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Cloth Diaper Problems and Troubleshooting

Building a Better Nighttime Cloth Diaper

By Amalah

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,


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

Amy Corbett Storch


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 [email protected].

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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