When we started cloth diapering over a year ago the two big motivating factors behind the switch from 'sposies were the severe rashes that Sugar always seemed to be dealing with and saving some money! There have been lots of other benefits like feeling good that we've made a responsible choice for the environment, knowing there are less chemicals around our girls, never having to run to the store because we've run out of diapers and the fact that they're just so darn cute but rashes and cost were definitely the big two at our house. I was totally overwhelmed by the choices when I first started looking into cloth and again when I was choosing pocket diapers to fill out our stash before baby Sweetness was born. Buying second hand online can be a good option but I was really just wanting to make one or two purchases and be ready to go with a full complement of diapers! In hopes of helping other parents dealing with a similar quandary, I've decided to put up a list and a quick review of some of the more economical choices we've found that work well for us.
Our original stash of diapers was almost completely prefolds and covers with just a handful of pocket diapers. After doing a little research, most of it on diaperswappers.com where there are lots of parents using every kind of cloth imaginable, I decided to try Little Lions seconds prefolds and have never regretted it. I've ordered several different styles of seconds prefolds from their clearance department and while they may not be totally perfect they've all been absolutely functional and I can't imagine spending more for their non-seconds counterparts. They're lovely and soft and we've never had trouble with the absorbency. Prices vary by size and style as well as if you're buying by the half dozen or by the dozen but these are a great buy regardless. If you're looking for cotton prefolds at an affordable price, I highly recommend trying these.
I recently ordered a set of these super cheap contoured cotton flannel diapers from Amazon and I've been using them as prefolds on baby Sweetness occasionally and primarily to stuff pockets with. For the price, 60 dipes for $20, you can't beat them, especially for pocket stuffing! Because they're flannel they're also more difficult to grab with the Snappi's teeth but it is possible with a little trial and error to get the right method figured out. They work well with pins though for anyone not wanting to fool with the Snappi/flannel conundrum. They're a little bit snug to use with a Snappi on Sugar's chunky toddler frame but work in a pinch although they have to be doubled. For infant prefolds, stuffing or tri-folding in a cover though, they're fantastic. I've come to prefer natural fiber stuffers for my pocket dipes as I just find them easier to get clean and keep from repelling than the micro-fiber alternatives and these really fit the bill. Since they're flannel and only two layers everywhere but in the center soaker portion, they're nice and trim compared to traditional quilty prefolds. There is the extra step of folding them over but I suppose if you were going to use them exclusively for stuffing you could fold them and then run a line of stitching down the center so they'd stay folded although that would add to your drying time. As mentioned in some of the customer reviews on Amazon, some of the center padding is colored instead of white and sometimes shows through the white outer layers but we've had no issues with bleeding of dye. Also, some of the inner layers aren't caught quite as well with the stitching that holds them in place so there's been a little bunching on a few but it hasn't caused any real problems for us.
My first pocket diapers were Kawaii brand and I've ordered several more from them since them and loved all of them! The only varieties we haven't tried are their Pure and Natural diapers (designed to fit slightly smaller babies and likely to fit sooner than the regular one size but not last all the way through potty training) and the velcro version of their standard Heavy Duty diapers as I prefer square tabs for hook & loop diapers (hook & loop is Velcro or Aplix). If that "square tab hook & loop thing doesn't make sense, just go look at the different dipes on their site and you'll see what I mean. My favorites from them are the Bamboo Minky diapers which have an inner lining and two stuffer inserts of organic bamboo fiber and a soft, fuzzy fabric called "Minky" laminated with TPU for the waterproof outer layer. I like that these dipes only have natural fiber touching the girl's skin and I've found them to be one of the best fitting pockets both for the itty-bitty just-growing-into one-size dipes baby as well as for my big, chunky almost-ready-to-train toddler. We also like the Overnight dipes they offer (probably my favorite of all the hook & loop dipes I've tried) and both the non-bamboo "Snazzy Minky" diapers and the snap version of the "Heavy Duty" diapers have served us well. Their covers were the first ones I ever bought and they've held up really well but I've found another similar brand that I like slightly better for covers. They also now offer a pull-on, waterproof cloth trainer that we haven't tried yet. You can get these diapers from a few other sites but unless you really only want one or two, it's much more economical to get them straight from theluvyourbaby.com in a quantity large enough to qualify for free shipping. Bought that way, the prices for their pocket diapers include two inserts and range from $6.99 to $11.20. The woman who runs the site has always been quick to answer my e-mails as well. These diapers are made in China and ship from Canada so it takes a bit of time for them to arrive but they're well worth the wait.
The next brand of pockets we've really found a love for are Sunbaby diapers. They come in adorable prints and are a nice fit for both my big and little girl. My one big complaint is that they don't have a crossover snap but I bought a plastic snap pliers and some snaps on the cheap (see the part about Assunta Store lower down) and added them and still came out with really cheap, cute dipes. The patterns change up fairly frequently so if you see some you love now grab them and if not check back. We've been using our Sunbabies on both girls for 5 months now and they've held up to very heavy use. Running as low as $4.50 a diaper with one insert per dipe in a package that includes free shipping these would be great for starting a stash on a budget. If you prefer natural fiber inserts over microfiber this is a good brand to go for as I've heard that if you e-mail them they'll sell them at a discount without the included insert(s). Like the Kawaii diapers, these are made in China but these also ship from China so again, plan ahead when you order for a fairly long shipping time.
If you're looking for a U.S. made option, Nubunz diapers are by far the most affordable pocket diaper option I've found. Fully made in the U.S.A. (something not even the almighty Bum Genius can claim) these are good, solid pocket diapers that come in mostly sweet baby pastels and are backed by a decent warranty. We have both the super cheap "seconds" (stay away from those for anything but back-up diapers unless you plan to handwash or cold wash only and always hang dry) and the ones they currently have on sale that are the older model. We've been super happy with the sale diapers and I love the hook & loop ones for our newborn especially although they don't stay on as well on my chunky two-year-old toddler. Their snap diapers do have a somewhat odd configuration of snaps where the "hip snap" is set in a line along with the other two snaps but I haven't had any issues with leaking and it actually seems to make for a diaper that will fit a really chunky bellied baby especially well. The sale they have going right now on their 2010 stock puts them soundly in the same price range (including what you'll pay for shipping) as the China made diapers but even the regular priced dipes are still a great bargain if you're looking for a domestic manufactured option.
My most recent affordable diaper find is the Assunta Store. Another China based business, this little web store carries onesize pocket diapers, both sized and one-size covers and diaper making supplies as well as some other sewing paraphernalia. All sales from the store benefit Little Flower Projects which is a USA registered non-profit organization providing hospice and/or medical for premature and otherwise medically fragile Chinese babies as well as long term foster care support for developmentally disabled children. I've been reading this group's blog and following them on facebook ever since discovering the store and they do some amazing work with these tiny, precious little ones. Even the babies who don't make it are recognized, cherished and given value that they might otherwise not have in their short time on earth. In addition to the fuzzy warm feeling of knowing your purchase from this store is helping some adorable little kidlets, they have great prices and all the items I've gotten have been of good quality. Their diaper covers (both sized and onesize) are my new favorites for everything beyond the very tiniest newborn stage and beyond the fact that they don't come with crossover snaps, I've had no problems with their pocket diapers. I also purchased my snap pliers and snaps from this store at a very affordable price and have gone snap happy adding crossover snaps and extra snaps to extend my size options on some of my other diapers and to other projects for the girls including anything that keeps me from having to sew buttonholes. Their customer service in unparalleled too. My first order with this company went astray due to a postal error that they were totally not at fault for and the woman at the other end immediately tracked the package down here in the states, had it sent to me super-fast at their own cost and also gave me a $10 coupon code to use on a future purchase which I made soon after.
My experience with fitteds is admittedly limited but one well-priced option that I've tried and loved are the adorable soft-cotton flannel stuffable fitteds from WAHM company Gemcloth. They fold down nicely for different sizes and since they're stuffable the trimness and absorbency are very customizeable for what your little one needs. If you're looking for fantastic mama-cloth, flannel wipes or nursing pads this is also a great place to look. There is sometimes a wait on getting a slot for custom stuff but the delay is well worth it!
I posted a while back on affordable cloth training pants so I won't go into that too much but I will mention the overall winner from our trials with those again. See WAHG (Work At Home Grandma) QT Bunns on Etsy for our hands-down favorite. She also offers other diapers which I have yet to try but if the quality of her training pants holds true for her other products, I wouldn't hesitate to buy.
Hopefully this list of my pet favorite brands will be helpful to someone else looking for cloth diapers that will save them both hassle and money. I wish you and your little ones happy diapering and that you'll love it so much you get to be as hooked on cloth as I am!