Raw silk, cotton, hemp, charcoal bamboo (CBI), bamboo, microfiber- there are many different kinds of inserts that can help you adjust the diaper to your needs. I use hemp, bamboo, and microfiber inserts in our stash.
First, the biggest thing to keep in mind with inserts is man-made material vs. natural. Natural fibers can be placed directly against the baby’s skin without causing any irritation, definitely something to keep in mind when using diaper covers or adding an insert on top of an all-in-one. On the other hand, man-made materials don’t need much prepping before use. Natural fibers need anywhere from 4-8 washes before being used. These washes help extract the natural oils within the fibers, which helps build up the absorbency. With every use and wash the natural inserts become better and better. For this reason, some people opt to only buy natural fibers used in online buy/sell/trade sites.
Microfiber is a man-made material. They absorb very quickly, which is definitely a benefit along with being one of the most inexpensive options. But the down-side is that, if placed directly against baby’s skin, it will suck out the moisture from the skin. Leaving the baby red and irritated. This can be avoided by putting the microfiber in a pocket diaper or folding a prefold around the microfiber and laying it in the diaper cover. While microfiber absorbs quickly, it is more susceptible to compression leaks. Picture a sponge: it can absorb liquid quickly but if you press down on it, some of that liquid will squish out the sides. That can occasionally happens with a full microfiber insert when a baby sits down.
Bamboo is a natural fiber and is perfectly fine to be against baby’s skin. It requires some extra prepping, but once used after a period of time, they are super thirsty little inserts that soak up liquid pretty quickly. An extra perk is how trim bamboo is in the diapers AND bamboo is an Earth friendly resource as it is quite renewable.
Finally there is hemp. Once again, hemp is a natural fiber and requires a little extra prepping before use. Hemp holds quite a bit of liquid and locks it in the best, but it absorbs very slowly.
Now that we know about each insert individually, let’s talk combinations. Microfiber and bamboo are great for being used all on their own. When I want a trimmer fit- let’s say Vi is wearing leggings that day- I opt for a single bamboo insert. The microfiber is just a bit thicker, but I still love using them during the day at home and like that their size can be adjusted to match the rise on one size diapers. Hemp is best used in combination with another insert on top.
Microfiber and bamboo absorb more quickly, so they are best to be layered on top of the hemp. The microfiber/ bamboo suck it away from baby’s skin quickly and then the hemp slowly absorbs from the top insert. A bamboo and hemp combination is our go to overnight solution since Vi sleeps through the night, making the time between diaper changes about 10-12 hours. We never have leaks and even though both inserts are well used, the sueded fabric against her skin in the pocket diaper is always dry.
Play around with different inserts to fit your baby’s needs, that’s one of the greatest benefits of cloth diapering. Just keep in mind the main points (no microfiber directly against the skin; prep natural fibers generously) and experiment to find the right fit for the time of use.
Check out our previous posts in the Cloth 101 series: