How to Cloth Diaper at Night Without Losing Sleep

5 min read

A common question in our Unsnapped Facebook group: how to cloth diaper at night? Grace is here with all kinds of tips and tricks to help you make the switch to sustainability without losing sleep!


My son is perfect in my eyes, but typical to most. At seven months, he sits up for a few minutes on his own. He rolls over and spins. He gets hangry if his bottle is late. He HATES sleeves. However, he is a unicorn baby in one respect: sleep.

My kid will sleep – no joke – ten to twelve hours at night uninterrupted. I briefly stir him before I go to bed for a quick change and “dream” bottle, but that’s usually it. Sounds great, right? Well, it comes with its own challenge: diapering overnight.

Cloth diapering overnight is a tricky business. It comes down to three factors – well, layers.

Cloth Diaper at Night: The Layers

Layer #1: The Insert(s)

Getting the right absorbency is the trickiest part. When I started to cloth diaper at night, I used the Lil Helper overnight inserts. They are a way more absorbent than a charcoal set, which was my go-to during the day when I started cloth at 5 weeks. (A charcoal set holds 180mL while an overnight set holds 300mL.)

As he grew, he needed more absorbency. I swapped the small insert of my overnight set for the small insert of a charcoal or – better yet – a tank.

Tanks are amazing. I don’t know what kind of rocket science went into them, but they are super thin and even more absorbent, holding around 330mL. As my son has grown, I’ve gone back and forth between tanks and overnight sets, using layer #2 to augment my absorbency.

Layer #2: The Booster

Photo Credit: Sammi A.

Your little human is going to be a pee machine overnight, and even a tank might not be enough. Your first instinct may be to just toss a bunch of extra inserts to your cloth diaper at night but DON’T! While it’s normal for an overnight diaper to be a little bulkier, if the diaper is too bulky, you’re going to get compression leaks. So, what’s the fix?

Boosters! My go to are the bamboo boosters. These lil wonders hold 120mL on their own! They also have a stay-dry liner (which we’ll talk about next). Simply lay them on top of an overnight or tank to give your overnight set-up a bit of a boost! (As a bonus, they can be re-used in a trainer when potty training for extra absorbency.)

Now, I hear you – some of you don’t want to (or can’t!) spend the money on another insert. No problem! An effective way to solve this is to use a washcloth. I highly recommend using a Lil Helper sweatshirt or bamboo wipe – the bamboo wipes hold about 60mL on their own. If you have flour sack towels, those are also great! Folding one of these over and laying it inside the inserts will give you a lot of extra absorption without creating a ton of bulk.

Layer #3: Staying Dry

Not to state the obvious, but overnight diapers are far wetter than daytime diapers, since you aren’t changing them every two hours. Babies do not like feeling wet. On top of that, sitting in a wet or dirty diaper for extended periods can cause a nasty rash.

The unsung hero in overnight diapering is the Stay Dry Liner. These little blue fellas are inexpensive and so worth it. First of all, if your baby poops in one, it slides off, even without spraying. More importantly, it helps your baby to feel dry.

My son has eczema and super sensitive skin. Keeping that moisture off of his skin is very important. These stay dry liners are aptly named – he doesn’t feel wet when he wears them. He will happily stay in a wet diaper much longer and with fewer consequences while wearing one of these.

Troubleshooting Your Cloth Diaper at Night

Now even with all these tips, there are going to be some issues you need to watch out for.

Leaks:

As a rule, if you are leaking through the front, it’s probably not enough absorbency. If you are leaking out of the top or legs, it’s likely fit. As I mentioned above, too much bulk can cause compression leaks, which typically come out of the legs – but so can a fit that’s too loose.

Always make sure that your leg elastics are in the underwear line. If you see fleece, tuck it in. Your waist and hip snaps will likely be a little looser than daytime to accommodate the extra bulk – but if it’s more than one snap, you probably have too much in there. You can also unsnap one or both of the inserts to give your little one more room to wiggle, if you feel the night cloth diaper isn’t sitting well.

If all of that fails and you are STILL getting leaks, you’ll want to use the leaky app to be sure you don’t have repelling or build-up.

Regularity:

If your kid is quite regular with their bowel movements, make a note of when it’s happening. Regardless of whether it’s daytime or nighttime, baby should be changed ASAP for poopy diapers. Unfortunately, that may mean you still need a 2 a.m. change.

The Backup Plan:

When it comes to diapering a child, poop happens. It doesn’t matter if the baby is in cloth or disposables, there will come a day when you didn’t get the insert just right or your kid ate one too many prunes. (I’m staring at my little prune monster as I write this.) If your child is over 18 months, consider investing in a Lifesaver Mat! These blankets are soft, cute, and absorbent. They have saved many a mattress and can definitely save your kid’s sheets.

Photo Credit: Amanda U.

Is your little too little? Well then try the crib sheets, coming summer 2021! These sheets are not only soft, but absorbent – and they protect your mattress!

Cloth diapering overnight might seem impossible – but once you have the right absorbency and fit, everything else tends to fall into place.

Do you have any tips on how to cloth diaper at night? Share them in the comments!


About the Author

Grace is a mom of one and a high school teacher on mat leave. She loves board games, reading, and has a mini-zoo.