Categorized | Cloth Diapers

Troubleshooting Cloth Diaper Leaks

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Leak Ender 20001I have been thinking about cloth diaper leaks lately.  I always get asked when one size diapers fit, and my answer from personal experience and the testimonies of other moms is “11-14 pounds”  Why?  Because they leak before then.  For a while, I didn’t even know my diapers were leaking.  I asked my pediatrician why my son was so sweaty!  I thought his back was soaked with sweat, not pee.

The error was my fault and the diapers.  The diapers weren’t tight enough around him, and his penis wasn’t pointed down.  My bad!

That is the kicker, most new to cloth parents experience lots of pee  leaks.  Up the back, out through the legs, and up the front of the diaper. “Why are my diapers leaking so bad?!?!” If it continues to happen, it might make them stop altogether and go with the virtually leak proof disposables.

Since I have been leak free for a loooooong time, I wanted to look back at some of problems I have faced.  Maybe I can help someone who is troubleshooting their own leak problems.

All leaks can be caused by repelling, not enough absorbency, or inserts/ diapers that have not been fully prepped.  If the diaper is saturated, you need more absorbency.  If the diaper is saturated and it is relatively new, make sure you wash it a few more times before you write it off.

Scenario: My diapers are leaking out of the back.

Possible Reasons: If you have a boy, make sure his penis is pointing down!  If not, he is peeing up and it is running to the side and pooling at his back.  Babies at this stage are laying on their backs the majority of the time.  They are sleeping a lot!  With babies laying down so much, leaks are more prone to happen.  Once they begin sitting up, the pee will have more time to absorb before getting the chance to escape.

It could also be that your diapers are repelling.  This happens to diapers with synthetic liners like suedecloth or microfleece.  Your detergent is probably the culprit.  Even if you have a “cloth diaper safe” detergent, it is still possible.  Your water type (hard water/ soft water) reacts differently to different detergents.  Your friend in Texas loves ______ detergent and it works great.  You live in New Jersey.  Your water is totally different.  Texas water has a high mineral content and is very hard where I stayed.  This is when you need to experiment.  So far, I have had the most success with detergents made FOR cloth diapers.  Tiny Bubbles, Crunchy Clean, Rockin’ Green (coming out with a hard water formula soon!), and even soap nuts have all worked for me.  To fix the repelling, you need to strip your diapers with Dawn Original Blue dish detergent (I use one full tablespoon) and bleach (I only use half a cup).  Wash on HOT, rinse, wash on HOT (then check for bubbles.  If you have bubbles, you need to rinse and wash on HOT again, and again, until the bubbles are gone!)

Opinions differ on whether or not the eye dropper test works for testing repelling on diapers.  I personally believe it does if you do it correctly.  Take a bulb syringe or eye dropper full of water and add drops to your diaper.  If they roll around forever and never soak in, you need to strip your diapers.  If they roll around briefly, then soak, you are fine, that is normal.  If they soak right in you are even better!

Other reason: If you are using a pocket diaper, check the back flap.  If you did not follow the instructions properly it could be user error.  Some flaps roll out, like Happy Heineys.  Some tuck in, like Tiny Tush, and some are just a slit.  If it isn’t used properly, your diaper could leak.

Scenario: The legs around your baby’s onesies are wet with pee.

Possible reasons: The most probable reason for this is simple: the thighs are too big for your baby at this time, and pee is leaking through them.  I had this problem with Happy Heineys the most, whose leg holes are larger than most one size diapers.  I waited about 2 months, tried them again, and they worked well.  You can try affixing the velcro tabs pointing downward, which might take up some slack in t he legs.  If you still get leaks, sit the diaper aside for a few weeks.  I promise, your baby is going to grow into them!

Another reason could be that the onesie has crept up into the diaper, getting wet in the process.  Not the diaper’s fault, just something that happens sometimes!

Scenario: My baby is waking up to a wet tummy.

Possible reasons:  If you have a boy, check the pee pee!  Tummy sleeping, especially through the night, is challenging.  You will need to stuff your diaper differently than a regular day time diaper.  You not only need to add more to soak up a full night’s full of urine, you will need to stuff the diaper up front more.  Even girls might need some more stuffing up front since the pee could travel up a bit before settling in the inserts.  This is the case with lined diapers.  Fitteds and prefolds aren’t as nit picky about that sort of thing.

Other reason: You could have repelling.

Scenario: My baby wakes up with the sides of their clothing wet.

Possible reasons: This one is probably repelling or, if you have a boy, it could be that wee wee problem again!

Other reason: User error.  If you are using a pocket, check to make sure the insert is laying flat.

Scenario: My baby’s diaper leaked straight through!

Reason:  It probably needs a cover.  Some diapers look like they don’t need covers, like Goodmamas, but they do!  Either you weren’t aware and made an honest mistake, or your husband was in control and didn’t realize they needed a cover.  Guess what, my husband has done this before.  It happens.

Once babies become more mobile and are crawling/ walking, and even just sitting, leaks are going to slow down or stop.  By now, if you started using cloth diapers at birth, you know what you are doing.  Your washing routine has been figured out for the most part, you know how to put that diaper on, and the baby is upright, which give the pee more time to settle into the inserts.

Time is your best friend with cloth diapering.  The more you do it, the easier it gets!

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Kim Rosas began Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009 out of a desire to help more parents understand modern cloth diapers. She lives in Florida with her husband of 5 years and her two boys. Even though none of her boys wear diapers anymore she is still just as committed to promoting them. In her spare time Kim enjoys video editing, photography, and coffee.

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  • Katie

    My son leaks at the legs in his Alva pockets. He’s pretty chunky, 22lbs, but he’s short. I’ve tried adjusting the rise. I can’t figure it out. He’s always leaked, but now at 9 months I’m about to give up.

    • clothwhore

      the elastics may be shot. alvas wear out pretty quickly.

  • debbie

    Ok so I have a few diapers that have started leaking straight through the cover- completely soaked on the outside. I even tested it with just the cover and a little water- its like its not water proof at all. I turned it inside out (pocket diaper) and looked for delamination or holes/tears and don’t see any problems. Looks brand new even. Obviously, I can’t use it no matter what’s wrong with it, but I wanted to know what went wrong. They are only 3 months old, too! Amazon is giving me a full refund, but still…. any ideas what’s wrong? They are Alva diapers. I realize they don’t last as long, but my son hopefully will be potty trained soon :) so I didn’t want to spend a fortune on anything better.

    • kimrosas

      Do they look wrinkled?

      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone


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