Cloth Diapering 102: I know what's what. How do I make the decision?

What is your budget? If money is tight, then look into flats, prefolds, or one-size diapers, and Dappi nylon pull-on pants.

Do you prefer ease of use or ease of care? If you want diapers that are easy to use, look into pockets or all-in-ones. If you want diapers that are easy to launder, choose flats or prefolds. Fitteds rank in between on both counts.

Do you prefer natural fibers or synthetics? Natural fibers, like cotton, are more breathable and easier to clean. Look into flats, prefolds, some fitteds (read the label), and some all-in-ones (read the label). (If you're going with a diaper that needs a separate cover, the only natural fiber diaper cover material is wool.) Synthetic fibers, like polyester, are more absorbent than cotton and dry more quickly. Look into pocket diapers (nearly all are synthetic) and some fitteds and all-in-ones (read the label). When it comes to natural vs. synthetic, some babies are sensitive to one but do fine in the other (both of my babies did fine with both).  

Do you prefer the diaper and cover to be separate or sewn together? A separate cover, as with flats, prefolds, and fitteds, allows for more breathability, better leak protection, easier cleaning, and the flexibility to use whatever kind of cover you want, or none at all. A built-in cover, as with all-in-ones, is faster, easier, and more convenient. (A pocket diaper functions like an all-in-one for use, but the absorbent part separates for washing.)

Do you prefer Velcro or snap closures? Velcro is faster, easier, and more adjustable. Snaps are sturdier, less likely to be pulled open by the baby, and will not scratch or snag.

Do you feel strongly about diapers being made in the USA or Canada versus overseas? What about factory made vs. sewn at home by mothers?

Do you like white, beige, cute colors or prints? These minor preferences can make a difference in your life when you're changing ten diapers a day! And colored or printed outers can make it easier to tell the inside from the outside at a glance when you are sleep-deprived to the point of stupidity, especially for fitteds and covers.

Do you like the idea of cloth diapering but you're unsure about it? There are all-in-two diapers with an option for either cloth or disposable inserts.

Are you in a special situation? If you don't have a washer and dryer, get flats. If you're expecting a newborn, newborn-sized fitteds are a wonderful splurge. If your baby wets heavily at night, double diaper and make sure you're using a good cover. If your baby is prone to diaper rash, use a coverless cotton diaper and change whenever the baby wets. A fleece liner will make a cotton diaper feel less wet, but frequent changing is healthier. If your toddler is potty training, try pairing him or her with a recently trained playmate and see if positive peer pressure does the trick. 

Whatever your family's needs, there is a cloth diaper out there that will meet them. The only hard part is choosing. And you don't have to choose just one. While it's understandable to want a uniform system, sometimes it works best, for example, to have one kind to use at home and another kind to use at daycare.