How to Choose an Eco-friendly Diaper System

Chinese prefolds, diaper covers, all-in-ones, pocket diapers, hybrid diapers—agh! If you are expecting a baby and looking into cloth diapers, you may have noticed just how many kinds of diapers there are. The abundance of options may have some parents running to disposables. But don’t worry. The Green Baby Guide is here to sort everything out.

What kinds of diapers do we like best? Well, Joy prefers pocket diapers. I stand by the old-fashioned prefolds with covers.

Okay, so what should I get? Remember that you don’t have to have the next 2.5 years of diapering all mapped out. Go ahead, buy a newborn pack of disposables (Seventh Generation makes them chlorine-free!) for the first week or two. Then think about it: What do you want out of your diapers?

I want them to be cheap. For the most bang for your buck, go with prefolds and covers. Still, if you have your heart set on pocket diapers, look for them used at consignment shops or even ebay.
unbleached Indian prefold cloth diapers

I want them to go on like disposables. Then you want pocket diapers or all-in-one diapers.
pocket-diapers-go on like disposable diapers

I want them to be all-natural—no manmade materials. Try organic cotton prefolds with wool covers or Swaddlebees organic diapers.

I want them to be as expensive as possible—I have a lot of money to blow on this kid! Okay, so you don’t fall within our normal demographic, but we’ll still try to help you out. You might be interested in these wool soakers for overnight use—just $40-60 each!

I want to flush them down the toilet. It looks like you don’t want to use cloth diapers at all. Try gDiapers!

I want to throw them in the garbage. So cloth diapers aren’t your thing. Go with Seventh Generation or Nature’s Babycare disposables.

If you’re still searching for the perfect diaper system, what are your concerns? We’ll try to help you out. Or, for you parenting veterans: What diaper system did you end up getting? How has it worked for you?

Prefolds with diaper covers worked for me! For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, head on over to We are THAT Family.


  1. It is a great idea to buy a tester/starter pack to find out which style you like best. Wait until baby arrives and try them out 🙂 Each family and child have their own needs and preferences – which may differ from what you originally “thought” you wanted. Having 1 or 2 diapers that you do not like is generally not a problem, but having 24 diapers that don’t work for your baby or family will cause problems.

    One size diapers (usually fitting 8-35lbs) are a very affordable diaper option – Mother-ease, Bumgenius, Happy Heinys are some of the leading one size diapering systems.

    If you are wanting to cloth diaper full time, you are looking at purchasing approximately 24 diapers. For part time cloth diapers, you could use anywhere between 12 and 18.

    Don’t be afraid to mix and match your diapers as well. You do not need to have all the same diapers in your system. Different diapers serve different purposes. Prefolds and fitteds are easy to use at home, but many families prefer to use pockets and all in ones style when they are going out. Babysitters, nannys and daycare will often be more accepting of cloth diapers if they are easy to use (pockets, all in ones).

    Last but not least, DO your research before purchasing diapers. Just like any product on the market, there are many diapers out there that do not stand up to the test of time.

  2. Great guide. I’m curious about gDiapers. Has anyone tried them?

  3. Natalie–Great advice. Starter kits might be the way to go if you are undecided. I personally did all my research beforehand and bought three dozen prefolds and four or five newborn-sized covers. The starter kits often cost over $100 for just a sampling of newborn-sized products; I feel like it would have been a waste of money for me.

    Very good point about mix and matching diapers; there is no reason to choose one thing and use it exclusively. Many parents use one type of diaper for day, another for night, for example.

    Kristen–We have a post about gDiapers with a LOT of comments to help you out. I’m also running a new gDiaper post soon–maybe this Thursday. I need to double check.

  4. I also used a starter/trial pack (from Jillian’s Drawers – $10 fee, and you only pay for the diapers you want to keep, send the rest back), and found it was a GREAT and inexpensive way to try out different diapers to see what worked for me. I highly recommend using a trial program, or borrowing from friends to try different diapers out. I learned not only what fit my baby best and was easiest to use, but also how they laundered (for example, I discovered AIOs take way to long to dry for my liking).

    We settled on pocket diapers. We ended up having to use disposables at night because I can’t get cloth dipes to hold the wet overnight (no matter how much I stuff them or use doublers.) Otherwise the pockets have worked out great for us. I buy them used and plan to resell them when we are done to offset their expense.

  5. I know this is probably a really dumb question, but I’m a first-time preggo who’s trying to figure out what I want to do about diapers with my kid… When you use a pocket diaper system, does that mean you can’t use a diaper service? I.e. do I personally have to wash all of those diapers? Or can you insert the cloth diapers from a diaper service INTO the pocket diaper cover? They seem really pricey at $18/piece, so I can imagine not wanting to buy more than 10 or so of them and then wouldn’t that mean that you have to wash 100% of them every day with a newborn?

    I’ve been planning to use Seattle Diaper, but can’t seem to find recommendations about really good diaper covers. Would love to see some suggestions!

  6. Love my pre-folds!! And I make my own wool covers with recycled sweaters from a thrift store ($3-5 a piece plus the sewing labor). So cheap. So cute. So eco-friendly.

  7. We’ve done great with pocket diapers – no leaking at night when we use the doublers. So much really seems to depend on the baby. My daughter is 9 months old now and we haven’t had any serious problems.

    Another factor to consider is whether you want velcro or snap closings. I’m definitely noticing that velcro gets pretty badly gunked up over time, and can sometimes stick to the insides of certain types of pajamas. But they give a bit more flexibility than snaps I would imagine.

  8. Susan, diaper services use prefolds. Yes, you could stuff them into a pocket diaper, but you’d still have to wash every pocket diaper. It would be better to just buy some regular old diaper covers. You don’t have to wash them after each use. If one gets dirty, you can wash it out by hand in the sink.

    Caitlin, those homemade diaper covers sound adorable! Do they require much sewing skill?

    Stephanie, I’ve tried both snap and velcro closures. (We had a post about snaps vs. velcro once. . . .) Velcro can get gunked up, but I think I prefer it because they go on faster.

  9. SUCH a GREAT guide – thank you for this. I can remember my youngest brother in cloth diapers – but any time I’ve checked into them for my girls – they seemed overpriced (at the time) and I was overwhelmed by the options. These recommendations are really helpful, and I’m going to spend some time researching more. Very timely considering we’re expecting #3, and we’ve been making a lot of changes in the past 2 years to be cleaner & greener!

  10. Click my name for a detailed article on our cloth-diapering experience! We used fitted snap diapers and loved them.

    Susan, I highly recommend Dappi brand pull-on nylon covers. They are very affordably priced, leak-resistant, and durable. However, if your diaper service diapers are flats/prefolds, you’d have to fasten them with pins or Snappi to use a pull-on cover. We liked Mother-Ease snap covers pretty well.

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