When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, S, I obsessively researched cloth diapers in attempt to figure out which type and brand was the “best” so that I could invest our cloth-diaper-savings as wisely as possible. All I could really find were advertisements and blog posts that described why a particular type of diaper was wonderful, but nothing that also described the downsides or compared various types. Now I am on to cloth diapering daughter number 2, K, and have a variety of diapers that I like for a variety of reasons. I am going to share with you what I like and what I don’t like about the three cloth diaper types/brands that we use most: one-size hybrids, one-size pockets, and gDiapers.
First, let’s look at the covers.
This is a one-size hybrid cover with snaps.
Hybrid diapers are a system that uses a cover completely separate from the insert. They are considered hybrid because they can be used with washable cloth inserts or disposable/flushable inserts. I have never tried the disposable/flushable inserts, so I can’t comment on that but I can see why it might be a nice option to have.
Here you can see the inside of the cover. You see how it is just the cover? No liner or actual diaper insert. The shiny coating you see on the inside is a thin film of polyurethane that makes the cover waterproof. This type of fabric that is lined on one side is called polyurethane laminate or PUL.
The cover pictured here is by Flip Diapers. These covers use snaps to adjust to a wide range of sizes. I won’t go in to the details of how the snaps work, but I will say it looks far more complicated than it is. There are also one-size hybrids that use a hook-and-loop (aka “Velcro”) closure, but I do not prefer those because it seems to get worn over time and not stay fastened as well. There are other brands of one-size hybrids, Flip just happens to be the brand I own.
What I love:
I love that these covers are adjustable to such a wide range of sizes. I’ve used these from the time my babies are about 8 pounds all the way until we started potty training. You get a very long life out of one-size diapers. It is also really nice that you can use any type of insert with these. You don’t have to be concerned that you have the matching inserts at hand, you can use just about any insert you happen to have clean. Even more convenient is the fact that you can actually use these covers more than once before washing. If it is just a wet diaper, I wipe the inside of the cover with a wipe and let it dry for one more use. I have found that one-size hybrid covers hardly ever leak or blowout. These also fit just a bit slimmer than pocket diapers, which I will talk about next.
What I’m not-so-crazy about:
My only complaint with this type of cover is that when you have a messy poop, it gets into the seam and stitching along the leg openings. I like to get as much of the poop off the diaper as possible before putting it into the wash and this makes it a bit challenging.
This is a one-size pocket diaper by Apple Blossom Baby.
You can see that these are similar to the hybrid I showed above, but there is a pocket on the inside where the diaper insert goes. These are not hybrids because you only use cloth inserts, no disposables. I didn’t even consider these diapers with my first because I thought it was silly that you could only use the cover once and with the hybrid covers you can use them twice before washing. This is because of the pocket design. The pocket creates a soft lining that stays against the baby’s bottom. That lining gets soaked when the diaper becomes wet or soiled. I figured why bother with those when I can use hybrids and have fewer covers to wash? Now I love them and wish I had known how great they are from the beginning of my cloth-diapering journey. But live and learn, right?
What I love:
Again, I love that these are adjustable. These are also the easiest diapers to rinse if your baby has a messy poop. These are my diaper of choice for babies who have not yet started solids, or who are still just beginning on solids and have softer poops that can be tough to rinse off the diaper. These are also the only type of diaper I will send to daycare with my little one. The daycare’s procedure for cloth-diapering says that the entire diaper must be changed each time, meaning the cover and all. So there is no benefit to sending hybrid covers because they cannot be reused. Also, daycares don’t spend a lot of time trying to clean the poop of your baby’s diaper, so you will likely still have to rinse a poopy diaper once it is sent home. And as I mentioned, these are the easiest to clean.
What I’m not-so-crazy about:
These diapers are a bit bulky. You wouldn’t think that the inner lining that creates the pocket would make much of a difference in the bulk of the diaper, but it does, especially for small babies. I didn’t like using these on my babies until they were closer to 12 pounds because of how bulky they are. Also, these are slightly more prone to leaking than the one-size hybrids.
This is a gDiaper cover, also called gPants. gDiaper is another brand of hybrid diaper.
The gDiaper system is slightly more complicated than the one-size hybrid diaper I showed you earlier. The cover is soft cloth, not PUL, and they use snap in waterproof liners.
The cloth or disposable diaper insert lays in the snap-in liner.
When I first started with cloth-diapering, I thought gDiapers had to be the best. The cover can be used over and over, as many times as you want until it gets soiled. If your baby can go all day without a leak or blowout diaper, you can use the same cover all day long. That was very appealing to me. The waterproof liners can also be reused if they only get wet, just like the one-size hybrid covers I talked about above. So these can really help to cut down on the laundry.
What I love:
From my experience, these work best for older infants. gDiapers are probably the slimmest fit which is nice for when babies are starting to stand and walk. They seem to leak much less for babies of that age also. I also like the convenience of being able to reuse the covers and liners.
What I’m not-so-crazy about:
Maybe this is just true for my babies, but these diapers seem to be the most prone to leaking. This makes the whole using-the-same-cover-all-day idea much less likely. And once you get into having to change the entire diaper every time, the laundry actually becomes worse because you have separate covers and liners to wash and dry. If you hang dry all covers and liners, it takes up double the space as one-size hybrid covers or pocket diapers. Also, the waistband on these is a bit stiff and tends to cut into my babies’ tummies. That doesn’t happen at all with the other two diaper types I’ve described. gDiapers are sized, meaning you have to buy small, medium, large, or extra large. I have a couple of smalls, a few mediums, and a few larges, whereas with the one-size diapers you only need one cover to accommodate all of those sizes. I use these the least out of all of my diapers.
Ok, now a quick look at the cloth inserts.
This is a Flip Stay-Dry insert. The smooth side goes against baby’s bottom and wicks moisture away from the skin. These are great for nighttime when baby might be in a wet diaper for an extended period of time. They are only one size though. You can barely see it in the picture, but there are lines and “small”, “medium”, and “large” indicators on the insert where you are supposed to fold the insert down to fit the cover at various sizes. I don’t like how bulky this makes the diaper around baby’s waist. I still use them though because the moisture wicking is really great.
This is a regular insert that came with a pocket diaper. These are for pocket diapers, or can be used with one-size hybrid covers. They work fine and I have no complaints about them.
This is a gCloth, the washable cloth diaper insert that can be used with gPants. They are thinner than other cloth inserts, but they are dense and very absorbent. These are not only great for daytime use, but are also wonderful as doublers with the Flip Stay-Dry inserts at nighttime for a heavy wetter. I use these with gPants or with one-size hybrid covers.
The truth is, there is no “best” diapering system. Every baby and parent has unique needs and preferences. I like to refer to cloth-diapering as a journey because you will figure out what works best for you along the way, and you’ll find that your preferences change as you and your baby change. I hope this comparison helps to get you started on your journey!