7,000. That’s how many disposable diapers a baby can go through before they learn to use the potty. Whether these single-use diapers are worn for 5 minutes or 5 hours, they all land in the same place: the landfill.
Take a moment to think about how much space 7,000 diapers would take up in a room. A lot, right? Now what if you have two kids, or three? What about all the kids in your family, or in your neighborhood? You can quickly begin to see the vastness of diaper waste in our world.
And of course, most diapers aren’t recyclable or compostable and are made with plastic components that will never fully decompose. All in all, disposable diapering takes a huge toll on our planet. That’s one of the reasons so many parents are turning to a more sustainable option: cloth diapers.
Cloth diapers have many benefits and relatively few drawbacks. Yes, you need to run the washing machine every couple days. But you will also save thousands of dollars, prevent massive amounts of unnecessary waste, and wrap your babies bum in the most adorable diapers.
Seriously—cloth diapers are so stinkin’ cute these days! I’ve tried out many of the top brands of cloth diapers in order to create this cloth diaper guide. I hope it help you!
There are many, but here are some of the most compelling:
Cloth diapers are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for centuries. But in recent years they have become a lot more advanced, modern, fun, and user-friendly.
Cloth diapers of the past used to be just that: cloths. They took the form of a rectangular sheet of thick multi-layered cloth that parents would manually wrap around their baby’s booty and bobby pin in place. Those still exist today (I have several), but simpler and more user-friendly options are now exploding in popularity.
Here’s a brief timeline:
Today there are more than 10 main varieties of cloth diapers, varying from simple cloth fabric “flats” you secure under a diaper cover to adjustable one-size all-in-one diapers. There are diapers with snaps and other with easy-to-use velcro, diapers with sewn-in absorbent layers, and “pocket diapers” you can manually stuff yourself. We’ll go into the main options below and share which are our favorites, and why.
Before we dive into the different styles of diapers you can choose from, let’s take a moment to review what you’ll need to cloth diaper your baby. If you thought it would be as simple as buying your chosen brand of cloth diapers—unfortunately it’s not that simple. There’s a lot to consider before you choose the cloth diaper style that’s right for you—such as the additional supplies you’ll need to cloth diaper effectively. Here are the basics:
If this seems overwhelming, remember that once you invest in these things, you’ll be totally set for your entire diapering journey. No need to continuously buy disposable diapers and wipes every few weeks. No need to lug plastic bags stuffed with poopy waste out to the trash every few days. Just a thoughtfully curated cloth diaper collection that you’ll use for years to come.
Here are some of the most popular brands out there. Which one(s) will work best for you and your baby depends on a lot of factors that we’ll get into below. But do keep in mind that every baby is different, and no matter how much research you do, you won’t know what will work the best for your baby until you actually try them.
Note for newborns: You’ll need specific newborn cloth diapers if you intend to start using cloth diapers as soon as your baby is born, as most one-size cloth diapers won’t fit babies until they are one or two months old.
When my husband and I decided we were going to use cloth diapers, my assumption was that the easiest way to do this would be to get our entire diaper stash from a single brand to keep laundry and diaper assembly as simple as possible. But instead I got a wide variety of brands so that I’d be able to write this guide and report on my favorites—and I’m so glad I did.
What I found was that while some brands worked the best during a particular stage of my baby’s growth, others worked better during other stages. I was glad to have multiple options so that I could prioritize the most effective leak-proof diapers when they were needed most, and use the others when I was home and able to change outfits easily—with every diaper change, if needed.
That said, there are some brands of cloth diapers I purchased that have never worked well in any stage—they’re leak city. Not fun. If I had ordered my entire collection from that brand, I’d have given up on cloth diapers completely long ago.
To help you decide which types of diapers to go with, I’ll share benefits and drawbacks to several of the options.
All-in-ones and pocket diapers are both popular options today (and favorites of mine) for a simple one-wear-one-wash experience. Once worn, the whole diaper goes in the diaper pail just as disposables would. This is a very attractive option for busy parents trying to make diaper changes as quick and easy as possible.
All-in-one diapers are extremely convenient because they have the absorbent layer(s) attached, usually sewn in, but sometimes attached with snaps. The disadvantage of these diapers is that they’re less customizable (you don’t have the option of stuffing in additional absorbent layers) and they often take a bit longer to dry.
Pocket diapers are great because you can stuff them with one or more layers of absorbent inserts, and they have a stay-dry lining that keeps baby from feeling like they’re sitting in their own pee! The disadvantage of these is that you have to “un-stuff” them before washing, which involves touching the soiled diaper inserts.
Cloth diapers with snaps generally last significantly longer than those with velcro closures, but many find velcro closures far more convenient. Many brands offer both options, and which you choose is completely based on personal preference. I have some of each and love them both. You can see the pros and cons of each below.
Below you’ll see the pros and cons of my two favorite cloth diaper brands. As you’ll see, there is no single best option to choose, rather, it depends on how you’ll be using them and your personal preferences.
Bambino Mio Pros:
Bambino Mio Cons:
Mama Koala Pros
Mama Koala Cons
Newborn babies are so tiny that they won’t fit in one-size diapers that are meant to last until kids graduate from diapers completely. My baby was just over a month old before he started using his one-size diapers.
I decided to use cloth diapers when my baby was just a few days old—and that meant I needed a supply of newborn cloth diapers. However, babies outgrow their newborn everything (clothes and diapers) crazy-fast. So many parents choose to use disposable diapers for the first month or two of life, before transitioning to one-size diapers. I think this makes a lot of sense, especially because that first month can be particularly challenging, and anything you can do to make life easier is helpful.
You also use newborn diapers for such a short period of time that you won’t save all that much money (if any) compared to the one-size diapers which will save you thousands of dollars.
The one thing I liked was getting into a cloth diapering and wash routine right from the start, so I didn’t have to build new habits a few months in.
Here are a few of the options I enjoyed for newborns. Buyers beware: I purchased some really cute cloth diapers on Amazon and they were terrible, they leaked every single time. Try these instead:
One of the wonderful things about cloth diapers is that most are built to outlast one baby. Because of this, you can buy, sell, trade, pass down, or donate used cloth diapers. You can usually find great collections of cloth diapers on Craigslist and other similar sites. There are also lots of Facebook groups dedicated to diaper swapping.
Do note, however, that cloth diapers do wear out and become less effective over time. For instance:
There comes a time when cloth diapers are no longer useful. So make sure to ask these questions when you’re buying cloth diapers secondhand:
Have everything you need? Now it’s time to set up your diaper station! I set up a changing table on top of a dresser in my baby’s nursery. I keep all his “active” cloth diapers in a single drawer, and extra inserts, and liners in another drawer. I’ve always got my cloth wipes folded in two stacks by the changing table, along with water to moisten your cloth wipes (to create DIY wet wipes). You can use a spray bottle, but I actually repurposed the plastic perineal bottle they gave me at the hospital after delivery, and it works perfectly.
Prepping cloth diapers means washing and drying them several times (3-5 times ideally) before use. Natural fiber diapers (and inserts) need to be “prepped” before use in order for the material to be most absorbent and effective.This removes the oils and waxes that are naturally found on the plant-derived fibers that prevent the fabric from absorbing liquid.
What happens if you don’t prep your cloth diapers? Simple. They are much more likely to leak. I speak from personal experience. I washed all my cloth diapers before using them—but only once. At first they all leaked, but after a few rounds in the wash, they started working much better. Do yourself a favor and prep your diapers before your little one is born so they’re all ready to go!
How you wash your cloth diapers will depend on your washing machine. Top-loading machines are best for cloth diapers, and front-loading high-efficiency machines are said to be the worst. I have the latter; and before I started using cloth diapers, I was worried that would be my dead end. But don’t worry, no matter what type of washing machine you have, you can make it work, it may just take longer or require some extra cycles.
One of the beautiful things about exclusively breastfed babies is that their poop is water soluble, so you don’t need to rinse it off the diapers. You can just toss the whole thing in your diaper pail and dump them in the wash every couple days. However, once your baby starts eating solids (or drinking formula), you’ll need to pull out the diaper sprayer (which attaches to your toilet similar to a bidet) and hose off the poo.
Hang-drying your diapers will extend their life; but don’t let that scare you away from using the dryer if you don’t have the time or energy to hang-dry. I use my dryer most of the time.
Every few weeks, run an extra cycle using GroVia’s Might Bubbles to give your diapers a deeper clean.
Got diaper stains? Don’t worry! One of the coolest tricks you’ll discover is “sun bleaching.” It’s magical. Take your clean, stained diapers, wet them thoroughly, and place them in the sun for several hours. You’ll see even the most atrocious stains fade or even disappear altogether.
“My diapers always leak—help!”
“My diapers are stained—help!”
Why you diapers aren’t trying to win a fashion show, it can still be a bummer to see your adorable cloth diapers stained with evidence of messes from the weeks before. Not to worry! A sun bleaching session should clear that right up. Wet the diaper and lay it out in the sun for a few hours, stain facing up. Watch as it magically disappears and your diapers look like-new again! So very satisfying.
“My diapers still stink after I wash them!”
“I really want to cloth diaper but my partner doesn’t want to.”
It’s quite common for one partner to be really gung-ho about cloth diapering, and the other to be wholeheartedly opposed. When I first approached my husband with the idea of cloth diapering, he looked at me with those big pouty “please god no” eyes. Luckily I had already heard from many people whose skeptical partners ended up liking the experience of cloth diapering and realizing it’s no big deal. I reassured him of that, and agreed that I would do the laundry and take on the diaper assembly responsibility, and that he would give it his best shot with an open mind and positive attitude. 6 months in, and all is going great! He’s now very supportive and changes nearly as many diapers as I do.
Be considerate of your partner. It never feels good to be forced or cornered into doing something you don’t want to do. Instead of just calling the shots, involve your partner in the decision making process. Let them know how important this is to you, and why, and ask them to support you and at least give it a shot for a few months.
Photos by Lauren Alisse Photography, Michelle Cehn, and Canva.com. This Vegan Cloth Diapering Guide is not sponsored by any of the brands or companies mentioned, and we only share products and companies we sincerely adore. This article does contain affiliate links, and shopping through these links supports World of Vegan. Thanks so much, and we wish you all the best in your diapering journey!