We used cloth diapers when Small Fry was a baby, but only semi-successfully. The concept of them was something I liked a lot – saving money by not buying disposables, plus not sending all of those disposable diapers to the landfill. What I didn’t like was that it seemed like an impossible feat to find a diaper that wouldn’t leak with the first urination. (To be fair, we only ever tried one type of diaper – all-in-ones. They seemed like an amazing invention. I mean, if a cloth diaper could be as easy and effective as a disposable, who wouldn’t use them?) During Small Fry’s babyhood, we just kind of dealt with the leaks. I assumed that leaks were just part of what you signed up for with cloth diapers.
Fast forward three years to Dragonfly’s birth. I wanted to give cloth diapers another try, but I wasn’t as willing to deal with the leaks this time around. More specifically, Will wasn’t. We received some pocket diapers from a friend as a gift, so I was anxious to give those a try. It took a few weeks for him to be big enough to fit into them, so we used disposables for the first month (100% from the baby shower, in-hospital supply, and gifts from visitors). At about the four-week-old mark, I was tired of dealing with the diaper trash, so I decided to see if he would fit the pockets we had (we also had some of the AIOs in storage from Small Fry, but we knew that those were leaky). He did! I was so happy.
For a few days.
The problem with the pockets is the same as with the AIOs – they leaked, and fast. The microfiber insert just wasn’t absorbent enough. So, while we no longer had diaper garbage, we had double to triple the amount of laundry since I was having to change the baby’s clothes with every diaper. That wasn’t so good. We switched back to disposables for a couple of weeks (still using those from the baby shower) while I invested some time into researching solutions.
The first thing I tried was to double up the inserts (cloth diaper lingo for “the absorbent part that you stuff inside the diaper”). That worked fairly well, but the problem with it is that we only had a one-day supply of diapers when only using one insert per diaper (we have 9 covers and 8 inserts). There was no way we could feasibly double up all the time, because that would put me doing diaper laundry after every 2-3 changes. I then decided to try something other than an “official” insert as the doubler. I had some flour sack towels on hand that weren’t going to get used for their original purpose (long story), so I folded one up and stuck in the diaper pocket with the microfiber insert. A couple of hours later, we had a wet diaper, but still-dry clothes. Eureka! Kind of. This time, the problem was that with so much padding in the diaper itself, the covers would barely snap shut. But at least I knew I was on the right track.
My next thought was to go “back in time.” Surely mothers and babies of the past didn’t have wet clothes all the time, right? So what did they use for diapers to keep everyone dry? Big pieces of flat fabric folded into diaper shapes – also known as flat diapers, or more simply “flats.” Of course! So I looked up a variety of different folding techniques for flats, aiming specifically for those designed for boys (who wet up front whereas girls wet down low, or so I’m told). I found one called the “airplane fold,” so named because it looks kind of like a paper airplane while you’re folding it – it just ends up a little different. It has minimal layers in the back – 2, I think – but 16 up front. 16! That’s a lot of absorbency! We tried this for a couple of days, and guess what? No leaks. Also, the covers fit over the diaper. I was thrilled. We’ve been using this system for three or four weeks now, and haven’t had a single diaper leak, not even at night. I don’t even do anything special for overnight, and baby’s pajamas are always dry. What a blessing!
The next step is for me to finish up the knitted wool diaper cover I’m making (it’s nearly there – I just need to figure out the leg cuffs). That should make nighttime even better for him. And switching away from safety pins (which can be hard to push through all those layers sometimes, especially when he’s particularly wiggly) to a baby-safe fastener called a Snappi.
So that’s what worked for us. I hope it was helpful, or at least informative.