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Which Cloth Diaper Inserts Are The Best

Which Cloth Diaper Inserts Are The Best

I often get questions about how to choose the best cloth diaper inserts.  Many times as babies grow you'll need more absorbency and boosters are great for this, however with cheaper pocket brands or diapers that don't come with inserts included, you'll have to decide on inserts for them or replace lower quality inserts with better performing ones. 

Which cloth diaper inserts are the best?
Well, if 'best' means 'most absorbent' then hemp is the answer hands down.  BUT, there's more to it than that.  

Hemp is fantastic and can hold the most liquid without compression leaks, however it takes the longest to absorb. That means that if you have a toddler that holds their bladder and then floods all at once, hemp won't absorb fast enough to get the job done.  Speed is also of the essence when we're dealing with liquid and diapers. 

So then what material absorbs the quickest?  Well that's microfiber. When you're looking for leak-free cloth diaper inserts, you need a combination of features to achieve the best performance specific to your situation. 

If you've purchased cheap pocket cloth diapers that came with flimsy poor quality microfiber inserts (from Amazon, TEMU, AliExpress, Wish, Alva etc.) your baby will quickly out-wet and oversaturate them leading to leaks. When it comes to inserts, you want quality materials for the best outcome and leak containment.  Microfiber inserts CAN and DO work for many families, BUT you need high quality microfiber and many layers of it. If your microfiber inserts aren't at least 3 layers of the thickest best quality microfibre, then skip them. 

So what are the insert options?

Microfiber Inserts
- Absorbs quickly
- Cheap (made from polyester and nylon fused together)
- Can contribute to microplastics in the environment
- Synthetic
- Easy to find, lots available
- Lose absorbency over time; often best to replace them for second child
- Can be bulky
- Cannot be placed next to the skin
- Prone to compression leaking when saturated
- Can be harder to wash clean and be prone to buildup/smells
- Performs best when paired with hemp or bamboo

Charcoal Bamboo Inserts
- Don't be fooled, these are not bamboo. I don't know why they call them that, it's misleading advertising.  They are microfiber inside (see above).  The only difference is they are covered in an outer layer of charcoal colored (grey) microfleece which gives them the ability to safely touch the skin (whereas microfiber cannot be against the skin). 

Bamboo Inserts
So then on to real bamboo, what's it like? Bamboo is lovely, thin and trim and also lightweight.  When you compare it by weight, bamboo absorbs more than cotton. But do note that 'bamboo' fabric is not actually made from the bamboo plant the way cotton is. The bamboo is actually chemically processed into rayon fabric, so not as environmentally friendly as some make it out to be and it's technically more accurate to say 'rayon from bamboo'.
- Absorbs well
- Absorbs quickly
- Is comfortable, cool to the touch and soft against baby's skin
- Less bulky
- Can go against the skin
- More towards the expensive side for high GSM bamboo.

Cotton Inserts
Cotton is truly versatile, it's the ultimate textile and can do so many things even taking on different properties depending on how it's thickness and how it's weaved. There's a reason that basic flat and prefold diapers are usually made of good 'ol cotton. 
- Absorbs well
- Absorbs quickly
- Easy to wash
- Can go against the skin
- Relatively inexpensive (but do go with organic if you can to minimize pesticide use)
- Can be prone to wearing out over time with lots of use. 
- Can be bulky depending on how much you need (say with heavy wetters etc.)
- Not as flexible as other fabrics and 100% cotton can get a little firm feeling when wet. 

Hemp Inserts
Hemp is a long lasting, gets-better-with-age kinda fabric.  It has some quirks (does need pre-washing before use and is a little slower with speed of absorbency), but it really holds a lot and is a great choice when you need to bring out the big guns with a heavy wetter or toddler. Note that you won't find 100% hemp fabrics, it is generally blended with some amount of cotton. Something like 45% hemp/55% cotton is common. 
- Absorbs more slowly
- Traps and holds moisture in it's core; not prone to compression leaking; holds a lot compared to it's weight. 
- Does require pre-washing to reach max absorbency
- Can go against the skin
- Often does best when paired with other fabrics on top that absorb more quickly (microfibre/bamboo/cotton etc.)
- Dries fast
- Durable over time
- More expensive than other options

Are there other cloth diaper insert options?
Yes there are.  Those listed above are the big ones you'll often see, however, you might also see Zorb (a blend of cotton, bamboo and hemp) that was used more several years ago.  Mainstream manufacturers don't generally use it, but you can still find the fabric if you make your own diapers or purchase WAHM (work-at-home-mom) made diapers. 

You can also make cloth diaper inserts out of prefolds (tri-folding a size 2 or Infant size) or pad folding flat style diapers. Or in a pinch, you can use other absorbent materials (as long as they are safe for baby), things like flour sack towels (which are basically cotton dish towels), terry cloth bath towels, cotton flannel baby receiving blankets or even cotton t-shirts.

What's The Best Most Absorbent Cloth Diaper Insert
At the end of the day a combination of inserts tends to be the ultimate solution. And it does make a difference how you layer them.  So whatever kind of inserts you choose, put the faster absorbing ones on top, slower ones on the bottom.  Here's the order you want to follow: 

MICROFIBER - Fastest absorbing, always on top if you are using it (but always in a pocket diaper or with a fleece liner on top because it shouldn't touch the skin directly.
COTTON
BAMBOO
HEMP - Slowest absorbing, always on the bottom if you are using it

So, you don't have to use all of them, but follow that order.  For example if you had microfiber and hemp, hemp on the bottom.  If you were using microfiber and bamboo, bamboo on the bottom.  If you had bamboo and cotton, bamboo on the bottom and so forth. And keep in mind that when using microfiber, even though it goes on top, it still shouldn't touch the skin, so make sure your inserts are inside the pocket of your pocket style diaper, or that you use a soft fleece liner on the very top between inserts and baby.

cloth diaper insert options

Our most popular inserts: AMP Inserts: Bamboo and Hemp Options

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