Cloth Diapers 101: How to build a cloth diaper stash on any budget is a three-part series aimed at helping you choose a cloth diapering system. This series explains the lingo, costs, and benefits to the many different types of cloth diapers.
Pockets, AIOs, covers, fitteds, and prefolds. I needed a glass of wine with a side of smirk just to decipher the diaper lingo associated with cloth nappies. No one told me that being a new mom on a budget would require a degree in diaper technology. Grumble.
My questions were simple. How much moolah do the different cloth diaper systems cost? How many cloth diapers would I need? Which brands are best? And WTF (What The Fabrication) is an AIO diaper?
After throwing some serious side-eye and flipping off a few blogs for infecting the interwebs, I finished my glass of bubbly, got off my moral high horse (which is really just a slip-covered IKEA sofa), and devised an experimental diaper plan.
Squawkfox Cloth Diaper Experiment:
- Buy a bunch of cloth diapers.
- Test various diapering systems.
- Calculate the cost of each system.
- Find some kick-ass brands.
- Report my findings.
And so I bucked up and bought a few diapers of each type, trying some big brands along the way. Carl joined in on the fun, and so did baby Chloe. Together we wrapped, snapped, stashed, giggled, and washed a wacky stack of cloth nappies just to share (and reveal) the real hits and misses.
Learn from our mistakes. Here’s how to spend your cash on a new stash of cloth diapers.
Diaper System 1: Prefold with cover.
The best bang for your diaper dollar is the prefold with a cover. A prefold is a rectangular piece of cotton cloth that’s thicker in the middle.
Pros: Priced at around $2 to $3 per prefold and wrapped in a simple $13 diaper cover (see Diaper Covers, below), this system is BY FAR the cheapest cloth option on the market today. Cotton is absorbent and breathable.
Stash Size Needed: You’ll need about 24 prefold diapers and 4-6 covers for babies aged 0-6 months. Fewer diapers are needed for older babies. Plan on doing laundry every 2 days.
Total Cost: 24 OsoCozy Prefolds ($50), 5 Thirsties Covers ($65), and a pack of Snappi fasteners ($8) cost around $125 for a newborn diaper stash. Budget to buy this stash again once your kid hits 15-20 pounds for a total of $250. That’s a bargain compared to other systems, people.
Prefold Diaper Bottom Line
I loved prefolds for their low cost, ease of laundering, and the reusability of the covers.
Diaper System 2: Fitted with cover.
Fitted diapers are shaped like disposables, but made of fabric with elastic gatherings in the legs and waist. A two-step diapering process, they need a waterproof cover to keep the business where it belongs — in the drawers.
Stash Size Needed: You’ll need about 24 fitted diapers and 4-6 covers for babies aged 0-6 months. Fewer diapers are needed for older babies. Plan on doing laundry every 2 days.
Total Cost: 24 Cotton Fitted Diapers ($312) and 5 Thirsties Covers ($65) total $377 for a newborn diaper stash. Budget to buy this stash again once your kid hits 15-20 pounds for a total cost of $754.
Fitted Diaper Bottom Line
I get a little grumpy every time I need to reach for a fitted diaper since this system is a full-on two-step process.
Step Two: Install the diaper cover.
That’s a lot of snaps to fasten. Heaven help you if it’s 2-freaking-AM and your kid’s sleeper also has snaps. You’ll be snapping everything shut until 3:30AM. Forget sleeping, you’re life will be a freaking snap fest. No, I’m not bitter.
Since Chloe was a preemie, I appreciated the close fit of fitted diapers. However, as she got older, this diaper became her nemesis. The kid hates feeling wet, and since the fitted sits close to the body, the dang diaper ALWAYS feels wet. A great diaper for potty training. A terrible option for night time sleeping. I plan on ‘Office Spacing’ this system once Chloe grows outta ’em.
Diaper Covers: PUL vs. Wool.
To contain the moisture and other messes (cough) within the prefold and fitted diapering systems, you’ll need a couple of diaper covers to keep things under wraps.
PUL Diaper Covers
The more affordable diaper wraps on the market are made of polyurethane laminate (PUL) fabric. Many companies sell PUL covers for around $13 each. Don’t confuse PUL covers with old skool plastic pants — PUL is pliable and far more comfortable than crunchy plastic.
Pros: A single PUL diaper cover can be used several times if not soiled. Just rinse, wipe dry, snap to a baby’s bum, repeat. Easy.
Cons: Sold in both ‘one size’ and sized options, you’ll need to find a good fit to be sure the stuff stays inside the diaper cover.
Wool Diaper Covers
Being a bit of a crunchy granola mom, I wanted to give wool covers a go. A natural and breathable option, wool covers are touted as waterproof since lanolin acts as the moisture barrier. Each cover will set you back $25 to $35 a piece. Not cheap.
Cons: While I liked the idea of wool, in practice I found the cover to be a hassle. Wool wraps must be hand washed, and mine often wicked wetness through to clothing. I tried a product called Woollybottoms — a similar brand is the Disana 100% Organic Wool Diapers Cover/Soaker/Over Pants.
Diaper Cover Bottom Line
You’ll need 3-6 covers to diaper a newborn if you’re planning on doing laundry every two days. Priced at under $15, my preference goes to PUL diaper covers for affordability and ease of use. However, having a wool cover on hand was helpful when diaper rash dropped by for an unexpected visit. The breathability of wool cleared up the rawhide situation fast.
Cloth Diapers 101: How to build a cloth diaper stash on any budget
Be sure to follow the whole cloth diaper series!
- Part One: Cloth Diapers 101: How to build a cloth diaper stash on any budget
- Part Two: Cloth Diapers 101 Part Two: Build a cloth diaper stash on any budget
- Part Three: Cloth Diapers 101 Part Three: How to build a cloth diaper stash on any budget
Your Turn: What is your favorite cloth diaper system? Why?