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Cloth diapers can get bulky quickly and sometimes it can be challenging to find that sweet spot between absorbance and trimness.
How trim can a cloth diaper really be with all that fabric anyway?
Hemp blend inserts, flat diapers, and preflats paired with covers or pocket shells are considered the trimmest of cloth diaper combinations by a majority of cloth diaper users.
If you’re like the majority of parents looking for the trimmest possible cloth diapers, you’re probably trying not to restrict your baby’s mobility by using too bulky diapers.
Perhaps you’re just dying to dress your baby in those cute little outfits that you bought when you first found out about your baby. What a waste it would be not to wear them just because they don’t fit over cloth diapers!
Either way, you’ll find the best tips for the least bulky cloth diapers in this post that I’ve put together after reviewing 100 real moms’ recommendations in a Facebook group with cloth diaper users.
Which types of cloth diapers are the trimmest?
Our research showed that 70 out of 100 real moms recommend either hemp blend inserts, flat diaper variations, preflats, or a combination of these. All of these links are affiliate links to Amazon.
Hemp blend insert
The most popular answer was hemp blend insert, with 27 moms voting for this option.
Hemp absolutely deserves this level of popularity because it is very absorbent. It can absorb 8 times its weight in water, meaning you’ll need a much thinner hemp insert than any other fabric to get the same result.
While it has the largest absorbency potential of all common fabrics used for cloth diaper inserts, it is, however, the slowest in the speed of absorbency. This just means you’ll have to pair it with fabrics that are faster absorbents (microfiber, charcoal bamboo, cotton, or bamboo) to get the slimmest possible stuffing in your cloth diapers.
Hemp blend inserts can be used in two manners, either as an additional hemp booster to the original insert (such as addition to microfiber inserts in pocket diapers) or as a single multilayered (usually 5 or 6 layers) insert where hemp is most commonly blended with cotton and bamboo. Both of the above links are affiliate links to Amazon.
All hemp blend inserts contain other fabrics. They are most commonly found in blend 40-60% hemp, 60-40% other fabrics, such as cotton and/or bamboo.
Flat diapers variations
A quarter of moms (25) recommend flats with a cover (affiliate links to Amazon) for a trim cloth diaper setup. The majority (13) recommend regular flat diapers, 10 advocate stretchy flat diapers, one mom is using flat diapers with an additional hemp booster and another mentioned fixed flats as her favourite option.
And here you were, thinking that flat diapers are completely outdated and no one is using them anymore.
That is definitely not the case!
Flat diapers are single-layered square-shaped fabric, usually made of cotton, bamboo, and/or hemp. They can be folded into different folds, depending on the baby’s size and the level of wanted absorbency. They require a waterproof cover over them.
There are folds for boys and girls, folds that are especially good at maintaining liquid breastfed poop, folds for newborns and bigger babies, simple pad-fold, you name it!
As you can see in our statistics, stretchy flats are gaining popularity as well.
Their main benefits over regular flats?
They offer a much better fit and they are usually more absorbent than regular flat diapers.
What about fixed flats? They are a special system where two layers of stretchy flats are sewn together and an additional insert is attached to the stretchy fabric to maximize absorbency.
If you want to learn about flat diapers and how to use them, check out this post where I go into more detail.
Preflats (affiliate link to Amazon) were voted as the third favorite option with 18 votes altogether. 14 moms recommended just preflats and 4 of them use an additional insert (usually hemp blend) in the preflat.
What exactly is a preflat, and why is it popular within the cloth diapering community?
Preflats are a hybrid between prefolds and flat diapers, as the name implies. They are generally made of 2-3 layers of different materials, the most common being cotton, bamboo, and hemp. They are shaped like a rectangle with additional width at the topmost part of the rectangle, resembling the letter T.
Precisely the unique T-shape of preflats makes them fit very well to different body types, meaning there is no unnecessary bulkiness. After fitting them around your baby, you have to pin the preflat, so it doesn’t unravel. You will need a waterproof cover over the preflats.
Flour sack towels (FSTs), all-in-ones, contours, bamboo inserts, and others
While these options were less commonly mentioned in the community, it’s fair to give them credit given that 8 moms recommended FSTs (4 moms use additional inserts), 6 like all-in-one cloth diapers, 4 of them voted for contour cloth diapers, and 4 for bamboo inserts. The other remaining recommendations were pocket diapers (4), all-in-twos (3), and prefolds (1).
Do you have to sacrifice absorbency to achieve satisfactory trimness?
You will probably need to sacrifice a little absorbency to get the trimmest possible cloth diaper setup but probably much less than you think.
The combination you decide on will probably vary in different circumstances.
By adding bamboo or hemp boosters to flats, you can increase the level of absorbency greatly and not add much bulk.
Unlike flat diapers which are usually made of cotton, preflats vary in fabrics much more and can be much more absorbent on their own compared to flat diapers. You can still add an extra booster to provide enough absorbency.
You can easily use flat diapers with no added inserts at home, where you can change your baby as frequently as every 1 hour but that probably won’t be enough for longer outings and appointments, unless you practice elimination communication with at least some level of success.
If you’re using pocket diapers, use a single multi-layer hemp insert – it will last a while and still look pretty trim.
The trimmest cloth diaper combinations for different baby ages (personal experience)
I’ve cloth-diapered two children by now and I’ve learned that what works for a mobile baby, won’t necessarily work for a newborn baby.
To be fair, I only cloth diapered my second child from birth onwards but I still found that no matter how I folded flat diapers, they were still too bulky for my taste, even with using newborn-sized covers.
Our favourite combination for that newborn phase (until 2 – 3 months of age) was a newborn-sized cover with a stay-dry microfiber insert, boosted by a thin bamboo or hemp booster.
When our baby was about 2 months old, we started using flat diapers way more and there was significantly less bulk than in the first two months. Our favorite fold was the Pickman fold.
After a month or two later, the baby’s butt was finally big enough that it could wear a pad-folded flat diaper and look decently small.
Now that our second child is more than one year old, we are still predominantly using pad-folded flat diapers with a wool or PUL cover during the day. I’ll add a bamboo or hemp booster under the folded flat if I’m expecting a longer interval to pass between diaper changes.
I’ll be using pocket diapers with microfiber, bamboo, and hemp boosters for daycare. These will not add much bulk, but it will be a very absorbent combination.