When I was researching cloth diaper options, I decided on prefolds pretty quicky. But then, I discovered there are many, many different types of prefolds! Some common choices are Chinese prefolds, Indian prefolds, organic cotton, hemp, bleached and unbleached. Then, there are different thicknesses. Typical diaper thicknesses are 4x6x4 or 4x8x4, meaning that each side of the prefold is has four layers and the strip in the middle has six or eight layers, respectively. After discovering all these different types of prefolds, I was a bit overwhelmed. So, I basically just registered for a few different kinds in the "infant" size so I could see which ones I liked best.
Let me just say, to any soon-to-be parent reading this, all of the prefold diapers work--even the much-maligned regular old Gerber diapers. But, I definitely found some diapers I liked better than others, so I though I'd share my thoughts.
Different brands and types of diapers have slightly different shapes, particularly after washing. Pictured below with the purple edge are Diaper Rite Prefolds, size small, and Bummis Organic Prefolds, also size small. As you can see, the Diaper Rite diapers are significantly wider than the Bummis, which are slightly longer. Both look kind of bumpy, which is what they should look like after washing. Diapers come unwashed and will shrink and become more absorbent after a thorough pre-washing in hot water.
Next up is a BabyKicks Hemp Prefold in size small. This one has been washed several times, and you can kind of see how tight the knit is. This diaper is about as wide as the Bummis diaper, but much thinner. That's the big plus of hemp: it's very absorbent but thinner, and therefore less bulky when folded. The downside, in my opinion, is that my hemp diapers got quite rough after a couple of wash/dry cycles. Now, I'm reluctant to put these rough diapers directly against my son's tender nether region--although I do still use them when I'm layering two diapers at night.
Not pictured are the Kushies Prefold Diapers, which I also own. These diapers are thinner, 2x4x2, and longer than the other cotton diapers we use. To be honest, they're a bit too long for my needs, but I do use them when I'm layering diapers for nighttime, as mentioned above. I guess I might use them more when my son gets older.
Also shown in the photo above are the two types of reusable flannel wipes we've been using. They both work well and are just thin pieces of unbleached cotton flannel that have been hemmed with a serger or zig-zag stitch. If you have the patience and sewing skills, you could make them yourself. Otherwise, go for the cheapest ones--although I guess the ones done with a serger will likely last a little longer than the zig-zag ones, a few of which have started to lose some hem stitches.
Thus far, my favorite diapers are the Diaper Rites, which can be found online at Diaper Junction. I like the extra width, because, at the moment, my son is chubby for his age, but of average height. If you want to Snappi your diapers before you cover them, then the Diaper Rites are a good choice because you can get them all the way around fat baby thighs. If you plan to just close up the diapers inside your diaper covers, then either one will work for you--as will the even cheaper and just as effective Chinese Prefolds. So, if you don't plan to Snappi and are on a budget, go with Chinese Prefolds. At less than $2 a diaper, they're pretty cost-effective. Diaper Rites are slightly more expensive, but quite high-quality, so if you're planning to use diapers for more than one kid, they might be a good bet.
This is by no means a complete review of cloth prefolds, but I wanted to share my experience with the hope that it will help another mother or father out there trying to sift through all the options. Feel free to leave your own thoughts on cloth diapering in the comments.
Coming soon... cloth diaper washing! (Thrilling, I know.)