Diapers: Considering cloth?

Consumer Reports News: January 21, 2008 09:08 AM

Disposable diapers remain the most popular choice among parents, daycare centers and hospitals. But with the “green” movement well underway, cloth diapers are gaining ground--and, if you’re like many parents, you may be at least considering them. There are five types of cloth diapers: unfolded or flat, prefolded, fitted or shaped, all-in-one, and diapering systems (sometimes called “pocket” diapers). Here’s the poop on each one:

With each of the following diaper types, you’ll also need to use waterproof pants:

Unfolded diapers are rectangles of flat fabric that you fold to fit your baby’s shape, holding them in place with diaper pins.

Prefolded diapers are also rectangular, but because of the way they’re folded, they have extra layers in the center. Like unfolded diapers, they also require pinning.

Fitted or shaped diapers are contoured more like disposables, with a narrow crotch and wide wings that wrap around baby’s waist. Some require diaper pins, but others have Velcro fasteners or snaps. They may also have elastic at the waist and legs, and a more absorbent layer in the center. With shaped diapers, you have to buy different sizes as your baby grows.

These cloth diaper types don’t require waterproof pants:

All-in-ones combine the diaper and the outer waterproof cover into one piece so cloth diapering is a one-step procedure. They’re convenient for quick changes on the go and, with an extra diaper inside, can work well overnight. However, they’re bulky and thick, so they may not dry quickly after laundering. And you may have to buy larger sizes as your baby grows.

Diapering systems, sometimes called “pocket” diapers, are the most expensive cloth option. They include a moisture-resistant covering of nylon or polyester into which you insert a folded diaper or washable liner. The outer covering comes in a range of sizes to accommodate a baby’s growth. Velcro fasteners or several rows of snaps (for different fits) keep the covering closed.

The type of cloth diaper you choose (as well as whether you go with cloth at all) is a matter of personal preference. If you choose cloth diapers, you’ll need two to three dozen to begin with, plus six to ten waterproof outer pants. If you go the all-in-one diapering-system route, having eight to ten on hand should be adequate. Buy two or three dozen diaper inserts for the system. Browse online to find the most competitive prices.

Do you use cloth diapers? Have you switched from disposables to cloth? We’d love to hear about your experience with cloth diapers, whether you’re devoted--or just tried them for a while.

For more information, see our report on cloth diapers and diaper-washing basics.

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