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Making a decision to use cloth diapers takes some research and investment. The same is true for night time cloth diapering. Whatever applies during the day, does not necessarily apply during the night. The ultimate goal is to change diapers less frequently throughout the night so that everyone can sleep better and longer as baby grows older.
So the question is, what kinds of solutions are there to keeping a baby dry and comfortable throughout the night? As it turns out, there are several different types of cloth diapers and supplemental items that can help keep baby dry. All it takes is a little bit of experimenting to find what works best for you and your baby.
Identify the Problem
There are a lot of variables that can lead to cold wet nights in cloth diapers. Depending on how your baby sleeps, leakage can either come from the waistline, hip/back area or through the leg holes.
If your baby sleeps on his/her tummy, there can be a tendency for leaks to occur at the waistline near the tummy. If this is the case, the first thing to check is how the diaper fits. Check for gaps around the thighs and a snug fit around the tummy. Make sure the entire cloth diaper is tucked into the diaper cover.
Boys can be notorious for peeing up through the top of their diapers at the waistline. It’s important to remember to point the penis down when changing their diaper. If they are pointed upward, chances are they are going to pee upward and create a soaking wet waistline.
Absorbency is another thing to consider. Most cloth diapers are going to hold between 8 to 12 ounces of liquid. Once that capacity has been exceeded, it is reasonable to expect some leaking. The best solution to this is to change the baby more frequently.
Newborns have a unique tendency to leak due to not being able to pee with enough force through a night time stay dry liner into the absorbent layer in their diapers. There are plenty of options out there for more absorbent materials that can be used as an absorbency booster between the absorbent layer and the baby.
Some mommies feel that added layers of absorbency will prevent leaking. Even though the added layers may be more absorbent, the problem lies with the gaps that are created around the legs.
The added layers cause the elastic around the legs to pull away from the baby and leave room for leakage. This can happen also happen at the waistline. Instead of packing the diaper cover with layer upon layer, a simple switch of material can be the easiest solution to the problem.
The most commonly recommended fibers are microfiber, cotton, bamboo and hemp. Of the three, microfiber comes in third place in absorbency but first place in affordability.
Types of Diapers
To make an informed decision as to what the best option is for your baby, you need to know what kinds of cloth diapers are available to use.
Flat or Pre-fold Cloth Diapers
The old traditional style of cloth diaper is the flat or pre-fold cloth diaper. The flats are the large, rectangular cloth diapers that you would fold into multilayers for whatever level of absorbency you are seeking. These would then be secured around the baby and used with a diaper cover. Pre-folds are similar to flats with the exception that they are already folded into multi-layers and used the same way that a flat would be used. These also need to be covered with a diaper cover. These are the cheapest options for cloth diapering.
Fitted Cloth Diapers
A little more expensive version of the flat or refold cloth diaper is the fitted diaper. These diapers are exactly what the name implies- they are already “fitted” or shaped like a diaper. No need to fold them into the shape of a diaper because they work has already been done and the legs have cinched elastic to fit snuggly around the thighs. Fitted diapers are layered and highly absorbent and require a waterproof cover.
All-In-One Cloth Diapers
The All-in-One cloth diaper is a type of cloth diaper that does not require a cover because as the name suggests, the cover is already built into the diaper. Inside the water-resistant cover is the absorbing layer which is sewn into the cover. The downside to this type of cloth diaper is that the entire diaper needs to be changed because everything is attached. This makes it one of the more expensive cloth diaper options. After washing, the drying time can take a long while because of the absorbency layers. To remedy this, some All-in-One cloth diapers have absorbency layers that fold out so that the drying time is reduced.
Pocket Cloth Diapers
Pocket diapers are a less expensive version of the All-in-One. They are pre-fitted with elastic leg holes and built-in snaps at the waist. There is a pocket on the inside that can be stuffed with inserts of your choice, folded pre-folds or flats. The lining of the pocket diaper is designed to keep moisture away from the baby. The most common lining materials are suede-cloth and fleece. Many pocket diapers are made with microfiber linings which is the least absorbent of all the liner materials. Most mommies opt for the addition of bamboo, bamboo charcoal, cotton or hemp.
Types of Inserts, Doublers, and Liners
Once you decide which diaper is the most appropriate for your own personal use, the next thing to consider is what type of absorbency insert, doubler and liner will work best for overnight diapering. If you research this well enough you will find a ton of information but there is a common thread that points to some reliable suggestions.
It might be helpful to clarify the difference between inserts, doublers, and liners to start with. Inserts are the main layer of absorbency in a pocket diaper or diaper cover. Doublers, or boosters, are added layers that are sometimes stuffed into a pocket diaper or layered right into an All-in-One for added absorbency. Liners are a thin piece of fabric that is used between the absorbent layer and your baby’s skin to keep wetness away from your baby’s skin.
Hemp inserts are popular with moms because of the amount of liquid that they can hold. They are considered the most absorbent and the most sustainable and they work well in fitted and pocket diapers. Most moms also tend to use them in conjunction with a microfiber liner that keeps the wetness away from the baby’s skin. Hemp also tends to get softer and more absorbent with every time that they are washed. So, it is no surprise that hemp is at the top of the list for doubling up the liners in night time diapers. Hemp is also environmentally friendly.
Bamboo is also highly absorbent and does not irritate baby’s skin. There are also bamboo charcoal inserts, which many wrongly assume to have added absorbency due to the addition of charcoal in the fabric. Actually, the charcoal does nothing more than add the grey coloring to the fiber. Many times these inserts have a microfiber blend which eventually flattens and compresses which makes them less absorbent. Because they are often blended with microfiber, the manufacturing of these liners is expensive and not environmentally friendly due to the chemicals that are used during production.
Cotton seems like a logical choice. The best thing about cotton is affordability and variety. There are several types of cotton blends like flannel, terry or jersey. The down side is that cotton is not as absorbent as some of the other natural fibers like hemp or bamboo and cotton liners tend to be bulkier. The bulkier the material, the higher the chances are that baby’s diaper could be ill-fitted and have gaps that cause leaks.
Microfiber would be the last choice because although they are extremely affordable, you get what you pay for. As mentioned above, microfiber tends to flatten out which will naturally reduce the absorbency of the material and cause leakage. Microfiber is also known to hold on to odors more than any other material. The most important point of consideration is how it works against your baby’s skin. Microfiber absorbs so well that it often causes a rash to develop on baby’s skin.
Inserts come in various styles:
- The petal-style which is two or more layers sewn at one end of the insert. The other end allows a separation of layers for faster drying time.
- The snake style is a long strip that you would custom fold to fit your baby’s diaper.
- The pad style is simply multiple layers sewn together and shaped to fit your baby’s diaper.
- The tri-fold is similar to a flat diaper that is folded into thirds before stuffing your baby’s diaper.
- The pre-fold is exactly what its name implies- it is refolded and sewn into the shape of the diaper.
- The flat is a rectangular square of fabric that you fold and insert into baby’s diaper.
- The liners, which are designed to keep moisture away from baby’s skin can be found in disposable and reusable forms. Picture a dryer sheet and you can imagine what a disposable liner resembles. They are typically made of a thin cellulose material.
- The reusable liner is most often made of fleece. Fleece is an all-time favorite with moms because they are very effective at keeping the moisture away from baby’s skin
Hopefully, this gives you some idea of the different materials to consider and which material will suit your baby’s personal needs best.
Overnight Diapering Covers
Now let’s talk about covers. Covers are the final touch to the whole package. In one way they are like the icing on a cake with many layers… literally. But, an attractive outside won’t matter if the cover doesn’t serve its proper function, which is to keep the moisture where it belongs: inside the diaper and not on your baby’s clothing or bedding.
So, what should you look for in a diaper cover? According to one survey (paddedtushstats.com), there are six categories to consider: overall performance, coverage, leak prevention, trimness, fit and whether or not you would recommend the cover to a friend.
The survey rated 10 different cover manufacturers, all of which performed above 82% in approval ratings. Six of them were rated above 91%.
Let’s consider each point that was mentioned:
- Coverage: does the cover hold all of the contents of the diaper efficiently? If the material sticks out of the cover, the moisture will have a route to escape through.
- Leak prevention: in addition to concealing the diaper materials it is important that the cover holds all of the material in and does not have any gaps that would cause liquid to escape.
- Trimness: while you may want enough room to add extra layers of the materials in the diaper, you don’t want so much material in the diaper that you can’t put the baby’s clothes on properly or so much that those dreaded gaps near the legs, hips and tummy area appear- which ultimately cause leaks.
- Fit: your baby should be comfortable and their diaper/cover should not squeeze their legs or abdomen. Conversely, the diaper should not be so loose that there is “plumbers butt” showing or any other sagging that would cause leaks.
- Finally….would you recommend the brand that you are using to a friend. Personally, I think this is one of the best questions that could be introduced into a survey because when something is quality and you are happy with it, you will share that information with anyone who needs it without even thinking about it. It’s a fantastic indicator of how well something functions based on its claims.
In all of my research, the most surprising find was that there is a large population of mommies out there who absolutely adore wool as a diaper cover option.
Why would wool be so preferred? As it turns out, wool is highly water-resistant. It makes sense when you think about it. Have you ever pet a sheep? Their wool coverings have a natural waterproof layer of protection because they have a natural oil called lanolin which they produce.
The wool diaper covering is not only naturally waterproof, but it’s soft and comfortable to your baby as well. The only maintenance that the wool requires is that once a month, lanolin should be applied to maintain its water resistance. Makes perfect sense, right?
Wool diaper covers generally receive the highest praise for overnight diapering because of the comfort and the ability to keep the baby dry for long extended periods of time such as sleeping through the night.
This is the most popular type of cover on the market. PUL is polyurethane laminate and it is applied mostly to polyester knit fabric but can also be used with cotton, and rayon from bamboo.
The reason for its popularity is that it is waterproof, the material is sturdy and the material is generally easy to clean.
PUL covers come as AIO (All-in-Ones), pocket diapers, and separate covers to use with fitted and flat diapers.
Troubleshooting The Overnight Diapering Situations
Many babies will do fine with your chosen cloth diaper system during the night time. Some babies, however, will need a little something different during their sleeping hours. Here are a few common nighttime woes and possible solutions for them:
1. Baby wakes up whenever he or she is wet.
Try a diaper that whisks moisture away from babies. Pocket diapers are often made of microfleece or microsuede and then stuffed with absorbent layers between that and the PUL. They are designed to draw the moisture away from baby into the absorbent layers, leaving baby feeling dry.
If you already own prefolds, fitteds, or All in Ones, this same effect can be achieved by adding bamboo liners or stay-dry inserts, which also add additional absorbency. If you would like to stick to more breathable natural fibers, cotton muslin burp cloths folded to fit the contour of your cloth diaper with an added disposable liner can be placed right up against the baby’s bottom and possess the same stay-dry capabilities.
2. Baby soaks through everything!
First, try adding more absorbency. Extra doublers can be added inside pocket diapers, prefolds, or All in Ones. Any natural fiber can go right next to baby’s skin; microfiber should be kept away from direct contact with baby. Bamboo and hemp will offer the most absorbency while adding minimal bulk. The combination of bamboo with microfiber, as found in Naturally Natures 5-Layers inserts, also does wonders for heavy wetters.
Some people experience trouble with the fit of pocket diapers and All in Ones with added layers. If this is the case, a few fitted diapers or prefolds in a super-absorbent material may be the answer. Pair with a wool cover for optimal breathability, especially if your baby is one who sleeps through wet diapers.
One of our favorite nighttime diapers, even into the toddler years has been a Ecoable Fitted Cloth Diaper stuffed with two Babykicks Hemparoo Joey-Bunz inserts under an organic wool diaper cover. We have found this system fail-proof.
3. Baby wakes up with what looks like a heat rash.
Try for more breathable fibers. PUL and other synthetic fibers, while more breathable than disposable diapers, do not offer as much air to move through them as wool or fleece. Fleece is a great option for those looking for the ease of washing all of their diapering items together, as it can be thrown in with your regular wash. Wool requires infrequent hand washing, however it is also absorbent in addition to being breathable.
As you can see, there are many points to consider. Chances are that finding the right quality and quantity of these materials will have to be experimented with to see what ultimately works for you.
Many mothers will use a combination of these items and come up with their own best overnight diapering solutions that work for them. Even if you find a working solution, chances are that as the baby grows and enters new stages that new challenges will present themselves and you may have to adjust what was previously foolproof.
Some mommies will start with a fitted diaper, add doublers, a liner and cover everything with a wool cover. Others will use a pocket diaper, stuffed to capacity with extra padding, a liner and covered with a comfortable PUL cover.
The goal is to keep the baby dry and comfortable. If that goal is met, everyone sleeps longer throughout the night and everyone is happy.