Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"So is perfect-size really perfect?" and other aspects of the Perfect-Size vs. One-Size question

L to R: Thirsties XS diaper cover, Thirsties Duo, Sz. 1
A question I got often when I was a consultant was, "What's better: the diapers that come in sizes or the ones that grow with the baby?" These cloth-curious moms were asking about the distinctions between "perfect-size" and "one-size" diapers. So what is the best? It depends on what you're looking for!

Some history

Back in the early days of modern cloth diapers, diapers that were shaped like disposables (contours, fitteds, pockets, all-in-ones) also came in sizes just like disposables. Some contours* and fitteds had a fold-down rise, so there was some measure of adjustability, but for the most part, you were looking at sizing up every few months. Many moms chose the "sell to fund" method, selling off, say,  their small diapers to purchase a stash of mediums, and since as babies age, they tend to require fewer diapers throughout the day, the normal resale value of the entire previous stash was enough to pay for the next stash.

But as cloth diapering became more popular, the "sell to fund" method became less popular in comparison. Not every mom gets a thrill out of listing and successfully selling items. Some of us (ahem) are Craigslist-illiterate.

So industry innovators (then mostly still WAHMs--so impressive when you think about it!) designed various ways to manufacture diapers that could be adjusted and used from "birth"--or about 8 lbs.--to potty-training, or somewhere between 30-40 lbs.

Sounds amazing, right?

Because it pretty much is. But I think perfect-sized diapers like FuzziBunz Perfect-Size and gDiapers are pretty amazing in their own right.  

Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons:

Perfect-Size Pros:

-There are no adjustments, no learning curve. Just wrap the diaper around the baby and go. Tell Grandma to do the same.
-You'll notice, traditionally, that you get a trimmer fit, especially through the crotch.*
-Your perfect-size diapers will almost certainly make it through two or three children if you hold onto them, because each size will have been used for only a few months. One of your stashes will probably see a bit more wear and tear than the others, depending on your child's growth curve.
-Bonus: by the time you're bored with the color palette and prints, or even the style or brand, in your stash, it's time to size-up, which totally legitimizes your coveting that new limited edition print and your burning desire to try something new. (Sometimes we never intend to become collectors, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans....)

Perfect-Size Cons:

-You have to size-up, buying a new stash when baby outgrows her current size.
Bottom drawer: where outgrown dipes go to hibernate.

-If you don't have the expendable income to up and purchase a new stash in the next size, you have to go through the trouble of re-selling. (Note: Your eLeMeNO-Pee consultant can help with this, especially if she is hosting her annual eLeMeNO-Pee Backyard Sale around the time that you need to "de-stash.")
-If you do hold onto your outgrown sizes to save them for the next baby, you have to find a place to store them in a climate-controlled area of your home.
-Fewer brands manufacture perfect-size options any more, so your selection is more limited.

One-Size Pros:

-"Sizing up" is merely a matter of readjusting your rise, either using an internal adjustment system (a la SoftBums and FuzziBunz) or rise snaps (a la Tots Bots).
Snap-down rise adjustment: easier.
-Purchasing an initial stash and making it work for the duration of diapering a child is a real possibility, especially if you purchase a one-size system with maximum adjustability. This means you will spend less money on cloth diapering a single child.
Internal rise adjustment: prettier.
-A hard-to-fit body shape can be fitted more easily because of the multiple adjustment possibilities. This applies mostly to one-size diapers that employ internal rise adjustment.
-A single stash can be shared by two (or, heck, three!) children at different ages or sizes. We recommend using a one-size system that adjusts using rise snaps, like the Tots Bots EasyFit, for a "joint stash," because the re-sizing process is significantly quicker.

One-Size Cons:

-A one-size stash that is put through the wringer (and washer!) for three years will probably not last through the entire diapering duration of another child, so a perfect-size system may actually be more cost-effective if you are hoping to cloth diaper several children using mostly the same stash of diapers.
FBPS XS, small, and medium: cheaper in the long run?
-Many one-size diapers can't be made truly small enough for a newborn or truly large enough for an average-to-late potty-trainer, so you may end up sizing up someday anyway, or starting out with a stash of tiny newborn diapers before moving into your one-size stash.
-There's a temptation with one-size diapers to cinch in as much fabric as possible to create the trimmest, smoothest fit you can. This often leads to compression leaking, which, without proper support, leads to giving up on one-size systems or on cloth diapering altogether. (Note: If you have a local eLeMeNO-Pee consultant, she can help you find the correct way to adjust the size of your OS diaper to avoid this problem!)
-Snap-down rises can create extra bulk when they are snapped up to make the diaper smaller, and the snaps look a little "messy" when they're unsnapped. All those snaps can also confuse and intimidate other caregivers who are cloth-skeptical.

So what's this "two-size" option about?

Thirsties XS vs Duo, Sz. 1 unsnapped.
Thirsties XS cover vs. Duo, Sz. 1.
An even more recent trend combines the benefits of both perfect size and one-size diaper systems: two-size systems, like the Thirsties Duo line. A two-size system can be applied to any diapering system--prefolds, covers, inserts that can be lain inside covers, fitteds, pockets, and all-in-ones. How does it work? Well, you do have to size-up, but only once! In the Duo system, a Size One will fit from approximately 6-18 lbs. and a Size Two will fit from approximately 18-40 lbs. The only drawback? You have to be okay with a snap-down rise adjustment.

So how do I choose the best system for me?

The best thing to do is think about what you value the most. You're already going save approximately $2,000 per cloth diapered child. If you anticipate cloth diapering only one child, you will save the most if you choose a one-size system, but if you are looking to gather a stash that can be used for a Round Two or even a Round Three, a system with several sizes will make for longer-lasting elastic, PUL, and closures.

There are two possible routes you can take when you decide to make the switch to cloth diapers and need to determine what will belong in your stash. You can go the "there's room for some of everything in a starter stash" route, or you can make a choice based on what looks best to you, and never look back. The best way to know which of those will suit you is to get your hands on some cloth diapers for the first time!



*a now-mostly unpopular style, similar to a fitted but without an attached closure mechanism, such that it requires pins or other fasteners to secure it around the baby.
*Although this is increasingly less of a concern, because our favorite OS brands, FuzziBunz and SoftBums, have a narrow crotch to accommodate younger and smaller babies.