Cloth diapers are a smart decision for most parents – they are more cost-efficient, environmentally friendly, and made without harsh chemicals like standard disposable diapers. But when you have a heavy wetter on your hands, it can be frustrating to find the right diaper that works and still gives you all the benefits of cloth.
So while sometimes it may seem easier to just throw in the towel (or diaper) and reach for the big name disposable diaper, there are many solutions when it comes to cloth diapers, and sometimes it just takes a bit of experimentation to figure out what works for your little one.
One of the main things to consider is if heavy wetting is a consistent thing or if it only happens overnight. Some children are heavy wetters no matter when they go, but others only really have the problem during the night.
Another thing to keep in mind is that no matter if you’re using cloth diapers or not, leaks are going to happen at some point. That doesn’t necessarily mean the diaper is made poorly or is a sign for switching, but if it is happening consistently, that’s when it’s time to consider trying new things.
Each child is different, and each parent is different, so what works for some, might not work for others, but either way, heavy wetters don’t have to be the enemy of cloth diapers and here are some of the best diaper inserts to hold it all in.
Cotton is a good choice as it is all-natural and has good absorbency. Cotton is one of the oldest fibers used in diapering, and there is a reason it has stuck around this long. It’s versatile and comes in a variety of forms from pre-folds to disposable liners. The problem with cotton though is even though it is absorbent, it is a slow-to-dry fiber, so bad for overnight wetters that might sleep through a big leak and are laying in a wet diaper for a long time. Also, not all cotton is equal so be sure to get organic, all-natural, undyed cotton if you don’t want to expose your little one to those harsh chemicals.
Best Cotton Insert:
- Thirsties Reusable Organic Cotton Cloth Diaper Doubler is a great choice.
Bamboo, while a natural fabric, is usually not natural in diaper insert form. The bamboo that is made for cloth diapers is usual more synthetic than other bamboo fabrics, but not any less effective. It can be used on its own as a great absorber or together with hemp for extra protection. Bamboo is also a softer fabric than hemp and is better at wicking away moisture than cotton so it can be one of the best.
Best Bamboo Insert:
Hemp is another excellent natural alternative insert option. It can be grown without any chemicals, so it is a more natural choice than certain cottons. It is also highly absorbent but is a slow-to-absorb fabric. It can be great when used in conjunction with other inserts to protect your heavy wetter from leaks and sitting in an uncomfortably wet diaper for too long. The main downsides of hemp are that it tends to dry hard and will need some softening up in the dryer to be more comfortable. Also, unlike cotton it will hang on to odors more, so make sure you keep it extra clean.
Best Hemp Insert:
- The hemp/cotton inserts from HappyEndings are loved among a lot of cloth diapering mommas’, including myself!!
Micro- and other manmade fibers
While natural fibers tend to be the most sustainable and least likely to be harmful to skin, there are some benefits to using man-made fibers, especially together with natural ones if your child needs the extra layers.
Microfiber is one of the most absorbent materials on the market and a reason why it is among the most popular for cloth diaper users. It absorbs quickly but also dries quicker than natural materials which makes it ideal for heavy wetters. Some of the issues with microfiber though is that it’s not biodegradable, has compression leaks and often retains odors and build up with can get gross quickly. Also, microfiber can’t be placed directed against the baby’s skin unlike all the natural fabrics because it can cause dry skin and rashes.
Best Micro Insert:
There are also newer blended fabrics that work well for heavy wetters. Some of these include Zorb which is a mix of cotton, bamboo, viscose, and microfiber. It is less bulky than the other ones and can provide the benefits of all its core materials combines. It won’t hold odors like pure microfiber and generally has a long life before it needs to be retired. The downsides are that it’s not completely natural, not as easy to find, and more expensive than the other options. Thirsties has a blended-fabric insert that is made of hemp and cotton and holds so much more than bamboo inserts! I personally love the HappyEndings brand because they have lasted forever and are super absorbent!
Best Blended Insert:
- The hemp/cotton inserts from HappyEndings are my #1 choice!
Another option that many heavy wetter parents use is “doubling” or using multiple inserts to keep their child dry. Some of the options above dive into that a bit, but it’s good to try single inserts first, as doubling can cause bulkier diapers that don’t fit as neatly on the legs, which causes separate leaks. It also means more laundry for mom! It is a good option to keep in mind though, especially at night to keep your little one dry and comfortable, despite heavy wetting.
Best Doubler Insert:
What I Personally Use
I use prefolds (sized based on the rise of the diaper), flats and flour sack towels to stuff mine. Not the trimmest option but I rarely have leak issues unless they have been in the diaper for a while like after nap. For nap and overnight, I love-love-love my hemp inserts! You can read about my “Overnight Update With My Hemp Inserts” here.
I also use covers every day too. They are so useful! I find they hold the most and washing & drying is so much easier. I also started using the cotton flats as a bib on my 7-month old, totally saves the whole outfit. I have always used them as burp cloths, changing pad, cleaning rag, & so much more.
I recommend going with natural fibers if you can. Cotton, bamboo and hemp (absorbency from least to greatest in that order). Charcoal bamboo is just glorified microfiber and fleece, and no it is not antimicrobial so you can pass on those. Some people wrap their microfiber inserts with a flour sack towel for a cheap way to add some extra absorbency. You can double up inserts as well if you need more absorbency. Just make sure it isn’t overstuffed or you can get leg gaps and leaks
While it can feel overwhelming to figure out exactly what is right for your child, don’t stress too much. Many cloth diaper enthusiasts will tell you all of the trials and errors they went through before actually finding the things that work. Each child and their potty habits are different but using the insert types above and trying them can help figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.