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Why are my cloth diapers and/or diaper covers leaking?!?

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QUESTION: Are you using fabric softeners and/or Ivory Snow® in your diaper washing?

The use of fabric softeners or Ivory Snow® pure soap can actually make your cloth diapers water-resistant, due to the build-up these products can create on your diapers.

Image: Church + Dwight Co Arm + Hammer Super Washing Soda | Extra Cleaning and Freshening Power For Tough Household Jobs | Laundry Detergent Booster | Household Cleaner

Arm + Hammer Super Wash Soda
Click for more info: US | CDN | UK

Fabric softeners leave a coating on your cloth diapers' fibres that decreases its ability to absorb moisture. They can also be the cause of skin rashes.

Ivory Snow® works well in soft, hot water - but if used in hard water it can leave fatty deposits that will make your cloth diapers less absorbent. Cloth diapers have become practically water-repellent because of the waxy build-up of soap residue. If you feel the need to use this soap anyhow, add 1/2 cup of washing soda (i.e. Arm + Hammer washing soda) with your soap.

Drying your cloth diapers in your clothes dryer will make them soft, but be careful not to overdry. This makes cloth diapers feel hard and is hard on the diaper fibres. If you have just a few thicker cloth diapers that take a longer time to dry, such as All-in-One diapers, hang them up to finish drying rather than running the whole load for a longer time. If you prefer to hang your cloth diapers up to dry, putting them into the clothes dryer for 10-15 minutes will help to soften them up.

Or add 65 ml (1/4 cup) of vinegar to your final diaper rinse for a natural fabric softener that removes all trace of detergent and ammonia from your diapers and lowers the pH level - which helps to prevent diaper rashes. It even helps to whiten your diapers!

QUESTION: Is your leakage problem mostly at night, because your baby is sleeping through, or you are avoiding changes to keep baby (and mom!) sleeping longer?

I have never had to resort to disposable diapers, and my babies tended to wake several times at night to nurse - so they wet a lot! I only changed them in the morning, once they stopped pooping with every feeding.

I would sometimes triple-diaper with Gerber flats or prefolds, or add one or two extra night liners for absorbency if using fitted or all-in-one diapers. I really like the Kissaluvs Cotton Fleece Super Soaker Doublers. With two layers of hearty unbleached knit terry with a third layer of soft and absorbent cotton fleece, these liners should get even the most heavy-wetters through the night.

If your baby is waking up in the night simply due to the feel of wet diapers, you could try using a Bummis Duo-Brite Inserts, which is a water-permeable non-absorbent material that keeps wetness away from your baby's skin. Some diaper doublers come with this type of stay-dry liner attached.

Image: Bummis Duo-Brite Inserts | double-sided and versatile | stay-dry polyester on one side | soft organic cotton on the other

Bummis Duo-Brite Inserts
Click for more info: US | CDN

QUESTION: Is your baby wetting through everything - with a totally saturated diaper, wet cover, and wet clothing?

First, check the absorbancy capacity of your diapers, as suggested above.

Do you change your baby often enough? Some disposable diaper users boast about only using 3-4 diapers a day, but your baby really does need to be changed more often. Imagine how it must feel to your baby's tender skin to sit in a wet, clammy diaper for hours, brewing with bacteria and causing friction every time your baby moves. Frequent changes, even with disposable diapers, are important to the health of your baby's skin.

Infrequent diaper changes make it difficult for your baby's skin to protect itself from the many causes of irritation in the diaper area. Frequent changes will help to minimize the effects of all irritants.

Newborns often need to be changed every 1-2 hours. They can wet frequently (i.e. 8-20 times a day) and in small amounts.

Even an older baby needs changing every 2-3 hours until they begin to hold their urine for longer periods of time. At one year, babies may wet 7-10 times a day, but in greater amounts.

At two years, your child will need a greater absorbancy capacity in your diapers, but may only need 5-8 changes a day.

If you are only changing your baby every 4-6 hours, the diaper may become so saturated the wetness has nowhere to go but out!

It may seem like a lot of work at first, but soon you will get into the rhythm of frequent changes. If you keep your changing supplies well organized and choose an easy-to-use cloth diapering system, your diaper changing can be FAST. With practice, you can change your baby in less than a minute - well, until they become mobile and run away!

Enjoy this short time with your baby. You won't believe how fast this time will go - until it is already gone. Every diaper change offers opportunities for making eye contact, playful interaction and bonding with your baby - reciting nursery rhymes, making up silly songs or stories, identifying body parts or that funny thing called a belly button, etc.

Image: Bummis Super Brite Diaper Cover | ensure a perfectly diapered fit | especially for those long, skinny hard-to-fit babies who need a little extra protection around the leg

Bummis Super Brite Diaper Cover
Click for more info: US | CDN UK

QUESTION: Are you using a waterproof diaper cover over your cloth diapers?

One reason for leakage (that has totally surprised me!!) is that some moms didn't realize that they needed to add a waterproof cover (either a diaper wrap or pull-on pant) over top of their cloth diapers. So much simple information has been lost in this throw-away world! If you are avoiding waterproof diaper covers because you are concerned about diaper rashes or breathability - there are several excellent breathable diaper covers available in breathable nylon, polyester, Gortex®, cotton or wool. Just ask your favourite cloth diaper company!

QUESTION: Are you using the right type of diaper cover?

If you are changing your baby's diaper fairly soon after baby wets, you can use most any type of diaper cover without leakage, including the natural fiber breathable styles. But if you find yourself changing less frequently and experiencing problems with leakage, you may need to use the most waterproof cover possible (like Bummis covers).

I used an assortment of diaper covers. I diapered with my most waterproof covers at night because we used a family bed and less frequent changing at night - and a dry bed was of utmost importance to me. During the day I used more breathable diaper covers in an effort to combat the difficult rashes my severely allergic children kept getting.

Breathable diaper covers need to be cycled. This means, hanging up one diaper cover to air out while you use another. Then, at the end of the day, put all your diaper covers in the wash or hand-wash them in the sink in warm water, and hang up to dry. This type of cover actually benefits from using Ivory Snow® because it helps to maintain the waterproofing.

QUESTION: Are you using diaper wraps to hold your baby's diapers in place?

If your diaper cover wraps are too big for your baby, they may not be holding the cloth diaper in place as your baby moves about. This can result in leakage, as there may no diaper in the place that it is needed.

If your baby's cloth diapers are ending up all twisted inside your diaper covers, you may need to use smaller diaper covers; wraps with mesh inside, which helps to hold the cloth diaper in place; or fasten the diaper more securely with diaper pins or a Snappi Diaper Fastener.

Well, these are my suggestions to solve your leaking diaper problem - after diapering nearly a dozen babies over a 26 year period of time. (See article Diapering Expert Shares Secrets)

I hope you have found an idea that helps!

I would be pleased to hear your tips on preventing leakage, or any other diapering hint you would like to share. I would be happy to help you sort out your diapering problem if the above hints don't help. Write again to if you have a diapering question you would like answered.


This article compliments of Born to Love.

The Diaper Facts column:

How Do I Get Started With Cloth Diapering?
Cloth Diapering With A Diaper Service
How Do I Wash Cloth Diapers?
Expensive to Wash Cloth Diapers?
The STINK on Stinky Diapers
Why are my cloth diapers and covers stinky?
Here's my Stinky Diaper Solution!
Why are my cloth diapers and/or diaper covers leaking?!?
How Do I Make My Diaper Covers Last?

Other articles that might be of interest:

How to Choose the Perfect Cloth Diapering System
Feeling Confused About Your Cloth Diapering Decision?
Diapering Expert Shares Secrets!
Do Cloth Diapers Seem Too Expensive?
Frugal Diaper Washing
Frugal Diapering
Frugal Baby Tips: Make Your Own Baby Bum Sweaters!
Your Choice Does Make a Difference!
What's Wrong With 'Disposable' Single-Use Diapers?
Environmental Concerns - What Do They Mean For You and Your Baby?
Environmental Concerns II - Looking at Both Sides of the Issue


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Last updated - February 8, 2017