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Building a Better Nighttime Cloth Diaper

Apr22

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Hi Amy,

If not for your blog I never would have known about cloth diapers. Thanks to you, we’ve CDed our 7 month old from day one (well, two) and have loved every day of it! We use GMD organic prefolds with PUL covers in the day and fitteds with a microfleece liner (used to be GMD workhorse fitteds, but we got tired of the low rise and switched to Growing Greens one size organic cotton fitteds) with a disana wool cover at night. Our nighttime solution is no longer working for us.

We bed share and within the past month or so my son has started sleeping through the night. What this means for us is that he latches on and “dreamfeeds” about 2-6 times per night, but he doesn’t actually wake up … and I have no interest in waking him up with a diaper change (most nights I don’t really wake up enough to do so and the other nights I don’t want to risk waking him up for what he thinks is playtime). So, as you can imagine, he is a nighttime pee machine! The growing greens fitted has a snap in doubler, which we use, plus a gmd large hemp doubler … starting around 5 am things start to get “wool damp” … by the time we get up around 7 things are soaking!

There are so many variables here that I seriously have no idea where to start trying to fix the situation (other than a nighttime change, but PLEEEEEEEEASE help me find some way to stay sleeping instead, O She of the Cloth Genius!). The soaking started when we switched fitteds, sized up in the wool, and started staying in bed, so

Some things that I think might be the problem:

The fitteds: not absorbent enough? Too organic (and thus oily and repelly)? Too trim?

The doubler: I know nothing about hemp. It seems suspiciously thin.

The cover: we are in the 2-3T size but maybe we should size down? The 3-6 month size was too tiny and we figured it couldn’t hurt to size up 2 sizes. This thing comes up to his armpits (it’s actually all he sleeps in). Is there a way that having a loose fitting wool cover could actually cause leaking? Also, it’s been lanolized twice and is not very felted.

Did you ever find a perfect nighttime solution for a heavy wetter? We don’t have any pockets or AIOs because of the cost, but we could certainly buy two or three for nighttime use (we wash every other day), especially if you recommend something like that for greater leak protection.

Happily rested but slightly damp-ily yours,

Sarah

So I’m actually sitting in my toddler’s room right now, staring at my many overflowing baskets o’ cloth diapers and covers and doublers, trying FOR THE LIFE OF ME to remember which particular combination worked best for us at the stage you’re describing. (Sleeping for long stretches during the night, still primarily nursing/liquid diet, etc.) I should have kept notes, or something. Because just when you find something that works, they up and change the rules on you and the WHOLE SYSTEM needs to be revamped and reorganized.

(This is why disposable diaper users think we are crazy, by the way. Even though I secretly love this aspect of cloth diapering. It’s like a puzzle! An accessorizing puzzle! Like picking the perfect outfit for your Barbie doll! Only the stakes are higher because if you get it wrong, she’ll pee on you.)

ANYWAY. I think your wool cover sounds much too big. Maybe? I always used very snug-fitting wool covers and felt they worked very well that way. Or maybe I just thought that because I was cheap and didn’t feel like buying more once Ike seemed like he may have technically outgrown them. (Plus the Etsy seller who sold my favorite soaker style — reasonably priced, recycled wool, lightly felted, extra layer in the wet zone — closed her shop. BAH.) I would wash and re-lanolize whenever the covers started to “give” too much and look stretched out, so yeah. I think you should definitely try going down a size. I’m all for trying to maximize your CD investment but 2T/3T on a seven-month old seems like much too big of a size jump.

Now let’s talk about the guts of your cloth diaper. At this stage, I believe I abandoned the idea of anything labeled a “doubler.” I was using two or three doublers and adding SO MUCH BULK for so little added absorbency, and eventually figured out that I needed to add full-size INSERTS. (Cloth diaper terminology: A “doubler” will be smaller and thinner, intended for layering. An “insert” is usually designed to be a stand-alone diaper layer. You can take an insert and use it alone in a cover or pocket diaper, while a doubler could never be used by itself.) I also experimented with a lot of different fabrics, moving beyond 100% cotton.

As I already admitted, I don’t remember the ONE specific combo that worked the best. I remember switching things around a lot, and basically grabbing and stuffing as much fabric as possible from whatever happened to be clean and available at bedtime. But here are the building blocks I used for nighttime cloth diapers:

* GMD Workhorse fitteds in the next size up. (This left more room for extra inserts and doublers.)

* One-size pocket diapers. (bumGenius and FuzziBunz)

* GMD prefolds, size small and medium

* Thirsties Stay Dry Duo Insert

* Thirsties Fab Doubler Cotton Velour

* Knickernappies SuperDo inserts for overnight

* Loooooong snap-in bamboo fleece and velour inserts from Ike’s outgrown WAHM-made fitteds. They were seriously about a foot-and-a-half long and I loved them so. You could possibly find something similar on Etsy? The inserts were about four or five layers thick, but since you could fold them down two or three times, you could SERIOUSLY rack up the absorbency, and arrange it where your baby needed it most. (Boy vs. girl, tummy vs. back sleeper, etc.)

So I would basically start with a foundation diaper and layer it to the hilt.

Combo #1: A Workhorse fitted with one of the FULL SIZE inserts from Thirsties or Knickernappies, plus additional doublers. Two of the Thirsties Fabs, or one of the loooooong snap-in kind that I would just lay in, then fold over to add the maximum number of layers up in the wet zone. Then cover with a snug-fitting wool cover. His butt was super huge, yeah, though not as bad as you’d think as those particular inserts and doublers are very trim yet absorbent (unlike, say, trying to build a nighttime diaper solely out of 100% plain cotton prefolds and doublers).

Combo #2: A pocket diaper stuffed with as much fabric as I could make fit. A prefold wrapped around a full-size insert, plus a doubler. One insert, a small prefold and a doubler. Or just three inserts. I’d stuff the diaper and then lay and fold the WAHM-made insert on top. Sometimes I’d still top this off with a wool or fleece cover, just to catch any leaks around the edges.

So you could keep using everything you’ve already got, just add MORE. Buy some additional inserts (not doublers) in a combo of microfiber, hemp, velour, etc. so you can get as much absorbency in there without adding a ton of bulk. Size up in the fitteds to make room for more diaper guts, if you have to, but size down in the cover to hold it all in as tightly and snugly as possible.

OR, if you’re open to using PUL at night, I’ve recently started using the bumGenius one-size Flip covers and LOOOOOOOVE them. (Some babies can get rashy from being in a non-breathable cover all night, while others are just fine. Ike used to get rashes, but is totally fine with PUL now. The RULES. They keep CHANGING.) They’re basically the shell of a bumGenius pocket that you can stuff with everything and anything — fantastic if you’re an all-over-the-place type CD user like me and haven’t committed to one specific “system.” The Flips are MUCH sturdier than other PUL covers (the velcro is soooo much better than the Thirsties or Bummies), plus they fit Ike beautifully and stay in place all day and night. Highly recommend, fine holiday fun.

Okay, commenters. Have at it. What’s your favorite nighttime cloth diaper solution?

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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31 Responses to “Building a Better Nighttime Cloth Diaper”

  1. Allison Apr 22 at 4:21 pm Reply Reply

    Pooters hemp fitted under a Flip cover. We’ve been using this for over a year (daughter is 20 months) and have NEVER had a leak. While we didn’t cosleep, there were many nights when she woke up every hour or so to nurse, and I’d consider her a pretty heavy wetter.

    Only thing is that the Flip isn’t a wonderful fit over the Pooters–you might try a Blueberry or some other large cover–but it’s what we had and it’s worked great. We just have to be careful that the fitted isn’t peeking out at all.

  2. Jen K. Apr 22 at 4:42 pm Reply Reply

    For wool, my favorites for nights is Sustainablebabyish (SBish). Expensive, but so worth it. There is a B/S/T page on Facebook where you can get some good deals. It is double-layer machine knit, and so soft. Their OBF fitteds are also great nigh-time diapers. The other fitteds I like for nights are Twinkie Tush and Old School Cool — both WAHMs. My heavy-peeing son can wear an Old School Cool at night with no wool cover, and his sheets will be dry.
    Also, be sure that you are properly lanolinizing your wool. Washes with lanolin are not enough. Get some solid lanolin and mix it in a cup with hot water and some slivers from a wool-wash bar. Once it turns milky and the lanolin is melted, mix it into a sink full of very warm water. The result should be milky, with no lanolin “floaties” on top. Soak for at least an hour (I leave it overnight).

  3. Christie Apr 22 at 4:46 pm Reply Reply

    Bummis bamboozle fitted + trifolded GMD small prefold + wool longies. She is 11mo old and never a leak. She sleeps straight through 12 hrs

  4. Corinne Apr 22 at 4:52 pm Reply Reply

    Bububebe fitted with a Thirsties hemp doubler (or a full insert when he was still night nursing) with a close fitting wool cover, or a thirsties duo cover.  

    Or two Thirsties hemp inserts stuffed inside a BumGenius pocket/Fuzzibunz sized pocket (we like Medium, it has fit for over a year).  

  5. Kerry Apr 22 at 4:54 pm Reply Reply

    Your situation sounds very similar to ours with our 8 month old…one diaper all night with multiple midnight feedings while co-sleeping. We use Thirsties covers over a single large size Green Mountain prefold. Wool works for us during the day, but she would always soak through them at night. It sounds like we may have to rethink this as the weather starts getting warmer to avoid rashes…but maybe by then I’ll be able to cut down some of the night feedings.

    We also keep a glow-in-the-dark MAM pacifier in bed with us, and I always try that before nursing in the middle of the night, in the hopes of pushing her eating habits more into the waking hours. Emphasis is still on the hopes part of that though.

    • Tasterspoon Apr 24 at 1:35 am Reply Reply

      IDENTICAL situation: 7 mo baby, multiple nighttime feedings, trying to push the pacifier but succeeding rarely. My husband is a firm believer in paper diapers at night, but after three mornings in a row of a wet bed (and a huge poop blowout today) I’m tired of it. Tonight he’s in an overstuffed BG but we’ll see.
      (I’ve been tired of the midnight snacking for some time, but that’s another issue. I’m so tired that co-sleeping is my best chance for rest, though I think it’s a vicious circle since I’m so convenient.)

  6. Shera Apr 22 at 5:39 pm Reply Reply

    We do one-size Bum Genius, stuffed with the bum insert and an additional hemp insert (hemp is the size of a prefold that I tri-fold). This works well. She is still nursing a lot in the night and we don’t change mid-night.

  7. Liz Apr 22 at 5:47 pm Reply Reply

    Hemp is great stuff!  Super absorbent with a little less bulk.  We use two Joeybunz Little Kucks hemp doublers with a BumGenius insert inside a BumGenius pocket dipe.  Good luck!
    As always, great to hear your thoughts, Amy!

  8. Addie Apr 22 at 5:57 pm Reply Reply

    I have the same issue!!  But – we addressed the bed side of things instead of the diaper. Still co-sleeping, but baby lays on a little (lanolinized) wool pad covered with a pillowcase or a towel. Her clothes and sometimes the towel/sheet underneath get a little wet, but they are easy to change every morning. And don’t require buying new CD materials :) Worked for us!!

    • Tasterspoon Apr 24 at 1:27 am Reply Reply

      Brilliant. Hadn’t considered any alternative to a full on queen sized waterproof mattress pad – which is still a pain to wash. Am going to try this.

  9. autumn Apr 22 at 6:17 pm Reply Reply

    We weren’t co-sleeping with “snacks” at night, but we finally just caved and we use a disposable at night.  SHe’s 20 months, and we’ve been doing this for at least 3 months now.  To be absorbent enough to make it though the night, she couldn’t sleep comfortably or zip up her jammies.  (Grovia all in 2s with 2 doublers) She’s starting to show some interest in potty training, so I”m not willing to sink cash into more diaper stuff now, but I would look into a smaller wool cover for your little one, you have time to get the milage out of it

  10. Kristin Apr 22 at 6:54 pm Reply Reply

    Um, I don’t think your cloth diapers are the problem…by 6-8 months there shouldn’t be any nighttime feedings, even with co-sleeping. Someday you will need your baby to know how to sleep through the night without food or going pee and you want a good heavy sleep, not a series of light “naps”. While any habit can be broken you need to set your baby up for a lifetime of good sleep.

    • Olivia Apr 22 at 9:46 pm Reply Reply

      Nope. It’s perfectly normal for a breastfed baby to still nurse at night. http://kellymom.com/parenting/nighttime/sleep/. So, as long as the OP is okay with her baby nursing at night there is no need to change things.*

      As for the nighttime diapers, good luck to the OP. I was too frustrated with using cloth at night so I switched to disposable and just use cloth during the day.

      *My 11.5 month old still nurses 2 or 3 times a night and my first child nursed at least once a night for her first two years.

    • Myriam Apr 23 at 11:56 am Reply Reply

      I think that “technically”, once the baby doubles its birth weight, it can sleep through the night, meaning for 4-6 hours.  However, even if it is not necessary, does not mean it isn’t desirable for both parent and baby! However, if you are lucky even that you child is slepping for 8-12 hours, I agree that feedings are quite necessary!

  11. Sarah Apr 22 at 10:21 pm Reply Reply

    OP here to say that I think our problem was absorbency. We tried adding a trifolded (but folded the wrong way, with the thick part in the middle) yellow edge prefolds to the mix. No more leaking, but Lordy is his butt big! Amy, thanks so much for answering my question! I’m off to buy some better inserts, I think!

    And to anyone who may be concerned about our sleeping situation, I assure you, our parenting choices (CHOICES, mind you) have been very well researched by us (we have 7 degrees between the two of us) and approved by our pediatrician. We are very happy with our level of nighttime parenting, we would just prefer to stay dry :)

    • Myriam Apr 23 at 11:48 am Reply Reply

      You don’t mention your baby being unconfortable from wetness, but if he is, tryo to add yet another layer, in the form of a fleece liner inside the diaper, on the baby’s skin. 

      By the way, no need to justify yourself.  As long as you are good with your choices, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”!

  12. Julia Apr 22 at 10:51 pm Reply Reply

    not all diapers are created equal for overnights.  I find fitteds with wool to be a great combo, the best fitteds out there IMO are Twinkie Tush. Expensive, but so worth it.

  13. Kate Apr 23 at 1:37 am Reply Reply

    With our pee machine of a child, we do cloth during the day and a disposable at night. Life’s too short for washing sheets every day. She even wet through her disposable that was a size up from where she should be weight wise (we did that due to leakage too) last night. That was fun.
    We never got anything that could last longer than four hours on her overnight. Maybe the next baby won’t be quite so wet. :-)

    • Sarah Apr 26 at 11:54 am Reply Reply

      Dude yes! This! Our child reliably pees through the disposable diaper a size up from what he’s supposed to be! So we use a disposable at night AND we put the wool pad underneath him so he stays drier longer overnight but when he does eventually start the leaking I don’t have to change our sheets. We use cloth during the day with no problems though.

  14. Karen Apr 23 at 1:52 am Reply Reply

    Kristin must be new here. Amy you forgot to mention fleece covers! My second kid is a major night nurser abd we had this problem around the same age even with fleece covers. We switched to paper dipes for night for a couole months and then back to fb with a fb hemp insert (they are the best!) and a doubler with a fleece cover. I got the idea fron Amy, Etsy store is Izzies something or other.

  15. MR Apr 23 at 10:56 am Reply Reply

    I love our cloth diapers. But I never use them at night. Our dd simply pees too much, and I figured out a long time ago that one box of disposable diapers goes a long way when you simply use one for each night. It is still a vast cost savings, and lets me sleep at night without waking up to a wet and unhappy baby.

  16. Drew Apr 23 at 11:55 am Reply Reply

    We’re in the same boat (age, night nursing, no diaper changes at night, workhorses have too short a rise), and we use some seriously expensive WAHM fitteds (southern comfort, tangerine baby, bububebe) and different kinds of covers at night. Because the night time fitteds are enormous (the fitted plus all 3 of their snap in inserts), we had to nix our flip covers, and find some PUL covers with a wide cut. Blueberry coveralls are great over fitteds, and I found some on sale on their seconds site. I also use bummis the pull on cover, which is super cheap and works wonders. We have a Sbish wool cover that goes over his belly button (but not up to his armpits…), but even with being very heavily lanolized, will compression leak occasionally. I’ve only ever had leaks out of our other covers if his fitted is poking out of the cover or he’s wearing jammies with waist elastic. The fitteds are seriously soaked by morning, but we finally got a solution that works. But, if I didn’t hate the smell of disposables, I’d probably do those at night, since we’ve invested about as much in our night time stash as the rest of our BG 4.0 daytime stash…

  17. Kathryn Apr 23 at 1:00 pm Reply Reply

    We had the same issue, and what worked well for us was a BumGenius pocket diaper stuffed with one microfiber insert and 2 layers of hemp.  For hemp, I use Joeybunz Hemparoos.  THEY ARE AMAZING.  They come as 2 layers sewn together on one end.  For awhile I added a 3rd layer of hemp, because of ALL THE PEE.  Hemp is seriously amazing.  

    When I am stuffing my nighttime diapers, I keep the microfiber insert on top of the hemp layers because hemp absorbs more slowly.

  18. Michele Apr 23 at 2:33 pm Reply Reply

    Similar nighttime arrangements here, now on second kid. We sleep on a Brolly sheet (http://www.brollysheets.com/), which helps with (rare) nighttime baby wetness and milk leaks. On the baby, we use a Baby Beehinds bamboo fitted with a Thirsties cover or a Drybees Gone Natural bamboo/cotton/poly fitted (sadly, discontinued) + Hemp Babies hemp doubler with a Thirsties cover.

  19. Hillary Apr 23 at 3:58 pm Reply Reply

    I feel the need to point out, perhaps more explicitly, but in the same vein as some of the other posters, that if money is an issue, seriously price out your options! Your baby is probably at max peeing overnight now, but this won’t last as she 1) stops nursing as much at night, 2) starts eating more solids. So YMMV when it comes to buying a whole new diapering system. I say this as someone who bought a bunch of S’Bish fitteds and wool that totaled close to $100 and ended up in use for less than 4 months. I would’ve saved myself a lot of cash if I’d just used paper for the short time until she was peeing less and could stay overnight in the fleece pockets we already owned. Some diapers have better resale value than others (I sold the S’Bish supplies for $50), so consider that, too. Finally, IME, dealing with a peed through wool diaper was a major pain – washing and drying the wool took a lot of time requiring additional wool covers to fill the stash in. Washing sheets was less time and effort! Good luck with your diapering!

  20. Autumn Apr 24 at 2:44 pm Reply Reply

    I thought of this last night when taking the diapers out of the wash.  You might need to strip your doublers/inserts/liners whatever absorbent parts you are using.

    You didn’t say if your bay has started solids yet, but most have, and suddenly the poop isn’t quite as easy to wash out.  I never had to strip until my daughter started on solids (at 7 months, I waited only cause I didn’t want to have to deal with my MIL feeding her on vacation), and I have to strip them every 6 weeks or so.  At least it’s a cheap option to try.

    • Sarah Apr 26 at 11:57 am Reply Reply

      One thing I do is I do a cold rinse before a hot wash and I started adding vinegar to my rinse cycle (my water is super hard). It helps rinse everything out better and I don’t have to constantly strip my diapers.

  21. Karen Apr 24 at 9:49 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve had good luck with the following for my 8 month old boy (who sleeps from 7-6 with a wake-up to eat at around 3 but I don’t change him until 6 or 7):
    one gmd prefold, a hemp insert (BabyKicks Hemparoo), and either a flip or thirsties cover. The hemp insert seems to really help and we haven’t had leaks since we started using them.

  22. Margaret Apr 30 at 10:18 pm Reply Reply

    I have a seven month old boy also, who is usually very good at sleeping through the night.  My favorite night time diaper is a gmd workhorse fitted with an insert on the outside of the diaper and a Loveybums wool cover.  I dont know why it took me two kids to figure that out!  He sleeps on a sheepskin right now, but I love the recommendation of using a wool puddle pad under them at night!  I will do that when he finally moves to his crib (he is still in his bassinet on our washer!). Love this site and all the comments!

  23. Cristina May 19 at 3:02 am Reply Reply

    Over-stuffing pocket diapers did NOT work for us when baby started sleeping on his side (or nursing throughout the night like OP’s baby) since they have no side absorbency. We switched to fitteds with a wool cover. Sustainablebabyish snapless fitteds are good and already have two inserts included. I love Itti Bitti Boo fitteds though. Super cute, have snaps so they are easy to put on a wiggly baby, and SO absorbent ALL OVER. We have two wool covers, one is Sloomb/Sustainablebabyish and the other a Kissaluvs. The Sloomb one works much better and feels thicker. Wool covers are pricey so we only have two, and they get sunned when i remember so they are not smelly between washes and dry really really well. I think the solution is an awesomely absorbent fitted diaper, honestly. We have a super heavy wetter (now 12 months!) who still nurses throughout the night and this works well for us! I would not tolerate pee in my bed either :-P

  24. Paula Jul 23 at 12:26 am Reply Reply

    Lately I have been using Wonderful Bambino’s.( http:/wonderfulbambino.com )These things have saved me from the bad leaks and smells I was getting with microfibers and hemp.

    I want to try Sloomb as well.