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Cloth Diaper Problems and Troubleshooting

Yeast Infections & Cloth Diapers

By Amalah


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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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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