A More Excellent Elemental?

(Review of the new BumGenius Elemental.)

 

Most of my stash is BG Elementals from when my 2 year old son was born.  I loved that diaper.  Trim, organic natural fibers, super absorbent, simple to use… pretty much the only complaint I had were long drying times.  So how does it stack up against the new Elemental?  Let’s find out…

What’s Changed?

The old Elemental was made up of (as far as I can tell ) 9 layers of BumGenius’s signature buttery soft organic cotton knit.  There were 3 layers that made up the inner base layer of the diaper and then a “handbag style” soaker made up of 2 separate strips of 3 layers each.  A “handbag style” soaker is one that is sewn down at the front and back like the handle of a purse, not at just one end with the other end flapping free.  (Many thanks to Tiffany of Simple Baby for explaining that term to me.) The body layers were sewn in the front and back and sides of the diaper.  To add absorbency you had to just lay a doubler into the diaper unless you had a very small doubler (like the GroVia booster), then you could tuck it under the handbag-style soaker.

The new Elemental has made some changes to address specific issues with the old Elemental.

  1. No more full body layers.  The new design has gotten rid of the full body layer and simply expanded the handbag style soaker (both longer and wider) so that it covers the body of the diaper from front to back and side to side.  It is no longer sewn into the elastic at the sides. This will eliminate a common complaint from the old Elementals, which is that the cotton would wear holes near where it attached to the elastic and near where the soaker was attached due to increased stress on the fabric at those points.  Additionally, having the elastic in leg casings and not attached to the cotton means replacing the elastic on the new Elementals is as easy as replacing it on the Flip cover.
  2. Quicker drying times.  By eliminating 3 of the 9 layers of cotton but making those 6 remaining layers wider, BumGenius has made the new Elemental quicker drying which saves both time and energy.
  3. Easier to add additional layers.  The new Elemental’s soaker is sewn to the PUL in a way similar to if you sewed a Flip insert to the flaps of a Flip cover.  The result is that there is PLENTY of space under the handbag soaker to add a full-size insert.  Plus, you can now use microfiber because the cotton soaker is wide enough to cover it completely so the microfiber doesn’t touch your baby’s skin.
  4. Trimmer.  I can’t say that this is a huge selling point for me since I will always pick more absorbency over less bulk, this could be a big plus for people who are used to the trimness of disposables or who don’t want to have to size up in pant sizes for their baby.

Despite all these positive changes, I do have a few reservations about the diaper.

  1. Absorbency.  The new Elemental has 6 layers of cotton instead of 9.  These layers are much wider than 6 of the previous 9 layers, so perhaps total absorbency is the same.  I’m not sure.  I will say that I was pleasantly surprised that the new Elemental lasted through a nap on my 2 year old.
  2. Exposed PUL.  This is a big one.  Because the cotton layers are so trim, and not attached to the sides, the soakers do tend to bunch up and leave exposed PUL against my baby’s skin.  He is not allergic to PUL so this isn’t as big of an issue as it could be, but it was still annoying, especially when a couple pieces of poop got stuck under the cotton soaker and ended up bouncing around on the PUL while I tried to shake it into the toilet.  Exposed PUL is also the reason I prefer the (old) organic cotton flip inserts  to the stay dry or the new trimmer cotton flip inserts.  The bulk of the old organic insert (now renamed the Flip Overnight insert) meant the insert held it shape, laying flat and going to the edges of the diaper instead of bunching up.

 

 

Will I grow to love the new Elemental as much as the old one?  Maybe.  I plan on adding a few to my stash , but I’m also going to add a few Smart Bottoms AIO’s which are extremely similar to the old Elemental design with full body layers of organic cotton as well as an attached soaker.

Want to try it yourself?  Come into our store or shop our website, www.babiesbottomsandmore.com! (If the listing for the new Elemental is not live yet, give me a day or so to get it up.)

 

Questions I didn’t answer?  Comment below and I’ll try to answer for you!

Full disclosure: I am a BumGenius retailer.  However all opinions expressed are my own.  I did not receive any compensation for writing this review and purchased the diaper for review myself.

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How Much Does A Full Diaper Stash Cost?

Over the weekend I had three very patient customers who helped me put this post together.  The question to answer was basically “What is the cost difference between the different styles of cloth diapers and how many do I need to get a full stash?”  So, without further ado…

Prefold Diapers

Prefolds and Covers

This is the least expensive and least like disposable diapers option.  The absolute cheapest way to get a full stash of cloth diapers – for a baby under 6 months “full stash” = 24 diaper changes, or 2 full days.  As your baby grows he/she will go through fewer diapers each day so you can stretch out the time between washes a bit, or get by with fewer diapers.  With the prefold + cover system, 1 diaper change = 1 prefold diaper PLUS you’ll need 1 cover for every 3-4 diapers.  (You’ll reuse each cover, on average, 3-4 times).

The Econobum system by BumGenius is a one-size prefold + cover system.  The Econobum Full Kit contains 12 diapers, 3 covers, and a wet bag for $49.99.  Two of these come in at right under $100 and voila! you have your stash.  (Econobum diapers will not start fitting till 8-10 lbs so they will not always fit a newborn from day 1). Your $100 for the Econobum system will pay for itself after just 50 days of use… that’s not even 2 months!!

The Thirsties Duo Wraps with traditionalPrefolds are another good option.  Duo Wraps come in two sizes that roughly correspond with the infant size and regular/premium size prefolds.  Size 1 Duo Wraps will fit 6-18 lbs and Size 2 fit 18-40.  They WILL fit a full term newborn baby from day 1.  You’ll need 24 infant size prefolds, 6 Duo Wraps, and a pack of Snappi diaper fasteners, for a total of around $130.  Then when your baby gets to be around 12-18 lbs you’ll get the next size Duo Wraps and prefolds for the next size, which will last you till potty training.  If you get another 24 of the next size up and 6 more Duo Wraps that will be another $136 for a total diaper expense of $266.  A $266 cloth diaper stash would pay for itself in 133 days, or a little less than 4 1/2 months.

If you decide to use a one-size cover with your prefolds instead of the Duo Wraps you could try the Rumparooz one-size cover which will start fitting at 8 lbs – so either on day 1 or pretty close too it.  6 Rumparooz covers will cost $96, plus 24 infant prefolds, 24 regular/premium prefolds, and a pack of snappis comes to a total diaper cost of about $209.  Not bad compared with $2000-2500 for disposables!  The prefolds + Rumparooz cover system would pay for itself in 104.5 days, or just under 3 1/2 months.

Flip Day Pack contains 6 diaper changes

All-in-Two’s (AI2’s)

AI2’s range in price depending on factors like diaper features, country of origin, one-size v.s. sized inserts, etc.  Let’s look at the low-end and high-end systems.

The Flip diaper system with stay-dry inserts is the least expensive of the AI2 systems.  The one-size cover and one-size inserts will fit babies from 8 or 10 to 35 lbs.  They’re sold in “Day Packs” for $49.95.  Each Day Pack contains 6 inserts and 2 covers – enough for 6 changes.  So 4 Day Packs will be a full stash and will cost you just under $200.  The Flip system will pay for itself in 100 days, or just a little bit over 3 months.  If you choose to upgrade to the organic inserts for an additional $10 per day pack, the total cost of $240 will pay for itself in 120 days or 4 months.

The Best Bottom System is one of the higher-end AI2 systems.  Inner gussets, fun prints, a double layer of waterproof PUL, and made in the USA status are all things that bump the price up from the Flips, but the biggest difference in the price comes from the fact that there are 3 different size inserts to use with the one-size cover.  Different size inserts mean the diaper will be trimmer on a small baby, and more absorbent on a big baby.  In fact, if you use the Best Bottom system and upgrade to the hemp inserts, you’ll be using one of the TRIMMEST cloth diaper systems around.  The Best Bottoms full package deal costs around $407 for the stay-dry microfiber inserts (hemp is a little more).  It will fit babies from 6-35 lbs, and you can purchase extenders (sold separately) to increase that range up to 50 lbs!  This package would pay for itself in about 203 days or a little less than 7 months.

Fuzzibunz Elite one-size pocket diaper

Pocket Diapers

Pocket Diapers are easier to figure out how many you need because for 24 diaper changes you just buy 24 diapers, period.  Between the BumGenius 4.0 and the Fuzzibunz Elite pocket diaper, a full stash of 24 will range from about $406-455.  Both these diapers will fit from 8 or 10 up to 35 lbs.  If you need a one-size pocket diaper that will definitely start fitting at 8 lbs, try the Rumparooz (though it is a bit pricier).  A full stash of pocket diapers will pay for itself in about 7 months, closer to 6 1/2 months for the less expensive and closer to 7 1/2 for the more expensive diapers.

BumGenius Freetime one-size all-in-one

All-in-one’s (AIO’s)

Our two most popular aio’s at time of writing are both BumGenius diapers: the organic cotton Elemental and the stay-dry polyester Freetime.  Both are one-size diapers that will fit from 8 or 10 to 35 lbs.  The Elemental is the other diaper besides the Best Bottom ai2 with hemp inserts that I would consider the absolute trimmest cloth diaper.  Individual prices are 24.95 for the Elemental, 19.95 for the Freetime.  With quantity discounts, 24 Elementals will cost around $530 while 24 Freetimes will cost around $410.  This means they will pay for themselves in a little less than 9 months (Elemental) or a little less than 7 months (Freetime.)

We’ll talk about optional accessories next time like wet bags, wipes, etc.

*Estimated disposable diaper costs were figured by estimating 10 diapers/day at .20 per diaper, with the understanding that as babies grow and go through fewer diapers per day the cost per diaoper goes up.  If you choose brand-name or specialty disposable diapers the costs will be significantly higher and the cloth diapers will pay for themselves even more quickly. I did not factor in the cost of washing the diapers mainly because I didn’t want to do the math but also because unless you are using a coin operated washer, the costs are negligible.

Best Diapers For…

Frequently we will have new parents come to the store and ask us “What’s the best diaper?”  The thing is, I can’t answer that question, because it’s not the same for everyone.  But after getting to know the parents a little bit, learning about their lifestyle (stay at home parent or daycare?  Washer and dryer in home or laundromat?), preferences (Need the easiest solution?  Want only natural and organic fabrics?) and budget, we can help our customers find the perfect diaper for their baby.  Here’s a list of some of the “bests” for certain situations.

prefold diapers cost just $2-3 each

Least Expensive

The least expensive diaper will be a prefold or a flat diaper with a cover.  Used is even cheaper (we have quite a few gently used prefolds in stock right now).  We will teach you how to fold them and put them on with a snappi fastener (no need to use pins!) or you can fold them in thirds and lay them inside the cover.  The least expensive cover is the Econobum, a one-size cover for $8.95, however it will not usually fit a newborn.  The least expensive to fit a newborn will be the Thirsties XS cover at $11.25, or for $1.50 more you can get a size 1 Thirsties Duo Wrap which will fit up to 18 lbs.  You can also make your own wool covers from upcycled sweaters from the thrift store – super cheap!

Flat diapers dry the quickest because they are just a single layer, folded

Quickest Drying

A flat diaper is the quickest drying since it unfolds to only a single layer of fabric.  Pocket diapers with microfiber inserts also dry pretty quickly.  A quick rule of thumb is that man-made fibers dry quicker than natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, and hemp.  All-in-one’s generally take the longest to dry, except for the Mommys Touch all-in-one, which due to its unique design and being made of microfiber, will dry faster than even a prefold. 

Best Bottom shells are one-size but the inserts are sized - very trim.

Trimmest

In my experience there are two things that contribute to a trim diaper: cut and fabric.  A diaper that has absorbent material only down the center of the diaper and none wrapping around the baby’s hips will be trimmer than one that wraps thick absorbent material around the baby like a prefold does.  As for fabric, microfiber tends to be “fluffy” while tightly knit cotton, bamboo, and hemp can be denser and therefore trimmer.  Finally, a diaper that is sized as opposed to one-size (or at least that has the inserts sized) will be trimmer on a smaller baby because you will have less material on the smaller size.  Some of the trimmest diapers that we carry are the BumGenius Elemental (all-in-one) and the Best Bottom Diaper (all-in-two).  The hemp/cotton insert is trimmer than the microfiber insert in the Best Bottoms. 

BumGenius diapers are easy to change from small to large

Best for Two Kids in Diapers

The nice thing about one-size diapers is that when you have two different-size babies both in diapers, you can still use the same diapers on both kids.  So, one-size diapers are a given, but which ones?  For easier switching between sizes, steer clear of diapers that change size by adjusting the elastic (like Fuzzibunz, Charlie Banana, Rocky Mountain Diapers, and SoftBums) and pick one that changes size by snapping down in front.  The external snaps just pop open or snap down quickly so you can easily change the diaper’s size to fit whatever kid you happened to grab!

Best Overnight Diaper

Although some parents have success using pocket diapers overnight, for those that don’t, we recomend a  double-layered prefold or heavy-duty fitted diaper such as the Tiny Tush Trim with an extra doubler or a Happy Hempy stuffable fitted stuffed with a hemp prefold.  Usually PUL covers work fine, but for a super-soaker baby you can try a wool cover like the Tiny Tush organic wool soaker. 

What about you?  What special situation makes you seek out YOUR perfect diaper?