Why are my nappies leaking?

Why do my nappies leak? Is a question I hear often, either people contacting me directly, or in facebook groups or forums. The answer is never straight forward, as there are many reasons your nappies might be leaking, and the reason will change depending on whether your nappies are new and are leaking from the start, or if they have suddenly started leaking after a period of working for you.

Whilst it always pays to check your nappies over to make sure the waterpoofing or elastic isn’t damaged in some way, there is usually a fixable solution to your problem.

The other question you need to ask yourself is “am I changing often enough?” – this depends on the age of your baby – newborns need changing very regularly, every couple of hours or so. However, I believe, after 9 years of using cloth nappies, that once you have your system working for you, a cloth nappy should last around 4 hours.

The first thing to make sure is that your nappies are fitting right. If you are new to cloth and used to disposables, then fitting cloth nappies can take a bit of practice. Firstly, make sure the leg elastic is sitting in the crease at the top of the babies leg, and not round the thigh. Check the elastic is tight enough at the leg and the waist. It should be loose enough that you can slide a finger under the elastic, but not loose there are any gaps.  If your nappies have suddenly started leaking, it might be time to move up a size or rise setting.

If your nappies are brand new, have you prepped them? Cotton and bamboo in particular, needing washing a few times before first use, to make them properly absorbent. Absorbency will improve the more you wash your nappies for.

Have you got detergent build up? Some detergents can coat the fibres of your nappies and make them less absorbent. If your nappy is not overly wet when it leaks, this may be your problem. To remove the residue, wash your nappies with only a small amount of washing powder (liquid is more likely to cause build up) and a cup of soda crystals (check your nappy’s warranty before doing this). Wash on a long wash, with extra rinses. Watch the machine drum as the machine rinses. If you still see soap bubbles, rinse again and keep rinsing until you don’t see any more bubbles.

Have you got compression leaks? A cloth nappy can make vests, clothes and even baby carriers too tight, and this tightness squeezes wee out of the nappy and out of the leg holes. This is usually seen with the wetness being more prevalent around the leg holes. Try going up a vest or clothing size and see if that helps.

Have you got enough absorbency? Particularly with pocket nappies, it might just be a case of adding more absorbency. If your inserts/fitteds are sodden and heavy when you change your baby, this may be your problem. Some fabrics are more absorbent than others, bamboo and hemp are a lot more absorbent than microfibre, so try adding more of these. For a really cheap, but effective way of boosting pockets, trying using a newborn prefold nappy – you can usually pick these up cheaply new, and often for free second hand.

Have you got a gusher? This is often a problem after 18 months of age, when babies are moving towards being physically ready for potty training. They store their wee up for ages, then let it go in one go. A clear sign that this is your problem is that you changing the frequency of your change makes no difference, you can change an almost dry nappy an hour or 2 after the last change, and then half an hour later they have wet through. Add more absorbency, microfibre absorbs quickly, but doesn’t hold as much – so use layers, with a microfibre insert on the top to absorb quickly and channel it into bamboo underneath,   and consider using too parts (even putting a wrap over an AIO).

I hope this helps, if you need further advice on making the most of your cloth nappies, do get in touch! 

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