If you’re just getting your feet wet with cloth diapering, good news is that you’ve made an efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly choice. Cloth diapering in all honestly is an extremely versatile system that is definitely nighttime worthy as long as you pick the right inserts. But choosing the best cloth diaper insert can be overwhelming considering the vast number of options available from doublers, boosters to soakers.
After spending over 150 hours of research on different types of inserts, cloth diapers and testing absorbency levels, I’m truly in love with the Thirsties Fab Doublers.
In this guide, I will not only present you with the 5 best cloth diaper insert options, but also give you the lowdown on the different types of cloth diaper inserts and liners available to you, and how to make inserts in the comfort of your home.
My Pick – Thirsties Hemp Inserts
Made in the USA and brought to you by one of the leading names in the cloth diaper arena, the Thirsties Hemp inserts is a combination of 6 layers of 55 percent hemp and 45 percent cotton.
The company claims that these inserts have a thickness of 2 stacked nickels, and can be had in two sizes – 5 inches by 12 inches and 5.5 inches by 14.5 inches, making either one a great solution for both light and heavy wetters.
Take note that hemp products need to be prepped for maximum absorbency before initial use, simply meaning washing them several times to get rid of the natural oils that coat the fibers.
Runner Up – BabyKicks Hemp Inserts
BabyKicks doesn’t just make one of the best pocket diapers, they also make cloth diaper inserts to suit. These highly recommended inserts are made in the USA, and can be ordered in small, medium and large sizes.
Regardless of the size you choose, these inserts have a severed shape and contoured edges, and are made from 55 percent hemp and 45 percent cotton.
At just1/8 of an inch thick, the BabyKicks inserts offer superior absorbency without being overly thick. You can even use two or three of them together as nighttime diaper.
The BabyKicks inserts can be wrapped inside a flat or prefold, stuffed into pocket diapers or simply laid out over a diaper.
Conceived in early 2000 and operating from Maryland, BabyKicks is a family owned business that is dedicated to making baby accessories including cloth diapers with the best organic and natural materials available.
Upgrade Pick – Alva Baby Bamboo Cloth Diaper
Alva Baby offers three different types of insert options – microfiber, bamboo, or a microfiber/bamboo blend, with the latter being my favorite.
First off, these inserts are a blend of 2 layers of bamboo viscose and 2 layers of microfiber, making them super absorbent. This material combined is designed to absorb up to 60 percent more than cotton and has thermal regulating properties.
Designed for baby’s weighing between 4-15 kg (8.8 – 33 pounds), Alva baby bamboo inserts are naturally antibacterial and moisture absorbent, considerably reducing the chances of diaper rash.
Budget Pick – Bumwrap Charcoal Bamboo Diaper Inserts
These diaper inserts are made up of 5 layers, 3 of which are microfiber and 2 layers of bamboo charcoal.
They are washable and reusable, and even feature antibacterial and microbial properties to help prevent diaper rashes.
These one size fits all inserts measure 13 inches in length and 5 inches in width, and can hold up to 8oz+ of liquid.
If you’re looking to buy cloth diaper inserts without breaking the bank, the Bumwrap bamboo inserts is what you should be looking at.
Also great – Naturally Natures Bamboo Inserts
Available in a choice of two colors – almond and grey, these inserts by naturally natures can be used with a wide range of cloth diapers, but work best with cloth diapers with gussets.
They feature charcoal, bamboo viscose and microfleece and is extremely porous to wick moisture away. 3 layers of bamboo are sandwiched between 2 layers of bamboo for optimal absorbency.
The Naturally Natures bamboo inserts offer a gusset contour fit to prevent leaking, and are hypoallergenic and have antibacterial properties to prevent instances of diaper rash.
Yes, I tested these too! And they are great for those who simply do not want to deal with washing and drying reusable diaper inserts.
Also referred to as flushable diaper inserts, disposable inserts provide great flexibility in times when you’d like to switch between cloth and disposable diapers.
There are a few disposable inserts that work with cloth diaper covers so they aren’t limited to just disposable diapers. If you’d like to give disposable inserts a try, here are 3 I highly recommend.
Flip Disposable Diaper Inserts – Available to you in a pack of 18, there are several reasons I love Flip one size diaper inserts, most notably because they are easy to use, dye and fragrance free.
These inserts are a little trimmer than traditional cloth inserts, and for a secure fit are best used with the Flip diaper cover.
Other cloth diaper brands that work well with Flip disposable inserts are BumGenius, Econobum, FuzziBunz, Blueberry, Swaddlebees and GroVia.
Charlie Banana Disposable Inserts – This package of 32 disposable inserts are plastic, chlorine, dye and perfume free and feature a super soft hypoallergenic lining.
One of their noteworthy features is that their core lining is made up of biodegradable wood pulp fibers and a rather low percentage of SAP.
Diapers Disposable Inserts – Crafted of breathable materials to reduce the chances of diaper rash, this package of 40 disposable inserts are Cradle to Cradle certified and provide multiple disposable options.
Difference between Inserts, Doublers and Liners
If you’re new to cloth diapering, this is where things can get tricky. Inserts, wipes, doublers and liners look quite similar, but there is a small yet significant difference between them.
What all of these have in common is that they are made of highly absorbent materials and designed to hold your baby’s waste. Inserts whether reusable or disposable are designed to be used with cloth diapers and diaper covers, and are the essential layer of absorbency for the entire cloth diapering system.
They can be folded and in most cases are made of extremely absorbent natural or high tech fabrics such as microfiber. Generally cloth diaper inserts feature an extremely trim build for the diaper to perform well as well as comfortable, slim fit on your baby.
Diaper doublers offer the same functionality as cloth diaper inserts, but serve as an extra layer of protection over a diaper insert. This means that they aren’t meant to be the primary absorbent layer of the cloth diaper, but provide extra absorbency when you need it such as nighttime wear.
My 3 best diaper doubler picks are:
Sposie Booster Pads Diaper Doubler – designed for both girls and boys, these doublers are compatible with most diapers or training pants, and do a good job at eliminating nighttime leaks.
NorthShore Disposable Baby Diaper Doubler – these rather inexpensive disposable diaper doublers provide up to 8 oz of absorbency to any diaper, and are equipped with an adhesive strip on the back to hold them firmly in place.
Sea Diapers Doublers with Gussets – if you want the ultimate leak protection, these gusseted diaper doublers perform brilliantly. Not only are they super soft and absorbent, they are machine washable and suitable for heavy duty use.
Then you’ve got diaper liners, which are often confused for both doublers and inserts because just like both they fit into diapers without being attached.
However, unlike doublers and inserts that add padding to the diaper, liners are paper like thin, and aren’t meant to increase absorbency, but to catch solid waste for easy maintenance.
There are two types of liners available – biodegradable and stay dry fleece liners, where the former are soft wafer like pieces of fabric designed for single use, while the latter are reusable and are able to wick moisture away.
My 3 best diaper liner picks are:
GroVia BioLiners Unscented Diaper Liners – these flushable and breathable liners are fragrance and dye free, and are made from ingeo fibers.
Bummis Reusable Fleece Liners – brought to you by one of the biggest names in the cloth diapering space, this set of 5 reusable liners are lead, phthalate and BPA free, making them extremely safe for your baby’s skin.
Bumkins Flushable Diaper Liner – available to order in one, two and four pack variants, these biodegradable and flushable diaper liners are extremely easy to use and compatible with any cloth diapering system.
How I Picked Cloth Diaper Inserts?
Cloth diaper inserts can be of several materials, most commonly cotton, hemp, bamboo, microfiber, zorb, and zorb II. Considering that each has its own share of pros and cons, I picked the most commonly used materials.
However, since opinion varies and from my research I have listed the pros and cons for each so that you can see which one is best for your baby.
Cotton is an all-natural material made from cotton balls or the protective capsule that grows around the seeds of the cotton plant. This native shrub in many countries in the world is the most common and easiest to find out of all fabrics and is extremely absorbent.
Adding to this, fabrics made from cotton are breathable, and in terms of cloth diapers this means less or no chances of diaper rash. Most clothing today is made of cotton at least with a mix of it including dress shirts, denims, hoodies, knits and t-shirts.
Apart from being highly absorbent, affordable and easily available, cotton is considered a rather strong material due to the longer, stronger fibers especially in the Chinese and American species, making it highly durable.
Adding to this, cotton is not only soft, but also easy to clean, which is perhaps another big reason most prefolds and inserts are crafted of this fabric. Types of cloth fabric include birdseye, flannel, regular, organic, velour, French terry, terry cloth and Sherpa.
Hemp is a natural material that is often used with a blend of cotton for optimal absorbency. This thirsty and highly durable diaper fabric is made from the fibers extracted from the hemp plant.
Another reason for blending with cotton fabric is simply to improve softness and accelerate longevity. Most of the best cloth diaper inserts I’ve chosen are crafted of 55 percent hemp and 45 percent cotton, which is a ratio that boosts absorbency over cotton fabrics of the same weight.
Furthermore, hemp is also proven to be antibacterial, meaning it is able to prevent the growth of bacteria in the fabric. Hemp material however isn’t perfect, and can get sticky over time and can have slower drying times.
Another popular option for cloth diapers, bamboo fabrics are popular options in cloth diapers owing to its superior level of absorbency.
But it is important to note that bamboo fabrics even though breathable and thermal regulating isn’t natural because the process of converting plants into bamboo fleece entail a chemical process.
Yet, bamboo fleece is super soft, wicks moisture away, and can keep your baby comfortable even when wet. Further, there are several types of bamboo fabric used to make cloth diapers including:
- Bamboo fleece – this type of bamboo fabric is often fitted to the center layer of cloth diapers or used as doublers to make the overall diaper more absorbent.
- Bamboo terry – similar to a towel, this bamboo fabric is made up of thousands of small loops and is extremely stretchy and absorbent.
- Bamboo velour – this knit fabric is extremely soft and absorbent, and is mostly used as the inside layer of the cloth diaper. However, it is important to note that bamboo velour doesn’t do a very good job at wicking moisture and is quite slippery, making it hard to sew hence not a good choice if you’re making your own cloth diapers.
Types of bamboo fabric include Sherpa, French terry, velour and jersey knits. Cons of bamboo cloth diapers include longer drying times and can shrink in some cases.
Although a man-made material and not a natural fiber, microfiber is 75 percent polyester/25 percent polyamide and the blend is deemed to be a highly absorbent material, is lightweight and dries faster.
Microfiber is unique in its own right in that it is made up of several non-absorbent fibers, which do not actually absorb liquid, but the secret is in the way they are twisted.
When bonded together, these fibers create millions of tiny pockets that grab and absorb the liquid from cloth diapers. This makes them extremely thirsty and a great choice when quick absorption is of the essence such as at bedtime.
One of the pitfalls of microfiber inserts is that they cannot be placed next to a baby’s skin as it may make it rough and dry. But an easy solution for this is to use diaper rash cream along with the microfiber insert.
On a brighter note, microfiber inserts get more absorbent with each use, are inexpensive and are easily available.
Brought to you by Wazoodle Fabrics, Zorb is basically a blend of viscose, cotton, bamboo and poly microfibers. This combination of materials makes Zorb super absorbent and accelerates the performance of cloth diapers.
According to manufacture, zorb is able to absorb moisture 20 times faster and absorb faster than other fabrics. Furthermore, it is proven to have less leak and stink issues and even dries quickly compared to hemp and bamboo fabrics.
How I Tested?
Regardless of whether you use inserts, doublers, liners or a combination of the three, what it really boils down to is their absorbency capabilities.
Good news is that testing cloth diaper inserts entails a fairly straightforward process that basically applies to inserts and doublers.
First you will have to strips the inserts, which is a process of getting rid of the detergent residue buildup.
There are many ways to go about this, but the method I use is to simply wash the inserts with baby safe detergent and in hot water until they no longer produce suds in the wash.
Other stripping methods involve the use of vinegar or dish soap that scrub out oils that repel moisture.
But most important of all and before you start stripping cloth diaper inserts is to check if manufacture instructions if any are listed on the company website.
It goes without saying, but definitely worth mentioning that you will have to record the initial weight of the dry inserts, that is after stripping and drying them thoroughly.
Then you simply subtract the weight of the wet insert from the weight when it was in a dry state. The most accurate way to go about determining the weight is by rolling the insert and placing it on the scale.
Next, it’s time to get to perform the actual test and this is to soak the respective insert in roughly 40 ounces of water or about 5-10 minutes.
You can soak them for longer as long as you give the insert enough time to let go of the bubbles and fill up generously with water.
This is where you need to pay attention and perform this step carefully. For this, you will need a water container to collect any water that drips out of the insert.
So hang the insert over the container, allow it to drip for approximately 10 minutes, then record the amount of water drained into the container, and subtract it from 40 ounces.
The result is basically an estimate amount of water that can be helped by an insert. if you’re going to test several different types of cloth diaper inserts or doublers, be sure to change the water between each test to eliminate any residue or fabric left behind from the previous test.
You can perform this step if you’d like to mimic the compression of a baby’s body when it’s on the diaper insert and if it makes a difference, and according to my tests, it definitely does.
Start by grabbing a towel and placing a drying dish rack hopefully one made of metal on top. Place the insert laid out over the metal rack, and place a flat glass baking dish with a few heavy cans of food on top, which will serve as the baby’s weight.
Let it the cans rest for 5 minutes or so, and then measure the final weight and subtract it from the initial weight.
Take note that the results for this test are just variables considering that first you aren’t using actual pee instead of water and second the different water conditions.
Apart from all in one cloth diapers, cloth diaper covers require the right inserts in order to deliver optimal performance. And if you’re cloth diapering, you should also be aware about which inserts to use or if you’d be better off using a doubler or liner. Inserts can be ordered in several materials so it is important to choose one depending on the absorbency level you need, with hemp and cloth being top choices in this department.
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