Why are my cloth diapers leaking?


Your baby’s cloth diapers should not leak. They should fit well, be comfortable on baby and you shouldn’t have to have deal with leaks all the time. If you are, I hope you’ll find a solution in this article troubleshooting common reasons why cloth diapers can leak.

Potential Problem – Fit

First before doing anything drastic simply check the fit of the diaper. Is it comfortably tight around the legs? Are there any gaps? If you can easily put your finger through the leg then pee can easily come out as well. How is the waist? Is the waist tight enough?

Adjust rise and waist settings (most diapers these days are one-size so grow with baby) so that the legs and the waist are comfortably tight. By comfortably tight I mean that it’s snug around baby but not so snug that it’s leaving marks of the diaper elastic on baby’s skin.

Potential Problem – Fabric Softener

You know how soft fabric softener leaves clothes? Well that soft comes from a residue that is left on your clothes. That same residue will stick to your diapers – making them soft and slippery as well as coating your diapers with that synthetic residue that will leave your diapers completely waterproof. Meaning that your inserts will no longer absorb your baby’s pee and poop and it all will just glide right out of the diaper.

Do not use any fabric softener or any kind in your washing or dryer machine even if it’s on your own clothes as that residue also clings to the inside of your machine.

Potential Problem – Detergent

Detergent can get complicated. Use too much and you can potentially create build-up of detergent on your diapers. Use the wrong detergent and again you can potentially create that same build-up. That build-up will eventually make your diapers not as absorbable and therefore cause leaks. If you suspect you may have build-up on your diapers then you’ll have to strip. Contact me for recommendations on how to strip your diapers.

Use detergents recommended by the diaper’s manufacturer and avoid generic or highly scented detergents. Use about ½ – ¾ of the recommend amount of detergent unless you’re using a cloth diapering detergent like Rockin Green than start by using their recommended amount making sure to adjust if your diapers not coming out clean.

Wash your diapers on warm or hot (follow manufacturer’s recommendation).  And add an extra rinse after your wash cycle.

Potential Problem – Absorbency

Not using enough inserts or the right amount of absorbency will lead to leaks. Some parents use the newborn diapers or inserts for too long before realizing that the size is the reason for the leaks.

In addition there are now many cheaply made knock-off brands available online. Parents are buying with the wrong assumption that these diapers are excellent quality or comparable to the originals. However they are not. If I had a dollar for the amount of complaints I’ve heard about leaks from these cheaply made diapers, I’d be one rich woman.

Remember – you get what you pay for. Cheaply made diapers do not have the same quality control and attention to detail as good quality brands. Invest in good cloth diapers from reputable stores.

And finally, some babies pee more than others and at times you may need to use a doubler for extra absorbency. Add a doubler and in particular one made from hemp to add extra absorbency without a lot of extra bulk.

If you’re using smaller inserts (new baby size), size up to the next size insert.

Potential Problem – Changes

A cloth diaper should be changed at least every two hours during the day. If you’re constantly experiencing leaks, keep track of diaper changes. You may find that your baby can go 1 ½ hrs or 2 hrs instead of the 3 hrs you thought he could.

Change baby more often or as soon as baby is wet. Remember that with cloth baby feels the wetness – even with the “stay dry” which despite the term keeps baby damp and not “dry”. By changing baby more often you’ll avoid leaks but also potential rashes.

At night time, if your baby is nursing at night (or bottle nursing) you should expect to do a diaper change or two. If your baby is sleeping most of the night without feeding, then start by doubling the amount of absorbency that you use during the day time.

Over the last 8 years I’ve cloth diapered three, ran a natural parenting store and helped many parents with their cloth diapering issues. I hope that this article helps you in some way. If you’ve found you’ve tried all solutions and you still are experiencing leaks I would contact the manufacturer for additional troubleshooting tips.


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The content of Granola Babies blog and website is for educational purposes and not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.