I’m sure it feels like yesterday you were changing diapers throughout the night, squealing with excitement when your little one first sat up independently, and watching excitedly whenever they tried a new food.
Now, you have a tiny person interacting with you and their world in new and exciting ways! You have a curious little learner who is on the verge of wanting to do things on their own, or at least trying to.
If you are already at this stage, I hope you soaked up all the newborn and infant toes, smells, snuggles, and baby giggles.
It can be hard to be in the moment when there is laundry to do, dinner to make, babies to feed, a house to clean, working 9-to-5, and the list goes on.
But not to worry, each phase of being a part of your baby’s growth is magical and transformative, so enjoy every first step along the way.
Is It Too Late For Cloth Diapers For Toddlers?
There are many benefits to cloth diapering your toddler, whether you have been cloth diapering since infancy and are now transitioning into the realm of cloth diapering your toddler; you took an extended break from cloth and are now returning to cloth as your little one ventures into toddlerhood; or you have never cloth diapered and you are now considering using cloth with your toddler.
For the parents in the latter group who might be considering switching to cloth now that your little one is now a toddler, you might be wondering whether it is worth the switch.
I would say it is a resounding “YES.” However, every family is different, and you will need to examine your situation and make the decision that best suits the needs of your family.
As you contemplate whether to start using cloth diapers for your toddler, here are a few benefits to consider:
- It is never too late to reduce the exposure of your little one’s delicate skin to the chemicals in disposable diapers.
- If you plan on having more children, the cloth diapers you buy now for your toddler are an investment for diapering your next baby or babies.
- If you do not plan on having more children, the cloth diapers you purchase for your toddler can be sold, gifted, or repurposed—for example, flats and prefolds can be used as cleaning cloths after your little one is potty trained.
- For every cloth diaper you use, it’s one less disposable diaper in a landfill.
- Many parents find that cloth diapered babies transition to using the potty more easily, as diapers made of natural fibers allow the baby to feel when they are wet.
- Incorporating cloth wipes into your diapering will further cut down on cost and reduce single-use waste.
Bottomline, there are many benefits to cloth diapering, starting at any age!
Which Cloth Diaper Should I Use For Toddlers And Bigger Babies?
One of the benefits of cloth diapering from infancy is that you have likely already had a chance to find the diaper style and brand that works best for you and your little one.
However, as your baby transitions into toddlerhood and their sleeping and toileting patterns change, you might find yourself needing to adjust your cloth diapering routine.
If they haven’t already started sleeping through the night, your toddler might be nearing this milestone.
They might also be taking less frequent but longer daytime naps (or a single afternoon nap). These adjustments might require a change in the style and absorbency level of diapers you choose.
Absorbency For Toddler Diapers
For nighttime or longer naps, you might need to adjust your toddler’s absorbency as they sleep through longer stretches through the night.
Natural fibers are more absorbent and are better insert options for overnights, long naps, and long car rides. They are also less prone to compression leaks.
I recommend bamboo, cotton, or hemp fitted diapers for toddler overnight diapers. You will need a waterproof cover for fitted diapers.
You also have the option of adding a booster to your nighttime diaper if your little one needs a little extra absorbency to make it through the night.
I am a BIG fan of the Nicki’s bamboo fitted diaper with snaps for overnight. These diapers are super absorbent with a generous stretch for a very comfortable fit.
The elastic legs are also snug to prevent leaks, but they are gentle on baby’s delicate skin.
I use the Nicki’s bamboo fitted with snaps combined with a cotton/hemp blend booster on my two-year-old, and she wakes up dry after nursing before bed and sleeping 11 hours through the night.
Some parents might find that as their toddler’s body starts preparing for potty training and training pants, their little one might hold their pee for longer periods of time and expel a large quantity of urine all at once.
This could result in flooding, where the diaper is unable to absorb the liquid quickly enough. This often causes leaking around the legs or above the waist of the diaper, even though the absorbency has not been completely saturated.
One strategy to address this difficulty is to use a diapering option that has a quick absorbing layer (such as microfiber—but never against baby’s skin) on top of a slower absorbing layer that can absorb a large quantity of liquid (such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo).
If your baby isn’t sensitive to wetness, using a natural fiber, like cotton training pants, where the baby can detect wetness could be helpful with potty learning.
However, the sensation of a wet diaper could be disruptive to a toddler’s sleep. If your toddler is not ready for overnight potty training, a stay-dry material for sitting against baby’s skin is a great option.
When using diapers made of natural fibers for naps and overnights, some diapers come with a stay-dry top layer built in.
You can also acquire inexpensive microfleece, cut stay-dry liners and place them in your little one’s nighttime and nap diapers as a top moisture-wicking layer that is against baby’s skin.
Size and Type for Diapering Toddlers
Depending on the shape of your baby, you may need big diapers for bigger sized babies and older toddlers.
The Nicki’s one size diaper cover is known for its adjustability to fit larger babies and the Best Bottom Bigger all in two diapers are designed for fitting larger sized babies.
Some caregivers find all in one, all in two, or pocket diapers to be more convenient, as their designs more closely resemble that of a disposable diaper in terms of functionality.
However, other caregivers find flats and prefolds more adjustable and customizable for the size of their baby. Flats also allow for tailored folds to place absorbency where your little one needs it most.
Flats and prefolds are also a great option for long naps and can be boosted with a soaker pad.
For added absorbency you can also place two flats on top of each other before folding to your desired fit.
If you are new to cloth as a parent of a toddler and feeling uncertain about investing in cloth, flats and prefolds also have the added benefit of being a more cost-effective option.
Hook and loop, snaps, or fasteners (pins/snappies)
Snap diapers are a very popular diaper option amongst cloth diapering caregivers.
They are easy and convenient to use, especially with a wriggly toddler.
However, a diaper that allows a completely customizable fit, such as that offered by hook and loops or snapless fitteds/prefolds/flats, lend themselves to a more precise fit and are well suited for larger babies.
How Many Diapers Will My Toddler Need?
Although you will still need to change your toddler on a frequent schedule, you will not need to change them as often as during infancy.
A toddler has less frequent bowel movements than an infant (who can sometimes poop after every feeding), so you will need to change his diaper less frequently.
When cloth diapering your toddler, you will need to change your little one every 2-3 hours and immediately after a bowel movement. Depending on your cloth diaper wash routine, at the very minimum, you will need 5-6 daytime diapers per day and a diaper for nighttime.
If you are washing every other day, you could get by with 13-14 diapers and 3-4 nighttime diapers orovernight training pants to ensure your little one has a clean dry diaper on while you launder diapers and wait for them to dry.
I would recommend having at least 18-22 daytime diapers and 4 overnight diapers for diapering a toddler on an every-other-day wash schedule.
For further information on how many diapers you need for your toddler, the Nicki’s Diapers blog gives specific details based on the age of your baby, the type of diaper you prefer, and your budget.
But My Toddler Won't Sit Still
Sometimes changing a cloth diaper on a bigger baby might take a bit of extra time compared to changing a disposable diaper, and toddlers are not known for being patient.
However, over time your baby might learn the routine of diaper changes and tolerate them better.
Of course, there will still be the occasional protest, and, for the unlucky amongst us (myself included) who has to wrangle a spinning crocodile at every diaper change, here are a few strategies that I have found helpful:
- Have a couple go-to diaper changing songs. We often use made-up ones, but “The Wheels on the Bus” is a favorite that works as a happy distraction most of the time.
- Play! I squeeze in a few strategized belly raspberries, toe tickles, silly faces, and noises that always seem to entertain.
- Talk with your toddler. I usually tell my toddler that we are about to do a diaper change before I initiate the change. Although sometimes this might incite some screaming or perhaps running and hiding, I think it’s more comforting to my little one for things to be predictable. I also tell my little one what fun thing she might be able to do after the change. This introduces delayed gratification, and helps her to begin conceptualizing time and sequencing. For example, if my daughter protests because she is playing with a toy, I tell her that after she has her diaper changed, she can go back to playing with her blocks, but first we have to change her diaper.
- Have a few small toys ready; they’re perfect distractions for diaper changes.
- Your little one might also enjoy picking out a favorite diaper or a favorite print as she starts to exercise her independence.
Don’t Sweat About Diapering Toddlers!
I hope you’ve found these considerations helpful on your journey of cloth diapering your toddler.
Whether you are a long-time cloth parent, a returning to cloth caregiver, or a cloth novice jumping in at toddlerhood, remember—it’s never “too late,” and don’t overthink it; you’re just diapering your baby like many parents before you.
You’ll figure out what works best for your little one and for your family, as you gear up for potty training a toddler.
Hopefully you’ll have support, a great cloth community, and lots of fun along the way!
There is so much that you do with and for your baby, and cloth diapering is only one of them ☺