April 1, 2013 8:30:00 AM EDT
Figuring out nighttime diapering can be a long process of trial and error. I recently asked you wonderful readers to share your favorite nighttime solution, and there were some definite themes! But before I get to those specifics, let's talk about what features you need in a nighttime diaper. "Super duper absorbent" seems the obvious answer, but it's a little more complicated because a frequent culprit in nighttime leaks can be over-stuffing. This can be caused by wicking, or by gapping.
Gapping is pretty straightforward. It is caused by a diaper stuffed so full that it is stiff and can't easily conform to the contours of your baby's body, and/or the cover can't reach around the absorbant stuff to hold everything snugly. In these situations, you can end up with gapping at the waist or the legs. Boys in particular will pee right out of a gap like little pee Houdinis (or whizzards, if you will...).
Wicking can be a major source of frustration, though it can also be a wonderful thing in a nighttime diaper. To make it a good thing, the right part of the diaper needs to be wicking. Wicking is defined* as "absorb[ing] or draw[ing] off (liquid) by capillary action." Wicking is how a dry towel with one end in the tub and one end out will eventually soak the bathroom floor. Similarly, wicking is how a little bit of exposed diaper innards can soak a set of sheets. Sometimes, all it takes to solve the nighttime leaking is shoving every little bit of abosorbent fabric into the diaper once it's on!
But when is wicking a good thing? I'm sure you've heard the advertising phrase "wicking away moisture." Athletic gear does this, maxi pads do this, and so do some cloth diapers. A lot of pocket diapers and some lay-in style inserts are made with a non-absorbent but porous material touching the baby's bottom. The wetness is absorbed into what you stuff into the pocket or what is inside the insert. It is absorbed - wicked - away from your baby's skin. The fabric touching your baby doesn't absorb, so it basically stays dry (incidentally, if you've ever had your pockets dried with fabric softener and they've ceased to work, it's because fabric softener leaves a film that clogs the pores that allow moisture to get through and into the absorbent part of the diaper). So, if you have a diaper that is wicking moisture away from your baby's bottom but not onto your baby's sheets, this can be a really great thing! This is especially kind to babies with sensitive skin. If you don't use pockets and you'd like to try this, you could consider adding a few fleece liners to your stash.
The five most common words in successful nighttime diapering were (in alphabetical order): bamboo, disposables, fleece, hemp, and wool. Bamboo and hemp make up the inner, most absorbent part of the favorite nighttime solutions. You can find bamboo and hemp inserts, soakers/boosters/doublers, prefolds, and fitteds. Wool and fleece are used as covers and can be found as longies/pants, shorties/shorts, and traditional wrap covers.
The reason for each of these materials is the same: they can all hold an insane amount of liquid relative to their own size/weight. They absorb a lot of pee without getting bulky and causing gapping. And the innards are compact enough that they aren't bursting out the legs or waist of the outers and wicking moisture onto bedding!
The most common more specific favorite was the Sbish OBF Fitted and a Sbish wool cover (longies or Underwoolies).
I'd like to add another tip: go a size up in covers. If you can't afford to add bamboo, fleece, hemp, or wool to your stash right now, and you're seeing a lot of gapping or having trouble stuffing every corner of fabric in to prevent wicking, try a larger cover for nighttime use. It can be less expensive.
*If you want a good, slightly naughty laugh in the midst of this serious diapering discussion, look at the other definitions and uses included in the Oxford Dictionary! I about spit out my coffee!