How To Stop Cloth Nappies Leaking ALL THE TIME

Diagnose your leaky nappy problems

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When the Baboo was first born, we struggled with nappies. I’d never put a nappy on anything before, so there was that. And cleaning that weird Marmite stuff off his backside after the first or second nappy change – what the heck is that stuff!? Wow. It's like another world.

Then came the leakage. Sometimes things would go swimmingly for a couple of hours before we needed to change him, other times within a very short time I would be holding him or whatever and suddenly a hot, wet patch would appear on his babygro on the side or up the back or out in front. Why!? We despaired.

It didn’t take too long – no, sorry, it took too long but was still pretty quick – for us to realise that it was his pranger, pointing the wrong way. Lesson learnt, point it to the ground. That solved that problem.

Then, not too long after, came the poonamis. We were using disposable nappies at this point (all part of the plan) but pretty much every time he went number 2 it required a full change of clothes! ‘Is this normal?’, we cried.

We never really got to the bottom of that one.

Anyway, the point is that leakage happens, especially when you’re learning. We found the same with cloth nappies, as I’ll explain.

Why cloth nappies?

I’ve written about why we use cloth nappies in a few places, so for a more detailed post have a look at this article here.

Suffice to say, they save money and they make use feel morally superior as though we’re doing the environment a favour. Less waste, less energy usage, etc.

We started when Baboo was fairly small, with some cheapo pocket nappies. They worked well for a bit, but we often found we were having leakage overnight. As time wore on we started getting leaks between changes.

One thing, however – we never had a poonami in cloth nappies They cured that entirely. It’s not an age thing either because he’s had them in disposable nappies since we started using cloth for the most part.

But anyway, we persevered, despite the leakage – which was a bit of a downside, to begin with – because the upside seemed too good to turn down. I’ll get into how we sorted it out shortly.

Do cloth nappies leak more than disposable nappies?

Personally, I think that they probably do – nothing can really compete with the superabsorbent polymers in a disposable nappy. They really can absorb a LOT of juice.

The fact is, you’ll probably have to change your baby’s diaper more regularly with cloth nappies. But is that really a bad thing?

I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all! After all, it doesn’t really cost you much more – apart from the initial outlay for a couple of extra nappies. But the washing costs will be pretty much the same.

And leaving baby sitting in a dirty or wet nappy less frequently? Great! I know that with a disposable nappy, the temptation is to let it sit on there until it weighs almost as much as the baby. I know, not good parenting, you don’t do it I’m sure, but… you know what I mean.

So anyway, cloth nappies – more changing – not necessarily a bad thing, but make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

But, having said that, cloth nappies shouldn’t leak and so you shouldn;t have to put up with it – obviously, that’s the point of cloth nappies. To keep the poo and wee contained. Not much good if they leak, are they?

So why do cloth nappies leak?

There are a couple of reasons, some are nice and simple to fix, and others might require a bit more work on your part.

Nappy turning out at the leg holes

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If your baby is in a onesie or has tight trousers on, this could be the problem. If the onesie is a little bit tight around the thigh, it can put pressure on the nappy at the leg holes, which might turn them out slightly.

What you could do is fasten only the middle popper at the crotch on the onesie, which should put less pressure on the nappy at the leg holes. Or you could use a bigger onesie.

Another thing to watch out for is that when you put the nappy on the leg cuffs should be right up by baby’s leg crease, not halfway down his thigh – at least on our nappies, that’s the case. This seems to keep them tight and better contained.

Not enough absorbency

If the leak is caused by over saturation then the problem is, you guessed it, not enough absorbency in the nappy. We get this with BumGenius Freetime nappies now – they used to be good for a few hours, now they don’t last as long between changes because Boy is growing up and getting a bigger bladder (I presume)!

So when using the Freetime nappies I use an additional booster along with the two sewn-in absorbent pads in the nappy.

Obviously, you can do the same with any nappy. With the pocket nappies we use, we use two or three absorbent boosters, usually a hemp one and a microfibre one. We could use three, and sometimes we do use three.

That’s probably about the maximum we’d fit into the style of nappy we were using though, before over-stuffing becomes a problem – just as with the problem above, over-stuffing causes the nappy’s seams to turn out and the moisture then wicks out onto baby’s clothes.

Not enough absorbency II

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Again, you may be experiencing leakage because your nappy isn’t absorbent enough. But, but, but! You’ve got two, maybe three boosters in there! The manufacturer said it would be enough on its own! They were working last week!

Well, in this case – did you wash the nappy and boosters before use? It’s a good idea to wash and dry them a couple of times before you use them the first time because this will increase their absorbency.

Another possibility if that you’ve been using a cream or something on baby’s bottom, and this has affected the absorbency. Some people recommend dropping some water onto the culprit to see if it beads and rolls off or soaks in.

Obviously, it should soak in – if it’s beading and rolling off, you may need to strip your nappy. This is another topic entirely, but briefly: you need to wash them in a detergent to rid them of any oils that are preventing moisture from soaking in.

You can get special nappy stripping detergent, or you can probably use any decent degreaser. Make sure you rinse and rinse again until there is no residue at all left behind.

As a side note, we use Sudocrem and Weleda’s calendula cream fairly regularly and have never had any problems in this regard. We wash our nappies at 40’ most of the time with a fairly standard washing powder, no frills and no fragrance, and have no problems. But if you’re convinced it’s this, then strip ‘em off. Let me know how it goes.

Other problems

Make sure his peepee is pointing downwards! If you have a boy, this can be a problem – as I said above, we had this embarrassing revelation. It’s pretty simple physics, but it eluded us for long enough to make us feel a bit daft.

If the problem occurs only overnight, it’s probably a saturation problem – but maybe, like us, you have stuffed your nappies as full as they’ll go. I really recommend something like Little Lamb – these nappies have seen us right overnight for ages now, and we’ve had pretty much no problems whatsoever.

You can try rearranging the order of your boosters too – for example, if you have a microfibre booster and a hemp or natural fibre booster, the microfibre would be best to go closest to the skin because it will absorb faster and wick moisture away from the skin, but will be more prone to squeezing it back out. So the natural fibre will then wick the moisture out of the microfibre cloth and hold it there.


As you can see, it's fairly easy to diagnose the problem and fix it in most cases. If your baby's cloth nappies are leaking, there's something wrong - it's not just "how it's meant to be with cloth nappies". Sure, they aren't jam packed with SAPs but they should still keep baby dry and comfortable.

A lot of sources will tell you to strip your nappies, pretty much straight away - it's the default solution in many places. I'll tell you now, we've never stripped nappies at Chez Kit despite using Sudocrem and Weleda nappy creams, and using a very mild detergent when we wash them. I'm sure it has its place, but it may not be necessary to begin with.

Try simple things such as loosening baby's vest or putting him in the next size up. I tried an experiment the other day, and having a tight vest did indeed produce seepage within an hour or so - the pressure on the edges of the nappy by the leg holes caused that characteristic wet spot around the gusset.

Okay, maybe it wasn't an experiment to begin with, but it worked out pretty well for the purposes of this post!

Let me know how you get along.