One of our customers recently asked a great question on the Cotton Babies forum. It got a wonderful answer from another cloth diapering mom and with her permission, we are sharing the exchange here in hopes that it helps some parents who are still in that ‘what do we pick’ phase.
Is it really just a pure trial and error with types of CD and absorbencies until you figure something out? Does that mean I should just buy a few of each kind to begin with and hope something jumps out at me as a “this works, I should buy more?” I’m really struggling with this; I’m one of those types who reads everything I can get my hands on and expects there to be an obvious answer at the end, but I’m getting the feeling CDing is a subject where there is no such thing!
Choosing a diaper system is not 100% trial and error. If you read the reviews at places like Diaper Pin, you can get a pretty good idea of what is generally a winner, not generally a winner, etc.
After that, you need to know yourself. Where do you fall on the cost/convenience spectrum, what are your reasons for cd’ing and your priorities, etc. For example, prefolds with one of the many well-reviewed covers are a sure bet, especially if $-savings is your major priority. But for some people, ease-of-use is more important, so another system would be a better investment. Local factors, matter too — for example I find that in our hot humid summers, I don’t want a diaper that takes a long time to dry in the dryer. But a lot of people don’t really care about that, and in the winter, I don’t either.
Finally, there will be a certain amount of baby-specific issues. A super-chunker and a string bean are going to fill out a diaper cover differently. Some babies are super heavy wetters. Some babies poop a little bit every 20 minutes, some babies poop a whole septic tank, once a week. So you may end up having to tweak things for extreme babies. And that’s something you need to be ready to accept, so you can decide how you will handle that.
A major issue here, also, is contentment. On the one hand, diapering products do vary in their performance. On the other hand, many of us CD’ers have a bizzarre compulsion to either get it “perfect”, or to just want to have the latest greatest thing.
If you can get over those issues, you are way ahead of the game. In that case, you can just read the reviews and narrow it down to the top three or so proven winners for a child of your baby’s age. Analyze your needs and priorities, pick the system that looks like the best bet, and invest about 75% of your diaper budget for the current size (newborn, right?) in that. Then after your baby gets here, tweak according to your baby’s needs with your remaining diaper allowance.
And then as your baby grows, you will have the actual child in hand, and can be even better informed as you need to move up in sizes, though in general it is still prudent to leave a little bit of diaper allowance aside for adjustments.