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Cloth Diaper Problems and Troubleshooting

Yeast Infections & Cloth Diapers

By Amalah

Amy,

I absolutely adore your blog. You are so level headed and down to earth. You helped me out with a dilemma over lavender oil when I was pregnant and thought I would throw myself on your wisdom once again.

I have a wonderful 4 month old little boy. He is exceptionally happy and a fantastic sleeper. He started sleeping through the night at two months and usually sleeps between 10 and 12 hours a night. I know – everyone reading that hates my guts haha.

While I am delighted with his sleeping habits, it is causing a problem with his cloth diapers. I use the Bum Genius Elemental All-in-Ones. When he sleeps so long (which really only started within the past two/three weeks), he sits in a wet diaper all night and the urine up against his skin is causing both yeast infections and rashes. I’ve obviously gone to the doctor and gotten cream for the infection/rash, but is there anything I can do to make this better? I know changing diapers more often helps rashes, but I hate to wake the kid up when he’s sleeping so soundly, but if I can’t come up with a better solution, I may have to resort to that. I’ve debated putting him in disposables at night only, but I don’t know if that would help. He usually sleeps 10 pm – 9 am, so I think he could get up earlier, but he will NOT go to sleep before 10. If I put him to bed earlier, he “talks” to himself or fusses until 10, when it’s like a switch going off.

I don’t know if this helps, but I wash my diapers every other day with a cold rinse, followed with a hot wash with two rinses, using Charlie’s Soap (and the normal amount of soap).

Thanks for any advice and keep up the good work 🙂

Okay, since your son was officially diagnosed with an actual yeast infection (which can form for SO MANY REASONS, in cloth or disposables), you need to strip and fully disinfect your diapers. Washing them in the “proper” way with regular detergent will NOT kill the yeast bacteria so your son will continue to get reinfected by the diapers. Not to mention if you used a prescription cream for the yeast while still continuing to cloth diaper, you’re likely going to see some repelling/leaking issues fairly soon.

Yeast is a totally different monster than the typical, run-of-the-mill diaper irritation rashes — I dealt with it twice, once in disposables and once in cloth. (First time was thrush following a c-section and antibiotics and my ignorance at the time about the need to take a good probiotic supplement; second time was less clear, but I suspect it started with a “normal” rash that got out of hand and/or a candida overgrowth of my own that I again passed via breastmilk.)  It’s certainly not fun in either diaper scenario, but it’s definitely is more of a pain in cloth.

When using a prescription cream, it’s probably easiest to just make a temporary switch to disposables until the rash is truly gone and healed and you can go back to a cloth diaper safe cream. Some sites recommend just using diaper liners to protect the diapers, but either way, you absolutely 100% need to strip the diapers to prevent an endless cycle of reinfection.

As with All Things Cloth Diapering, there are a million different opinions on how to best strip your diapers. You’ll even find plenty of sites that pooh-pooh the idea of stripping all together, basically claiming it just means UR WASHING IT WRONG and some minor tweaks to your laundering process will solve any and all problems without the need to strip. I can probably go back and forth on that one, but one thing everyone agrees on is that stripping is a totally necessary evil in the event of yeast, or any other bacterial infection that shows up via poop.

In all honesty, bleach is usually the simplest, one-and-done option for killing yeast in cloth diapers. This is why I ultimately ditched the seemingly more convenient all-in-ones and pocket diapers in favor of basic prefolds and covers. I could bleach the hell out of the prefolds without worrying about damaging the waterproof covers. (Or just toss grody infected prefolds and restock with the next size up for a minimal investment.) I couldn’t find anything specifically on bleaching the bumGenius AIOs, but here’s guidance from GroVia on bleaching post-yeast.

When I used pocket diapers with baby #2, I disinfected them using liquid grapefruit seed extract (GSE). You add about two full tablespoons to a hot wash cycle. NOTE, however, that when I personally used GSE for stripping purposes, it was because of diaper stink and repelling, NOT YEAST. I can attest that it did work for that purpose, albeit after several cycles. With the recurring yeast infections I skipped the GSE (it’s a lot more expensive and I was just so utterly DONE with risking reinfection, and also it was baby #3 and I was done being so precious about everything). I used a bit of bleach in a hot water soak…and then rinsed and rinsed (and rinsed), and then put them in the dryer on the highest heat setting. This site also falls more in the pro-bleach, anti-GSE camp (here’s why) and gives detailed instructions for bleaching diapers both during and after a yeast infection. This site takes a hybrid approach, if you’d prefer to use both GSE and bleach to be extra doubly sure.

If you don’t want to add bleach to your washer, note that you can also just soak the diapers in a bucket of boiling water and bleach, then rinse a few times in the wash to fully get rid of any residue. Some sites claim that boiling the diapers alone without any additives will effectively kill yeast — I’d be super interested to hear from any commenters if they’ve found that to be true. Another popular recommendation is blue Dawn liquid soap, but that can at best, void your machine warranty, or at worst, cause actual damage to your machine. I wouldn’t try it, although remember Blue Dawn for later when your son is a toddler and puts lipstick on your cat.

Note that you need to disinfect EVERYTHING that came in contact with the infection — wet bags, cloth wipes, pail liners, all of it. If you’re nursing and not taking a probiotic supplement, ask your doctor to recommend one.

Once you’re really truly sure 1) the yeast infection is gone, 2) his poor little bum is fully healed, and 3) your cloth stash is properly disinfected, how to deal with the overnight problem? Adding a separate moisture-wicking microfiber liner can help, as can making sure your son has as much bare-bottom time during the day as possible. Believe me, naked butt time is a gamechanger when it comes to diaper rashes of all stripes. It can get a little messy, yes, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off to a painful rash!  Make up for the prolonged nighttime exposure by changing daytime diapers ASAP and avoid wipes that have any additives or fragrance. (For now, while the rash is bad, I’d say avoid commercial wipes completely and use plain wet cloth wipes, or spray bottle of plain water and let him air dry. Goal is to keep him as clean as possible with as little wiping as possible. You could also add a couple drops of tea tree oil to the spray bottle for extra anti-fungal help, or look up other homemade cloth wipe solutions.)

And of course, remember that his sleeping habits now, at four months, are not any reliable indication of his sleeping habits at five, six, whatever months. (Hell, probably aren’t even reliable for how long he’ll sleep tonight.) So enjoy his sleep now, but on any occasion that he does wake up for any reason, go ahead change his diaper to promote healing and prevent another flare-up. I feel PRETTY good that your current rash woes are tied to the yeast problem, and once that’s fully and truly dealt with and you’re back to the more run-of-the-mill diaper rash prevention from the previous paragraph, his long block of sleep won’t cause too many problems, butt-wise.

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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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Comments

  • Mag

    You don’t want to put microfibre right next to a baby’s skin! A fleece layer is what you mean, to wick the wetness away from the skin. Microfibre underneath might help but not right next to the skin.

  • DJ

    Bleach is the best way (check out Fluff Love University for really nice instructions; http://www.fluffloveuniversity.com/troubleshooting/dealing-with-yeast-in-cloth-diapers/). When we had a yeast infection, I did a bleach soak then bleached the diapers in every wash until two weeks *after* the rash had disappeared (note: we continued to use the anti-fungal cream until then, too). My LO is allergic to disposables, so using them wasn’t an option. The yeast did not return.

    Also, the diapers were fine (we use pockets, with a few AIO). Just make sure you dilute the bleach properly.

    • CJ

      CJ agrees with DJ… May daughter had a yeast infection after a round of antibiotics when she was about 9ish months old, and the stripping/bleaching instructions from Fluff Love University were spot on. If you’re going to be stripping anyway, (it sounds so dirty, doesn’t it??) you may possibly want to reconsider using Charlie’s Soap – we also used it at first, and it did not clean our diapers well enough which lead to stink and just general grossness. Many people (not us, thankfully) have also reported chemical burns on their babies’ bums from Charlies (I think Fluff Love also has a page about “why we don’t recommend Charlies”). We switched to plain old powder Tide and haven’t had issues since.

      Also, you can cut up a microfleece blanket (the kind they sell at Walmart for $3) and lay the liners in the Elementals, which will help to wick the moisture away from baby’s bum. In the future, if you find the Elementals start leaking after such a long night, you can try switching to fitteds and a cover. That’s what my 2-year old wears for 12 hours overnight with no leaks. Our favorites are from Green Mountain Diapers, and Sweet Pea Diapers. Good luck, rashy bums are no fun!

  • Lindsay

    When my son had a yeast infection the only thing that got the yeast out was bleach. I use bum genius pockets and just added bleach to my wash cycle. I was afraid it would damage the covers but I found no evidence of it. I wouldn’t recommend using bleach regularly on your cloth diapers but I don’t think using it occasionally will do much harm. I tried the grapefruit seed extract first and the yeast came right back.

    • Caro

      Desitin is the best. The longest lasting of all the diaper creams.

  • MS

    We use cloth during the day and disposables at night. My son sleeps 12 hours at night and is a heavy wetter so there is no amount of cloth that would work, plus he’s very rash prone so using disposables at night gives his butt a break (and we can lather on the non-cloth friendly desitin at night if necessary). I love our cloth diapers but I also do not want to get up multiple times a night to change him if I don’t have to (he’s 18 mos). Just my experience and opinion.

    • CJ

      Have you tried fitteds with a cover for overnights? No amount of stuffing in a pocket will last overnight for us, but a fitted with an extra hemp insert will last my 2-year-old 12 hours.

  • Molly

    I’m here to say, you might want to avoid putting even the tiniest bit of tea tree oil on a rashy bum. I can still hear the screams in my nightmares…

  • Amy Renee

    Boiling should kill yeast – for baking and brewing yeast, temperatures above 120F starts to damage yeast and over 140F generally kills them. Unfortunately, unless your washer or dryer has a sanitize cycle, chances are just regular hot washing isn’t enough – most people set hot water heaters at 120F or under, and the water in the washer will therefore be colder than that, especially if the diapers have already had a cold rinse. And if your diapers are repelling, even the sanitize cycle might not penetrate all the way into the fabric.

    If you have a yard and don’t mind looking like a crazy hippie/witch out doing your laundry over a cauldron, you can boil the diapers in a large pot outside, so your house doesn’t get super humid and stink of rotten boiled diapers. We don’t have air conditioning in our house, so we have discovered we can do canning and other boiling/cooking tasks on a burner that was originally sold as an outdoor turkey fryer hooked up to the propane tank from our grill.

    If you don’t wind up directly bleaching the diapers, I’d suggest at least bleaching out the washer regularly by running it either empty or with an old towel or two, hot water and bleach.

    Good luck, yeast are evil, sneaky creatures!

    • bookworm81

      When my washer was in the kitchen pantry I would boil water on the stove and to the wash cycle to kill yeast. After we moved and the washer was in the basement I would just wait until the kids were in bed, turn up the water heater really high, watch a TV show, wash on hot, and immediately turn the water heater temp back down.

  • Jennifer

    Overnight disposables work really well for us for 12 hours. No leaking and no rashes. When he leaks, we go up a size and the problem is fixed!

  • biteykitty

    We did naked baby time a bunch when our daughter was little (not crawling) to help manage diaper rash. I used to put her on disposable, incontinence bed pads (in the same area as adult diapers) and just let her hang naked for a half hour or so. We used disposables, and for her sensitive booty, Honest and Seventh Generation, but Pampers and Huggies irritated her skin. Also, the Aquaphor (we use the store brand “healing ointment”) really worked for us as a rash cream.

  • EmilyG

    I boiled all of my son’s diapers to get rid of yeast, and it totally worked. I boiled them all and then washed them like normal AND switched to disposables until the yeast infection was completely gone. Good luck!

  • bookworm81

    My experience with GSE was similar to Amy’s; it worked but only after multiple treatments and it was expensive. I hate bleach and don’t even have it in the house but extremely hot water (over 140 degrees which if you don’t have a “sanitize” cycle can be achieved by adding boiling water directly to the washer or raising the temperature on your hot water heater for about an hour) and a good amount of borax (1/4 – 1/2 cup) works great.

    My third is 16 months old and although all of my kids have been cloth diapered from birth my 2nd was the only one we’ve been able to cloth diaper at night past infancy. My oldest was a super soaker by 4-5 months old and although we tried everything (except fitteds with wool because I’m allergic) nothing worked. My youngest just has a super sensitive bottom and can’t tolerate the wetness next to his skin, especially if he poos before he wakes up (which was almost every day for about 6 months). I don’t love it but only paying for one disposable a day means I can afford the super expensive most eco-friendly disposables which makes me feel a little better.

  • KHD

    Minor microbiology nerd correction: yeast is a fungus, not a bacterium! Which is why a yeast infection acts differently than bacteria do, and must be treated differently.