Monday, November 21, 2011

My Thoughts on Newborn Diaper Absorbency

One of the most common questions people have is how many layers to use in their newborn diapers & inserts.  Having only one child; who was only cloth diapered part-time as a newborn, I am certainly not an expert, but I have done a few “experiments” to help offer some guidelines for newborn absorbency.

When my daughter was a newborn, I started out with premie prefolds laid in a cover.  She never had leaks with those, and I don’t recall them ever being sopping wet (I did change very frequently; as I am sure most parents of newborns do!)  When she was a few weeks old, I moved up to infant size prefolds laid in a cover, again, I don’t recall them being sopping wet.  So, I figured that the absorbency of those prefolds will offer some general guidelines for how much absorbency is needed in your mama-made diapers.  (The prefolds I used were Indian cotton prefolds from cottonbabies.)

The experiment:
I ran a test to determine the absorbency of the premie prefolds, infant prefolds and also the BumGenius 4.0 newborn insert.  (I never actually used the BumGenius inserts on a newborn, but figured I would include them in the test.)

To test the absorbency,  I laid the prefold/insert in a dish and poured a pre-measured amount of water on it.  Then, I lifted the insert out of the dish and held it up and let the water drip off of it for one minute.  Then I measured the amount of water left in the dish so that I could figure out how much the insert had absorbed. 

Test results:
The results were that the premie prefold held  5oz, the infant prefold held 11oz, and the BG insert held 5oz.  I will note though, that the inserts seemed a lot more soaked than I would actually want to leave on a baby, so I would say this is a measure of maximum capacity, not of actual expected capacity.  But, at least this gives a good general baseline against which you can test your mama-made diaper absorbency.

Given these test results, my goal is that my premie diapers and tiny newborn diapers will hold about 5 oz and my newborn diapers will hold about 11oz.  Since I make fitted diapers, I will measure the absorbency of both the insert and the shell.

I randomly picked 3 of my newborn diapers to test the absorbency of them.  I make my diapers with an outer layer of either stretch french terry or cotton interlock, a hidden layer of an old t-shirt, and an inner layer of cotton velour.  The diapers averaged out to about 6oz.  So, that means I need to make inserts for them that hold about 5oz.

No-Sew Insert Options:
If you don’t want to sew inserts for your diapers, there are a few no-sew insert options that I came up with.  These are all absorbent enough to be used in a fitted diaper; if using in a pocket diaper or all-in-two, you may want to double up on the inserts.

(Click on the chart to view it larger)

Insert fabrics:
If you want to sew inserts, then I came up with some absorbency figures for some common diapering materials, using the same testing technique that I described above.  These are just rough estimates.  I prepped the fabrics ahead of time by washing & drying a few times, but some of the fabrics are likely to get more absorbent with more prepping.  The pieces of fabric that I tested were cut 6.25” wide by 10.75” long.  I make my newborn inserts bifolded, so that is why I cut my fabric that size.  I used my testing results to also calculate the absorbency of straight/contour inserts or trifolded inserts.

(Click on the chart to view it larger)
So, since I want my inserts to be about 5oz, and I make them bifolded, I might use a layer of cotton velour, a layer of bamboo fleece, and a layer of flannel.  That insert would hold about 5.25oz.  If I made trifolded inserts, I might use a layer of microfiber with a layer of flannel, for a total of 5.25oz.

Since all newborns are different and it is hard to guess before they are born whether or not they will be a heavy wetter or whether they will sleep through the night (lucky!), I would recommend making some extra doublers (or extra cloth wipes, which can be used as newborn doublers).  I think a good doubler would hold about 2 oz.

Disposable newborn diaper absorbency:
All of this absorbency testing made me really curious about how much disposable diapers hold.  I got my hands on a Target Brand Up & Up newborn diaper, and I poured water on it until it seemed to be at the point where it couldn’t hold anymore without bursting.  It started to seem really full around 12oz, but I did manage to get 2 more oz poured onto it before it started pooling in the gussets.  So, I would say a disposable  newborn diaper holds around 12-14 oz.  So, very comparable to the 11oz estimate for an infant prefold!

If you test your homemade diapers/inserts using the same procedure I used, I would expect newborn diapers to hold around 11 oz.  For the tiny diapers that you might only use for the first 2 weeks, or for premie diapers, I would expect them to hold about 5 oz.  I will note that in hearing from other mamas who make newborn diapers, there is a HUGE variance in layers used in the inserts.  Some mamas say that only 4 layers of knit from an old t-shirt is fine for their newborn, while others say that their newborn outpeed 6 layers of heavy bamboo fleece.  So, you might prefer to make the inserts thin so that they won't be unnecessarily bulky, but then also make extra doublers to use if your baby ends up being a heavy wetter (or to use at night).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baa Baa Baby Newborn

So, I know I said that I was done testing the newborn patterns, but then this new free pattern was released by Baa Baa Baby, and I just had to sew one up!  I may continue to periodically sew up additional patterns that I get my hands on J

About the pattern:
This is a free pattern for a front snapping diaper, with an umbilical cord snap.  Although the pattern is not marked for hook & loop, I’m sure that would also work great.  This pattern only has a single row of snaps along the tummy, which makes for quick & easy diaper changes, and also doesn’t add a lot of bulk on the tiny newborn tummy.  There are no instructions included with this pattern.

My test diaper:
I used this pattern to make a fitted diaper with snap closure.  I really liked that there were only 8 snaps on the tummy because I don’t really like setting snaps, so it was a lot easier to make!  This diaper is incredibly cute, here are some pictures:

Here it is with the umbilical scoop snapped down:

Here it is without the front snapped down (please excuse the crooked cord snap...that is why it is important to follow the pattern markings rather than just eye-balling it!)

Overall opinion:
This is an awesome basic newborn pattern.  I really like the size of it and it was so quick and easy to sew up, and it is just so cute.  If you are sewing up diapers as a gift then this would be a fantastic choice because it is really cute, and it would be really easy for someone new to cloth diapers to understand how to use.  Also, I really love that it is a material doesn’t use a lot of snaps and it uses very little fabric.  The back wings aren’t very long, so you could get a lot of diaper cuts out of a single yard of fabric.  This makes for very economical diapering!

Fit update:
Before umbilical cord falls off:
My son wore this diaper when he was at his lowest weight; around 8 pounds.  It fit well except that the legs were just a touch loose.  This wasn't a problem with my son, but might needed to be a little snugger for smaller babies.

Action shots:

4 weeks old - 11 pounds:
This diaper is a great fit on the medium setting.  The legs fit better now that he has chunked up a bit!

2 months old - 14lbs,10oz:
This diaper fits nicely on almost the largest setting, it is a great fit on the thighs now.

Get the pattern:

Thank you very much to the mama who provided this free pattern!

Please feel free to comment about your experience with the Baa Baa Baby newborn pattern or with any questions about my review!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fabric Choices

I get a lot of questions about what fabrics I use for my fitted diapers, so I'll go through the fabrics I use, and why I choose them.

I make my fitteds with stretchy materials because I like that they fit longer and seem really comfortable.  There are a few drawbacks though.  Stretchy materials are a little harder to work with; I use a walking foot and that really helps.  The stretchy materials are also usually more expensive than flannel.  The non-stretchy materials, like flannel, still make nice fitted diapers though; I do use both, but prefer stretchy.  If you decide to use stretchy fabrics then keep in mind that your diaper will only be as stretchy as your least stretchy layer, so don't combine it with flannel (or other non-stretchy material).

These are the fabrics I typically use to make fitted diapers:

Outer layer - I use either cotton interlock or stretch french terry.  Both have nice stretch and are a nice weight (not too thin like some jerseys and other knits), and the interlock can be found in cute juvenile prints at Joanns.

Hidden layer - If my husband has old t-shirts to get rid of, then I use those!  If not, then I use cotton interlock.

Inner layer - I use cotton velour (it is a blend of 80% cotton/20% poly).  This fabric is nice and stretchy, and super soft.  It also seems to stay soft wash after wash.  I like the cotton velour because not only does it feel soft and comfortable, but it also feels less wet against the skin than other natural fibers.

Other fabric options:
A lot of people like to use fabrics like bamboo fleece or hemp fleece as the hidden layer of their fitted diapers.  I do like to do that for nighttime, but I prefer to save those more expensive fabrics for the soakers rather than doing full body layers of them.  However, those will certainly work well for fitted diapers, but just be aware that some of these heavier weight fabrics aren't quite as stretchy as the interlock/knit/cotton velour fabrics I mentioned above; so you may have a slightly smaller fit range with these fabrics.

Feel free to comment with any other questions about these fabric choices!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stretchy vs. Non-stretchy Fabrics

All of the diapers that I sewed up for this blog project were made with stretchy fabrics.  I tried to use similar fabrics for all of the patterns so that they could be compared apples-to-apples.

I picked one of the patterns that I have already tested (Trimsies, size small), and sewed one up with non-stretchy fabric (flannel) to compare.

At first glance they appear very similarly sized (stretchy is gray diaper; non-stretchy is vehicles diaper):

Then I fully stretched the wings to see how they compare.  I was expecting the stretchy one to be noticeable longer because the stretch of the fabric runs from wing-to-wing.  The wing span of the stretchy diaper measured 16", compared to 14.5" for the non-stretchy diaper.

I figured the rise of the diaper wouldn't be much different because the stretch of the fabric doesn't run from front-to-back.  But, I was very surprised to find out that there was a little more than an inch of difference in rise.  The stretchy diaper measured 14.5" long and the non-stretchy one measured 13.25"

So, if using non-stretchy diapers, then you might want to avoid any of the tiny newborn diapers, unless you are expecting a premature baby or a very small newborn.  If you were using fabric with moderate stretch (such as PUL or fleece), I would expect them to fall in between the non-stretchy & stretchy measurements.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pattern Comparisons

I went through the diapers and tried to group them into smaller groups of similar diapers, so that you can see how they compare.  Click on any of the pictures to view them larger!

First up are the premie diapers.  They are all similarly sized, but the Rocket Bottoms diaper is slightly narrower through the crotch.
From left to right: Rocket Bottoms Premie, JMP Premie, EZDipe XXS

A lot of people wonder if the Darling Diapers Tiny Newborn pattern, or other small newborn patterns, will work for premies.  Here is a picture of the Rocket Bottoms premie diaper next to the Darling Diapers TNB:

Next group are the tiny newborn diapers, that would probably be good for larger premies or smaller newborns (probably starting around 6-7 lbs).  The Rocket Bottoms side snap has a higher rise than the others in this group, but still seems quite small due to how narrow it is.
Top row from left to right: Little Comet Tails XXS, Darling Diapers smaller NB,  Wee Weka Serged NB
Bottom row from left to right: Rocket Bottoms side snap, Short Wing QSFW

Next group I will call “regular” newborn diapers, ones that would probably start fitting around 7-9 lbs:
Top row from left to right: Clothbaby (reduced to 80%), Hippy Hippy Snap, EZ Dipe XS
Borrom row from left to right: Shar’s newborn nappy, Cloth Revolution, Darling Diapers larger NB

The next group are more “regular” newborn diapers, but just seem slightly larger than the last group.
From left to right: Shar’s Pocket Nappy, Tighty Whitey Hipster, Goodness Gracious NB, Trimsies S

The next group are diapers that have a higher rise:
From left to right: Witteybums front snap, Wazoodle, and Super Front Snap

Next group are full coverage diapers:
Top row from left to right: Babyville, Baa Baa Baby Fleece, Fattycakes
Bottom row from left to right: Shar’s Side Snap, Chloe Toes, Bramblestitches

And of course, the full coverage category needs a bum shot J

Last group are two-step diapers that snap from size small down to size newborn:
From left to right: Rocket Bottoms Step 1, Clothbaby (reduced to 90%), Baa Baa Baby Two Size, Rita’s Rump Pocket (reduced to 85%)
(The first picture is of the diapers snapped to the smallest setting, the second picture is on the largest setting)

And finally, just to show the variation in the diapers, here is a picture of one diaper from each group.  You can really see how much the patterns all vary!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

That’s it...for now!

I finished sewing up all of the newborn diapers!  I made some labels that list the pattern and size of each diaper.  Here are some pictures of the cute labels:

Even though I am finished with the pattern reviews, I still have a few more posts planned!  I will be grouping the diapers and taking some comparison pictures so that you can get a better idea of how the patterns compare side-by-side.  I will also be doing some insert absorbency testing to come up with some fabric & layers recommendation for newborn inserts.   J

Rocket Bottoms Step 1

About the pattern:
This is a paid pattern for a front-closing diaper that has three size settings.  The pattern notes that the diaper will fit from approximately 7-20 pounds!  There is a step 2 pattern sold separately that fits from 20-40 pounds.  The diaper can be made with either hook & loop, loop fabric or snap closure.  The pattern includes instructions for making a turned & topstitched pocket diaper, FOE bound pocket, serged pocket or All-in-One/All-in-two.  The pattern also includes a contour soaker pattern.

My test diaper:
I used this pattern to make a fitted diaper with hook & loop closure.  I really like the look of the loop fabric diapers, but I don’t have any loop fabric, so I just used regular loop tape.  I love this two-step system because when snapped down to the newborn setting it is nice and small and doesn’t have as much extra bulk and width as one-size diapers do.

Here is the diaper on the smallest setting:

Here is the middle setting:

Here is the largest setting:

Overall opinion:
I love this pattern!  I really don’t like one-size diapers for newborns, so I think that this two-step system is great because it saves you from having to make sized diapers in every size, yet provides a better fit for newborns.  I also like that the thigh openings are nice and small when the diaper is snapped to the smallest setting, so they should work well for those little newborn legs.  I am very happy that I got this pattern; there is nothing that I don’t like about it.

Fit update:
4 weeks, 11 pounds:
This fits fantastic with the rise snapped down and fastened on almost the smallest settings.  It is a nice full coverage diaper and has lots of growing room.  I love this diaper!

Action shots:

2 months old, 14lbs,10oz:
This diaper fits awesome!  My son is now wearing it on the middle rise setting and has plenty of growing room.

Get the pattern:

Thank you very much to the mama who provided this great pattern!

Please feel free to comment about your experience with the Rocket Bottoms Step 1 pattern or with any questions about my review!