Keeping your infant dry and happy at night is a challenge for any parent. Some babies are more sensitive to nighttime wetness than others. For many, the solution has been to put their baby in a disposable diaper at night but there is still one large problem. Those diapers leak too! In fact, there are ways to make cloth or fabric diapers the best option for solving your baby's nighttime wetness problem.
Sometimes, the reason your baby may leak at night may be because the size of the diaper isn't right for your child. If the diaper is too large, it will leak because the diaper doesn't form a seal to your child's skin. If the diaper is too small, it will also leak because the pressure on the material affects its absorbency. There is a gray area in between that allows for the perfect fit for your child. If your child is leaking, consider changing the snap arrangement of the cloth diaper that you are using.
If you are having issues with the absorbency of your infant's diaper during the night, you could simply be using the wrong detergent. The laundry detergent you use to wash diapers can directly affect how the cloth absorbs liquid. Detergents with harsh chemicals or perfumes can accumulate inside the diaper, blocking the path for liquid to escape into the fabric. It is also recommended that you wash your diapers as well as the inserts at least 3-5 times before using them. This allows for better absorbency, which helps to keep the overnight cloth diaper last longer while your baby stays drier. View our guide on washing cloth diapers.
When you've chosen the best size for your baby and are washing with the right detergent, then you must select an insert that will help to quickly absorb any mess your child might have through the night. The best materials for an insert will be made from an all-natural material such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo.
Bamboo is very popular as an insert as it quickly wicks moisture way from your baby's skin and helps to keep them dryer through the night. A bamboo insert can be layered with other bamboo inserts or those made from other fabrics. For better absorption, simply add more inserts inside your baby's diaper. This will increase the amount of liquid the diaper will hold through the night.
Hemp can be deceptively thin, but there is no doubt inserts made out of it are super absorbent. Hemp inserts hold approximately 2.5 times more liquid than synthetic microfiber, and they don't dry out a baby's skin like microfiber can. This fabric can go inside the pocket of a diaper or be stacked with other inserts for greater layers of protection.
Cotton is an absorbent material and makes a wonderful liner for a baby's diaper if made organically. Cotton is strong, holds a great deal of liquid, but tends to dry more stiffly than either bamboo or hemp. Cotton may be used in conjunction with other fabrics to reach optimum absorption.
Microfiber is a synthetic fabric that is very absorbent. One downside to using microfiber is that it tends to hold smells unlike natural fabrics. It also is thicker, and therefore makes a diaper more bulky at night. The last downside is that a microfiber insert cannot touch your baby's skin; it will cause dryness and possible irritation. Natural fabrics are also less affected by chemical or waste buildup by improper washing or poor choice of detergent.
Wool, yes wool. Wool is naturally water resistant because of the lanolin which is also naturally anti-bacterial. Wool absorbs about 30% of it's weight without feeling wet, which means over spill from one of the above fabrics will be absorbed by the wool but not into the bed sheets. An insert can be used against baby's skin if they are sensitive to wetness or as the last layer under other fabrics. Wool inserts also don't need to be washed every time because they can be reused many times between washings. The downside is that the lanolin will eventually wear off and should be re-lanolized about once a month with a product such as Lansinoh Lanolin. Wool also should only be hand washed, or in the wool cycle, with a wool specific detergent such as Eucalan or olive oil soap.
Pocket diapers are a great choice as overnight cloth diapers because they're less bulky and are already designed to hold the absorbent liners we've discussed. You can use the pocket, or just layer the liners one on top of each other inside the pocket diaper. You can do this with any fabric choice, but just remember; microfiber must never touch your baby's skin. Pocket diapers make it less difficult to find an insert and diaper combination that will help to keep your child leak proof through the night. After all, the ultimate goal is in figuring out which insert is best for your baby and which diaper works best to meet your family's needs. This can feel like a huge process - just don't be scared to experiment around with what works for you.