There are many reasons families choose to use cloth diapers – natural fibers against baby’s skin, keeping disposable diapers out of the landfill, cost savings, and, obviously, the cute, fluffy bum factor. There is just nothing cuter on the planet than seeing a baby crawling around wearing a cloth diaper. Add a fun print to the mix, and it’s downright adorable overload.
It’s also a great choice for families looking for a cruelty-free diapering option. In recent years, there has been a boom in the eco-friendly disposable diapering market, with several brands that do not test on animals and limit harsh chemical ingredients. (Please see Generation Veggie’s feature on animal-friendly disposable diapering options for more information.) However, with cloth diapers, you don’t need to worry about this. Cloth diapers are not tested on animals, and use only natural fibers. If you are considering cloth diapering your child, there are many options, which come with varying levels of time (and comfort!) investment. The main types of cloth diapering systems are:
Prefolds are rectangular shaped cloth diapers, sized from infant to toddler, that you can fold in a variety of ways to meet the needs of your baby. Prefolds come in a wide range of fabrics – cotton, bamboo, hemp – and they become more absorbent with each wash. These are by far the most economical cloth diapering choice, often just a few dollars each. You need to pair them with a waterproof diaper cover, which close with either snaps or Velcro. Check out: Green Mountain Diapers and Thirsties covers
Fitted diapers have elastic around the legs and fasten with either snaps or Velcro, so they are easier to use. Like prefolds, they need to paired with a waterproof diaper cover. Check out: Cloth-eeze Workhorse and sustainablebabyish.
Pocket diapers are extremely customizable and consist of a waterproof diaper cover that has an opening to insert the absorbent material of your choice – prefolds or specially designed inserts of usually hemp or bamboo. Check out: Fuzzibunz.
Hybrid diapers offer the flexibility of using either reusable or disposable inserts, depending on your needs. This is often a popular choice when traveling. The GroVia and gDiapers systems, for example, offer both cotton and biodegradable/compostable inserts.
All-in-One Diapers are the most expensive choice, typically in the range of $12-$25 per diaper. What you get for that investment is a cloth diaper that looks and functions like a disposable diaper, just toss them in the wash instead of the garbage! These are especially useful in childcare situations. Check out: Bum Genius Elementals.
Diaper services are a fantastic introduction into the world of cloth diapering, especially during the newborn phase. You place a bag of dirty diapers by your door, and the diaper fairies leave a bag of clean ones in its place. It’s magical, but depending on your location, expect to spend about $75-$100 per month.
You may find yourself testing a few options before committing to a full-time cloth diapering system. And this is wise – you don’t want to shell out money for a system that doesn’t work for you, and you may find, like I did, that you want to change the system as your baby grows. There is a world of difference in trying to fold a prefold on a baby versus a wiggly toddler. However, there is a lucrative market for reselling cloth diapers. Yes, you read that correctly. There are large communities of cloth diapering folks who resell/trade diapers, which makes it easy to experiment – and packs a double-punch for the environment! Check out Diaper Swappers for a peak into this world.
Yes, you will need to get on board with poop on some level. You still need to wipe a dirty bum with disposable diapers, right? It’s really not all that much more involved. I promise, it’s not nearly as bad as you imagine. Get yourself a diaper sprayer or some biodegradable, flushable liners – modern cloth diapering virtually eliminates the ick factor. Plus, you can say goodbye to disposable wipes and toss reusable cloth wipes right in the washer with the diapers. For one child, it simply amounts to a few extra loads of laundry a week, and, I will admit, there is something very Zen about stuffing pocket diapers fresh from the dryer. Check out Pinstripes and PolkaDots for a comprehensive online collection of cloth diaper laundering tips. The following are some recommendations for all natural, vegan detergents and cloth diaper-safe ointments that are not tested on animals:
You can find all of these detergents in Generation Veggie’s Shop.
What about nighttime?
Most cloth diaper families choose fitted diapers for nighttime, and while wool covers and longies (pajama-like pants worn over a diaper) are often used as a waterproof layer for overnight, there are other animal-friendly options. I found fleece to work remarkably well – just as breathable as wool, but at a fraction of the cost and a much easier care routine, with no lanolin treatments required.
Do you have any cruelty-free cloth diapering recommendations? Share in the comments below!