Without fail, I see people post frequently about wanting to start cloth diapers, but not being able to afford the “expensive brands” like bumGenius. (Bonus points for seeing this come up on the Cotton Babies Flash Mob, where people are slightly rabid over their bumGenius diapers.) Sometimes people will recommend ways to get cloth diapers without paying retail price. Then there are the comments that make me cringe: I see people recommending China Cheapies.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not about snobbishness and elitism. I do have some China Cheapies in my stash. However, when I’m speaking with people who are new to cloth diapers, I don’t feel comfortable recommending China Cheapies at all. There are a few simple reasons for this.
Why I’m Not Recommending China Cheapies to New Cloth Diaperers
1.) China Cheapies can be variable
The quality control on some China Cheapies (yes, Alva, I’m talking to you) are spotty at best. These seamstresses are working fast and furious to churn out as much product as possible. Cuts can be sloppy. Stitching can be weak. Snaps can fall off. And even the sizing of a diaper can vary from one to the next. About a year ago, a friend bought some AlvaBaby diapers. I think she bought 7 in a group buy. I seem to recall that only three of them actually fit her daughter.
2.) China Cheapies can infringe on patents
Yes, I’m talking about AlvaBaby again. Cotton Babies in particular has been ripped off by AlvaBaby with a knockoff version of the Genius Series diaper Lovelace. There have been issues with patent violations, too. AlvaBaby has also lifted prints from GroVia and FuzziBunz.
What’s made this even more obnoxious? There are rebranded AlvaBaby diapers sold at a ridiculous markup so that the diaper costs nearly as much as a high quality, premium brand diaper costs in the first place. Zulily group buy “deals” are particularly famous for this.
3.) The insert quality just isn’t there.
I haven’t given every single brand of China Cheapies out there an absorbency test… but I will tell you that I did a little kitchen science experiment on insert absorbency. AlvaBaby’s best performing insert did as well as a three year old, heavily used and probably worn out FuzziBunz microfiber insert. And that was with brand new AlvaBaby inserts, all properly prepped.
4.) Diaper failure leads to giving up.
I don’t want to set a mom who is new to cloth diapering up for failure. With all of the potential performance issues and my own concern about ethical issues, I don’t feel comfortable recommending China Cheapies. I want to help the mom who is new to cloth diapering succeed. I want her to love cloth diapering as much as I do.
That Doesn’t Mean They Aren’t Cute…
I have a few China Cheapies in my stash. I always say that they are like my Payless Shoes: cute things to match an outfit that I don’t expect to last more than a season. So, sure, I have no problems with recommending China Cheapies for a cuteness factor. But that’s something that I’ll say to a seasoned cloth diapering mom, not to a mom who is brand new to cloth diapering and cannot afford to keep buying diapers to replace the ones that fail.
But What About a Budget?
I know that not everyone can afford to buy eleventy billion cloth diapers and order customs on a whim. There are actually people out there who use cloth diapers because they can’t afford to spend the money on disposables. And you know what? That’s okay, too. There are ways to save money through buying used cloth diapers. You can try using flats, flour sack towels, or prefolds with covers. And there are even organizations out there that can help you with a starter stash so that you can build your own.
There are so many alternatives out there that are consistent in their quality, which automatically makes them a better choice to me than recommending China Cheapies. What do you suggest to those who are looking to start but cannot afford premium brands?