Years ago, disposable diapers became a savior to parents who were overwhelmed by the time-consuming, sometimes messy process of changing cloth diapers. But then people started to realize how much waste was generated by disposables, and eco-minded parents began searching for new alternatives. And fortunately, there are alternatives, including compostables and hybrids, that help reduce waste and are easy to clean.
The average baby uses 6,000 diapers before potty training, so it’s important to choose the ones that work best for your baby and your lifestyle. We checked in with the experts at The Natural Baby Company to get the low-down on diapers, traditional to high-tech.
The evolution of the cloth diaper
What were once plain white cotton sheets, secured by large safety pins, are now made from cotton, hemp, bamboo, polyester and even stay-dry athletic fabrics—often with added layers of absorbency. From the classic to the newest innovations, here are five cloth choices to consider.
- Prefold Cloth: The original, rectangular and flat. It’s fitted on your baby with a snap or pin fastener, and a waterproof shell or cover is worn over it.
- Pros: Kind to baby’s skin, inexpensive and reusable. Cons: They’re bulky and require a separate cover and fastener (not to mention the extra laundry!).
- Fitted Cloth: Layers of shaped absorbent material with leg and back elastic fastened with snaps or hook and loop closures. There’s no waterproof outer layer, so a cover or shell is worn over it.
- Pros: Cost-effective and highly absorbent. Cons: Fitted sizes mean new diapers as your baby grows, along with new covers, and the diapers need washing after every use.
- Pocket: A waterproof cover with a stay-dry polyester lining that acts as a “pocket” between the lining and the cover to keep moisture away from baby. An absorbent pad or prefold goes into the pocket.
- Pros: No cover needed. Cons: “Unstuffing” a messy pocket isn’t easy (or fun), and the synthetic lining comes into contact with baby’s skin.
- All-in-Ones: One-piece diaper with a set of absorbency layers (typically two, sometimes hourglass shaped) sewn inside an outer waterproof cover.
- Pros: Easy to use, a trim fit, one wear and one wash. Cons: Take longer to dry.
- Hybrid: A cover with a variety of absorbency layers you attach. It’s a hybrid because the absorbency layers can be either cloth or disposable.
- Pros: Flexible and the outer shell can be used several times before washing. Cons: Disposable layers are more expensive.
If you prefer the ease of disposables, or just need to use them when cloth diapers aren’t practical, there are good choices that are gentle on baby’s skin and are gentler on the environment. Using thousands of single-use diapers can cost more in the long run though, and even biodegradable disposables can’t break down in an airtight landfill.
- Natural, hypoallergenic diapers: Fitted, these come in a variety of sizes and are made without skin-irritating materials, notably chlorine.
- Pros: Easy to use and easy to take with you, minimize diaper-rashes caused by contact with irritating materials. Cons: Add to landfill.
- SAP-free (super absorbent polymers) Diapers: These come in several fitted styles, and are almost always chlorine free and hypoallergenic. They do not contain sodium polyacrylate, an SAP that absorbs very large amounts of liquid. SAPs became controversial when they were linked to Toxic Shock syndrome in tampons, but since then SAPs have been rigorously tested both in the U.S. and abroad, and the predominant conclusions are that they’re safe and non-toxic.
- Pros: Good for those who have any concerns about using any synthetics and want a disposable. Cons: Often found only online. Speak with a Pharmaca Team Member about the different diaper options available at your store!