Photograph by Shannon Gallagher
Type: Cloth diapers (Pre-folds) What they are: Multi-ply cloth rectangles (available bleached or unbleached) worn inside absorbent wool or waterproofed polyester covers (with snap or Velcro closures) Who makes them: Thirstie’s, Bummis, bumGenius, Lovey Bums, Imse Vimse, Proraps, and many more. Cost: $1.25 per pre-fold and $9-$40 per cover (to start you usually need about 24 pre-folds and 3-5 covers per size, although there are one-size covers available) Pros: Your expenses are limited to purchasing covers only as your baby grows, so while it’s a bigger expense upfront it pays over time — it’s been estimated that a baby can be cloth diapered from birth to potty training for a few hundred dollars, while disposables for the same amount of time can cost as much as $2000. Also, since your baby will feel wet, they’ll potty train earlier. Babies are also less likely to get diaper rashes in cloth because it’s breathable and they’re changed more frequently. Cons: It’s more work for mom if you wash at home (especially with wool), or just a little more expensive if you use a service (which will pick up your soiled pre-folds and drop off clean ones). And it’s messy, especially in the beginning when baby is pooping a lot (and it’s all liquid). Also, that adorable signature cloth diapered fluffy bottom requires slightly bigger digs (or some serious stretching). Green Factor: The reduce and reuse aspect of cloth makes it a super-green option, but it does require notable water and electricity to launder (more so on a commercial level). And if, like me, you pay for water every month, that extra five or six loads of laundry a week makes a difference in your usage. Bottom line: Easier on the wallet, baby’s bottom, and the environment: The way to go, though perhaps not for those who don’t like to get their hands dirty.
Type: All-in-One Cloth Diapers What they are: A cloth diaper that requires no pre-fold. Who makes them: Thirstie’s, Bummis, bumGenius, and many more. Cost: $5-$20 per diaper Pros: It’s the simplicity of a on/off disposable with the environmental and comfort benefits of cloth. Cons: You’ll need to buy a lot more of these to get you through a day, or at least through a load of laundry, so it could be more expensive than using pre-folds. And there’s no diaper service available so you’ll have to wash them yourself. Green Factor: Same as pre-folds, although you may find yourself doing even more laundry (ie. using more water) if you’ve stocked only the bare minimum you need. Bottom line: A nice thing to have in your repertoire, but perhaps not suited for diaper drawer domination.
Type: Hybrids What they are: A cloth outside with snap-in waterproof liner and flushable absorbent cotton inserts. Who makes them: gDiapers Cost: $30 for a starter pack (2 covers, 4 liners, 10 inserts) and $15 per pack of 40 inserts Pros: It’s the best of both worlds. The flushable (or compostable) inserts mean no pre-folds to wash, and the liners mean that the covers stay clean for longer. Plus, you can still use a pre-fold, meaning you can supplement the cost of the flushable inserts. Cons: It’s not quite as simple as 1-2-3 flush; the liner has to be ripped open so that the cotton filling can be broken up before it goes down the drain (they provide a plastic “swish stick” for this purpose). While it’s certainly easier than rinsing and washing poopy pre-folds, it’s enough of an extra step to make some people grossed out. Also, you do have to buy inserts as often as you would disposable diapers, so it’s not any easier on the wallet. Green Factor: These are arguably the greenest option. There is no extra water or electricity usage associated, and since the insert can be flushed or composted, there’s no garbage waste either (though you could just toss the insert, too — since it’s plastic-free it takes only 50-150 days to biodegrade). Bottom line: G is for genius?