What’s the Best Cloth Diaper System?: The Pros and Cons of Different Cloth Diaper Styles
So, you’ve decided that you want to cloth diaper and you are ready to start choosing your diaper system. But maybe, that’s as far as you’ve gotten. That’s ok! Choosing the best cloth diaper system for your family is half the battle when deciding to cloth diaper. Most commonly, once caregivers truly understand the benefits and drawbacks of each system, they can immediately identify one or two options that will be a great fit for their family.
To help you choose the best cloth diaper system for you, we’ve created a cloth diaper showdown. The good, the bad and the interesting facts for each system and how they apply to your lifestyle. In this article, we’ll breakdown a pros and cons list for each system, complete with a recommendation for how to choose the best cloth diaper for your family.
Pros: Pockets are so customizable that you can make them work with any fiber choice. The insert or inserts of your choice are placed inside the pocket of the diaper, making it easy to add absorbency or switch fibers as needed. Many parents find that they need increased absorbency as baby grows and begins to sleep through the night. Babies with wetness sensitivity may appreciate the fast absorbing nature of microfiber, a common insert used in pockets. No matter what your baby’s current stage, pockets will grow with you as baby grows and changes through potty training.
Cons: Pocket diapers must be ‘stuffed’ before every use. If you are stuffing a large number of pockets at once, the added step may seem a bit time consuming. Pockets are also a one use system. In other words, you will need a new completely new diaper for every diaper change. While all cloth diapering systems can save you thousands of dollars on your diapering costs, it’s true that pockets are not the most cost effective system on the market.
The Breakdown: Pockets are the king of customization. If you want lots of choices, pockets are the way to go.
Pros: A hybrid cloth diaper system like the GroVia Hybrid Shells and Soaker Pads are a two piece system consisting of a waterproof shell or cover and an absorbent core or soaker pad. One of the best elements of the hybrid system is that the shells or covers can be used more than once, saving you money and laundry along the way. Hybrid shells and soaker pads pack flat and save room in your diaper bag and this system can also be used with prefolds, if you prefer. Two soaker pad choices, Organic Cotton and No-Prep, as well as the option to use prefolds, makes the hybrid system customizable and easy at the same time.
Cons: Although the shells to the hybrid system can be used more than once, some daycare providers may not allow for any part of the diaper to be reused. In other words, the benefit of the reusable cover may be lost in certain caregiver situations. And, if you are really committed to a cloth diaper with no parts or pieces, an All In One cloth diaper would be a better choice for you.
The Breakdown: If you need easy flexibility and budget friendly choice, hybrids will be your go to.
All In Ones
Pros: All In Ones, or AIOs, are incredibly popular because they are just so easy to use. There are no parts or pieces to AIOs, everything you need is sewn to the diaper itself. AIOs come in different fibers and closures, and they are by far the most simple cloth diapering system available. There is nothing to stuff when your diapers come out of the dryer, there are no soaker pads to snap in when baby needs a change and All In Ones are by far the most likely to be accepted in a day care or alternative caregiver setting. All In Ones are the closest in concept to a disposable diaper, they are just washed and reused rather than thrown away.
Cons: Because AIOs were created to be so user friendly, they are also very difficult to customize. Yes, you can add a booster or doubler to increase absorbency, but you don’t have the option to change fibers or soaker pads like you would in a hybrid system or with covers and prefolds. So while All In Ones are a one-step, easy to use system, they are also very limiting. You may eventually find that you need more absorbency at nighttime or naptime or you may find that a particular fiber isn’t working for baby’s skin anymore, in which case you may need to find an alternative system.
The Breakdown: If you want quick and easy, All In Ones are the cloth diapering system for you!
Pros: Fitteds are incredibly absorbent and are made without a waterproof layer. They often have multiple inserts that can be added or removed, making them easy to customize as needed. Because fitteds are sized, getting a good fit is simple and because they are made completely of absorbent fibers, they are breathable too. Natural fibers make fitteds easy to clean and comfortable on baby’s bottom.
Cons: Because fitteds do not have a waterproof layer, you must use either a wool cover or a waterproof cover along with your fitteds. While wool is breathable, durable and absorbent, some covers must be hand washed and all wool covers will need to be lanolized to be completely leak proof. The lanolizing process is not a difficult one, but it is an extra step for sure. Waterproof covers like the Thirsties Duo Wrap are easy and cost effective to use as well, but also another step in your cloth diapering process.
The Breakdown: If you need lots of absorbency and love wool covers, fitteds are the way to go.
Covers & Prefolds
Pros: Covers and prefolds are hailed as being the most cost effective cloth diapering system on the market. Covers can be wiped out and used multiple times and prefolds are both inexpensive to purchase and easy to clean. I was personally a little intimidated by this system when we first began cloth diapering, but there are many different options to choose from using covers and prefolds. Prefolds can be folded in different ways to customize your absorbency and they can also be sized up or down, depending on baby’s size and absorbency needs.
Cons: Because many alternate care providers prefer one change per diaper, they may need a one use system like All In Ones. Also, if you are using a Snappi with your prefolds, there can be a bit of a learning curve to fitting and adjusting your prefold. Many caregivers choose to use the pad fold rather than Snappis to avoid this fitting altogether.
The Breakdown: Covers and prefolds are by far the most budget friendly choice. If saving is at the top of your priority list, covers and prefolds will be right for you.
We always encourage our clients to choose two systems to bring home with them for a few reasons. First, baby may change environments more than once per day and one system may work better for daycare or an alternate care provider than it does for parents at home. Secondly, naptime and nighttime may require extra absorbency and therefore, you may prefer a more nighttime friendly option like the GroVia ONE, rather than a prefold and cover.
I would also consider traveling, laundry care and prep time with the system of your choice. Your lifestyle will greatly impact which cloth diaper system will work best for your family and should be a high priority when making your choice. Beyond your lifestyle, consider which caregiver will be doing the majority of the changing. Caregivers are more likely to get excited about cloth diapering when they are able to use the system that works best for them.
THE best cloth diaper system will be different for everyone. Which cloth diaper system is the best for your family? If you have something you love that’s working for you, I’d love if you shared it with us in the comments.
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Really good cloth diaper comparison.
Prefold Cloth Diaper on