When Cloth Diapers Leak Part 1

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Questions and comments always seem to come in groups. One week it’s rashes, the next it’s cloth diapering a newborn.  Recently, I’ve had a string of questions dealing with leaking.

Leaking is no fun- ever. It never fails that your child is dressed for church or a play date in the cutest outfit, then you feel wetness. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the benefits to cloth diapering, no leaking?

Here are the main causes of leaking:

  1. Poor fit.
  2. Soaker material vs. pee speed incompatibility.
  3. Poor construction of the diaper.
  4. Heavy Wetter.
  5. Over saturation.
  6. Compression leaks.
  7. Repelling either from rash cream or fabric softener (& occasionally some detergents).
  8. Wrong size.
  9. Inserts need to be replaced.

Fortunately, all of these can be remedied. Unfortunately, some of them will cost you.

Today I will address the first 4 causes.  Part 2 will follow on Tuesday, August 31st.

Leaks due to poor fit

Every baby, just like every mama, is built different. A shirt that fits me perfectly will probably bunch, gather or sag somewhere on another mom. We’re all slightly different.

It’s no different when it comes to cloth diapers. Some cloth diapers fit better on long, skinny babies, others are better for chunky thighs.

In my experience, side snapping diapers work really well for chunky thighs.  Paisley (our 3rd child) was well endowed in the waist and thighs.  After many diaper brands, I finally found Blueberry side snapping pockets (which they no longer make).  Comparable to the Blueberry side snap would be GADs or Grasshoppers (aio).

Side snapping diapers work well for skinny legs, as well.  Sterling wears Grasshoppers occasionally and I can get a super trim, very snug fit on his long, skinny body.

Cloth diapers that velcro in the front are the most leak prone. Without the added adjustability of 2 rows of snaps (one for the waist, another for the legs) you aren’t able to customize the fit.  Most often the diaper is velcroed to the tightness best suited for the waist.  If the adjustment is loose to accommodate a round belly then the legs are often left with space.

It’s important to ensure that the diaper is snug on all sides.  Gaping in the back will cause the worst of all leaks–blowouts!

Leaks due to soaker material

The incompatibility of soaker material to your child is most often seen when hemp is used.  Hemp is a slow absorber.  One solution is to not use cloth diapers made of hemp.  Another is to combine it with microfiber. If you are using hemp inserts in your pocket diapers, add a microfiber insert on top.  Microfiber absorbs quickly and as it fills it slowly drains down on the hemp.  A great nighttime combination.

Remember, microfiber cannot be placed next to your baby’s skin.  So if you are using a hemp fitted like Baby Beehinds Hemp or BabyKicks you may have to switch systems.

Leaks due to poor construction

This is the most disappointing.  To spend your money on a diaper that is poorly made is like a slap in the face.  Most of the time this occurs when you buy from someone who makes cloth diapers on the very small scale and you are trying to save money.  There have been a couple of times where I’ve questioned how a big brand made it as far as they have.

I love supporting start up WAHMs but I will always be honest with them.  Sometimes a design they had in theory does not translate well into the manufacture.  Reading reviews and asking other cloth diaper parents their opinions is a great way to get a feel for a diaper before you buy.

And never buy an entire stash before you see it and try it. That goes for small or big name brands.

Leaks due to a heavy wetter

Every child is a heavy wetter at some point.  Usually between 3-12 months at night every mom describes their baby as a heavy wetter.  This is normal.  However normal it is though, we all want a dry night.

In December of 2009, I listed several nighttime solutions.  You contributed with some great suggestions in the comments.  Check out Best Cloth Diapers For Nighttime if you are need of help with nighttime cloth diapering.

Nighttime leaks can aren’t isolated to one diaper system.  It can take multiple attempts before you find what works best for you.  The simplest for me is the double layered Flip. It’s not my favorite cover (because it gaps in the legs a little) but the inserts are super absorbent.  I like that I can toss the inserts in the pail without unstuffing. My other go to nighttime solution is a Pooters hemp fitted.

Sterling isn’t a heavy night wetter since he weaned so really I don’t have as much to worry about.

Next post I will go through #5-#9 above.  My hope is that if you are having leaks we can work through it together and cloth diapering will again be a joyful experience for your family.


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About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. Autumn enjoys writing but would choose camping with her family any day!

View all posts by Autumn Beck

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43 Responses to “When Cloth Diapers Leak Part 1”

  1. Jenny Says:

    Hi Autumn, thanks for the great website. I have a question about a comment above. You said that dryer sheets will coat the dryer. So if I use them on my regular laundry, but not diapers, it will still affect the diapers? What do you recommend for static? I have hard water so I avoid vinegar. Maybe a dryer ball? Thanks.
    Jenny

    Reply

  2. victoria Says:

    Hi, I have a 6 week old, 10.5lb girl. I use GroVia diapers and noticed that, sometimes, they have a gap between diaper and stomach. Is is the fit or am I just putting them on incorrectly?

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      You’ll find that some diapers fit better on different body shapes. You might try experimenting with the rise snaps. Maybe making it smaller (or larger) will allow you to get a snugger fit.

      Reply

      • victoria Says:

        It just seems like the insert is too long right for her. I will try moving to the middle snaps (right now, they’re at the lowest ones), maybe it’ll help.
        Do you think as she grows, the fit will be better?

        Reply

  3. Margaret Says:

    Help! I made some fleece pockets recently with microfleece on the inside, they worked great for nighttime at first, but this week they started leaking! I wash them with soapnuts with all my other diapers and we don’t use fabric softener on anything! I think that they are repelling but I don’t know why. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!!

    Reply

  4. krystal Says:

    I have read that Dawn liquid soap is very hard to get out of diapers. I don’t use it. I prepped my flats 5 times hot water and drying in between each one, and they do not leak at all except if I don’t fold them correctly. I also have sherpa cotton doublers and they are awesome!

    Reply

  5. Danielle Says:

    Helpful post…I usually only have cloth diaper leaks at nighttime, and I have had the most trouble with both my 4 month old and my 2 year old…they both tummy sleep (my baby is rolling over now so even though I lay him on his back he sleeps on his tummy) with their bottoms in the air, and are heavy wetters, so if I bulk the diaper up enough to keep up with how much they pee, the bulk creates a gap at the waist. My 2 year old does ok with disposables at night, but my baby boy has a “blowout” poopy at around 5 or 6 am every time I put him in a disposable. Not fun!

    Reply

  6. Katie Says:

    I feel like I’m badgering you about this diaper leaking issue, but it is so inconvenient that I can’t rest until there are no leaks at all. You mentioned not using dryer sheets/fabric softner. I don’t use on my diapers, but my husband DETESTS static and so we use them on all other laundry. I’ve tried vinegar in a Downy ball once upon a time, but that didn’t take care of the static either. Do you have any suggestions? Also, would it be possible that my microfiber inserts have shrunk and so they are no longer going to the edge of the leg? I am trying to decide if I should strip the inserts or just replace. And how much Dawn do you use per medium load of diapers? Thanks for your patience and your wisdom. :)

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Traditional dryer sheets will coat the dryer and affect cloth diapers. The effect would be repelling. You can test your diapers and see if they repel by dropping water on the inside. If it balls up and rolls off then there is a repelling issue. Do the same with your inserts.

      Reply

      • Katie Says:

        Houston, I’ve found the problem! I tested my diapers and found that they apear to be currently waterproof. When I poured water on them to see if there is a repelling issue, it rolled all over. There is no absorbing going on..at all. I can’t believe the diapers aren’t leaking more than they are given the current sad state they are in! It’s good-bye to dryer sheets for good. Thank you again, Autumn. It feels so good to have identified the problem and an inexpensive fix too! How much Dawn do I use to strip them?

        Reply

        • Autumn Beck Says:

          You would only need to do this once. Take the inserts to your kitchen sink and drop a drop of Dawn on each insert. Then scrub each one. You’ll need to do HOT rinses even after rinsing them off in the sink. If you have a big pot place them in boiling water. This will release any suds and buildup.

          Reply

  7. Amy Laffan Says:

    I think the physical structure of the baby is of great importance when it comes to diapers…If any baby is having some extra weight, the diaper will be more fit to him/her and there are lesser chances of leaking as well…:)

    Reply

  8. Stephanie M Says:

    Ah ha!!! That’s why! My husband put the hemp on the top of the microfiber insert for the thirsties dou diaper today and her carseat was soaked! I’m guessing that being locked down in her carseat didn’t give the hemp enough space/time to absorb. That would explain our leaking issue with the RaRs with the hemp inserts too….. Every leak has been in the carseat.

    Reply

  9. Amelia Says:

    I had leaks with every brand of pockets we tried (5 or 6 in all). Finally I decided pockets just don’t work for my baby. Anything that has a stay-dry layer seems to leak.

    Reply

  10. Hilary Says:

    Add another reason… faulty PUL. I had to have my ENTIRE stash replaced because the PUL started flaking right off and my diapers were no longer waterproof. This was my FuzziBunz. I contacted customer support and they replaced them but now I’m super careful with them- I’d always only ever followed their washing instructions but now I never but the pockets in the dryer and so far no PUL issues.

    Reply

  11. Tiffany Seale Says:

    my baby is just now 8lb 6oz and 11 weeks old. her thighs are super skinny. i have lots of CDs that fit her great in the waist but horrible around the thighs. We have only been able to CD while at home. The best CD i’ve found for her skinny thighs are sposoeasy by bluepenguin. Too bad our budget can’t afford a stash of these! The other two that have worked the best are bum genius 3.0 (but i hate stuffing a pocket) and the kissaluvs (with a cover obviously). It seems all the ones that work the best (for us) I can’t afford a stash of. Despite the rants and raves by others against the cheapo gerber trifolds, they actually work pretty well for us. With a snappi and a good cover, we are good to go for about two hours at home. No leaks! I really wanted to like the kushies trifold and the cute cover i got, but they just aren’t good for her small thighs. My cutiepoops are just that.. CUTE, but they aren’t tight enuf on her thighs. The econobum I have works good-the thick trifold absorbs a lot, but is actually bulky on her when snappi’d and folded so she sometimes leaks near her thighs. i got 3 goodmamas (used) and want them to work for us, but they dont. Question–how do i strip them to see if they will work for us? Also, we exclusively use charlie’s soap, but still have some staining issues (strictly breastfeeding). Any suggestions?

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      sun for staining.

      for stripping: soak in rockin green hard rock, wash with dawn and rinse a ton, or a bit of bleach.

      Reply

  12. Corie Says:

    AHHH, great topic!! my 2 week old has been leaking everynight if he sleeps on his side no matter what I put him in. I use Kissaluvs with either prowraps, thirsties or bummis covers and all have leaked when he is on his side. Any thoughts? I even tried sposies a few nights and they leaked too! When he’s directly on his back I don’t get the leaking. Thanks!!

    Reply

  13. Tessa Says:

    I had a problem finding my solution as well. Then I found the ‘Mom for Mom Cover’ from ‘Envibum’ and I only have problems with leaks when I do not get all of my inserts tucked inside. On there sight they have video clips describing there products which is helpful as well. I also like that with every purchase they make a donation to a charity, depending on the dipe purchased a donation goes to the charity they have associated with that diaper. Which I think is cool. Check them out at, http://www.envibum.com

    Reply

  14. Natalie Says:

    If a diaper leaks around the leg openings, do you think that is likely poor fiit? My daughter has chunky thights and her bloomers often seem damp around the legs.

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      With bloomers it may just be because the elastic is getting too close to the inside of the diaper. Do you only have this problem with bloomers?

      Reply

  15. esley henkes Says:

    I have both pocket adjustable snap and velcro covers. I would use velcro any day. It always seems my baby’s fit is between snaps. The only leaks I have ever had is when a prefold wasn’t tucked in all the way or when my micro fiber inserts shrunk and are not as wide as my diaper.

    Reply

  16. KarenC Says:

    Hi there,

    Just a thought but maybe you could also talk about leaks due to insufficiently prepped new diapers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen cloth diapering newbies not prep their diapers properly (either trying to skip steps or just because they weren’t aware they needed to) and then face leaks that they often mistake for just a ‘normal’ part of cloth diapering!

    Just a thought, enjoying your blog!

    Karen.

    Reply

  17. Jill Says:

    ARG!! This topic couldn’t have come on a better morning.
    Flips with prefolds work great all day, but I can’t get her through the night with this even with a 2-3 a.m. diaper change….and believe me we stuffed the prefolds in there! Not to mention covering the whole thing with an aristocrat.
    Then today after another wet morning I snappied a prefold inside an econobum to be sure and catch the a.m. poo and low and behold the darn econobum leaked pee on her great outfit and I know I had it on right.
    I’m not buying another package of disposables, but I AM going a little crazy here!

    Reply

  18. Tina Says:

    I have another one…..user malfunction (or inexperience) that results in the equivalent to #1. My daughter falls in the middle of the chunky to skinny leg spectrum but if you don’t make sure that her Bum-ware diapers are in the crease of her leg the elastic rolls and the inner material is exposed and causes leaks–it only happens when my mother-in-law or my husband uses them, though.

    Reply

    • Erin Says:

      I just wanted to say that I agree with you. User error seems to be the most frequent reasons that we have leaks. We use fitteds with covers and frequently have problems with the cover not being put on right and the fitted sticking out at either the legs or the top. Which of course results in leaks once the fitted gets wet enough. Also waiting too long to change, which I think can fall into the user error category.

      Reply

  19. Beth Says:

    Hi everyone! One easy and inexpensive fix for microfiber not touching baby’s skin is to fold the microfiber inside a flat…this works great for hemp also!

    Reply

  20. Beth Says:

    Thanks for this great and informative blog! I just placed my first order for cloth diapers and can’t wait to get them to try out… My 5 month old baby boy has been having a lot of nighttime leaks lately, with his disposables. Usually that’s when I think to size up in sposies, but now I’m going to see how the cloth goes.

    I hope it works for us! I love the idea…

    Reply

  21. krystal Says:

    I use the old fashion flats because it is the cheapest way to go. I fold it in the prefold way of folding to catch the loose breastfed poo but it does not seem to work. It leaks through to the cover. Is there another way of folding it so that it will not leak so much. The pee is contained just not the other.

    Reply

  22. Alexis Says:

    I had a few bun genius 3.0′s that just stopped working on me. I would put one on my daughter and 10 minutes later her pants would be soaked. I found out after calling Cotton Babies, that the diaper covers were defective and had lost their ability stay dry. Cotton Babies had me ship back the defective diapers and replaced them all with new diapers for FREE! Love Cotton Babies!!!

    Reply

  23. Katie Says:

    Thank you so much for addressing the leaking issue. After reading your post I’ve concluded that it a) may be time to replace my soakers or b) maybe the legs openings of my HH have stretched. It seems that both may be going on. How often do soakers need to be replaced? The diapers have only been used for a year at most. Would the soakers and the legs give out that soon? Like you said, I think not matter what, it’s going to cost me. :(

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Do you find you have to stretch the diaper a lot when you put it on? I’ve stretched out the elastic on my Flip covers from pulling them too much when tightening it on Sterling. Microfiber soakers are best replaced at a year. You could try stripping them if you want to attempt to salvage them.

      Reply

  24. Caroline Says:

    Why can’t microfiber be placed next to your baby’s skin?

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      microfiber will give baby a rash due to it’s super absorbing abilities. the fabric sucks the moisture from baby’s skin.

      Reply

  25. carisa Says:

    so far, I have only dealt with #2 pee speed incompatibility . With the Flip .(actually any diaper with the “stay dry” material .) thought I must be crazy … everyone seems to like the Flips, but every time we tried it, she would leak and when I would open the diaper , the pee would just be rolling around loose in there !

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      yep, that can happen too. just goes to show you that not every diaper that is rolling in the love works for every baby.

      Reply

    • Jenny B. Says:

      I had this same issue w/Flips and my son. I was a little bummed, but now we just use Econobum prefolds trifolded in the flip cover w/a staydry fleece liner (cut piece of material by me) and it works fabulously! This is a great post, and I look forward to the next one!

      Reply

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