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. To start from the beginning, check out the cloth diapers in Part One and Part Two.

Cloth Diaper System 4: All-in-Ones (AIO)

The AIO diaper is like a pocket diaper, but everything is stuck together. Because this is a one piece system, some smart-arse called it an All-in-One and gave it a TLA of AIO. The AIO may be an easy to use one-step diaper, but it’s a bitch to launder since you can’t dry the shell separately from the insert.

bumgenius all in one

Pros: A few mommy blogs claim that AIOs are the most accepted cloth diaper at daycares.

Cons: Good luck getting your AIOs laundered and dried in time for the next day — these suckers are sewn together, so you can’t split the cover from the insert like with prefolds, fitteds, or pockets. Using the dryer daily on your AIOs will wear the PUL shell. Lastly, AIOs are probably the most expensive cloth diapering system on the market today.

Stash Size Needed: You’ll need at least 24 AIO diapers for babies aged 0-6 months. Fewer diapers are needed for older babies. Plan on doing laundry every 2 days.

Total Cost: The most popular AIO brands are the bumGenius Freetime ($25) and the GroVia O.N.E. ($23).

Total Cost: 24 bumGenius Freetime AIOs will cost you a butt-whomping $600. Due to this diaper’s slow drying time, you’ll likely need at least 30 AIOs in the first months, totalling $750.

All-in-Ones (AIO) Bottom Line

While I enjoy not having to stuff an AIO diaper, I get a little annoyed with the time it takes to dry these suckers. I rarely reach for my AIOs because I know it is going to take at least 24 hours to wash and dry these sewn-together units. Adding a few AIOs to your stash may be a good idea if your child is in daycare and this is the only cloth diaper type approved for use. Invest in laundry drying racks. Seriously.

Cloth Diapers
Price Check: Are cloth diapers worth it? Or are they a Bum Deal?

I crunched the nappy numbers and did the diaper math. Turns out one diapering method could save your family $1,799 with one child. Find out which diaper does the job for less.

Cloth Diaper System 5: Hybrid Diapers

I raised an eyebrow after learning about the wacky world of hybrid diapers, and quickly opted out of trying this system in my own diaper stash. A hybrid diaper is a two-step diapering system where a washable cover (also called a ‘shell’) is combined with either a disposable insert or a washable soaker pad.

The idea is you can wash the cover and chuck the insert. Or wash both the cover and the soaker pad. Either way, you’re washing and chucking half the time. I don’t get it.

Diaper Sprayer
Make your own diaper sprayer

Clean the mess from your cloth diapers for less with this simple DIY Cloth Diaper Sprayer. Illustrative plumbing photos show you the 8 easy steps.

Some companies (like gDiapers) say their disposable inserts are biodegradable, so you’ll feel better about tossing and washing (I suppose).

Popular hybrid brands include:

Pros: Hybrid marketers claim that sticking a disposable insert into a washable cover is awesome for “for those moments when life happens and you need a disposable alternative.” Guess what? I can never guess “those moments” when my baby will unleash a mega mess. And when she does, I’d have to wash the cover anyways. #fail

Cons: Cost, cost, and more cost since you’ll be shelling out moolah for covers, liners, and those dang disposable inserts. Hybrids still add garbage to the landfill if you’re using the disposable insert, so don’t think you’re virtuous just ’cause half the diaper is cloth. You’re still doing laundry. Worst of both worlds.

Stash Size Needed: To build a hybrid diaper stash you’ll need: 6-12 shells, 12 soaker pads, and a pack of 18 disposable inserts per month. Plan on doing laundry every 2 days and shopping for more disposable inserts regularly.

The most popular hybrid brand is the Flip Individual One Size (One snap diaper cover, one stay dry insert) for $17. The Flip disposable inserts cost extra, so budget an additional $6 for 18 per month.

Total Cost: 12 Flip Individual One Size covers and soaker will cost you $204, plus $180 for a pack of disposable inserts over 30 months. Total is $384 and up for those using more disposables.

Hybrid Diaper Bottom Line

I would love for hybrid diaper fans to comment and share why they love this system.

prefold diaper
Skip Hybrids: Save money by opting for the prefold diaper system.

‘Cause given the math and how the hybrid two-step system works, I think it makes far more financial sense to buy a few inexpensive PUL diaper covers, a pack of washable prefold cotton cloth diapers and save nearly 50% over a hybrid system.

So where am I going with this?

You can build a new cloth diaper stash on any budget, starting at a frugal $120 for prefolds and hitting over $700 for those crazy AIOs. There’s a lot of budget wiggle room with pocket diapers and fitted diapers too, so take the monetary middle ground if these systems are more your style. A few tips for choosing a cloth diapering system:

cloth diaper stash

1. Don’t commit to one diaper system right away.

In a perfect world, I would have stuck with the inexpensive prefold and cover system to cut my cloth costs. But my kid had other ideas. Your kid may have ideas too. Try a few systems by buying (or borrowing) a few diapers first, then decide.

2. ‘One Size’ does not mean ‘fits all babies’ always.

Think a one size diaper is going to fit your little one from newborn to potty? Think again. You may need to invest in multiple sizes at different ages and stages for the best fit. Gaping legs and loose waist bands can lead to messy leaks with newborns, and tight elastics could cramp your toddler’s style. Finding the right fit is key to loving the cloth diaper experience.

3. What works for day-time may be terrible at night.

A thicker diaper with multiple inserts may be the trick for keeping baby asleep at night. That same thick diaper may give your kid a bubble butt during the day, and clothing may not fit.

4. Synthetic and natural fibres wear differently.

Cotton, hemp, and bamboo are natural and highly absorbent fibres, but they may shrink and feel wet next to baby’s bottom. Polyester and microfibre diapers won’t stain as easily, may have longer life spans, and prevent that dreaded wet feeling, but some parents complain that these fibres also retain smell. You won’t know which fabrics work unless you try a few. Sorry.

5. What works for me may not work for you.

I’ve exhausted the major diapering systems to find one that worked. I bought new, scavenged for used, and built an awesome diaper stash that keeps everyone in my family happy. Day shift, night shift, and laundry days are covered with a few prefolds, fitteds, pockets, and AIOs.

Cloth DiapersSeries: Build a cloth diaper stash on any budget

What type of cloth diapers should you buy? I share the winners and losers based on price, convenience, and a little experience. Check out Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Your Turn: I’d love to know what diaper brands you love and loathe. Which diapering systems are worth the bucks when secured to your baby’s butt?