Do you read reviews of products before buying? I most definitely do.
Let’s say I’m in the market for a new bra… I need it to be wireless, lightly padded and suitable for the president of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee. If the brand I have my eye on gets a 1-star rating from more bodacious broads who need more support and larger cup sizes, it doesn’t mean it’s a crappy bra, just not the right bra for those reviewers. If it gets 5-star ratings across the board but is out of my budget, that’s not helpful either. The same goes for cloth diapers: when you read a glowing review or a total tear down for a particular brand or model, it’s important not to automatically promote or eliminate a certain product on your list on account of one or two family’s experiences.
As someone who write cloth diaper reviews and reads them (a lot), here are some things I consider when I read reviews and wonder what to buy:
1) Red flags… if I read a lot of comments like these about a diaper, it’s fair to say I would cross it off my list:
Poor workmanship: the diaper is sloppily constructed or the diaper falls apart after very little (correct) usage; for example: snaps fall off, stitching comes undone, etc.
Lack of customer service: a good brand will offer a reasonable guarantee on its products— so if there is faulty workmanship (for example, a bad batch of PUL so the diaper delaminates), they should quickly and courteously replace the item at no cost to you. If many reviewers have a problem with a diaper due to a manufacturing defect and the company doesn’t help out, I’d be wary of that brand.
False advertising: here I am thinking mostly of diapers that are made in China and available for very low prices but are re-branded by other companies and listed on group-buy sites such as BabySteals and Zulily at extremely inflated prices, then “discounted” to still very expensive prices. Check out Heather’s post about re-branded diapers here. If reviewers say things like “this is just a re-branded Alva for double the price,” I definitely take that to heart!
2) What are the motivations behind the review?
Mom-to-Mom feedback: Lots of online shops have a section for buyers to leave their feedback. A lot of times you are compensated for leaving feedback (points or contest entries), but since there’s no obligation to offer positive feedback, it can be handy to read through these evaluations. Lots of mamas will post in their favourite forum or Facebook group before buying a certain model or brand. Here you will very quickly get plenty of opinions, and in general these opinions are not motivated by anything except a desire to help. The best feedback is the kind that shares some of the information listed in point 3. Knowing someone “hated it” isn’t much use if you don’t know why. The best feedback will be from Moms who have used a certain model for enough time to judge it and who are able to compare it to other things in their stash.
Sponsored blog post: Lots of bloggers, myself included, receive items for free or at discounts, or even financial compensation for reviewing products. In some countries (like the US), reviewers are required by law to state that their review is sponsored. Even if blogging from a place where this is not required, bloggers should be making it clear to their readers that they received compensation of some kind (even if it’s just a discounted price) for the product being reviewed. I do not give a favourable review to a product I do not like, even if I received it for free. That being said, I would also not publish a horrible review for such a product. I would contact the sponsor and give them my honest feedback about their item, perhaps blogging about it later if they made improvements. When I do a sponsored review, I state what I received in exchange for the review and I also make sure to offer the pros and cons of the item in question.
Self-motivated blog post: These are my favourite reviews to read and to write. In this case, a blogger has come across a diaper on her own and has chosen to review it because she loved it (or hated it, for that matter!). I always mention this in my posts so people know I am not being compensated for my rave review.
3) How to tell if a reviewed diaper might be the right one for your baby:
How does the general physiognomy of the baby wearing the diaper compare to YOUR baby?
This is critical information when trying to make an informed decision about a particular brand or model for your child. Sure, tons of diapers on the market are “one-size,” but how many “one size fits all” items of clothing do you have that fit you perfectly? If a review doesn’t tell you anything about the baby wearing the diaper, I recommend finding one that does! Just as an example, I hated the fit of GroVia AIOs on my very large baby, but GroVia is a hugely popular brand and I know lots of Mamas with chicken-legged babies who adore them. I’m about to review the AMP one-size Duo (it’s a sponsored review), and I will be mentioning that for my 95th percentile baby, it’s not the best choice. This doesn’t mean that GroVia AIOs or AMP Duos won’t work for your child, however!
- Baby’s age (also useful to know if he’s EBF, since if yours is, you want to know how well the diaper contains poop-splosions);
- Baby’s body shape including weight, chubbiness, length of torso (useful especially for diapers with low rises) etc.;
- Baby’s level of mobility (is the diaper impossible to put on a squirmy toddler, for example);
- Baby’s gender (boys and girls pee differently and leak differently!);
- Baby’s sensitivities (some babies are allergic to synthetic fibres, for example).
How do the needs of the family using the diaper compare to YOUR needs?
Budget: I love a review that gives insight into a given diaper’s price point. There are certain brands that I am willing to pay full price for (though I admittedly prefer second-hand and deep discounts no matter what the brand) and others I would only buy at a reduced price. It’s not much use to you to read a glowing review of a diaper that is beyond your means!
Lifestyle: Daycare? Lots of day trips? Homebodies? How a diaper is used by the reviewer is important! Lots of Mamas love to use hybrid fitteds without a cover at home, but if you are looking for a great one-piece system for Grandma, a stash of Goodmamas might not be for you. Pockets are hugely popular, and personally I love to sit and stuff my BumGenius while sipping a cup of tea while others just get sick of stuffin’!
Priorities: Every family is seeking something different from their cloth diapers (aside from containment of poo and pee!). If cloth diapering from a purely budgetary standpoint, you may love Alvas or Kawaiis while a Mama more concerned with buying local may be more of an AppleCheeks or WAHM-made fan. There’s no right or wrong, it just means there are many reasons for a Mama to love or hate a diaper, even beyond how they function!
- Velcro vs Snaps
- One-size vs Sized
- Microfiber vs. Bamboo vs. Hemp vs. Charcoal Bamboo vs. Cotton vs. Some kind of combo of those!
- Side snaps vs Front Snaps
- Size adjustment by rise snaps or toggles (hidden or not)
- Functional but inexpensive vs Expensive with a great re-sale value, etc.
- AIOs vs Pockets vs Fitteds vs Hybrids…
How does the fit of this model compare to others?
- If you already use cloth diapers, it is hugely helpful to know how the fit of a given diaper compares to that of others, if the reviewer is able to make that comparison.
- Does the weight range provided by the manufacturer seem accurate?
4) The reviewer says it leaks!
No one wants to buy cloth diapers that leak. EVERY SINGLE BRAND CAN LEAK, no matter how much it cost! I follow tons and tons of threads on Facebook forums about leaking diapers, and there is absolutely no brand that is immune to it. If you’re really interested in trying out a certain diaper, the fact that it leaked for one baby certainly doesn’t mean it will leak on yours. The best review will seek to explain the leaking and offer troubleshooting tips!
5) Try before you buy
I read a ton of reviews before I started cloth diapering, but I didn’t ever consider that I could try a variety of brands before choosing one (or choosing many). I’m not sure why, but I was fixated on the idea that I had to choose ONE system and stick to it. I was convinced that each brand worked in a certain way that would make it incompatible with another. I loved my GroVia shells (still do), so I assumed if I wanted an AIO I should also buy only GroVias. I bought a full stash of GroVia AIOs based on a couple reviews and wound up selling them all. I discovered I didn’t like side snaps, preferred stay-dry layer touching baby’s skin and found my baby just the wrong shape to get a comfortable fit. That doesn’t mean I would write a negative review of GroVia AIOs, but I would be sure to discuss the subjective reasons I don’t like them. Objectively, I’d have to give them lots of positives!
I really recommend trying one or two of a new brand or model before you buy a full stash, and if you are just building your stash, don’t feel like you need to be “brand loyal.” If you get a mix and match stash, you can always sell off the ones you don’t love. Keep in mind that a diaper that received a bunch of 5-star reviews might not work for you, and you might end up loving the diaper panned by many reviewers!
Here are some great cloth diaper reviews from my fellow Fluffy Bloggers:
Tara & Carolyn @ Padded Tush Stats often do joint reviews. I love this format since we get the points of view of two different users.