I wrote on here when I was pregnant about all the research I was doing and my journey to choosing all of the very best products for our baby. Needless to say, working with a real live individual baby is a whole lot different than online. Here is what we have learned about cloth diapers.
When I was pregnant and reading all of the reviews gDiapers seemed like all around the best bet. They were simple to use, they came with a disposable/flushable option, they were soft knit instead of swishy nylon, and they came in cute solid colors- not boring like white, but easier to match with clothes than prints. I read thousands of reviews and forums, and read only one negative review. I remember it was only one, because I thought the lady must be nuts. Everyone else loves these. We were big time disillusioned.
First they only fit 8 lbs and up, so Efrim was in disposables for nearly a month, an expense we had not expected, since we thought that most babies were nearly 8 lbs or bigger when born. This is just first time parent foolishness. They now come in a new baby size.
Second, the liners, especially the flushables, always crunched up in the middle, so the snap in liner, and even the outside cover, always got dirty. Since the covers are $17, we didn't get enough of them to have to wash a cover nearly every time it was worn. I was pulling my hair out washing diapers like twice a day for a long time. They said you needed 4-6 covers, this was very reasonable, compared to the dozen or so I had heard you needed of others, gDiapers claims if you put them on right they will be clean for several changes. This was just never true for us.
The other problem we had was the quality. Everyone who wrote reviews was using the same ones on their second and third babies, everything was so simple and well-made. The size smalls we used for Efrim, until he was about 4 months old, are already severely worn out. We did wash them a lot more than they say you should have to. The velcro is all filled with gunk and sticks to everything but itself, and the elastic on the outside edges of the snap in liner is all cracked and distended. It won't hold in any leaks any more. The snap in liners are cheap to replace, but they do this in only a couple of weeks, so you would be getting more constantly. There goes sustainability.
We went on like this for a while, obviously for more than 4 months, simply because I didn't know what else to use, and until RJ graduated and started working more we had no disposable income. Remember this baby was planned for January or February, not August. My mother in law kept asking why we didn't just use plain plastic pants like she did (thank goodness they are nylon now) but I had only found them for $7 a piece. We just couldn't start our diaper stash over like that.
Finally our income improved and I found some better diaper deals. The two best websites I have found are ThanksMama and CottonBabies. All the ones I found when I was pregnant had only one or two kinds of diapers and they were very expensive. Besides the nylon bloomers (my mil's "plastic pants") none of the covers we are trying now existed when I was pregnant. The cheapest ones were $12-13 and came in wildly printed swishy nylon.
My first lesson, Gerber prefolds from the store work just fine. Websites will tell you that these are useless, or only good for burp rags. I could only find chinese or indian cotton prefolds for around $20 per dozen plus shipping and handling. This was just something we couldn't do most of the time. But we also couldn't keep going with 6 gCloth inserts, so I had to try something. The store bought prefolds worked just as well as gDiapers' 6 for $24 gCloth made with hemp and microterry. Gerber are 10 for $10 at Walmart. I had to cut and re-hem them to fit a small gdiaper, but they fit the mediums fine. I now have found that CottonBabies has diaper service quality prefolds at really reasonable prices and no shipping.
Second lesson- "plastic pants" are not so bad. This is a really cheap and simple option that anyone can do. CottonBabies has Dappis brand which are 2 for $5. I don't even have a snappi yet, or real diaper pins. you just pin the diaper on (there are millions of videos on how to do this) and pull the cover over. Order the covers small because they tend to run huge. If the diaper is really soaked, put a changing pad underneath their bottom, because when you pull the cover off the wet diaper will still be pinned on and it will get whatever is underneath the baby wet. The covers dry super fast, if there is only a little poop on them you can usually get it off with a wipe, and the elastic edges are covered in plain lycra cloth so no splitting and wearing out like the gDiapers liners.
Third Lesson- Econobums and Flips. These are two kinds of prefold covers, made by the designers of bumgenius all-in-ones. CottonBabies is the home webpage for this company, but they are available on many others as well. These are two price points for a one size snap on cover. We have one econobums cover, and two flips in the mail. These are great for a few reasons. 1. one-size means if you don't have to keep ordering new ones as baby grows, and if you have two babies in diapers at once, there is no sorting, all of the diapers fit all of the babies. 2. snaps don't wear out like velcro, and you don't have to pin. you just unsnap them and dump the prefold in the diaper pail. 3. since these are adjustable you can double layer the inserts to make it through the night. 4. they have soft fabric on the outside so they aren't so swishy.
The econobums cover we have has worked great. It wipes out and drys fast like a nylon pant, but has all of the features above. The main things that make a flip cover different are vertical snaps- you will have to see the pictures on the website to understand this, but it means they don't fold over at baby's middle. they also have a lip on the front and back that serves as an extra barrier to keep moisture from wicking out around the edges if a diaper gets really wet, and they come in colors. Flips are 13.95 and Econobums are 8.95. This is more than a plastic pant, but I am finding I need fewer of these than gDiapers, not more like I had been told. You can also get them in big starter kits for a cheaper unit price. These come with their own prefold inserts, but it is really big and I'm not sure how to fold it, so I just use it as the changing pad with the nylon pants. They fit regular prefolds really well.
I am getting a snappi, some real diaper pins, the flip covers, and a pail liner in the mail soon, so I will let you know what I think of them. Also, I would like to switch to cloth wipes at some point, so more on that later.
Basically the difference has been made by our desperation to try cheap things, and by the helpful information on these two websites. Like I said I did not find nearly as useful information before. If you are completely new at cloth diapering check out Cloth Diapers 101 at CottonBabies. They answered every question I had.