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Fans of cloth diapering point out babies have less diaper rash and toilet train faster. Cloth diapers have improved over the years, offering more absorbency and fewer leaks. Diaper covers have helped as well. Another practical point: laundry. Will you use a diaper service or launder at home? And, unfortunately, most day care centers don’t allow cloth diapers. Here are our recommendations for cloth diaper brands:

Cloth Diapers. As we noted earlier, if you ask 100 parents for their recommendations on cloth diapers you’re likely to get 100 dif- ferent opinions—it seems everyone has their special system or favorite brand! So what’s an aspiring CD’er (cloth diaperer) to do? First let’s take you through the basics with Karen F., our CD guru from our message boards:

A cloth diaper has three basic functions. Working from the inside out:

 1. Wick it away. This layer is intended to keep baby from sitting in her pee. This layer lets moisture through in one direction but not back towards the skin. In cloth diapers, this layer is fleece or suedecloth, but only certain kinds of fleece will do this. Some people just cut rectangles of fleece and lay them inside the diaper. Some diapers are lined with fleece, sewn in place while others are pocket dia- pers with the fleece next to the skin. And there are some people who skip this layer and change the diaper as soon as baby pees.

2. Soak it up. Typically, the absorbent layer in cloth diapers is made of cotton or hemp and is sewn in layers. There are also some diapers with a micro fiber towel for the absorbent layer. Some people add an extra layer called a “doubler” which is just layers of cloth sewn together. This allows parents to increase absorption when needed (overnight, for example).

3. Keep the rest of the world dry. Remember those awful plas- tic/rubber pants of yesteryear? Uncomfortable for baby and noisy too! Today’s options are much more comfortable to wear and touch. Cloth diaper covers can be polyurethane laminate (PUL) over cotton or polyester, nylon, wool or fleece. Wool is naturally water repellent when it has natural lanolin in it. (Otherwise sheep would bulk up like a sponge in a rainstorm!). The type of fleece that is used as diaper covers is water repellent.”

Okay, now that you know the mechanics of cloth diapering, what should you use for your little guy or gal? First, here’s the lingo you’ll need to master: 

1 PREFOLDS (CPF for Chinese prefolds or DSQ for diaper-service quality). These are what most parents think of when they envision cloth diapers. They are heavyweight 100% cotton cloths that have been prefolded (so that there is extra padding in the middle) and sewn down. This process leads to a diaper with six to eight layers in the middle and two to four layers on the sides. They can then be pinned onto your baby (not our favorite idea) or folded into a diaper cover. Avoid flat fold diapers—these are really just burp pads and great dust cloths!

2 FITTED DIAPER: Sometimes called pre-fitteds, these are prefolded diapers that have elastic sewn in for the leg openings. They don’t have snaps or Velcro so they have to be secured with pins or in a cover. You’ll get a more snug fit around the leg openings with these. 3 DOUBLER (ALSO CALLED LINER). Available in paper, cotton, microfiber or even silk, doublers are used when you need extra absorbency. They are inserted between the diaper and baby’s bottom. These would be a great option at night or on a long car trip.

4 DIAPER COVER/WRAP. This item is placed over the diaper to stop leaks. One style of diaper cover is called a wrap—think of it as baby origami. You’ll wrap your baby up and secure the Velcro tabs to the front strip. Some covers snap in place and there are other pants that can be pulled on (elastic waist).

5 ALL-IN-ONE. Just what you’d think, an all-in-one (AIO) is a diaper and cover sewn together. There are pluses and minus- es to this design. Yes, the convenience of grabbing one item and snapping or Velcro-ing it on your baby is great, but if your baby makes a mess, you have to wash the whole thing. With a traditional diaper/cover combination, you won’t have to wash the cover every time unless baby gets poop on it. So you’ll end up buying more all-in-ones to keep yourself from doing laundry constantly.

6 POCKET DIAPER. Made famous by Fuzzi Bunz, the pocket diaper is an all-in-one with a pocket sewn into the lining. You can then customize the diaper for more absorbency by adding an insert or a prefolded diaper.

7 SNAPPI FASTENERS. Made in South Africa, these cutting-edge diaper fasteners replace the traditional (and potentially painful) diaper pin. Check out their website at for a look at how they work.

Whew! That’s a lot to remember. So anyway, what’s the bottom line? What should you buy? Great question. Here’s what our cloth diaper guru recommends if you’re just starting out and have a newborn: Buy two to three dozen prefold diapers and four to six diaper covers. You may also want to get a few pocket diapers or all-in-ones and a couple Snappis.

So now you have an idea what to buy, but how can you save money on diapers? We've got the low down money saving: 

1 CLOTH DIAPER USERS, GO FOR “INTRODUCTORY PACKAGES.” Many suppliers have special introductory deals (Mother-Ease offers their One-Size diaper, a liner and cover for $22 to $25 including shipping). Before you invest hundreds of dollars in one brand, give it a test drive first.

2 BUY USED CLOTH DIAPERS. Many of the best brands of cloth diapers last and last and last. So you may see them on eBay or cloth-diaper message boards. Buy them—you can get some brands for as little a buck or two. As long as you know the quality and age of the diapers you’re buying, this tip can really be a money saver.

3 REUSE THEM. Okay, we know this may be obvious, but hang onto your cloth diapers and use them for your next child. Every child is different, so even if you buy a brand and it doesn’t fit your baby well, it may work on your next child. And of course, you can always sell them on eBay or Craigslist when you’re all finished.

4 MANUFACTURERS’ SECONDS. Diaper site emailed us this tip: every six to eight weeks, the site offers diaper seconds at a huge discount. The diapers are still perfectly fine, they just have minor flaws that don’t affect their quality like a slightly too large waistline, a button a millimeter out of place or stitching in the wrong color. If you have a favorite cloth diaper brand, consider checking directly with the manufacturer to see if they offer any seconds deals as well.

BB Rating
What's This?


A EXCELLENT-our top pick!
B GOOD-above average quality, prices, and creativity.
C FAIR-could stand some improvement.
D POOR-yuck! Could stand some major improvement.