Absorbency – we’re on it!

Leaks, heavy wetters, night-time absorbency, nights when toilet training – we’ve had many a question about these issues in the shop over the years. And we’ve suggested and tried a few succesful answers which we thought we would share with you.

As a start for thinking about what could work for you, here’s a rundown of the main nappy fabrics and their absorbency rates/issues:

1) Microfibre is synthetic (polyester base) and it soaks wetness and dirt up at the same time. It’s the same fabric as used for the cleaning cloths and can be very drying on the skin (don’t use this directly against the baby’s skin, always use within a pocket or with a fleece/cotton/bamboo top-layer). It’s the least absorbent of the nappy cloths but still absorbent enough, otherwise it would not work as a nappy :-). It’s not bulky and takes very little time to dry, which is why it is popular for modern cloth nappies.

2) Cotton is a natural fabric (organic cotton is better for the environment and the workers who pick it) and has good to excellent absorbency. It takes a regular amount of time to dry (not usually more than 12 hours, that’s line drying). It’s breathable and soft (it can sometimes harden after a period of washing in hard water areas). It can be more bulky than microfibre but it’s a natural fabric.

3) Bamboo is also a natural fabric and has become more environment-friendly in recent years (extraction of the bamboo fibres from the plant used to require extreme chemical processes). Bamboo is five times more absorbent than cotton but takes a longer time to dry. Often nappies are made with a mix of bamboo and microfibre so the drying time is reduced. Beware buying some second-hand bamboo nappies if drying time is an issue as early bamboo nappy versions can often take an AGE to dry. 🙂

4) Hemp is another also very absorbent, natural and environment-friendly fabric. It can get ‘crunchy’ when washed in hard water areas; a period of tumble-drying is recommended. It’s often used with cotton and bamboo for shaped nappies and boosters.

(If environmental issues are your main focus, then this Ecologist article about textiles might help you decide which is the fabric for you.)

Many people start off with microfibre nappies as they are quick drying and suit their expectation of what they want to have to deal with in terms of cloth nappies (usually extra washing and drying).  If you need extra absorbency, then you can add more microfibre inserts (eg, we sell microfibre doublers for bumgenius nappies, not on the website but ask instore). We’ve had good success with customers using two Flip inserts for overnight (if you do this, then you might need to move up to the next size/setting for the wrap).

Switching to cotton can often be the next step for people needing more absorbency – cotton is more absorbent than microfibre. We used cotton prefolds in our pocket nappies from the start as we found the microfibre inserts were not absorbent enough and we knew they weren’t a natural fabric. Anecdotally we’ve heard that the organic cotton prefolds are more absorbent than non-organic – maybe it’s because they are softer, we can’t confirm, just what we’ve heard! We’ve also heard people that the organic prefolds are more absorbent that the laundry service nappies – don’t know why either, maybe the quality of the cotton. If anyone can help, please tell us! You can also use a cotton shaped nappy which has an extra layer or two of cotton sewn into it.

If you’re finding the microfibre and cotton a waste of space, then bamboo is often the answer. You can get a bamboo/microfibre AIO (all-in-one, ie including wrap) nappy, a bamboo/microfibre shaped nappy or bamboo boosters. We find the Easyfit is good for day, Bamboozle good for night, and using the boosters good for any of the nappy systems – stuff and layer as required!

Bamboozle - bamboo & microfibre shaped nappy

We know, from reading forums, that hemp is very good but we’ve yet to find the definitive product – if you can help us find and test a fab product, then let us know.

Once you’ve sorted out your absorbency issues in terms of fabric, you need to make sure you’re using a good wrap (all-in-one and pocket nappies come with wraps, and then you can adjust the absorbent fabric used with these nappies too). If the wrap doesn’t work though, there’s nothing that can be done, except for maybe adding an extra wrap over the top. This can be necessary around the age of five to six months when a baby is drinking loads of milk before moving onto solids.

Be careful when buying second-hand nappies and wraps that may have been washed incorrectly and can leak. You should look for elasticated back waist and good adjustability around the waist to ensure a snug fit at the legs (choose the extra leg gusset option if your child has skinny legs). Some people find the thicker wraps are better for night, thinner for day but the main thing is making sure the nappy is entirely covered by the wrap and not touching the leg elastic as this can mean leaks.

Over the years, there are two wrap manufacturers which stand out for us: Motherease and Bummis. The Motherease Airflow wraps are great over shaped nappies – the wide sides mean the nappy is covered perfectly. The Bummis wraps work well over prefolds and shaped and last for a couple of children (the Super Brite option has the extra leg gusset).

If you need specific advice, please call/email/FB/tweet us for more information.

Nappy Ever After


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