Although my favourite cloth diapers cost upwards of $25 each, I don’t want anyone to think that they cannot afford to cloth diaper if a $600+ stash is not a possibility. One of the best ways to get into cloth inexpensively, without compromising on quality and performance, is to purchase diaper covers and use something a bit unconventional for absorption. The options I suggest here cost about $1 each and will work with cloth-diaper covers or pocket diapers. If you want to use them with covers, I’d recommend purchasing ten covers, since you don’t have to change the cover every time you change your insert. If you want to use pocket diapers (fully lined waterproof covers with a pocket to hold the insert), then you’ll need at least 24 pocket diapers for a good rotation. If you shop the sales, you should be able to get covers or pocket diapers without inserts for about $15 each, and naturally, you can save even more if you shop second-hand! I wholeheartedly recommend going this route rather than buying $5 overseas-made diapers on Amazon (or Ali Express, or some of the other more “sketchy” retailers) which are often of questionable quality and durability. Then all you need to do is stock up on any of the options below and you’re good to go!
- Flannel Receiving Blankets
You might already have a huge stack of these from your baby shower! Otherwise, you can find them at most department stores. Personally, the thrift store is my favourite spot for cheap flannel blankies. You can definitely use a receiving blanket in the “old school” way, securing it around baby with pins or a Snappi, but I prefer to just fold it into a narrow rectangle and place it in the diaper cover or pocket. In my tests with Little Miss Cub when she was about 20 lbs, I needed to add more absorbency to contain more than one pee.
- Old T-Shirts
Raid your closets! You know those XL promotional T-shirts shoved in the back of your drawers? Ya, you can totally use them as diapers! I finally bought my husband new undershirts and moved his old ones into my diaper stash. You don’t have to sew them or cut them, just fold the sleeves in so you’ve got a rectangle and fold it in a way that fits nicely into your cover or pocket. I found our size medium men’s t-shirts to be perfectly absorbent, definitely more so than receiving blankets or flour sack towels. Here is my full post on the subject.
- Flour Sack Towels (FSTs)
Most commonly found at Walmart, these thin white towels are pretty famous in cloth-diapering circles as fabulous inserts! The week our washing machine broke, I used them on my newborn and washed them by hand. I’ve got instructions on using them with a newborn and newborn cloth-diaper covers here. As with receiving blankets, I find that we need a booster to get enough absorbency now that she’s a toddler. If you already own diapers that come with microfibre inserts and they are leaking, adding a pad-folded FST into the pocket under the microfibre insert might be the solution for you! One of my blog’s most popular posts is this one on using flour sack towels.
- Microfibre Towels
You can only use microfibre if you are tucking it into a diaper pocket or wrapping another, bum-safe fibre around it. Do not place microfibre so that it is in direct contact with baby’s bottom because it can irritate baby’s skin. Depending on the size of towels you buy, you might use microfibre as a booster (they work very nicely with any of the other inserts I’m describing here) or as your main insert. Microfibre absorbs very quickly, and dries fast if you’re air-drying. I talk about the microfibre towels I got at the dollar store here.
- IKEA Himmelsk Burp Cloths
You may see these blankets referred to as “IKEA flats.” They’re smaller than FSTs, but I find them much more absorbent. These are the most expensive of the five options I’m presenting, and not everyone has an IKEA close by. But when I’m asked about alternative, lower cost absorbency options for cloth diapers, IKEA flats are definitely my first recommendation. I talk about our experience with them here.
All of these cloth-diaper insert alternatives are versatile and will be useful at home well past your diapering days! More than thirty years later my mom is still using a few of our old flat diapers as cleaning rags. Microfibre cloths are great for dusting, and you can even secure them to a Swiffer-style broom to clean your floors! My daughter likes to use our extra IKEA burp cloths for her dolls.
My favourite diaper covers to use with any of these options are:
- Best Bottom
My favourite pocket diapers to use with any of these options are:
- Funky Fluff