Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Quick and Dirty* BumGenius Elemental Comparison

*Like, literally dirty. There's a pic of a dirty diaper in this post. FAIR WARNING. Also, I apologize in advance for the picture quality; these are just cell phone pics.

So in news that has the cloth diaper world abuzz, BumGenius redesigned the BumGenius Elemental (aka BGE), their natural-fiber all-in-one diaper. As an avowed fan of the old-style BGE - it's over half my stash - I was both incredibly excited and totally apprehensive about this new development. I love these diapers. Would I have to fiendishly horde my existing diapers, or would I desperately want to replace them all with the new BGEs?  And of course, testing new diapers is a total rush, right? RIGHT? Please tell me I'm not the only one to get excited about a new diaper.

So I bought one pretty much immediately.

If you want to skip to the summary, here it is: I'm not a fan. I hate to say it, CottonBabies, because I love everything you do for the most part, but I dislike the redesign. If you ever see this, my recommendation would be offering the redesigned version as a cheaper version of the BGE and keeping the original BGE as the Elite version. Or something. These kind of suck. :(   <-- Look, you've made me go and use an emoticon in a non-text-message setting. Now that's saying something!

Ok, so let's look at the differences.

The Differences

1. Width
The new cut is much wider than the old.  I never felt like the old version was particularly narrow; in fact, it was one of my wider diapers.  I feel like the new version bunches up between her legs much more and is baggy-er (baggier?) (WHY DON'T EITHER OF THOSE LOOK RIGHT?). At 18 months, she was just shy of 34 inches and was 25 pounds, and she's still on the middle rise and has plenty of room to grow (I like them with a low rise, as you'll see in later pictures).  I'm not sure how being wider is supposed to make the diapers fit a wider range of babies - when I do hear complaints, it's about the rise, not the width.

Old BumGenius Elemental (in Bubble) on top, new BumGenius Elemental (in Mirror) on bottom.

2. Inner
Previously, the BGEs had a cotton lining under under the inserts. They've removed the cotton liner so it's just  PUL underneath. Again, this is not a change I like. I know PUL isn't a delicate flower - I have some covers that are the same and they've done fine - but it FEELS like it's delicate, and I don't like have it exposed!

Also, it looks/feels cheap.

New BGE on the left, old BGE on the right.

Also also, the inserts bunch up while being worn. See pic below (WARNING: ACTUAL BABY PEE PICTURED) (HOWEVER I ASSUME YOU PROBABLY  HAVE OR ARE ABOUT TO HAVE AN ACTUAL BABY WHO WILL ACTUALLY PEE SO IT'S OK) to see what I mean. Now, this was taken mid-pee, as I was just trying to quickly change her diaper to get comparison pics, so it's not a full, um, void. But you can see what happened - as she was wearing it, the insert bunched up in the middle.  Again, this was a small, er, drain, but you can see it already reached the sides of the insert. With a big could easily hit the exposed PUL.  Sure enough, the next use had a regular size, uh, output, and it happened. Pee directly on the PUL. Leak. If you've ever had a pocket diaper with a too-small insert that didn't reach the sides and leaks because of it, it's the same situation.

It also means that the laminated side of the PUL is touching her, which doesn't seem like it would be as comfortable, but since I don't wear the diapers, I can't say whether that's the case or not.

Obviously, the lining was also absorbent, so removing that has removed a bit of absorbency. I'm not sure if they added extra layers to the insert to make up for it, but the inserts looked similar from what I could tell.

Finally, the new insert seems to be longer, and it was much harder to get it to lay flat. I had to tuck one end under (as you can see in the pee picture above), and that created a thick ridge in the diaper.

3. Leg casings
In the pic above, you can see that the leg casings of the new BGEs are encased in the PUL. The older ones had a rolled leg elastic, which you can see below.  Supposedly, this is designed to help prevent leaks and wicking, as the cotton isn't sewn to the outer/non-waterproof side of the PUL. Also, BGEs are known for their wear holes in the cotton, which tend to manifest along the legs since there is a lot of wear in that area. This is not something that I've personally had issues with in the 1.5 years of use, however, I do know people whose diapers have developed these holes. They don't affect the function of the diaper, and you can mend them or put FrayCheck on them if you want. The new design will eliminate those holes.  HOWEVER, the encased (new) elastic casing is not nearly as gentle on the legs as the rolled (old) casing. The new diaper, on the same snaps, left red marks on her legs, which the old diapers have never done. The new design does, however, avoid the "tucking" of the fabric that the old diapers required most of the time. Again, this was not something that ever bothered me, but I do know people who were irritated by it.

Old BumGenius Elemental on the left; new BumGenius Elemental on the right.

4. Miscellaneous
While I haven't tried it yet, the new BGE should make it easier to fit extra inserts into the diaper. I've never needed to do so with the old style, but I know people who do it in order to use their BGEs overnight. The new BGEs are supposed to dry faster, and while I found that to be true, it wasn't a significant enough time difference to make a big difference.

On the Bottom

With actual use, the new version looked bulkier and droopier and baggier.

Front is not incredibly different, but you can see there's more extra fabric between the legs with the new one (on the right) than with the old one (on the left). 

Old (left) versus new (right) - Not much difference from the back. 

 Here's where the difference really manifests. Both are trim, but the new (right) has 
much more extra fabric hanging loose than the old (left). 

All in all, I much prefer the old version. It looks and feels nicer, seems to be more absorbent, and fits my kid better. Your experience may vary, so I encourage you to give it a try and see what you think, but we won't be purchasing any more. 

Non-Scientific Theory Time
I have absolutely NO basis for this theory, but my totally non-scientific guess is that the redesign is actually a cost-saving measure, rather than a functional redesign, and that they are just packaging it as a functional redesign. Cotton is expensive, and the original design uses a lot of it. The original design is also much more complicated and therefore more labor-intensive. My guess would be that the new ones are overall cheaper to manufacturer and that the profit margin is greater on them. HOWEVER, that's just a guess. It could be totally wrong.  


  1. Well thank you for saving my time and money. We use Best Bottoms, which have a snap in insert and PUL, sort of the same way this has the insert and the PUL, but their inserts are sturdier so they don't bunch. However, we have had the situation where my wiggle worm wiggles so much that his poop ends up mostly UNDER the insert, between the insert and the PUL. Have you experienced this lovely phenomenon? Its not fun, I promise. He doesn't seem to care, but I do. I think I'll stick to what I know. (Best Bottoms and my one BGE).

  2. I like the new bumgenius all in one better- It is more trim- nothing under the insert!=) Love the blog!

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  6. This is so helpful, thank you! I had previously blogged about how amazing the Elementals were, and went to pick up some more, when my local diapering store told me they are out od stock, that they had been redesigned, that no one liked the redesign, and now they aren't restocking until Cotton Babies sends a new design (not sure if that was the store's decision or that of Cotton Babies).

    I think the new design is idiotic—it's like a Flip diaper that was sewn in, but with the flip organic inserts, there isn't any gap between the cotton and PUL, there's a faster drying time because the layers unfold, there are more layers of absorbency, and the Flip system is cheaper! I'll be sticking with Flip and my old Elementals until they come out with something new. Pity, because I wanted to get more All-in-Ones for baby #2!

  7. Oooh, I'm glad I read this. I have 7 old-style Elementals & love them. But I've been curious about this new and "improved" Elemental. Now I won't bother wasting my money (like I did with those dang Freetimes, barf).

  8. thanks for this helpful update! I'm expecting my first baby in August and have so many questions! I was all ready to register for 12 BumGenius elemental diapers (due to a diapering post I had read on Young House Love, and because I liked that they last all throughout diaper-wearing, and don't require stuffing any inserts or liners or whatnot.) My one initial reservation was that they always seem to be a big baggy or poofy on babies that I've seen in pictures (I guess it's the "one size" nature of cloth diapers), but in my search to see if there was a solution to the "baggy crotch problem" I came across this post and learned that said problem is even worse now (?!) due to this change in the Elemental diaper. So, my question is.... which diapers should I register for now? The BumGenius 4.0? or a different brand all together? I would love to keep whatever cloth diaper system we have streamlined, easy to clean, as few as possible (about 12 is what I was thinking?), and without too many extra doodads. Any input would be so greatly appreciated! (or links to past posts that I might be unaware of) - thank you!

  9. Awesome review! The new elemental reminds me of why I hated the gdiaper system so much. The insert bunches between the legs and my baby is sitting on a wet, slick pul-type liner. Your theory on why they made the changes sounds dead-on. I wasn't actually a fan of the old style E because the cotton felt so cold, wet & didn't seem to hold that much. All winter I reached for it last or looked around for a fleece liner to lay on top. Until the day we had an 85 degree day. Suddenly going outside with one of my fleecy diapers didn't seem like such a good idea. With summer around the corner, I look at my cottony elemental in a whole different light, and wish I had gotten more while they were good! It also takes time for them to become fully absorbent.

  10. This diaper does not leak so easily like other cheap varieties. I am using it for quiet some time for my kids. Will suggest to others

    1. One cheap diaper that I love that doesn't leak on my little guy is the KaWaii diaper. They come in from Canada and run only 6-8 dollars a piece!

    2. I just saw this and according to their website Kawaii diapers are now made in China.

  11. Love the post! Your pictures turned out great for being taken from a cellphone! I've not tried the bum genius diapers yet but they are on my list. I really like the thirsties duo, Econobum, peachy green & KaWaii diapers and have done reviews on them. I have been meaning to try out a really cheap diaper called bububibi do you have any experience with it?

  12. Nice post.There are different types of baby diapers are available in India.Baby Diapers

  13. I think I know exactly why there was a change. My entire daytime stash, for THREE kids, is of the older BGE design. I had mostly boy colors for my first child, girl colors for my daughter, and now we're on our third child, also a son. I didn't buy as many diapers for my daughter as I figured I had 36 Elementals for my son, and I could reuse some of his (particularly the lighter green and blue). He is now potty trained - she is not. Those color diapers in particular have been used quite frequently for over three years.

    As time went on, and the diapers hit around the two year mark... they start disintegrating. The issue seems to be the stress of where the two layers of sewn in inserts are sewn into the cotton liner. You will see "runs" (reminds me of runs in stockings) occur around them.. eventually holes, then they rapidly decline from there. If you're curious and would like to see pictures of what some of this stash looks like, I can provide some. I desperately took some of the less mangled ones to a seamstress - even after she tried salvaging them, they fell apart completely anyway.

    Anyway, I assume they have received enough complaints (no returns accepted on my demolished ones, though I have only followed care instructions to the tee) that they figured out the issue, and did a redesign. Maybe you haven't seen this sort of wear since they don't make up your entire stash, but right around d the 18mo-2 year point, the diapers begin this process. It's a shame, I love everything about them otherwise, and now I am completely torn as to what to do for my two month old, who is using some of his sister's diapers. I may try the new ones, but it is frustrating to own 50 diapers, and over half of them are now garbage after one child (the ones I reused are an absolute mess, but all of them have holes that I would worry fecal matter could work its way into the lining between Pul and cotton).

    1. I have probably a good 24-36 of the old BGE's and I have the wear around the legs on a lot of our first 24 that we have had from the beginning - the holes in the cotton around the legs that she discussed in her post - we used the heck out of them from about a month old til now (almost 19 months).

      I have been noticing more diaper rash/redness and irritation and I am wondering if anyone else has experienced this when they start to wear. We have also had two bouts with HFMD :( which is not fun in cloth so we had to put her in disposables the 2nd time to get more air around the rash/blisters until they healed. The first time she had it we kept her in the cloth and then a month later she got another case of it - but worse but we're not sure if it was in the diapers like you said if the fecal matter could get between the PUL and cotton and not get thoroughly washed. Our wash cycle is usually a cold water rinse and then wash them in warm to hot water and then a double cool rinse and had bleached them after to sanitize them.

      Now that we are finally HFMD rash-free we're not sure what we should do with the ones with the wear because we put her in the BG Freetimes we have and she is fine and no rash, but it seems like when we put her in the ones that have the wear (our original BGE) she gets rashy and red irritation from something. I hate to see the wear on them though because we have loved them well.

  14. You tell me that cloth diaper will best for our baby. I want to use on him.
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  15. This is very important and helpful information for everyone. I think it is a new technique clothes diapers for new born baby. Parents can use Latest Chicco Diapers, because it is made by the combination of cotton and pul, so it is soft for new born baby skin's.

  16. I've always said every cloth diaper works if you change it, but looking at this design I may have to retract that statement. I'm shocked its just PUL.

  17. A nice post. I prefer bamboo cloth diapers for my 6 month old daughter as they are waterproof and come in only one size for all age groups.

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  21. Washable Diaper......but my wife said, disposal diaper are convenient and a cinch to change, just pick a size based on our baby’s weight and age for best fit. Traveling is easier, too, because we can just toss dirty diapers without having to cart them back home. What’s more, we’ll be changing fewer diapers a day since disposable baby diapers are ultra-absorbent, have an inner liner that keeps wetness away from the skin, and don’t tend to leak.

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