Monday, March 12, 2012

Lil Helper Diaper, Insert, Wetbag & Wipes Review + Giveaway {Fluffy February} (Closed)



Question: Why did two Aerospace Engineers start a cloth diapering company?
Answer: To prototype "the new time out" - launching unruly toddlers into space!

No wait, that's not quite it. :) But the real story is quite compelling itself!

Lil Helper (based in Toronto, Ontario) was founded in 2011 by Mohammed Ghandi and Nader Abu El Samid, two friends who met in university - yes, indeed, both working toward a degree in aerospace engineering!

The idea for the company germinated in 2009 when Mohammed and his wife Sophie began looking at cloth diapering options for their baby-to-be. Although existing options showed some potential, they found that most were overly expensive and not highly functional. As such, Mohammed was driven to design a more functional & affordable diaper that they could use on their own baby. Nader came along for the ride as he had some free time, the opportunity allowed him to show off his computer-aided design skills and, most importantly, he shared Mohammed's desire to solve a real world problem and help out families in need.

Once a working prototype was in place, the two friends hunted down raw material suppliers and a professional seamstress who met their high standards, and after a few iterations, arrived at their current diaper design (which continues to evolve with time and feedback.)

In Mohammed's words: "As the name of our beloved company (coined by Sophia), the company is built around a simple philosophy to make products that provide a lil help to all that are involved- the babies who are our end-users, the parents (uncles, aunts, grandparents, Santa Claus, etc.) who purchase our stuff and the environment at large."

One of the awesomest things about Lil Helper is their Baby Do Good program. The idea is simple - the company donates 1 diaper for every 3 sold to a family in need - but the impact is, I'm sure, anything but "lil"!

To top everything off, Mohammed and Nader are just a great couple of guys - they're super-passionate about their company, customer service-oriented to the max, hilarious and totally geeky! (And trust me - that's a compliment coming from Yours Truly!) To see what I mean, take a lil (hee, I just can't help myself) browse around their website and you'll surely find yourself LYAO at the colourful analogies and biting wit.

Alright, so what all does Lil Helper have to offer for CDing families? In addition to three types of cloth diapers, Lil Helper also sells extra insert sets, bamboo wipes and wet bags.  

And guess what? I got to try a lil (gahhh, I can't stop) of everything!!


My loot included two organic bamboo cloth diapers...


...one charcoal bamboo cloth diaper...


...three extra sets of liners/inserts - original cotton, organic bamboo and charcoal bamboo (respectively)...


...one package of bamboo wipes...

 

...and two zipper wetbags!


And look how little packaging was used on the whole kit 'n' kaboodle! That's what this green-minded mama likes to see!


All three types of Lil Helper diaper share the following characteristics:
  • AI2 (all-in-two) design. Inserts/liners snap in and out of the shells.
  • One-Size. Diapers are designed to fit from 7-35 pounds (or from birth to potty training).
  • Outer layers are made from waterproof yet breathable materials.
  • Snap rise and waist closures.
  • Comes in an array of solid colours.
  • Packaged with two detachable liners which have 7 total layers of absorbent cloth.
The only difference between the three types is the materials used in each one's construction.  

The Original Cloth Diaper has a micro-fleece inner, a waterproof PUL outer and unbleached cotton / micro terry liners.

The Organic Bamboo Cloth Diaper has an organic bamboo inner, a waterproof PUL outer and organic bamboo / micro terry liners.

Finally, the Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Diaper has an organic charcoal bamboo inner, a waterproof bamboo PUL outer and organic charcoal bamboo / micro terry liners.

If you're like me, you're wondering just what the heck "charcoal bamboo" is. Well, Nader offered up the following helpful description:

Charcoal bamboo fabric is a base organic bamboo material that has bamboo charcoal particles infused into it. The bamboo charcoal is similar to the carbon that you would find in a water filtration system, but the particles are "nano" in size (extremely small), but at the same time have huge surface area that that gives them very high absorbancy. The more contact area exposed to liquid, the more absorbant, which is the case here. Any organic waste, including bacteria, allergens, etc. also latch onto these particles, giving it the hypoallergenic effect. We've had one mother whose baby was getting rashes and welts from another brand and was about to stop cloth diapering all together, then tried the charcoal bamboo and the issues all went away, most likely due to these great properties of the charcoal.

Cool beans, huh? Then again, we wouldn't expect anything less from a couple of science nerds. ;)

Here you can see one of my organic bamboo diapers snapped into three size settings - small, medium and large - and fully unsnapped. All diaper types have the same size settings. Notice that the snaps are close together which is great for ensuring a snug fit at any size.





The smallest setting with its crossover snaps creates a teeny tiny diaper, and the largest setting appears quite roomy. So I'd say the 7-35 weight range advertised is pretty accurate, if not conservative.

Three snaps are included on each side of all diaper types to keep things in place and prevent wing droop.


Both the leg and waist elastic on all diaper types is nice and stretchy to promote a snug fit, and the surrounding material is soft to the touch, particularly on the charcoal bamboo.

Here you can see the organic bamboo and charcoal bamboo inners (respectively), and a close-up comparison shot. The organic bamboo is smooth and the charcoal bamboo is plush, but both are nice and soft.




The inserts/liners are one of the coolest parts of the Lil Helper diapering system, and unlike any I've come across before. Each diaper comes with a large and small insert of a matching material (e.g. the Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Diaper comes with a Charcoal Bamboo Insert Set), and separate insert sets can be purchased as well.

Inserts snap together and then snap into the diapers so that everything stays in place even on a super-squirmy baby. Or, as our friends at Lil Helper more eloquently put it, the snaps guarantee that the liners are in proper fielding positions when a mother load arrives. :D

The smaller insert has two inner layers and can be used on its own. The larger insert has one inner layer and should be used along with the smaller insert for extra protection. (Using it on its own exposes baby's bum to open snaps which wouldn't be that comfortable, plus the single inner layer would provide limited absorbency.)

Here are my original cotton, organic bamboo and charcoal bamboo insert sets (respectively), snapped together and ready to go!



Here you can see how the large and small insert are held together by two snaps at the one end.


Inserts can either be used together for maximum protection, or the smaller insert can be used alone. (Why not the larger one, you may ask? Well, two reasons. The larger one has exposed snaps which may bother baby's bum, and the smaller one actually has one more layer of absorbent material than the larger one. So there y'go!) 

Here is one of the diaper shells lined with a small insert and both inserts, respectively. AND, notice that the inserts are charcoal bamboo whereas the shell is organic bamboo in this example. Yup, you can mix and match diapers and insert types to your heart's content!



You can also snap together small and large inserts of different types. So you pretty much have ultimate flexibility with these diapers!


The fact that this is an all-in-two system allows you to reuse clean/dry shells between wearings. My personal preference is to launder a whole LH diaper following a change, because each one's inner is made of a soft material which cannot be wiped down, but admittedly, I can be a bit anal. :)

For testing purposes, we decided to stick primarily with matching diapers and inserts. Here is our lil sweetie modelling her organic bamboo diaper + insert set in the star pattern. Snazzy, huh?




And let's switch to the green diaper for a few more angles!




Here she is in her charcoal bamboo diaper + insert set. She was quite squirmy during this particular "photo shoot" so I only managed a couple decent pics.



In general, we have found all of the diapers (with their corresponding inserts) to fit and perform quite well. We haven't had a leak during the day so far with any of the diapers, solid messes have been readily contained and our daughter's bum always looks healthy and "happy" when one of her LHs comes off, with little to no marks left on her skin. We love that the company strives to ensure that only the softest, most breathable materials touch baby's skin and we also {heart} the flexibility of the insert system and the fact that everything stays firmly in place via the resin snaps. I should note that we've used both inserts together most of the time, though in some cases the bottom insert was almost completely dry when we changed her so a single insert would have gotten the job done here.

For night diapering, we've had the most success so far with the organic bamboo + organic bamboo and organic bamboo + original cotton shell/insert combos. We've tried these 3-4 times and only had a small leak once when the diaper was super-saturated. We have (strangely) had consistent leakage issues with the charcoal bamboo diaper/inserts, even when the diaper wasn't too full. It seems that moisture is somehow averting the inserts and wicking into the cover.    


Our daughter prefers sleeping on her side or tummy, so this could contribute to the issue. We've also noticed that when she gets super active, the diaper can shift a tad result in a small leg gap (though, I'm sure, this would happen with many/most diapers out there).


That said, it's a bit of a mystery why the leakage has happened with the charcoal bamboo and not the other types, as charcoal bamboo is technically supposed to be the most absorbent material of the three. I'm wondering if it has to do with the outer material of the diaper, which is softer and strikes me as less waterproof than the PUL on the other two types. In any case, I plan to keep testing to see if I can figure things out!

Another minor issue I've noticed is that the waist snaps don't *quite* line up with the hip snaps on all three diaper types. Due to this, a small amount of material bunches between the snaps. A superficial issue, sure, but still one which prevents obtaining that "perfect fit"! That said, Nader told me they have observed some variability in snap placement themselves and are paying close attention to this in upcoming batches.

I also found that one of the rise snaps on the star-patterened organic bamboo diaper is a little loose and occasionally comes unsnapped on its own. Again, though, this hasn't affected performance nor (it would seem) our little one's comfort.

In terms of care & maintenance, Lil Helper diapers and inserts are pretty simple - machine wash on cold/warm/cold (though I actually use cold/hot/cold and things come out OK!) and either machine or air dry. I like to machine dry the inserts on low but hang dry the covers to extend their life. Unlike other bamboo diapering products I've tried, the LH bamboo air dries nice & soft. That said, the covers do take about 24 hours to dry (significantly longer than 100% PUL, or PUL + microfleece variants) due to their natural material composition. One great thing about the charcoal bamboo in particular is that it doesn't really show stains - even if your little one has been munchin' blueberries like they're going out of style! (Yup, speaking from experience here!)

All the diapers and inserts have laundered nicely except for the original cotton insert set, which got kind of wonky/bunched up after prepping.


I mentioned this to the LH guys and Nader informed me that this is a known issue, and is due to the fact that the outer fabric is shrinking at a slighly different rate than the inner microfibre. It will be addressed during the next design phase. In the meantime, it shouldn't affect performance (which we agree with from our own experience, though we do assume that the next phase will result in a comfier experience for baby!)

Allllright, on to the official eval! Though first, a quick note. Unless otherwise indicated, a comment applies to all LH diapers. Points specific to the original cloth, organic bamboo or charcoal bamboo diaper/insert will be indicated with (OC), (OB) or (CB), respectively.

Appearance/Style:
+ Great-looking dipe at all size settings
+ Moderately trim design, especially when using a single insert
+  Comes in an array of attractive solid colours as well as a few snazzy patterns (OC, OB)
- Variability in snap placement results in some superficial bunching of material (though this is being addressed in upcoming batches)
- Currently comes in just four solid colours and no prints, so style options are limited (CB)
Score: 4.5/5 (OC, OB); 3.5/5 (CB)

Performance:
+ Great performance during daytime diapering; no leaks experienced so far.
+ No issues with solid poop containment
+ Good night diapering performance; minor leakage occurred only when inserts were saturated (OC, OB)
+/- Diaper generally achieves a snug (but not overly tight) waist and leg fit, however slight gapping has been noticed around the leg following lots of physical activity (which could potentially pose a problem for EBF poop?)
- Overnight leakage regularly experienced with the charcoal bamboo system; still trying to solve this mystery! (CB)
Score: 4.5/5 (OC, OB); 3/5 (CB)

Comfort & Health:
+ Only natural, breathable materials touch baby's skin.
+ Elastic is nice & stretchy, and covered with soft material for baby's comfort. Little to no marks left behind when diaper comes off.
+ Does not appear to cause or exacerbate diaper rash. The opposite, in fact - we've noticed that our DD's bum tends to look healthier & happier when we change her out of a LH diaper than it did before we put it on.
+ Even the covers are breathable and incorporate natural materials
+ Snaps are placed close together which allows for a comfy, snug fit at any size.
++ (Bonus points!) The charcoal bamboo diaper/inserts are antibacterial and hypoallergenic, which may allow even those babies with the most sensitive, rash-prone skin to wear cloth! (CB)
- The current version of the Original Cloth Insert gets wonky after laundering, due to different shrinkage rates of its outer and inner materials. This shouldn't affect performance but may not be the comfiest for baby. (Note - this is a known issue which will be addressed during an upcoming design phase.)
Score: 3.5/5 (OC), 5/5 (OB), 6/5 (CB - yup, I'm reserving the right to award greater than 100% in super-special cases!)

Ease of Use:
+ Snaps are easy to attach as they aren't overly tight
+ Stretchiness of the diaper helps get things in place when little one's being a super-squirmer
+ Diapers and inserts are a breeze to care for - easy spray-down, machine wash, machine dry or hang.
+ Inserts can be mixed & matched based on baby's size, trimness desires, availability or personal preference.
- Diapers take longer than average (about 24 hours) to air dry due to natural material composition.
Score: 4.5/5

Quality & Durability:
+ Construction of both the diapers and inserts looks and feels very high quality in general.
+ Snaps appear to be sewn in very snugly, and elastic is nice & strong.
+ Premium materials are used in all diapers and inserts, especially the charcoal bamboo.
+ Charcoal bamboo hides stains well (CB)
- Variability in snap placement results in some superficial bunching of material (though this is being addressed in upcoming batches) 
- The current version of the Original Cloth Insert gets wonky after laundering, due to different shrinkage rates of its outer and inner materials. (Note - this is a known issue which will be addressed during an upcoming design phase.) (OC)
- Noticed a single overly-loose rise snap on one of my diapers, but this was probably a one-off.
Score: 2.5/5 (OC), 4/5 (OB), 4.5/5 (CB)
(Note - given I have only been using these diapers for several weeks, I plan to update this section a few months down the road to get a true durability picture!)


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Total "Diaper Awesomeness" Scores: 
Original Cloth Diaper: 19.5/25 (Good diaper. Recommended.)
Organic Bamboo Cloth Diaper: 22.5/25 (Great diaper. Highly recommended!)
Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Diaper: 21.5/25 (Great diaper. Highly recommended!)

Overall Comments: Lil Helper's three types of AI2 diapers are unique, versatile, breathable and comfy, and generally perform very well. The Charcoal Bamboo diaper is particularly notable for its hypoallergenic property, which may allow babies with the most sensitive skin to wear cloth diapers (though I've had issues myself night diapering with this type.) I've noticed a few design imperfections (in particular with the original cloth inserts), however the LH team is aware of these and plans to address them shortly. These guys are super-dedicated to creating The Perfect Diaper for an affordable price, so keep your eye out for continuing improvements!

Approximate Stash Cost:
Original Cloth Diaper: $336 to $580
Organic Bamboo Cloth Diaper: $384 to $652
Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Diaper: $432 to $724

Calculation details: Lil Helper suggests that you can reuse diapers which aren't soiled/wet, simply snapping in new inserts. My best guess is that you'd be able to do this about half the time, therefore you'd need about 12 diapers and 12 extra insert sets in order to have 24 changes. This would cost $336 for a set of Original Cloth Diapers, $384 for a set of Organic Bamboo Cloth Diapers and $432 for a set of Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Diapers. Adding the $100 OS premium would bring these totals to $436, $484 and $532, respectively. Assuming you want a full set of 24 diapers and inserts, you're looking at $580, $652 and $724, respectively (including the OS premium).

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Let's move on to the final two LH products I got a chance to test - their zipper wetbags and their bamboo wipes.

The wetbags are made from resilient, waterproof PUL, contain a snap-able loop and are large enough to hold 3-4 soiled diapers. At $8 a pop, they're super-affordable too! Curently 8 colour choices are available, but no prints. I received an orange and a blue bag for review purposes.


The product description for the bags mentions that they contain "the best zippers in the industry". I assumed this refers to how the zipper creates a tighter closure than you'd commonly find, which can be seen here.


That said, I decided to ask LH to elaborate on this a bit further. Nader provided the following info:

When we sourced the zippers, we made extra effort to select only zippers that can last, so chose them on the basis of long life, ability to handle high load, and ability to keep liquid from coming out of the bag over time. These zippers met all the criteria, which makes them premium from a functional point of view, and why we chose to put them on out wetbags. The tighter closure you described is key to keeping moisture inside and stopping any mess from being created.

I did note that the pull tab is on the small side so it's not the easiest to grip. I also noticed that the bag is significantly smaller than other medium wetbags I own, and you need to really stuff it full in order to fit four dirty diapers.


Nader responded to this as well:

The pull tab is something we do want to increase in size and improve upon- with feedback like this we know what direction to head in. The same goes for the size of the wetbags, we are planning on introducing a larger size as well, and you are absolutely right that for quite a few users it would be difficult to fit the numbers that they would typically need.

I love that Lil Helper is so appreciative of constructive feedback and really strives to incorporate it into future product design phases!

A final comment about these bags - they're not 100% waterproof. If you actually pour water inside and squeeze, the water will come out through the seams. However, it appears that many (if not most) wetbags are like this, and it actually may be a good thing to allow oxygen to flow through. I did note that the bag holds smells in very well. My daughter had a particularly narsty, smushy poop the other day when I was out and I decided to simply roll the dirty thing up, bag it and enlist the services of my sprayer once I got home. I couldn't smell anything unpleasant coming out of my diaper bag, so two thumbs up on this front!

All in all, these are solid little wetbags for an affordable price. With a slightly larger zipper pull tab and a bit more room (for an extra diaper or two), they'll be SUPER awesome!

Last but not least, the bamboo wipes! These puppies come in packs of 5 for $10, which is a great price for what you're getting!


Wipes are two-ply, with one side made of microfiber and the other made of soft organic bamboo terry.


They are certainly "generously sized", measuring 8"x8".


They are also luxuriously plush. Check out how thick they are compared with your standard cheap-o washcloth wipes.

Most importantly, these wipes are very absorbent!! They eagerly slurped up our wipe solution after just a single prepping.

When used as bum wipes, a nice thing about these guys is that they're large enough to use a single one as both a wet and dry wipe; simply wet half of it and off y'go! That said, I personally like to keep a single prefold on our daughter's change table for drying purposes, therefore I found these wipes a bit bulky to use as wet wipes exclusively. (Especially considering the valuable space they take up in her change area.)

But.

Y'know what I've been LOVING them for? Bath time! They are MUCH softer than the dedicated bath cloths we'd been using previously, but still an ample size & thickness to get the "full body" job done. I've also kept one aside for washing my own face. It manages to be both smooth and "grippy" at the same time, so it's perfect for these two purposes.

I haven't tried them as mealtime wipes, however I'm sure they would get the job done here as well.

All in all, I'd definitely recommend picking up a pack or two as these are just great wipes for many different purposes. The only downside I've found is that the two sides appear to shrink at slightly different rates so the wipes come out of the dryer not perfectly flat/even. But not a big deal at all, functionality-wise, and my guess is that Lil Helper will fix this minor detail in an upcoming phase.


Buy It:

You can purchase Lil Helper diapers and accessories directly from the company website, or take a look at their Where to Buy page to find a 3rd party retailer (though note that at the time of this writing there is only a single retailer, diaper-eez, based in Toronto.)


Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win 1 Lil Helper diaper, 1 extra insert set, 1 wetbag and 1 package of bamboo wipes - up to a $54 value! Winner chooses diaper type & style, insert type and wetbag colour!

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Comments do not count as entries, however feel free to add a comment to remind yourself that you entered!



a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclosure:  The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by Lil Helper.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive the sample items free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.

21 comments:

  1. Oh I'd definitely love a Bamboo Charcoal diaper with a charcoal bamboo insert! LOVE the idea of the charcoal color!!

    lovemyhnk@yahoo.com

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  2. I choose a Bamboo Charcoal diaper with a charcoal bamboo insert!

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  3. Charcoal Bamboo and Charcoal Bamboo insert, because I like the color and haven't tried it before!

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  4. Organic Bamboo Cloth Diaper with the organic bamboo insert!

    christinejessamine at hotmail dot com

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  5. The Charcoal bamboo diaper and bamboo insert!

    Happysoul12 at att dot net

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  6. Nikkie hubbell : )March 20, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Diaper for sure would love to try something new

    nikkie_babydoll-atYahoo dot com

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  7. I would get the charcoal bamboo diaper in green and charcoal bamboo inserts.

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  8. I would get the organic bamboo cloth diaper in bubbles pop with extra charcoal bamboo insert

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  9. Original CD for sure in Purple Bubbles, and a reg incert.

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  10. I love the organic bamboo- and the extra charcoal bamboo inserts--You have just voted for Manager to Mom!at picket fence---- black is a perfect color for Pierce,

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  11. I would get a pink organic bamboo Diaper with extra charcoal bamboo insert

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  12. I would get a pink organic bamboo Diaper with extra charcoal bamboo insert

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  13. I would do pink charcoal bamboo CD and the charcoal bamboo insert.

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  14. I'd like to try the organic bamboo diaper and organic bamboo insert.

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  15. Would love to try the organic bamboo diapers and inserts! professor.advice [at] gmail.com

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  16. i would choose the original cloth diaper in blue with organic bamboo inserts

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  17. I would choose Charcoal Bamboo Cloth diaper with Charcoal Bamboo inserts. The blue is gorgeous and so bright!
    -Sherry Wakelin
    eagerembalmer@msn.com

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  18. I would want to Charcoal Bamboo Diaper with the Charcoal Bamboo Insert. I love the green one.

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  19. I would love to try out their Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Diaper And Charcoal Bamboo Inserts. And I would go with the blue as I have two boys (number 2 is due in July.)

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  20. These diapers sound great! I would love the opportunity to try them.

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  21. How did you prep your charcoal bamboo inserts and diaper? (and the bamboo wipes)?

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