Updated August 2023
Lil Helper Cloth Diaper Review
My first experience with Lil Helper cloth diapers was way back in 2013. I was enticed by their free (or not very expensive?) first diaper trial offer I saw advertised on Facebook. It was purple. It was one of a bazillion diapers I amassed as I fell deep into the cloth-diaper-collecting-craze that was my first child.
At some point I thinned the stash, and I didn’t pick up a Lil Helper again until the twins came along five years later.
But I’d been watching them. Watching them grow from a cute little start-up to a full-fledged, well-branded and adorably printed cloth-diaper company.
Lil Helper sent me my first diapers to test out on the Cub Twins almost exactly two years ago. Because my cousin’s daughter, referred to for consistency as Miss Cousin Cub, also uses Lil Helper (along with a selection of my top-recommended cloth diapers—my family follows my blog!), and because, in the before times, I babysat her once or twice a week, I got even more chances to play with this brand than normal.
What was great about this for future review purposes was that my cousin’s daughter (8 months younger than the twins) was (and still is) super tiny. My twins are average, but as they approach 3, they are getting close to the size maximum for this and most other one-size diapers. Therefore, I’ve had a chance to really assess this diaper on the full range of child ages and sizes for which it is designed. Because I have now lured my brother into the cloth diaper reviewing business, I also sent him two diapers to test drive on his one-month-old son. (MY BROTHER HAS A SON!!!)
With the twins being so close to the end of their cloth diapering journey, I am very happy to be able to add a full Lil Helper review to the roster after all these years!
Lil Helper recently beefed up the inserts included with their diapers, so the style I used up until late last year had their charcoal insert set while the new ones come with “The Tank” inserts, which I’ll talk about more later. The fit of the diapers has not changed, but they did make a smart little change to snap colours that I’ll tell you all about, too.
Lil Helper Cloth Diaper Review:
Lil Helper Diaper Shell:
- Price: CAN$23.95 (solids) / CAN$26.95 (prints)
- Size range: 7–35 lb (3‑15.8 kg)
- 3 rise levels
- Single row of closure snaps
- 4 hip-snap options
- 2 crossover snap options for super tiny waists
- Comes with “The Tank” inserts
- Designed in Canada, manufactured in China
“The Tank” Inserts:
- Small insert: charcoal fleece top layer, 3 layers microfibre, wicking bamboo stay-dry backing
- Large insert: bamboo terry, 2 layers of microfibre, waterproof PUL backing
What kind of diaper is a Lil Helper?
Cloth diaper aficionados like myself enjoy categorizing cloth diapers by type. The Lil Helper diaper falls into a bit of a combo category.
The Lil Helper shell (in other words, the exterior) is waterproof PUL on the outside, fleece on the inside. There are male snaps at the top and bottom of the diaper, and each diaper comes with two inserts. You can either snap just the smaller insert into the diaper, or snap the small insert onto the large and the large into the diaper. (Because of the exposed snaps on the large insert, you should not use it on its own.)
I say it’s between styles because you can use the diaper like I do, leaving the inserts snapped in at all times, making it akin to a one-piece, all-in-one diaper (in this case more aptly termed a “snap-in-one”), or you can use it as an all-in-two diaper, swapping soiled inserts out for fresh ones.
I have always used Lil Helper diapers as all-in-ones; like every diaper of this style with a fleece lining, I find that by the time I get around to changing my twins, the inserts are so wet that the fleece lining is also moist, and I don’t want to reuse the shell. Even though the new Tank inserts have a waterproof backing, moisture still wicks onto the fleece of the shell. (In my expert cloth diaperer opinion, the type of all-in-two system that works best is one with a wipeable shell; any system that is lined with fleece or other fabric inevitably has some moisture transfer unless you are really quick and frequent on the diaper changes.)
That said, it isn’t impossible to use Lil Helpers in this manner if you change more frequently than, say, a mother of twins. The waterproof backing on the large insert definitely prevents the entire shell from being soaked; any notable moisture is just along the edges. The length and width of the inserts is ample, and rarely does poop reach the shell lining, which is definitely a plus for those hoping to reuse each shell for a few changes.
How do Lil Helper Diapers work for us?
The Lil Helper shell is designed to fit as small as 7 lb (3 kg), and I must admit I’ve always been skeptical of how this diaper would fit on a teeny tiny baby. Many one-size diaper brands list the starting weight for their diapers somewhere between 7–10 lb (3–4.5 kg), and some brands do better at fitting smaller babies than others. What Lil Helper does very well is adjust to fit tiny little chicken legs and skinny waists.
With the diaper at its smallest rise and the hip snap at its tightest, the leg opening is surprisingly small and snug. The waist features crossover snaps to close up over tiny bellies. My primary concern for fit on smaller babies is the width of the crotch. As I mentioned earlier, I used Lil Helpers on Miss Cousin Cub while she was very eensy weensy, and while the diapers definitely put some extra junk in her trunk, I was honestly surprised at how well they fit her. There are going to be, I’m sure, newborns for whom Lil Helper is a great fit, and others for whom it’s just too bulky at the start. That’s by no means unique to this diaper brand.
My brother’s son, now known as West Coast Cub, is a whopping 13 lb (5.9 kg) at just 2 months old; let’s just say he got approximately zero use out of the cute newborn diapers I sent for him. But I also sent him his very first business mail: some Lil Helper diapers to model!
Basically, all one-size diapers are going to be relatively bulky on babies in the lower weight range: it’s the nature of the beast. If you are designing a diaper that will fit both a newborn and a toddler, you need to make sure there’s enough fabric and enough absorption for your average 2–3 year-old. While I am not convinced that the scrawniest of newborns at 7 lb (3 kg) will get a wicked fit in Lil Helper, I am very pleased (as is my brother) with the fit on my 13-lb nephew.
Depending on how heavy a wetter you’ve got, your newborn may only need the single, small insert for daytime. This will also help keep the diaper trimmer while they are wee. (Assuming their wee is also wee.) Lil Helper recommends using both inserts for babies 17 lb (7.7 kg) and up, but this is not an exact science! West Coast Cub can get about five hours with both inserts overnight. (I do not look back with longing at the times when I measured overnights by increments of 5-hours or less!)
When we first started using Lil Helper, the twins were a year old and about 20 lb (9 kg). We didn’t experience any issues using the original style charcoal inserts, and in fact continue to use this style in our rotation along with the new diapers with the Tank inserts.
Lil Helper is a bit of a different shape than the other diapers we use, so I think if you are completely new to Lil Helper you might initially have trouble getting the right fit. (And ultimately there is no diaper out there that fits every baby perfectly.)
Lil Helper diapers have a single top row of waist snaps with two corresponding snaps on the tabs, then they have a row of four hip snaps. The vast majority of diapers I use have two full rows of waist snaps, and the hip snap (if there is one) is attached on the bottom row.
I definitely like the snap arrangement on our Lil Helpers; it’s just different from what I’m used to. As I do with any diapers with a hip snap, I do up the hip snaps first, then snap at the waist. The hip snaps really do provide one of the best leg fits of all the diapers we use! Here is an Instagram Reel I made with fit tips:
Now that my twins are over 30 lb (13.6 kg) and almost 3, they’re truly putting the longevity and effectiveness of Lil Helpers to the test. As you cloth diaper from birth to toddlerhood, you’ll find that some diapers that were absorbent enough until 12 months are suddenly no match for toddler pees. I’m happy to report that both our old-style-charcoal-insert Lil Helper diapers and the new ones with the Tank inserts are still in our regular rotation of daytime diapers and performing as well as anything else in the roster. When a diaper is sufficient to last a toddler for three hours without needing a booster, I’m a happy camper. With the Tank inserts I can even stretch it to closer to four hours, but it just depends on how much they’ve had to drink. For younger babies, there’s a good chance the Tank inserts could last overnight; I’m thinking for babies under a year.
Besides absorbency, of course, when it comes to using cloth diapers on toddlers, fit is important too. My twins wear their Lil Helpers on the tallest rise; it’s ample on my shorter twin but on my taller twin I notice the back waist is creeping towards his bum cheeks just a bit. Particularly long-torsoed kids may start running into plumber’s crack territory depending on how old they are when they are out of diapers, but the rise on Lil Helper is on par with all of my other favourite one-size diapers.
One fit tip I would offer is that I prefer to snap the inserts in at only one end of the diaper (I use the back snap) when using it on its tallest rise. I find that if I have the insert snapped in at the front also, it pulls on the waist fabric and creates a bit of a dip in the fabric. There is no loss in functionality by snapping the insert in only at the back, and I found this vastly improved fit at the waist once we were on the tallest rise.
I promised I’d talk about a small change Lil Helper made to their snaps, so here it is: They made the two centre waist snaps a different colour!
We all like a nice, evenly snapped diaper, and when you know exactly where the centre is, it makes getting that perfect fit all the more simple.
My favourite things about Lil Helper diapers
- Unique AND cute prints and awesome solid colours
- Super absorbent “Tank” inserts that are adequate even for toddlers
- Surprisingly good fit on both the lower and higher weight ranges
- Dark fabric inserts that don’t stain
- Prep-free before use; just wash once for hygienic reasons and they’re ready
- Stay-dry inserts keep baby comfortable
- Really fun social media accounts and so much humour on their labels and their website (I realize this doesn’t impact the function of their diaper, but when a brand puts so much heart and so much joy into their marketing materials I think it speaks a lot to the commitment of the team behind it.)
What I like less about Lil Helper:
- Primarily synthetic inserts (microfibre and bamboo terry aren’t my top-two cloth diapering textiles)
- Limited use as an all-in-two (depending on how quickly you change diapers, moisture wicks onto the inner lining so you don’t really want to use the shell again)
- Overseas manufacturing: I always mention how much I wish that more cloth diapers could be made in Canada; however as with all consumer goods, manufacturing in China is synonymous with a lower price point (and as Lil Helper proves, it does not automatically mean lesser quality).
Other Lil Helper products:
My absolute favourite Lil Helper product now that I am no longer cloth diapering is the Lifesaver XL mat. It is a waterproof (and aborbent) 54×38 inch mat whose obvious use would be for potty training but whose other uses include (at least at our house) as a picnic table, an indoor water-play table or floor protector, toboggan liner, blanket for mom to keep her bum warm when sitting in the snow, garden vegetable drying space (after they’ve all been washed), entryway mat after playing in the snow … the list goes on. Uncle Mo at Lil Helper is also happy to describe its utility as a “seggs towel!”
HyPs menstrual pads: Lil Helper’s Hypatia menstrual pads are named after a “historical badass” (that’s a quote from the packaging) whom I first heard of thanks to Lisa Kudrow’s portrayal in the fourth season of The Good Place. She apparently “threw her menstrual pad at a stalker to shoo him away.” I don’t think I’ve ever loved a reusable menstrual pad name any more than I love this.
HyPs have a blue stay-dry mesh layer on top with a core of bamboo terry for absorbency. They are backed with funky-printed PUL. They work great for me on my moderate flow days, when I use pads only, and as back up for my cup on super heavy flow days. Overall I prefer reusable pads made of 100% natural fibres against my skin, and although I appreciate the blue textile hiding stains, I actually don’t mind seeing my flow so I can gauge what’s going on. However, I think these pads have a lot of positives going for them and don’t hesitate to recommend!
Zero-A training pants: These are Lil Helper’s cloth “pull ups”. They are super cute and have rise snaps so you don’t need to buy multiple sizes, plus hip snaps so you can easily remove them in case of a big mess. We aren’t potty training yet, but I look forward to giving them a try!
Lil Helper also makes swim diapers, cloth diaper liners and boosters, a variety of wet bags, nursing pads, waterproof mats, burp cloths, face masks, wipes and wash cloths. There’s lots to discover from this Canadian brand!