Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cloth Diaper Review Compendium: AMP, AppleCheeks, bumGenius, Chinacheapies and more

Oh hello Blogspot. Yeah, it's been almost a year... oh well. No time like the present to get back into it right?

I've been cloth diapering now for about three years, and my stash is pretty diverse, so I thought I'd write up my opinions on what I have as a resource for other cloth diapering families. 75% of my stash have been bought used, mostly in EUC from people who tried cloth diapering and then gave up, selling almost new diapers for 50%-90% off MSRP, or in a few cases even for nothing. If you're budget minded and patient, in my opinion that's the best way to build a stash, especially to try out different styles of diapers. It's a lot easier to try out a diaper for $5 and decide that the style isn't for you than to spend $200 on a bunch of diapers that you end up hating.

I may use diaper jargon without defining it, so if you're not familiar with the lingo here's a glossary.
My somewhat organized stash. AMP on the right, bG in the middle, and China cheapies on the left, with heavy wetters and wet bags in the back.
5 AMP Duo -- hemp and bamboo inserts
11 bumGenius 4.0s with snaps
2 bG 4.0s with aplix
1 bG Freetime
3 Kawaii Baby heavy wetters
2 Tender Tushies heavy wetters
2 Tender Tushies regular pockets
8 Tender Tushies bamboo (discontinued style) -- used as "beaters"
11 HipKiddo pockets (discontinued style) --- used as "beaters"
TOTAL: 45 diapers
Typical diaper use per day (one year old): 6-9
Current washing routine: Every three days, usually about 22 diapers. HE top loader. Quick cold wash, no soap, no spin. Heavy hot wash with 1/4 scoop of Country Save, extra rinse. Once a week I also add a half scoop of baby OxyClean. Now that I have a big stash, I try to air dry whenever I can on a rack.

My very most favoritest diaper.

AMP (Annie Marie Padorie): I have 5 OS Duo (which is a hybrid AI2/pocket) and 1 medium AIO, which I bought when DD1 was a newborn. This was my only AIO which I got as an experiment and I was not a fan. I don't think the trimness is worth the increased drying time and the difficulty in stripping. Also its got the usual velcro and laundry tab problems, even though I've used it very little (basically it's been my emergency laundry diaper).

Back to the Duos. If you're familiar with pockets, these are basically the same as most other pockets except that the flap is in the front. You might think this is to hold the insert in, but actually you're just supposed to lay the insert in the cover if you want to use it in AI2 mode. I've kind of fallen in love with AI2s for use out. I never could get the hang of prefolds and covers, but this offers the same minimum diaper bag space as that set-up. I was using disposables while out (because my diaper bag just couldn't hold so much stuff--we don't have a car, so the diaper bag is It), but now that Pippa is in underwear and I have this AI2 option, I take two covers + 2-4 inserts, depending on the length of the trip out. Anything that reduces the amount of disposables I have to buy is good with me.

The fit of the diapers is very good. It has kind of a rippled edge, which I think adds a delicate touch to the look. They don't have that many prints (I prefer prints to solids). I really really REALLY love the AMP hemp inserts. They have fantastic absorbency, and are super soft and can go directly against babies skin (if you're doing an AI2). They also work much better than microfiber for avoiding compression leaks during baby wearing. I like that AMP diapers are made in Canada by people paid a good wage... but the price matches that. It's about $28 Canadian for the cover + hemp insert. Verdict: Thumbs up, but on the expensive side. Whenever I see one go up for a good price EUC, I snap it up.

AppleCheeks: I have tried a size 1. I bought the cover only without an insert so I can't speak to the inserts. By the time I tried this on Mimi, she was already at the upper limit of the size range, so I didn't get to use it very long (I got them when she was about nine months old and she outgrew them by one year old), but I liked the trimness and the way it's stuffed in the middle. Supposedly, you can throw Applecheeks directly into the wash without unstuffing them and they unstuff themselves. Personally, I was never brave enough to actually try it. The edges have the rippled look, similar to AMP diapers. Like AMP these are Made in Canada. Verdict: My babies so far come out average in weight (~8lbs) and get very big very fast (both 95 percentile in height and 60+ percentile in weight), so OS diapers work well for me, therefore I would not seek out AppleCheeks. If you have babies that start small and stay small, this might be a better investment, especially if you value trimness in a diaper.

bumGenius: I have tried OS 3.0 pockets with aplix closure, OS 4.0 pockets with aplix and snap closures, and OS Freetime.
The state of the velcro on my 3.0s after about 5 years of use.
3.0s: I got my 3.0s in EUC for $5 each and used them heavily until the velcro gave out entirely; I just gave them away to another mama who is crafty enough to snap convert them. Within a few weeks of getting the 3.0s, the laundry tabs stopped working. I think we weren't careful enough in the beginning because we didn't realize how absolutely critical they are to keeping the aplix in good condition. Maybe it wasn't anything we did though, because lots of people have trouble with aplix. Anyway, the laundry tabs just stopped being sticky, so we had "diaper chain" problems (where the diapers start sticking to each other in the wash). We still got almost three years of use out of them, so I guess I can't complain.
A 4.0 from the side, showing the smoother leg gussets as compared to the AMP.

An AMP diaper on top of a bumGenius.
4.0s: I got my first 4.0 when another mom left a wet one inside a ziplock bag by the changing table in the bathroom of the Neighbourhood House I volunteer at. I recognized it and brought it to the head of the program. I chatted with her a bit about it actually being pretty valuable and that I thought the person who left it would definitely want it back. Two days later, they hadn't claimed it, and the program head asked me if I would take it as she didn't want it sitting around (I can't blame her for that!). So I took it home and washed it and have been using it ever since. The diaper was stuffed with a Bummi's cotton prefold, and that was my introduction to the wonder that is stuffing pocket diapers with prefolds.

Then I bought a bunch more snap 4.0s. I like 4.0s quite a bit, but I think the fit is not quite as good as the AMPs for my kids' bodies. As far as microfiber inserts go, I like the ones that come with bumGenius the best of any I've tried, but I prefer natural fibers. I also bought a couple of aplix 4.0s. I've been more diligent about the laundry tabs this time and so far so good, but still, really the only reason I got them was the condition and price (immaculate/$5). So if they only make it through one kid I'm not too bothered.

Freetime in the summer!
Freetime: This is kind of a cool idea, it's a hybrid diaper that attempts to have the ease of an AIO without the drying/stink problems of an AIO. It has two microfiber flaps, one attached at the front and one attached at the back, that you layer over each other. I'd rather have pockets because I don't mind stuffing pockets, and I like being able to launder inserts separately if necessary.

No matter what the kind, bumGenius have a bolder silhouette than AMP, with sharp lines and no ruffling. I would describe AMP as "sweet" and bumGenius as "cheeky". Both describe babies, it's just a different look. bumGenius has some nice prints, but most of the their prints (aside from Albert, which is the only print I have) are limited edition, and thus hard to acquire, and resold for more than retail price, even used! No thanks. bumGenius sold in Canada are made in Egypt. Overall verdict: I like my bGs. They work well and, aside from the velcro, everything else about my 3.0s held up through heavy use over 3 years (and I bought it used!).

FuzziBunz: I got some large Perfect Size diapers for free second hand. They were really really large (like, still on the tightest setting for my older daughter by the time she potty trained), and the elastic in the legs was already shot, I'm pretty sure. So.... I can't really review these? From what the person who gave them to me described, they weren't heavily used, so it seems like these don't hold up so well. These are made in China and Turkey. Verdict: Maybe unfair, but I wouldn't try again unless given them for free.

China cheapies have some really cute prints.
CHINA CHEAPIES: Kawaii Baby, HipKiddo, Tender Tushies:
I'm putting these three together because this is a mysterious category of diaper, sometimes called the "China cheapie". The general definition is that the diaper is
1. Made in China,
2. Really cheap in wholesale (sometimes as low as $3 per diaper, including insert, when bought directly from the manufacturer in quantity), and
3. Resold under various labels (i.e. the brand is not actually involved in the design or manufacture, only in importing them and slapping a label on them and jacking up the price).

It's the #3 part that is the most controversial and mysterious, because nobody admits to being a reseller. You can only heavily suspect that someone is a reseller, based on identical designs and fabrics to some of the big wholesalers (Kawaii, Sunbaby, and Alva are some of the biggest wholesalers). The controversy gets vicious, because many of the resellers of these diapers made in China play up that they are a local business, run by a mother, etc. And I don't deny that it is a home business for them either, and I can understand why they would take umbrage at the "China cheapie" term. But I also don't think it's right how many people entering the cloth diapering world don't realize what they're buying.

HipKiddo: HipKiddo was the first diapers I ever bought new. I bought about six plain solid colour diapers and five minky diapers in animal prints. Seemingly, they don't sell the diapers I own anymore; the whole website looks a bit sparse. My diapers only cost about $7 each including the insert. Now they're charging $17+ a diaper. I will say that I got good customer service from HipKiddo when I had an issue with a defective diaper; they exchanged it right away. I've been using these diapers heavily over three years, and they still work pretty well. They've definitely become the diapers I stick baby in when she's eating spaghetti though. Verdict: Good customer service, but I'm not sure it's worth $17.

Kawaii Baby: I bought these through a co-op so I only paid $3 or $4 a diaper (I bought three heavy wetters for overnight), and I also bought 5 cloth training pants and a wet bag. I've had no problems with the overnight diapers, however one of the cloth training pants was defective out of the package (elastic WAY too tight, I couldn't even get it on my kid), and the strap came off the wet bag within one week of light use (I was using it as my back-up bag). Others in the co-op also had problems with defective training pants. However, despite being repeatedly contacted, Kawaii Baby did not replace or refund any of the defective products. When I divide what I paid total by the number of diapers I'm actually was able to use, I paid about $10/diaper. Yeah, that's still pretty cheap, but it was just an aggravating experience all around, and I wouldn't want it to sour a newbie on cloth diapering. Verdict: AVOID dealing with the company directly. Don't pay more than a few bucks for these no matter how you get them.
I let the diaper sit after taking it off for about ten minutes.
The pee is starting to soak through the cover.
(The crumbs are because this was the snack time diaper.)

Tender Tushies: I got these second hand as part of a lot that included other diapers I wanted more, haha. Two heavy wetters (which seem identical in cut and design to the Kawaii Baby, making me think they have the same manufacturer), two regular pockets, and 8 bamboo diapers, which seem identical to some HipKiddo bamboos that a friend of mine bought. They have a soft, almost t-shirt like exterior, and a grey interior. I remember that my friend had an issue with leaking THROUGH the cover with the bamboo diaper. It's not like a torrent leak like a leg leak, but rather that the cover starts to feel damp if not changed promptly. IIRC it's because they don't use PUL. Personally I don't find this a deal breaker for home use. It's a bit like how some people let their kids scamper around in just a fitted with no cover at home. I've heard the company discontinued this line because many people have this problem, but you might run into someone selling them second-hand, so buyer beware. I've had no dealings with the company itself, but  Verdict: Meh.


My PlanetWise wet bag in its usual spot on the bathroom door.

PlanetWise: I paid full retail for my large PlanetWise wet bag. I know! Me, pay retail? Ha. But it has totally been worth it. It has held up through three years of HEAVY use, getting washed at least twice a week, and hung most of the time by the strap. Only just now is the outer fabric starting to get worn down. I also have their small bag which I use in my diaper bag. Verdict: Worth the money. I plan to buy another one, maybe even two.

GroVia: I got a Perfect Pail. It has a overlapping slot on the top to put diapers into, and a zipper on the bottom so you can unzip it over the washing machine without having to reach into the gross old diapers. In practice, I did not find this as easy as the PlanetWise bag, which is double layered, so I just grab the outer cloth layer and hold it and shake it, and the diapers fall into the washing machine while the PUL layer inverts.

It looks less gross when it's getting full than the PlanetWise bag does. But it's not as cute as my PlanetWise bag as it's just a plain grey. If you want to hang your diaper bag in a closet, its strap is made to clip around a clothes hanger, which is nice in terms of versatility, but we have a hook installed already. Unfortunately I had the same problem that many people have had with this bag, which is that a seam burst. GroVia would have replaced it if I had the receipt, but I didn't. On the up side, it looks like it will be a pretty easy fix, it's just going to be a while until I can get someone with a sewing machine to let me fix it. Verdict: Keep your receipt.

Kawaii Baby: AVOID AVOID AVOID see above. Strap came off within a week, they would not replace (and this was WITH receipt). Seems poorly made overall.

Bummis: I have a medium wet bag, which I usually don't use for diapers. But it is a really good size for holding everybody's wet swim stuff. I like that it's made in Canada too. Verdict: Nice!

Relative sizes and shapes:
AppleCheeks size 1, HipKiddo,
AMP, Tender Tushies Bamboo,
bumGenius, Kawaii Baby heavy wetter.

~Grand Conclusion~
I spent basically all summer working on this cloth diaper post on and off, and I am so glad it's done, and I have nothing else to say.


  1. Ok, so I could probably go on and on about cloth diapers for hours, so I will try to keep this short.

    I don't think I really understand the difference between a pocket diaper and an AI2. We have Bumgenius (some 3.0, some 4.0) and Fuzzibunz (one size) which I would call pocket diapers. But we also have Flips which are sorta pockets, but there's no actual "pocket" made of fleece, just tiny flaps of the PUL material of the cover to hold an insert in place. It sounds appealing, what you say about just placing an insert into a diaper and thus not having to wash the cover each time, but....we hated hated hated hated our Flips for this reason, because everything leaked out when the diaper itself wasn't fully lined.

    I do love my Bumgeniuses, and I think I'm slowly going to replace all my diapers with them. We have the same issue as you did with Fuzzibunz - nice enough diapers, but they don't fit right until your kid is a toddler!

    We were a pre-fold family for a while, and I still like pre-folds in terms of cost and quality. They work really well. But there is something weird about ours where they just tend to completely shred up after as little as 6 months of use, and I have to convert them to rags. I'm tired of buying new ones all the time. I've talked to a lot of CD moms, and only found one other person who had the same problem, and it was a mystery to her as well. I'm suspecting it's something weird about the "blades" in my washing machine, which must be catching and ripping the diapers. Anyways, the BG's have held up great against the evil washer, so I've been picking up one or two each time someone gives us a monetary gift "for the baby" :-)

    1. I added another picture of an AMP diaper on top of a bumGenius 4.0. This shows the difference in their silhouettes pretty well, as well as the front flap.

      An AMP Duo markets itself as a hybrid AI2/pocket, so you can just use it as a pocket if you want, because it has a full fleece lining. From everything I've heard, most people don't do well with AI2 until the poop is consistently solid and only once or twice a day. I usually use the AI2 format only when we're out, and Mim doesn't usually poop outside the home, so I rarely run into a problem.

      I've found the AMP covers just really work really well for Mim's shape. They fit better in the thighs than the bumGenius, even with a bulky insert.

      Have you seen some of the new bumGenius prints, Spence and Marie? They are soooo cute, it's too bad they're limited edition. I've had to be firm with myself because I don't really need any more diapers now!

  2. I want to love Bumgenius, I really do... They're less bulky and nicer colors than my Kawaii pockets, and they're easier than myThirsties+prefolds. But she blows out of them EVERY TIME. :-( Maybe I'll like them when she starts making solid poop?

    1. Does the blow out come out the top or the thighs? You may have to adjust the fit, or it could be that it's just not a good match for her shape right now. If the leaks come out the legs, you might find AMP a better fit. My AMPs fit more snugly in the thighs than my bG.

      If you're using snaps, don't be afraid to have the leg and waist snaps not match. There's no law that you can't have the tightest fit on the waist and the second tightest on the thighs, or vice versa. You can also have the waist snaps be on a odd number of snaps. A lot of people run into problems going from tightest to two snaps, or two snaps to four snaps, because they think it has to be symmetrical. But that's a pretty dramatic size difference. In between may work a lot better.

    2. Thighs. Same for disposables. Occasionally for Kawaiis. Only the Thirsties covers hold it in (and its a nasty mess inside on all sides of the prefold!) I usually have one snap, so not trying to be symmetrical, and can't get much tighter. I know she's on the thin side, because she's tall (74th % at her 2 month) but below average weight (around 40th% as of last week). Maybe that's it. Or maybe she just produces ridiculous amounts of poop...

  3. Hey - I nominated you for a Liebster Award :-)

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  5. Just received a check for $500.

    Sometimes people don't believe me when I tell them about how much you can earn by taking paid surveys online...

    So I took a video of myself actually getting paid $500 for doing paid surveys.