The magic of night nappies is there’s no magic at all. It’s simply finding a nappy with enough absorbency to see you through the night.
For light to moderate wetters, a night nappy can easily be a boosted day nappy; for very heavy wetters, a night nappy likely looks more like a dedicated, boosted fitted nappy with a wool cover. But then there’s everything in between.
I’m firmly in the camp that there’s no best nappy, just a nappy that is best for every family based on their needs and desires. To cloth your baby for night, you can choose traditional terry cloths, AIO, AI2, pocket or fitted systems; built-in PUL or a PUL or wool cover; front or side snaps; micro fleece, cotton, bamboo, hemp or any combination of the aforementioned fibre inserts; to stuff, snap or lay inserts; and to fold inserts in a myriad of ways. It’s this tyranny of choice, I think, from which much of the reluctance toward night nappies comes.
For me, night nappies were where I started with cloth. I’d long considered using cloth for environmental reasons, but it wasn’t until I couldn’t find a disposable nappy that my older son wouldn’t wet through overnight that I decided to try reusable nappies. I now have two sons in cloth – a 17-month-old, 12.5kg moderate wetter in full time cloth and a nearly 3-year-old, 15.5kg very heavy wetter in cloth for night.
For families looking for simplicity in their cloth stash, any nappy can be boosted for nights. A ‘day’ nappy (with two high absorbency bamboo/hemp inserts) boosted with a trifold will sufficiently see my younger son through most nights. And, because I am that kind of person, I have also challenged myself to get my older son through the night in a ‘day’ nappy with some success. By the time I boost the standard inserts with the additional three to five inserts he needs, however, the fit is far from perfect, and this combination is not something I choose to use regularly. Look for the brands that offer double gussets – these are perfect for boosting as night nappies.
After trialling at least half a dozen dedicated night nappy options on the market, my go-to night nappy solution has become a large OSFM, double gusseted, double PUL cover into which I lay whatever combination of inserts I predict will see my boys through the night. When using bamboo terry inserts, I aim for 13 layers (3-4 inserts) or my younger son and at least 21 layers for my older son (and still sometimes get saturation leaks). If using bamboo fleece inserts, the layers tend to be thicker (a higher grade GSM) and, therefore, more absorbent and you’d need fewer to reach the same level of absorbency. (Refer to the glossary for more on cloth nappy fabrics). The benefits of this option are fast assembly (no stuffing); only one set of closures to do up (compared to a fitted and cover system); quick drying times (compared to a fitted nappy); the option to purchase fewer covers (due to fast drying times); and, adaptability as babies grow and change, or if you have more than one baby in cloth.
The one night option I hadn’t used until recently was a wool cover. I have read time and time again that wool is where it’s at for heavy wetters; but, the cost, the look, the perceived feel, and the thought of lanolising and using wool on my eczema-prone son had put me off. Then, Baby Beehinds came along and offered me a night nappy and wool cover to trial.
The lack of leaks with the wool cover has got me good. My older son will still sometimes wake with a feeling of dampness but I don’t get those drenching leaks that have me constantly shovelling sheets into the washing machine. We have been using an extra large Baby Beehinds wool cover on both the boys, over a number of night nappy options for the purposes of testing broadly.
And those reservations? I find the wool cover super soft and adorable on both my boys (I’d initially thought they looked awkwardly large). Lanolising was as simple as a quick Google search, trip to the chemist and a few minutes of my time. Come back in 6 months to ask me my thoughts on wool and eczema, but my older son is currently in the middle of an eczema flare-up and hasn’t yet complained about the cover. Well, except for the colour that is – “colour it in with crayons,” he said to me when I first presented it to him.
So, my recommendation – definitely go for a wool cover, if you can afford it. Wool covers aren’t the cheapest night nappy solution on the market, but they will definitely stand the test of time. Wool is also known for its breathability – it will absorb moisture and release it through the material itself, so you can get away with washing a wool cover just once a month. Just air it out between washes; you won’t get any smells. Baby Beehinds wool covers come in four sizes (small 3-5kg, medium 4-10kg, large 8-15kg, and extra large 14-20kg), though you may have noted I mentioned I was using the XL on both my boys – the stretchiness means they are very versatile across body shapes.
The Baby Beehinds night nappy is the fifth fitted night nappy I’ve used. It’s also now my favourite fitted for three reasons – it stands up well to boosting, it’s easy to stuff and it offers multiple sanitisation options. None of the other fitteds I’ve tried have met all three of those criteria – one didn’t stand up well to bulking (at least not to the extent that I needed it), two could only be bulked over the fitted and under the cover (which I personally find tedious), two were time consuming to stuff (and I don’t have time for that) and one could not be sanitised in the washing machine at high heat due to having in-built PUL.
With my heavy wetting older son, the ability to boost is my priority when it comes to night nappies. The Baby Beehinds night nappy comes with one snap-in bamboo insert that consists of a three-layered (includes a stay dry layer) bone with a three-layered snake attached. The set up allows for the absorbency to be placed where it’s needed most, and it easily meets the needs of my moderate-wetting son. More importantly for me, however, the nappy is roomy, and extra inserts can quickly and easily be laid either on top of or under the insert. If you have an extreme wetter or prefer the option, you can also boost over a fitted nappy (and under the cover). The nappy is bulky – but, for me, that certainly isn’t a concern.
The Baby Beehinds night nappy is side snapping and sized, so you do need to consider whether this suits your family. Personally, I am not the greatest fan of side snaps for day use, but I find them better for nights in that I struggle with snaps popping open on front snapping night nappies. Being sized, you might be up for a second set of night nappies throughout your cloth journey depending on how baby grows, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll happily make that sacrifice for a dependable night solution. We’ve been using a large night nappy which suits 10-16kg, so you’re likely to find this size will cover much of your cloth journey anyway.
And, despite what my son says, I really think there’s something special and rather nostalgic about a plain white, fluffy nappy, especially for nights when the nappy is rarely on show.
So, there you have it, the night nappy options I’ve found to be best for my family – what have you found to be best for yours?
* It is worth noting the wash recommendations for night nappies (or any nappy worn longer than four hours), which includes a hot, daily pre-wash. Visit Clean Cloth Nappies for details.