. Diaper covers are constantly being listed for free. I think we have mostly Rumparooz.
posted by k8t at 7:50 AM on August 14

We used mostly Flip diaper covers because our local food co-op sold them, but we got a couple Thirsties ones in newborn sizes from Amazon that were OK but not worth it because he grew out of them so quickly! The PUL and leg hole elastic on the Flip covers started breaking down after 2 years of hard use, but we definitely got our money’s worth.

You can start with a couple different types of covers and see how you like them - I wouldn’t buy 6+ of the same kind right away. My baby was a preemie and slow to gain weight, so he didn’t fit into cloth for the first couple months. We had a lot of time to experiment as we transitioned.
posted by Maarika at 8:30 AM on August 14

Also, get some flannel wipes! We wet them down as necessary with room temperature water that we kept in a peri bottle from the hospital.
posted by Maarika at 8:39 AM on August 14

I really liked the Green Mountain Diapers for us.

For my baby boy, at night, the Cloth-eez Workhorse Fitted diapers (with snaps, I think) were what we used. It was the only thing that wouldn't leak pee all over me at night otherwise. Then for the night-time covers, we used the Disana Wool Pull-On Covers. They worked perfect for winter, summer... I had two or three of the Disana shorties, so I would use one on him one night and let the other air out in that time to use the next night.
posted by jillithd at 9:49 AM on August 14

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