What to Consider When Buying Cloth Diapers

More families are choosing cloth diapers, some for financial reasons, others for the environment. No matter why you’re looking into cloth diapers, you may be confused by your options. It’s helpful to see cloth diapers on a continuum from hardest to use (and least expensive) to easiest to use (and most expensive). Here are some options to consider.

Flats and Prefolds

These are your most basic diapers. They are squares of material several layers thick that must be folded and placed into a diaper cover. You can use pins with these, but there are also alternative fasteners that won’t poke the baby! A dozen flats or prefolds will cost between $15-$20.

Contours and Fitteds

Contours are “baby shaped” so you don’t have to fold them like prefolds, but they’ll still need a fastener and a diaper cover. Contours cost about $85 for a dozen. Fitteds are shaped like a disposable diaper, fully covering the baby’s bottom and using snaps or velcro to close (though you’ll still need a diaper cover). Fitteds usually come in three sizes, though there are some popular one-size fitteds available. These cost about $156 for a dozen.

Pocket diapers

Pocket diapers have a water resistant outer layer (like a diaper cover) sewn on to an inner absorbent layer. There is a space in between these layers (a pocket) into which extra absorbent material is stuffed. This allows for more absorbency during use, but reduces drying time needed after washes. Pockets also come in three sizes and average $216 for a dozen.

All In One diapers

All In Ones are diapers with a water resistant cover sewn to several layers of absorbent fabric. These diapers are the easiest to use; they work just like a disposable, but you wash them instead of toss them. They come in three sizes and average $240 for a dozen.

Diaper Covers

Covers are a necessity for flats, prefolds, contours and fitteds and generally come in three sizes (are you sensing a theme here?) Most cost about $15 each.

How Many Diapers Will I Need?

Two to three dozen diapers are enough for most families. If you are buying diapers that come in several sizes, buy more of the smallest size and fewer of the largest, as newborns need many more diaper changes a day than 2-year -olds! Keeping 2-to-3-dozen on hand allows you to wash diapers every 3-4 days, which keeps laundry from being overwhelming.

If you are buying flats, prefolds, or contours, you’ll need some kind of fastener. Usually, 3-4 fasteners are plenty.

Unless you are using pockets or all-in-ones, you’ll also need diaper covers. Usually five covers are enough in each size. Diaper covers do not need to be washed after each change; they can be air dried and used again later. If they become soiled, however, they should be washed. When using pockets (and to a lesser extent, all-in-ones), you’ll need “stuffing” material. Many manufacturers offer free inserts with purchase. Otherwise, you can buy them or make your own out of inexpensive diapers, like flats or prefolds.

We certainly have so many options today when choosing cloth diapers. Don’t be afraid to try a few of each in the beginning, before you make your big purchase. Use this guide and search to find the options that are right for you. And enjoy – your baby is only little once!

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