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Sized Cloth Diapers or One Size….Which Is Better?

Sized Cloth Diapers or One Size….Which Is Better?

When I do consultations with Moms-to-Be, I often get asked which are better; sized diapers, or one size (so called ‘Birth to Potty’) diapers?

Well the answer depends on several things, so let’s go through some pros and cons of each to help you decide too…465208_10150672020690155_190282377_o

Sized Diapers
Example:  Applecheeks (size 1, 2, 3), Thirsties Duo Wraps (size 1, 2, 3) 

Sized diapers are diapers that come in more than one size to get baby diapered from birth to potty learning.  They might come in Small, Medium, Large, or Size 1, Size 2 etc. varieties.  They key with these is that they have snaps or velcro to close them in the front and no other adjustability.  They are designed to fit specific weight ranges.  Size 1 Applecheeks, for example, fit from 7-20lbs which roughly corresponds as birth to about 6 months or so at which time you’d move into size 2 and that would take you from that point until potty training most of the time.  If you have a much larger child in perhaps the 90th percentile or one with special needs you may need the size 3 or even 4.  These upper sizes can also be useful for older day trained children who still need night-wetting protection.

Now, most people shy away from sized cloth diapers when they hear that they’ll have to buy multiple sets of diapers, each in a different size, but in reality, you don’t really have to buy more than one full set.  Newborns need 10-12 diapers per day, but once they get older (6+months or so) they only require 6-8 diaper changes, so once you move up to the bigger sizes, you need fewer diapers than you did in the smaller size plus with AppleCheeks, the inserts will fit either size, so you don't need to buy more inserts. 

Another benefit is that over time, sized diapers tend to hold up better because they see less overall use.  A sized diaper is only used while baby is in the weight range, while a one size diaper will be used the entire time baby is in diapers.  Less overall use = less washes and less wear and tear.  This is especially important if you intend to use your diapers for more than one baby or if you want to preserve better re-sale value on the used market for when you are done with diapers.

But what are the biggest benefits of size diapers?  Ease of use and trim fit.  Without extra bulk or a front full of snaps to fiddle with, sized diapers are more intuitive to use, and are not as confusing to fasten.  This is nice for dads, daycares, babysitters or grandparents who may be lending a hand in the diapering department or who are new to diapering with cloth.  Sized diapers also tend to have a really great trim fit even on newborns so you are less likely to have to size up on pants and sleepers to fit clothing over them.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a few one size diapers that do fit newborns, but we’re talking bigger newborns (7-8+lbs) and yes they may function, but all the extra fabric makes them really bulky until baby grows into them.  If simple diapers and a trim fit are important to you, sized diapers are the right choice for you.

One Size Diapers
Rumparooz, Blueberry Simplex, GroVia, Thirsties, AMP, AppleCheeks One Size, BumGenius, Smart BottomsLighthouse Kids Co.

If on the other hand, a little extra bulk doesn’t bother you when baby is smaller, then one size diapers might be better for you.  One size diapers are designed to fit babies from ‘birth to potty training’ or from about 8-35+lbs depending on the brand. To accomplish this, they have extra adjustment capabilities that allow the sizing to be scaled up or down to fit baby’s changing dimensions as they grow and gain weight. Most One Size diapers adjust with what's called a Snap Down Rise.  On a snap down one size diaper, there is either snaps or velcro to close the diaper up on top and then a myriad of snaps below which are how you make the diaper smaller or larger. 

Snap the top row of snaps to the middle or bottom row to create a medium or small diaper.  You can see the snaps on the outside of the diaper which some people don’t like, but it makes it super easy to adjust and once it’s snapped to the size that fits baby, it will stay snapped as you wash it until you re-adjust again in a few months when baby grows.  Since the snaps are so easily accessible and quick to do up or down, snap down one size diapers are a great option if you have 2 babies in cloth at the same time.  They can both share the same set of diapers and changing the sizing is super quick depending on which child is using the diaper.  Be warned that daddies, babysitters and grandmas can get flustered when they see so many snaps, but with a quick tutorial (or pre-set diapers ready and waiting) they should be good to go.

The other benefit is that you only have to buy diapers once.  No other diapers to purchase when baby gets bigger.

BUT, the trade-off for one size diapers means a very fluffy, bulky bum at the smaller sizes which may not accommodate pants, let alone skinny jeans, so plan on sizing up on some clothing when baby is on the small settings.  Also, if you're using them on a newborn, keep in mind that one size diapers will sit up over the umbilical cord at about mid-chest.  It might look a bit funny for awhile, but if you can get a good fit, they will function fine and babies grow into their diapers super fast. Also, since the one size diaper is going to be used and washed regularly for the entire time baby is in diapers (2-2.5 years), they will experience more wear/tear over time than their sized counterparts.  


**One caveat with one size diapers on newborns though…most brands will claim that they fit newborns from about 8lbs.  This is largely wishful thinking.  We see a great many newborns – in fact I would say a majority of newborns, who are too small for one size diapers right after birth.  There is simply too much fabric and their legs are too skinny to prevent gapping at the legs.  One size diapers generally do not start fitting babies well until about 10lbs (depending on the baby).  So, what does that mean practically?  It means that sometimes there is a grey area between birth and about 10lbs when your stash of one size diapers may not fit baby.  So, what’s the solution for that first 8 weeks or so until baby gains some size?  You have a few:

  • Newborn diapers – You could purchase newborn specific diapers to bridge the gap.  Lil Joeys, for example are a great option (4-12lbs) and fit newborns perfectly, but are outgrown fairly fast.  This option can be pricey and defeats the cost savings of going with one size diapers.  It also sees you getting two different sets of diapers very similar to going with sized diapers in the first place.  There are some situations though where investing in newborn sized diapers is a good idea.  Find out if you should buy newborn diapers here.

  • Use up those gifts – Many moms find that they receive newborn disposable diapers as part of their gifts at baby showers etc. Some moms just choose to use those up before switching to their cloth diapers.  Other moms don't want to start their cloth diapers until a few weeks after they heal from birth and settle in with their newborn. Depending on how many disposable diapers you were gifted, how many weeks you want to wait before you begin cloth and/or how big your baby was at birth that may give you enough time for baby to grow into your one size diapers (depending on brand). Generally speaking babies will begin to fit one size diapers well at about 8 weeks/2months/10lbs.  

So, if you know you tend to have larger babies that will fit one size diapers sooner, if you want to wait a bit after birth before you begin cloth diapering, if you are starting to cloth diaper with an older baby or if you are cloth diapering 2 children at the same time, one size diapers are the way to go for you.

If you have experience with either sized or one size diapers, tell us your opinions on the matter in the comments below.

Shop Sized Cloth Diapers | Shop One Size Cloth Diapers | Shop Cloth Starter Packages

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