Cloth diapers are made of two main parts – the cover or diaper and the cloth diaper insert. I’m explaining all about the absorbent fabrics that are used and how to choose the best cloth diaper inserts for your cloth diapers.
Don’t let cloth diapering overwhelm you. It really is easy and green. If you’re researching how cloth diapers work or how to make them work better for you and your baby, you’re likely either new to cloth diapers OR are having leaking issues. Today, I’m going to help you solve those issues and answer ALL your questions about cloth diaper inserts!
In this post, I will breakdown the different types of diaper inserts and find answers to all your questions like:
- What are the best cloth diaper inserts for heavy wetters?
- What are cloth diaper liners?
- How many cloth diaper inserts do I need?
- Can I use disposable inserts?
Even if you’re a veteran at cloth diapering, it can be overwhelming when you start looking at all of the choices in how to cloth diaper and what type of cloth diapers to use. That’s why I have a whole post dedicated to helping you choose which cloth diapers would be best for your family.
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Pocket diapers, Hybrids, and Fitteds & Cloth Diaper Covers all use different cloth diaper inserts and materials.
So, in this post, we’re looking specifically at the different types of cloth diaper inserts, boosters, and diaper liners that are most popular in the cloth diapering world and their purpose and helping you to decide which is the best cloth diaper inserts for your baby and the cloth diapers you are using!
What are cloth diaper inserts?
First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with terminology.
Cloth diaper inserts are the part of the diaper that absorbs liquid. They are essentially the “workhorse” of the cloth diaper. For example, a pocket diaper with no insert, well, it wouldn’t do you any good at all because it would essentially just work as a diaper cover.
Cloth diaper inserts usually come with pocket diapers, but they are available to buy individually for extra absorbency.
Cloth Diaper Liners – Boosters – Doublers
While this post is most about cloth diaper inserts, let’s discuss other cloth diaper accessories that you’ll see most associated with cloth diaper inserts.
Cloth diaper inserts can also be referred to as boosters or doublers. Just think of adding an extra insert as in “boosting the absorbency”. Boosters are simply extra cloth diaper inserts, which is why inserts are also sold separately.
Cloth diaper liners sit on the top layer of a diaper and protect your baby’s bottom, as well as the cloth diaper.
Liners are a cloth diapering accessory that have nothing to do with absorbency.
There are 2 different types of Diaper Liners [reusable and disposable] which are primarily used for 3 different reasons:
- Protect your diapers from diaper creams.
- Keep your baby’s skin drier.
- Easy clean-up of diapers [especially useful when traveling with cloth diapers].
Reusable Diaper Liners: This type of diaper liner is usually made from fleece and can be washed with your diaper laundry [unless they have lots of diaper cream on them, in which case I would suggest washing separately].
You can purchase reusable liners from many cloth diaper stores or simply make your own reusable diaper liners! Cut up strips of fleece, bought from a craft store, and lay them in your cloth diapers.
If you are concerned about your baby’s skin staying too wet in cloth diapers, you can line them with a fleece reusable diaper liner. The fleece is amazing in that it wicks away moisture, but allows the urine to pass through, keeping their skin completely dry! This is why you’ll most often see pocket cloth diapers made with fleece lining.
Disposable Cloth Diaper Liners: These are very, very thin sheets of liners that are almost like toilet paper sheets. They lay into your diaper the same way as reusable ones, but they are meant to be thrown away. Most are flush-able diaper liners.
+ Even if you’re using cloth diaper safe diaper creams, you may want to use a liner to help protect your diaper from encountering any build-up from the cream.
+ If you’re traveling, don’t have a diaper sprayer, or just don’t like dealing with cleaning dirty cloth diapers – flushable disposable liners [these are my favorite] can be your best friend! Simply take out the liner and throw it away or flush! They help minimize cloth diaper stains too!
What are the types of cloth diaper inserts?
Cloth diaper inserts can be made from a variety of materials, to work with any cloth diaper budget. The four most commonly used diaper inserts are: Microfiber, Bamboo, Cotton, and Hemp.
All of these materials are used for different reasons – some absorb fast, some slow; some absorb more, some less.
- Microfiber – This material absorbs liquids fast. It’s cheap and does a great job as a cloth diaper insert, which is why so many manufacturers use it. The downsides of microfiber are: It can’t be put against baby’s skin, it’s known for holding in smells like “microfiber funk”, it can be bulky if you need to add more than 1 insert for a heavy wetter.
- Minky – It’s extremely trim and seems to hold about the same as a microfiber insert that is comparable in size.
- Bamboo – This material is super absorbent and is often used in conjunction with a Hemp Blend. You’ll often see Charcoal Bamboo inserts used in cloth diapering.
- Cotton – Cotton inserts are an excellent choice for anyone, especially if you are a tighter budget as they tend to be less expensive. Cotton does tend to dry stiff if you air dry, but is a relatively good absorbent inserts for the price.
- Hemp – The Cadillac of Inserts – It will hold about 2.5x the amount of a microfiber insert comparable in size and is very trim.
Expert Tip: Everyone always asks my favorite type of cloth diaper insert and I answer quickly… hemp. It just worked the best for my girls and my favorite way to use them was with a thin microfiber insert laid on top of a thin hemp insert inside a pocket diaper.
I have a blog post solely dedicated to the best absorbent materials for cloth diapers in case you want to try to make your own too!
Inserts can go in the pocket of a diaper or lay in a cover and sit directly against baby’s skin – EXCEPT FOR MICROFIBER. Microfiber should never be placed directly against your baby’s bottom. It pulls in moisture and could dry out your child’s skin.
So that leads us to everyone’s question – what are the best cloth diaper inserts?
As you can imagine, this question doesn’t have a straightforward answer because the answer will vary greatly depending on your baby, your current cloth diapers, and your budget.
If you had an unlimited budget, I would highly recommend trim microfiber inserts like the ones that come with Fuzzibunz or bumgenius pocket diapers. Along with some fantastic hemp inserts. These are the absolute best cloth diaper inserts, in my opinion.
That combination will keep you from having leaking cloth diapers for hours during the day and can probably last all night with a child who isn’t a heavy wetter.
Some of the best cloth diapers to use for heavy wetters during the day are all in two diapers because you can easily add more extra inserts to increase absorbency. You can also reuse the waterproof cover a couple of extra times during the day so you aren’t spending as much money on extra covers.
If you have a heavy wetter at night, I’d definitely recommend researching wool covers. I have a whole post all about how to use wool with cloth diapers and what saved cloth diapering at night for my girls. My favorite combination for nighttime was a fitted cloth diaper with a hemp insert and a wool cover – bulletproof!
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Cloth Diaper Inserts
I think I’ve covered just about everything there is to know about cloth diaper inserts, including the what I think are the best cloth diaper inserts to use for heavy wetters and different types of diapers to increase absorbency.
If you have any other questions, be sure to leave a comment and I’ll add on to this post!
+ Are there any special rules to prep inserts?
Microfiber and minky cloth diaper inserts need to be washed only once and they’re ready to use. Any organic/natural fibers like bamboo, organic cotton, and hemp need to be washed a minimum of 4 times to begin absorbing and will reach maximum absorbency by about 10 washes.
Some say that you can boil your natural fibers instead of washing them so many times. The main consensus is to boil for about 15 minutes – but make sure you’re not boiling anything with snaps! This will definitely cause damage to them! I wrote more about prepping cloth diapers and inserts here.
+ Why should I invest in hemp diaper inserts?
If you have a heavy wetter, if you have an older child/toddler in diapers, or if you plan/do use cloth diapers at night – you’re definitely going to want to have hemp inserts on hand.
They absorb a ton and are relatively trim, so you’re not stuffing your child’s diaper so full that they can’t move! You can read more about my favorite hemp inserts here.
+ If I want to layer my inserts, what’s the best order?
If you’re layering and using microfiber in your mixture, definitely put it on top. Microfiber absorbs the quickest so it will pull the urine down the fastest. I always layer microfiber and then hemp underneath.
But remember – microfiber cannot touch your baby’s skin directly or it can cause skin irritation. There is no problem to using hemp or another natural fiber as the top layer, but be aware if you are having leak issues make sure the legs of your child’s cloth diaper are pulled tight enough.
+ I’m on a budget – what are my best options?
I love this post about low-cost cloth diaper inserts and alternatives you can use to traditional cloth diaper inserts. She suggests using flour sack towels and even cut up t-shirts to save money.