Cloth Diapers Mailbox Mondays

Cloth Diaper Advice – Mailbox Mondays 4/18/11 – Leaking Diapers

leaking #clothdiapers via @chgdiapers

If you have a cloth diaper question, on Mondays, I answer reader submitted questions, and ask my other readers to help too.

Questions don’t have to be cloth diaper related, just email maria at with “Mailbox Mondays” in the subject, or Fill out my contact form for readers, which you will always be able to find on my Contact Page.

This submission is a little different than usual. I figured Jodie wouldn’t want to wait until today to get an answer, plus I needed some more info to really figure out what was up. So, this includes a little email back & forth!

Jodie says:

Hi Maria,
I have been cloth diapering my son from basically day 1. He is now 9 months old and I am officially stumped and I need your help. My favorite diapers are Smartipants and most of my stash is made up of them. However, all of a sudden they are leaking on me. It has been going on for about 2 weeks. Sometimes they are fine; other times, not so much. Every since he really started moving, I started to have issues.

If it is a repelling issue, what is the best way to strip them? Do I need to do more than just soak them?

If it is a sizing issue, how do I get the right fit for his size and shape?

If it is a clothing issue, are there onesies out there that are cut higher in the legs so that they don’t gather at the thighs?

What is going on?

Please help. I am getting pretty desperate.


I said:

Hi Jodie,
I’m sure you don’t want to wait for an answer until this is published in a Mailbox Mondays post, so I am emailing you, then will also post this to get ideas from other readers!

How big is your son? What size setting are you using? Are the diapers snug around his legs? How often are you changing him? When you change him, is the insert soaked, or does it seem to be actually leaking from somewhere? Is it happening with all of your diapers, or just the Smartipants?

If the insert is soaked, you may need to change more often and/or add a doubler. If there’s any leg gap, it could be coming out there. Sometimes slight repelling + slight leg gap=major leaking. I especially wonder if this is happening since you said this started when he became more mobile. If they’re not really snug around his legs, the urine can come right out before it’s absorbed. I had this problem big time when I was super-stuffing diapers for night time. After you diaper him, do some bicycling with his legs and things and see if there’s any gap. If so, you may need to tighten up the legs a bit.

If it seems snug on his legs, and the insert isn’t completely soaked, you may have part of his onesie getting tucked into the leg opening. With cloth you often have to size onesies up to fit.

So if it seems like the moisture is just coming straight out and the diaper isn’t wet at all, plus there isn’t a major leg gap, you are probably having repelling. In my opinion, the best place to start with fixing that is to wash the diapers and inserts in hot water with no detergent, and repeat until you’re seeing no detergent bubbles or residue in the water. Then, take a look at your detergent and wash routine to see what caused it. If you’ve been using any diapers creams, that could be the culprit.

I hope this helps a little bit to figure out what’s going on. If you answer a few of the 10,000 questions I asked I can help some more. 😉


Jodie said:

Thank you for getting back to me. I am beginning to think that it is an absorbency issue. (Though there are times he is barely in the diaper and he leaks.) Yesterday, I double stuffed his Smartipants and we didn’t have any leaks. So whether that tighten his legs or just added more absorbency, I am not sure, but it might have solved the situation. I am going to test it out a little more before I order more inserts.

To answer some of your questions:

My son is 9 months about 20 lbs. and 29 in. He is a tall little guy. We use the medium setting on the diapers with the snaps either completely shut or one snap out. The diapers do seem tight on his legs. I have not seen any gaps and there are impression marks when I change his diapers. If he is in his Smartipants, I have been changing him every 2 hours. Before I was having issues, I was changing him probably every 3 hours. When I change him, sometimes the diaper seems soaked; other times, it isn’t but I still had a leak. It does seem like the leaks are come from his legs. And it is only happening with the Smartipants. We use Flips (w/ stay-dry), Grobabys, and a few odds and ends diapers. They all seem fine.

Thanks for the answers.


I said:

Hmm…the other thing I was thinking is that maybe the insert isn’t completely flat, or maybe he just needs an insert that goes all the way from leg opening to leg opening if you know what I mean? The Smartipants doesn’t quite because of the sleeve design.

Glad it seems to be resolved for now though!



When I have had leak issues personally, they have been because the absorbency wasn’t enough, the fit wasn’t right (especially if there was any leg gap!) or the insert wasn’t flat inside the pocket/the diaper just wasn’t on quite right.

Cloth diapering can geta little confusing because there’s no quick answer when you’re having a problem, it could be any number of things. A baby’s shape can change as they get older and what fit well before, might not anymore. Their wetting habits can change greatly too. I recommend aiming to check diapers every two hours, but some babies are just super soakers. You could have changed a barely wet diaper 5 minutes ago, then they let loose and completely soak the new one.

For babies who do this, changing more often may not be the answer. You may need additional absorbency (I think knickernappies Loopydo inserts are great!)

Have any of you had sudden leaking issues? Did you determine what the problem was? How did you resolve it?

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Maria is an aspiring "fit mom" of 3 children, writing about cloth diapers, going green, and her life as a single mom. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development, and other services.
  • Suki
    April 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Early in our cloth diapering adventures, I had some leaking but determined it was because certain diapers didn’t fit her quite right. I put them away and six months (or so) later, pulled them out again and had no problem.

    I have a current leaking problem and after doing some research today, I am going to call her doctor tomorrow because it may be diabetes (which terrifies me to consider). I literally have to change her diaper every 30 – 60 minutes or she leaks (meaning the inserts are soaked completely). Sometimes it’s less than 30 minutes. I moved all her diaper stuff to the main level because I got tired of walking up and down the stairs a million times a day. At first, I thought it was because she was drinking a ton because the weather got pretty warm. For a day or so, it cooled off and so did the leaking problem. But now it’s back. May not be helpful and I certainly hope your problem is one of the easier answers!

    • April 18, 2011 at 7:06 pm

      I’ll be thinking of you. Obviously really hoping it’s not diabetes! I think a lot of kids do that *occasionally* but at every change, you are definitely right to call the Doctor!

  • Karolyn Mac
    April 18, 2011 at 11:27 am

    When we had leaking issues and discovered it was repelling, we had ZERO success with simply washing/soaking diapers and then rinsing until clean. I had to scrub those bad boys and then rinse, rinse, rinse. I used a soft nail brush and a bit of blue Dawn and went to town. This was after trying to strip them 3 times by the soak method.

    • April 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm

      Did you determine what the buildup was from? Had you been using diaper creams? Fabric softeners?

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