While cloth-diapering is still considered niche (about 9 percent of families have tried this option), it’s a steadily growing trend. No, not because Millennial parents have a deep love of washing poopy diapers, but because parents today are actively striving to make environmentally and socially responsible choices when bringing up baby. And going with cloth diapers seems like a natural choice, in more ways than one.
Of course, going green as new parents can be pretty darn daunting. After all, convenience and ease-of-use are the top reasons parents choose disposable diapers in the first place, notes a Harris Interactive survey. But the truth is, cloth diapering, while certainly not for every family, is not as difficult as it may seem. First, you need some basic cloth diapering how-tos. Second, you’ll need to home in on which are the best cloth diapers for your and your baby.
How to choose the best cloth diaper
There are a lot (like, a lot a lot) of cloth diapering options out there, but we’ve narrowed the playing field down to four of the most popular cloth diapering categories:
• All-in-ones. These diapers (also called AIO) are considered the easiest, least-fussy option. They’re ideal if you’re asking others, like grandparents and babysitters, to change baby’s diaper, too. Here, an absorbent pad is sewn directly to a fastener-free waterproof cover. When baby soils an AIO, you remove the whole shebang and toss it in the laundry. You’ll pay more ($15 to $25ish a pop) for the convenience, but know that these generally take the longest to dry. (AIOs comes in a one-size diaper or a sized options.)
• Hybrids or All-in-twos. Similar in ease and construction to AIOs, but these have a removable pad insert that can either be washable or disposable. Since the pads can be washed or tossed, parents have added flexibility. Plus, hybrid covers can withstand several uses before getting tossed in the laundry. Like AIOs, these can be purchased as a one-size-adjusts-to-all diaper or sized options. (They cost between approximately $20 to $25.)
• Pocket diapers. These are made up of an attached waterproof cover, a stay-dry lining, and a pocket within the lining to insert an absorbent pad. (You can switch out pads depending on the absorbency you need.) When baby dirties the diaper, you slide out the insert and wash them both. They come in both one-size and in sized options, but know that parents say these diapers are on the bulkier side. (Pockets run between about $7 and $20.)
• Prefolds. This is simply layered cotton fabric folded to mold to baby’s bum, like what your grandma or her mom may have used. A cover is worn over it to keep the diaper in place. When baby poops or pees, remove the prefold, and replace with a fresh one. The same cover goes right back on. This is the least expensive option (roughly $1 to $3 a diaper), but they have the highest learning curve and you’ll need to continue to size up as baby grows.
Best Cloth Diapers
Now that you’ve got the quick-and-dirty basics, it’s time to delve into exactly which are the best cloth diapers—and the best cloth diapers brands—for you.
Best Cloth Diapers for Newborns: Thirsties Newborn All in One
For brand new parents who are also brand new to cloth diapering, choosing an on-and-off-in-one-step AIO option to start with is often a wise move. These shrunk-down Thirsties are perfect for babies who weigh between 5 and 14 pounds. They’re trim-fit and include an umbilical cord snap down and adjustable rise, allowing plenty of customization and room for umbilical-cord healing. And with four layers of super-absorbent terry, a microfleece liner, and a waterproof exterior, there’s lots of wetness and leak protection here. (These come in hook-and-loop or snap closures, whichever you find easiest to use.)
Buy it: Thirsties Natural All-in-One Snap Cloth Diaper Collection, Newborn, $93 for 5 diapers, Target.com
Best All-in-One Cloth Diaper: bumGenius Freetime All-In-One
Not only is bumGenius Freetime All-In-One a pretty fabulous one-step diaper, it’s also amongst the very best one-size cloth diapers. (There are butterfly snaps in the front, allowing you to adjust the fit to accommodate babies between 8 and 35 pounds.) And the one-piece, one-size design does not skimp on quality. Parents especially love that they can adjust the diapers’ absorbency with overlapping semi-attached inserts. For instance, you may want to double-up the front flap if you’ve got a baby boy who’s a heavy wetter. Finally, some say that these diapers are on the bulky side but take heed: They tend to lose some heft (but not absorbency or softness) after several washes.
Buy it: bumGenius Freetime All-In-One, $126 for 6, www.Bumgenius.com
Best Overnight Cloth Diaper: GroVia O.N.E.
Most cloth diapers require a booster pad for nighttime protection. Not GroVia O.N.E. This is one of the best cloth diapers for night time and it’s also amongst the very best cloth diapers for heavy wetters. The super-high absorbency is thanks to an inner poly microfiber layer, a cotton and poly microfleece soaker, another liner of 100 percent polyester microfleece, and it’s all sealed in with a water-resistant poly-based material outer layer. Plus, it’s got a customizable snap-in soaker to adjust for boys or girls. Another perk: This cloth diaper has both a (removable) hook-and-loop closure and snap closures. (The O.N.E is an all-in-one, one-size diaper that fits babies from 10 to over 35 pounds.)
Buy it: GroVia O.N.E., $23 each, www.GroVia.com
Best Inexpensive Cloth Diapers: OsoCozy Unbleached Prefold Cloth Diapers
The most budget-friendly cloth diapering option will always be a prefold, which is used with a separate cover. OsoCozy’s version is unbleached and made from 100 percent pure Indian cotton, making it one of the softest and best prefold cloth diapers around. And because it’s got four layers of absorbent fabric on the sides and eight in the middle, it’s no slouch in the soaking-up-wetness department either. Tip: Wash these about three times prior to diapering to remove natural oils and ensure maximum absorbency. Prefolds by OsoCozy come in a pack of six and are available in two sizes (one for babies weighing 7 to 15 pounds; another for those weighing 15 to 30 pounds). You can also triple-fold these and use them as inserts in pocket diapers, making these one of the best cheap cloth diapers in town.
Buy it: OsoCozy Unbleached Prefold Cloth Diapers, $13 for 6, ToysRUs.com
Best Hybrid Cloth Diapers: Charlie Banana Reusable One-Size Diaper
Charlie Banana is one of the very best cloth diapers with disposable inserts. And because it’s a hybrid, it’s entirely up to you if you want to use disposable pocket inserts or washable ones. The starter pack comes with 12 highly-absorbent, washable, and ultra-soft inserts. (Many parents like that you load the insert from the front not the back.) Charlie Banana is a one-size-fits-all cloth diaper that ups the customization quotient with two rows of snaps. This allows for parents to adjust baby’s leg-fit and waist-fit separately, making this one of the best cloth diapers for newborns up through toddlerhood. If organic is a must for you and your baby, know that Charlie Banana is also one of the best organic cloth diapers around.
Buy it: Charlie Banana Reusable One-Size Diaper, $123 for 6, Target.com
Best Pocket Cloth Diaper: Rumparooz One-Size Cloth Pocket Diaper Snap
Rumparooz is another awesome one-size-fits-all choice that adjusts to fit wee newborns up through the potty-training years. (Snaps make for easy modifications.) A big reason that these are one of the best pocket cloth diapers on the marker is the double inner-leg gussets—or turbo-charged hem. This soft seal works to keep even the messiest of messes contained. Plus, the inner microchamois is not only blanket-like in softness—it does a stellar job of wicking rash-causing moisture away from baby’s bum. (The only drawback: Sometimes it’s hard to tell when baby’s diaper needs changing!) Finally, Rumparooz comes with two microterry inserts that can be combined to up the absorbency for babies who are heavy wetters.
Buy it: Rumparooz One-Size Cloth Pocket Diaper Snap, $24 for one, Walmart.com
Best Natural Cloth Diaper: Smart Bottoms Dream Diaper 2.0
Many parents put “organic” on the tip-top of their cloth-diapering must-have list. Why? Organic cotton is grown sustainably, sans pesticides or chemicals, which makes it a safe choice to drape over baby’s sensitive skin. Smart Bottoms is made from both organic cotton and sustainable hemp, making it incredibly soft and super-absorbent. In fact, this all-natural double-layer blend boasts 30 percent more absorbency than Smart Bottoms prior organic diaper. Another giant plus of this diaper is that it requires less of you: Not only do the natural materials let them wash and dry great, you don’t have to prep this all-in-one diaper prior to use like you would most other natural-fiber cloth diapers. (Most prep involves washing diapers repeatedly before the first use to create max absorbency. Here, one pre-wash will do.)
Buy it: Smart Bottoms Dream Diaper 2.0, $31 for one, SmartBottoms.com
Best Cloth Swim Diaper: Bummis Swimmi
Whether you’re planning on using cloth diapers whole hog or not, opting for a swim cloth diaper is a great first step. After all, no swim diaper (cloth or disposable) is designed to absorb pee, anyways. Its sole purpose is to contain baby and toddler poop. Bummis Swimmi diaper has a poly mesh interior, plus fully-encased elastic in the back and at the legs, which does a great job of containing messes—and makes for an easy clean up. The outside is cotton and cute as heck. The hook-and-loop closure is strong and durable, keeping curious kiddos from opening (and emptying) their swim diapers. (Other version feature snaps, FYI.) Bonus: This swim diaper also provides SPF protection, which is great for keeping our babies safe in the sun.
Buy it: Bummis Swimmi, $9 for one, Bummis.com
Best One-Size Diaper: Bambino Mio Miosolo All-in-One Cloth Diaper
From 8 pounds and up, the Miosolo will take you through every mess, every stage, and every child. Adjustable snaps and hook-and-loop fastenings allow you to create a custom fit to baby that will grow with them up until potty training days. But that's not even our favorite feature. This is one of the easiest cloth diapers to clean; a pull out tab system allows you to easily retrieve the soiled core from inside the diaper and toss it in the laundry.
Buy it: Bambino Mio Miosolo All-in-One Cloth Diaper, $22 for one, BabiesRUs.com
Updated March 2018