This is the fourth in a series of posts about cloth diapering. If you’re interested in starting from the beginning, you should begin with cloth diapers, pt. 1: why, oh why?. If you’ve already decided that you want to cloth diaper, learn more about some different diapering choices with cloth diapers, pt. 2: decisions, decisions. For basic information about the day-to-day issues involved with cloth diapers, head to cloth diapers, pt. 3: the grind.
This post will focus specifically on cloth diapering overnight. I touched briefly on this subject in the third post in this series, but given the fear and trepidation that many people have regarding using cloth overnight, it seemed appropriate to dedicate a post entirely to this issue.
Cloth by Day, ‘Sposies by Night
Many people who cloth diaper choose not to do so overnight. It’s just simpler to slap on a ‘sposie and pick up the cloth again in the morning. The idea has tempted me from time to time, but when I actually had to abandon my cloth temporarily because of a yeast rash that wouldn’t quit, I was disabused of the notion that disposables are a bulletproof option for overnight diapers. We had leaks pretty much every night with disposables until we tried Luvs, which were the cheapest option. We’ve had a few leaks with the Luvs, but they didn’t fail routinely, which is more than I can say for any of the other brands we tried.
In general, disposables are more absorbent than cloth, so theoretically they will hold out better over the 12 hour (give or take) sleep period. However, there will likely be some trial and error involved in finding a brand that works for your baby. For me, it didn’t seem worth it to invest in a cloth stash only to also plan on using disposables on a regular basis. I’m not such a purist that I refuse to use ‘sposies when it makes good sense to do so, but cloth diapering will save you a lot more money if you don’t also keep buying disposables.
If you do find yourself with a surplus of disposables that leak consistently overnight, you could try (like we did) using a cover to seal in the leaks. For us it helped but didn’t solve the problem, since the disposables are just too trim for the covers to make a proper fit over them.
The Early Weeks
For me, overnight diapering my brand newborn wasn’t really an issue. He woke up several times each night to eat, and pooped pretty much every one of those times. Once the baby poops, the diaper is finished, so his nighttime diapers really didn’t need to last much longer than his daytime ones for the first few weeks. My newborn diapers were tiny and fit my little one well, but wouldn’t have been absorbent enough to last more than a few (3-4?) hours.
If, however, you find that you have one of those babies who enjoy spending their nights sleeping, you may need a diaper that fits your tiny little bundle but soaks up a lot. Because I didn’t have to deal with this issue personally, I don’t have any firsthand advice to give. I have read about fitted diapers being very absorbent and wonderful as an overnight option. Of course the absorbency of a fitted will vary depending on the material (natural fibers being more absorbent than microfiber), and thickness. Premium fitted diapers with great reviews tend to be a bit pricey, from what I’ve seen, and they require covers, so they may not be the most economical option. However, they come in newborn sizes and can be used in conjunction with inserts to provide additional absorbency.
I was able to put my son in his BumGenius Freetime all-in-one diapers overnight for a couple of months past the tiny baby stage. In the interest of full disclosure I will confess that during these months I still had to frequently change his diaper during the night, as he often still pooped during night feedings (though not every time, or even every night).
As my son grew, he soaked the Freetimes more, and when I found that they wouldn’t last overnight anymore I simply began laying a cotton prefold under the stay-dry flaps in the diaper to boost the absorbency. This bought me more time with the Freetimes as overnight diapers.
Things started getting tricky when Baby Guy began rolling over consistently. We discovered that he much prefers sleeping on his tummy, which was great for adding extra sleep hours into our nights, but terrible for preventing diaper leaks overnight. Boys soak the front of their diapers quickly anyway, as a general rule, and tummy sleeping boys are a doubly difficult challenge. During this phase, the Bumgenius Freetime/prefold combo began to fail regularly, and I moved on to my Best Bottom all-in-twos for overnight. I tried just putting two of the regular microfiber Best Bottom inserts in the diaper, but microfiber is prone to compression leaks, so all of that pressure from my little tummy sleeper on the most saturated parts of the inserts made for a lot of nighttime diaper/pajama/sheet changes.
This was when we made the move from small Best Bottom microfiber inserts to the large size. At the same time, I bought two Best Bottom hemp overnight inserts to try. These inserts snap into the Best Bottom covers, and allow you to snap a Best Bottom microfiber (or whatever fiber you have) on top. The microfiber sucks up moisture quickly and wicks it away from the skin, and the hemp below it takes in the moisture from the microfiber more slowly, but it can hold a lot and isn’t prone to compression leaks. This was a winning combination for awhile, but due to the sheer bulk of the inserts, it was difficult to get them into the Best Bottom cover and still get a good fit around my son’s skinny little legs and waist. It was doable, but some nights if I didn’t spend a good amount of time really inspecting and adjusting the diaper before his pajamas went on over the diaper, we ended up with a leak.
At this point in the game formula feeding and solids began, and so did the diaper rash that wouldn’t quit. We ended up in disposables for quite awhile here, day and night, because I had to use about a gallon of ointment and prescription powders every day. I missed my cloth diapers the whole time, but it is what it is.
When the yeast finally began to calm down, we took a trip to Ecobuns and came home with two new diapers: Grovia O.N.E.s. They are beautifully soft all-in-ones (sort of, the inserts snap in and out for faster drying and customization), the solid colors are gorgeous (I’m not a fan of their prints) and they were recommended to us as a great choice for overnight diapering. My son, who was still drinking about 8 ounces of formula during the night was wetting overnight diapers pretty heavily, and these diapers held (and still hold) up. We use both inserts, but fold the bottom one in half toward the front of the diaper to boost absorbency where he needs it the most. In the morning, the O.N.E. weighs approximately 84 pounds, but the jammies and sheets are still dry, so consider me a fan. The one issue with Grovia O.N.E. diapers that we’ve had is that we do have to be quite careful to get a snug fit around the leg, or a leak is possible. This takes a bit of extra time, but I think this issue is less to do with the diaper and more to do with the boy’s tiny thighs.
*Bonus detail: Grovia O.N.E. diapers all come the way I’ve shown this one, with snaps and the 2 inserts. However, they also come with hook-and-loop strips that snap into the waist and tab snaps! That way you can choose which type of closure you’d like to use, and you can remove the hook-and-loop before laundering, which extends the life of the little loops quite a bit, I’d imagine. I use the snaps almost always, but every once in awhile when I feel like I could get a more precise fit with the hook-and-loop I pop it onto the diaper, and voila, a perfectly customizable fit.
Our other overnight option at this point is the Thirsties Duo Wrap in size 2, which was really too big for Baby Guy until fairly recently. It turns out that, in addition to being completely adorable (I basically only bought these because I couldn’t resist the prints), they are incredible diaper covers. They’re thinner than my other covers, so I was afraid they might not be as waterproof, but they’re stretchy and reliable. They are also still pretty roomy on my son, so it’s not hard at all to stuff them for overnight. I use the Duo Wrap with a Best Bottom microfiber insert and a Best Bottom hemp overnight insert (both in size large) snapped together. They don’t snap into the Duo Wrap, but because they’re snapped to each other I don’t have to worry about the scratchier hemp insert irritating Baby Guy’s sensitive skin. The Duo Wrap fits almost effortlessly on my little one’s slim legs and his belly (note the elastic around both the front and back of the waist); its stretch accommodates a tighter fit without making it uncomfortable for Baby Guy. The two Best Bottom inserts provide all the absorbency he needs without being so bulky that it is uncomfortable for him. Baby Guy stays dry; we stay happy.
I usually wash the diapers about every other day now, sometimes every third day. My stash is on the small side, so I have to wash that often, and even if I had a larger stash I don’t really want dirty diapers sitting around for longer than 2-3 days between washes. So at the moment we have a total of 4 diapers (2 Grovia O.N.E.s and 2 Thirsties Duo Wraps) designated as “overnight” options, and it’s enough. The one time that I put off laundry so long that they were all dirty at the same time I was able to successfully use a Best Bottom cover with the two Best Bottom inserts to last through the night, so it’s nice to know that it can be done. The bottom line is, though, that we can save a lot of money by using the same 4 diapers over and over again for night diapering.
That wraps it up for overnighting in cloth, but I’ll continue add to this series of posts as often as people keep asking for information about our family’s cloth diapering experience. If you have questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!