Diapers come in a number of different varieties but their most important function is to keep your baby dry and clean. There are two major types of diapers, pocket diapers and all-in-two (AI2) diapers, which require a diaper insert for them to work properly. Cloth diaper inserts are essential for making cloth diapers effective at soaking up liquid messes and boosting overall absorbency, leading parents to wonder, what kind of cloth diaper insert is the best?
What if I told you that absorbency is relevant?
Would you believe me?
Eight years ago I would have raised my eyebrow and maybe even closed out of this “misinformation”.
Now that I’m wiser I know that absorbency while still based on layers, fabrics, etc. it still depends on HOW your kiddo actually pees!
I know what you’re thinking.
We already know this.
- Microfiber absorbs quickly.
- Cotton absorbs a little more than microfiber, at just under the same speed.
- Bamboo Absorbs more slowly.
- Hemp is slow to absorb but is the gold standard of absorbency.
The thing is it can be really hard to judge what you need until you’re experiencing something.
What worked perfectly for your older kiddo might not work with your baby.
Have a toddler now? You may be experiencing the joys of flooding.
As always I’m here to help you break down the best cloth diaper for your family.
Top Five Things You Need to Know to Find the Best Inserts for Cloth Diapers
Most families can easily use microfiber throughout their cloth diapering journey.
Cotton is incredibly under-rated and can be layered to work for nearly any child Bamboo is what most families turn to, but it’s not ideal for everyone.
Hemp. Oh how I love you, but also why you will probably need to layer it Nuances of Velour, Terry, Viscose, and more.
1: Microfiber Diaper Inserts
Most families can easily use microfiber throughout their cloth diapering journey I’m going to get a lot of heat for this and frankly, I’m okay with that.
Microfiber gets such a bad wrap. “Microfiber holds on to stink” “ microfiber isn’t a natural fiber so I don’t want to use it” “microfiber doesn’t absorb enough” “microfiber will lead to compression leaks”
Let’s debunk these.
If your wash routine is solid your microfiber will not stink.
If it does, you should evaluate your routine.
This is commonly thrown around and I think it’s just to glorify natural fibers.
Again, no shade for natural fibers, but it’s always a good idea to keep a mixed stash.
Kiddos go through many different wetting stages and sometimes- you may need those microfiber inserts!
I’ll almost give you this one. Almost.
I have used some pretty awful microfiber, but the good microfiber has held up for my super soaking flooder! It’s all about how fast they pee, how forceful they pee, and the quantity of pee.
In my tests microfiber held about 2-3oz less than a bamboo insert of the same thickness.
Okay. So compression leaks CAN happen.
They absolutely can, but they can also happen with cotton and bamboo. Less commonly so with hemp.
The Nicki’s Diapers Ultimate All in One is easily microfibers best cloth diaper and helps to combat that with a lining of fleece sewn in and it WORKS.
Either way, even with a standard pocket if you’re experiencing a compression leak it’s likely due to not enough absorbency, to begin with.
Microfiber is an excellent budget-friendly choice of absorbency.
The absolute main reason why I love it so is because it can withstand a flood.
A Niagara Falls-style flood. If you have a baby that’s wetting out of everything, hemp isn’t helping, and you’re about to throw in the towel give microfiber a try.
You cannot beat its fast absorption. Think you won't need this because you’ve made it a year in?
It’s common for older babies and toddlers to learn how to hold it.
This means their output is going to be far greater at once - the flooding.
2: Cotton Inserts
I didn’t want to get in trouble for copyright infringement, but you get the gist.
Cotton is incredibly under-rated and can be layered to work for nearly any child
It’s cheaper than bamboo, doesn’t shrink as much, and the organic cotton is soooo motherfluffing soft I can rub my face in it.
Cotton absorbs slightly slower than microfiber but is still a viable solution for a flooder. Cotton also absorbs an ounce or two more.
If you are on a budget and want a natural fiber, look no further than cotton! Not a flat or prefolds fan?
Smart Bottoms has a line of certified organic cotton all in ones!
Those babies are soooofffttt but do take a bit of prep work. They definitely earn cottons' best cloth diaper.
3: Bamboo Diaper Inserts
Bamboo is what most families turn to, but it’s not ideal for everyone.
No shade at all to bamboo.
Most of my all in one stash is bamboo as well as my overnight fitteds.
I’m speaking more from a budget standpoint.
I remember trying to build up a cloth diaper stash and I was BROKE. I mean, we just bought groceries and diapers and I had $5 and change in my bank account kind of broke.
The more I had researched cloth diapers the more I was convinced that I needed to spend extra money (that we didn’t have) to swap out all of our microfiber inserts for bamboo.
STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! Cloth on your own budget.
Other reasons it may not be ideal for everyone?
It absorbs a ton, but if you have a fast pee-er or a flooder you’re going to experience leaks.
This usually is remedied with a layer of microfiber.
We’ll end with why I have so much bamboo in my stash because I feel like I have thrown shade even though I didn’t mean to, ha. Sorry!
Bamboo is soft, squishy, and widely available as all in ones and fitteds. And for good reason.
Bamboo tends to lock and load onto moisture and isn’t as expensive as hemp!
Bamboo also works for my two currently in cloth.
Neither of them are super heavy wetters or flooders.
I do still have some microfiber on hand for the inevitable flooding stage though!
If you have a moderate wetter or two in cloth bamboo is still an excellent choice - if your budget agrees!
What’s the best cloth diaper in the bamboo category?
The Imagine Baby Products Bamboo all in one is budget-friendly, roomy, soft, and very absorbent!
4: Hemp Inserts
Oh how I love you, but also why you will probably need to layer it I am OBSESSED with Geffen Hemp products.
Bruh. So good.
Their flats, their fladdles, super absorbers, you name it. I LOVE IT! YES, I AM YELLING!
Hemp is fanfluffingtastic when you need to add some absorbency to your daytime or nighttime solution.
If you are leaking in under an hour or less see flooding. Those long car rides, naps, or simply not quite making it to the 2-3 hour diaper change mark hemp is your friend.
There are some things you should know though!
Hemp is absorbent!
Yes, I just said that, but it’s important to note that because of its superhero-like absorbency it can be trickier to wash.
Routine is key.
If your hemp is still holding on to pee smells evaluate!
Are you tired of me saying that yet?
Hemp is best layered underneath microfiber, cotton, or hemp.
I was able to get away with hemp all by its lonesome with my second cloth diapered kiddo.
She was a trickler.
She peed very little over time and it worked for her.
I think that’s more of the exception than the rule though.
One Geffen flat used to last her an entire sleep session.
She was also a great sleeper. Go figure.
Another exception to the rule.
If you need a budget-friendly overnight cloth diaper solution do not overlook hemp prefolds.
The Geffen (have I said love these yet?) hemp fleece prefolds hold about as much as a Nicki’s Overnight Bamboo fitted and are a bit more wallet-friendly.
Bonus that they stuff easily into your pocket or cover without the added bulk of a fitted. Geffen are easily the best cloth diapers - in and outside of the hemp category.
MORE ON HEMP!
Hemp is a way to boost your newborn cloth diapers all in ones that you’re little is out peeing.
While I absolutely appreciate the ease of use with newborn all in ones they typically don’t work past a few weeks absorbency wise and a newborn geffen quick absorber is an easy way to increase their lifespan.
5: Nuances of Velour, Terry, Viscose, and more
Organic Cotton/Bamboo Velour, Bamboo Terry, Bamboo Viscose, Jersey?
What the fluff? What do you really need to know?
Velour is a feel-dry material. Your child won’t feel wet, but their skin will be moist (sorry to all of you who loathe that word).
Terry is loopy type of fabric similar to a dish towel-soft, gentle, and locks onto moisture.
Bamboo Viscose is a suuuupppeeerr soft looped or smooth fabric similar to terry, but much much softer- like butter.
Jersey is a woven fabric that is trimmer than terry and viscose, but absorbency is similar.
Birdseye has pockets teeny tiny birdseye-sized pockets that lock onto moisture.
Hemp fleece vs no-pill fleece Hemp fleece is mega absorbent and super soft just like your favorite fleece pajamas.
No-Pill fleece is a non-absorbent material that keeps your baby dry
Conclusion - The Best Cloth Diaper Inserts Depend on You!
I hope this fabric and absorbency break down helps you on your journey to finding the best cloth diapers! There’s a lot of information in here that can be overwhelming.
Honestly, everything comes back to not putting all of your eggs in one basket when you’re starting out.
Try a few materials and see what works for you - within your budget!
I do recommend that everyone tries out at least some Geffen Baby.
I have yet to meet a baby or toddler that couldn't use them for whatever reason. They're truly one of the best cloth diapers.
Click here to try them out!