Cloth diapers aren’t just a hit with ramp-eating, matcha-drinking hipsters anymore. The diapers have gone mainstream in a big way. Yes, disposables still own the diaper market, but their cloth brothers and sisters are making headway, appealing to eco-minded parents who don’t want to overload landfills with diapers that typically don’t biodegrade.
If you’re thinking of going the route of the cloth diaper, Liz Turrigiano, co-owner of the Brooklyn-based cloth diaper service Diaperkind has a few arguments that might push you in that direction. First, she says that cloth diapering has benefits for the planet (less waste), the baby (she argues there are less instances of diaper rash), and a simplified path to potty training, since cloth-diapered babies better know when they’re wet, and dislike that feeling.
Before you fully dive in, be warned, you’re going to need a fair amount of tools. You need the cloth, yes, but you’ll also need liners, snaps, doublers, and a slew of waterproof covers. You’ll need to size up somewhere around every six months.
Also, you’ll need to settle on a cloth diapering style. There are all-in-one cloth diapers, which are the easiest to use, because the insert is attached to the waterproof cover. You take the whole thing off, and wash it. If your child is a heavy wetter, you may be better off with the all-in-two cloth diapers, which have a removable insert. Prefold cloth diapers are fabric rectangles that go under a waterproof cover. When the baby goes potty, take out the liner and replace it with a clean one.
Fitted cloth diapers fit more snugly than prefolds, so are better for overnights, and like the prefolds, need a waterproof cover. And lastly, just to complicate things even more, we have the hybrid cloth diapers, which, like cars, go the cloth and disposable route. You simply add whatever liner you prefer. Velcro closures are easier to use, because you don’t have to line anything up, but snaps or buttons give you more wiggle room for growth and can be adjusted for size.
To get you started, Turrigiano suggest you get 24 cotton inserts and six liners. That’s enough to get you through 2-3 days, and you’ll want to do laundry twice a week. Speaking of laundry, you want to use “a clean-rinsing detergent, which means it’s free of fabric softener, optical brighteners, and fragrance. You want to avoid those three ingredients because they live on the surface on the fabric. Oh, and you need to flush poops in the toilet — something you’re technically supposed to do for disposable diapers, but is absolutely necessary for cloth.
Here are some stellar cloth diaper options, based on Turrigiano’s insights, plus parent recommendations and ratings.
These cloth diaper covers are a superb starter set for newborns.
You want a six pack? Here’s your six pack … of diaper covers. These diaper covers fit babies up to 12 pounds, so they’re ideal for newborns, and work over fitted, flat or prefold inserts. Plus the colors had us sold.
If you need a diaper cover only, this one is highly rated. It's breathable and has leg gussets for leak protection.
This super-cute diaper cover from the Colorado-based brand is waterproof and has an adjustable rise, so it takes you from birth to potty training. The inside of it can be wiped clean between uses, so you don’t need to wash it every time.
This is the insert that goes with the Thirsties diaper cover, and it's made from hemp and cotton.
Pair this with the waterproof Thirsties cover for a solid cloth diaper solution. Simply place the insert inside the cover, fasten it around your baby, and you’re ready to roll. When it’s wet or soiled, take it, throw it in the laundry, and replace it with another insert.
The O.G. of cloth diapers, this one has a stay-dry inner fabric that stretches to provide a secure fit and a redesigned pocket that is more trim across the back.
The king of cloth diapers has three snap-downs on its front that lets parents easily adjust the size of the diaper as their baby grows. And you can double-stuff the pocket for overnights to avoid leaks.
You can use this hybrid diaper cover with either cloth inserts, or disposable ones, which gives you maximum flexibility.
Pair the outer shell with the brand’s washable liners, or disposable ones, and you’re pretty much set in the diaper department.
This diaper is the closest to a traditional disposable diaper. It has an absorbent core and stay-dry inner layer
The diaper has a tab system that lets you pull out the inner core to wash it. The size is adjustable thanks to its snaps and hook fastenings. It’s a simple system that’s one size and grows with your baby.
We love that the interior of the diaper can be wiped down, thereby reducing the number of times you have to wash it.
These work best with prefolds and fitted diapers, and the brand has its own Smart Fit prefolds that work ideally with this specific cover.
These prefolds work best with the Imagine diaper covers.
These unbleached prefolds are made of cotton and created without any whitening or bleaching agents. They come in sizes extra small through large. Beware that some parents complain that they’re not as thick as promised.
Here's your go-to all-in-one cloth diaper system.
There’s a polyurethane laminate waterproof outer layer, and a soft microfleece stay-dry inner layer. Each Charlie Banana cloth diaper comes with two thick four-ply microfiber inserts. You adjust the buttons on the outer layer to size it up or down.
This cloth diaper has a soft suede-like inner layer to keep moisture away from your baby.
One diaper accommodates a baby from eight pounds until 33 pounds, thanks to adjustable rise snaps. And the patterns are very cute.
These cloth diapers fit babies from birth until roughly age two, and are truly adjustable due to the abundance of snaps.
The inserts are made of microfiber and bamboo, and are praised for being breathable and absorbent. But something to bear in mind is that unlike cotton, bamboo doesn’t get softer after repeated washings.
These affordable parent favorites have a waterproof outer layer, an inner suede fabric to wick moisture away, and two triple-layer microfiber inserts per diaper.
Parents recommend that you wash the inserts 5-6 times before using them, to make sure they’re absorbent. The diapers come with hip snaps and crossover snaps to prevent drooping and elastic around the legs to prevent leaking.
These are made from unbleached cotton, meaning fewer chemicals coming in contact with delicate baby skin.
These cloth inserts are good for babies weighing up to 30 pounds, and are extra-thick to soak up lots of liquids. Parents love them because they’re super-soft and pre-shrunk, meaning what you see is what you get, in terms of sizing.
You get a set of ten, with each one measuring 20 inches by 14 inches.
These have a medium thickness and are better suited for younger babies.
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