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My Cloth Diapers are Leaking

So your diapers are leaking?  That's never any fun.  Leaking diapers can leave us stressed out and defeated.

But never fear!  While leaking could be a result of many things, it's fixable.  Here are the most common reasons for leaky cloth diapers:

1. Fit:  While every brand of diapers fit different babies differently depending on their particular size and shape, most diapers tend to have a versatile fit that can accommodate just about any baby's little body type. Try tightening the diaper a bit (babies do tend to gain and lose size as they grow - they can "bulk up" right before a growth spurt, increasing their thigh circumference, and then they suddenly grow an inch or more, and then their thighs actually lose a bit of bulk. You may need to adjust the settings on your diaper to accommodate this, if growth is the culprit). Once the diaper is fastened onto your little one, grab ahold of the tabs at the inside of the waist (the tips of the front of the diaper), and tug upward on them, so they stick up out of the diaper a bit like ears. This should effectively cinch up the leg casing, giving you a snugger fit. Another trick is to be sure that when you're stuffing your diaper, that the insert reaches end-to-end in the diaper. If it doesn't reach the whole way from the front of the diaper to the back, pee can pool in one end and this can result in leaks, too. It's usually more of a problem with little boys, but you never know!

2. Absorbency: Your baby's milk intake changes all the time, and so his/her output changes accordingly. There may be times when you need to double-stuff your diaper, or change it more frequently. You may perhaps be changing diapers as frequently as you always have (which may have worked up to the recent past), but s/he may suddenly be peeing more frequently, or larger amounts, saturating the diaper more quickly than s/he used to. Once a diaper is saturated (no matter which kind it is), it lacks the ability to absorb more and so leaking will occur. During growth spurts when fluid intake is increased, you may find you need to change your baby's diaper every 1.5 - 2 hours at times, to avoid leaks. Or add a doubler to increase the overall absorbency of your diaper, to allow it to be worn for longer periods without resulting in leaks. Is the insert completely soaked when you notice the diaper has leaked? If so, then this is very likely your problem. If the insert is hardly wet at all, or only partially wet, then you likely have a repelling problem (see #3).

3. Repelling: This is a bit of a tricky issue to solve, but not impossible. A diaper that repels liquid (preventing it from absorbing the way it should), normally results from a build-up of some sort. Common build-ups are caused by: too much detergent (not getting all rinsed out), the wrong kind of detergent (one that contains a repelling substance such as an oil or fabric softener), the use of fabric softeners with other household laundry, or the use of creams/lotions that may transfer to the diapers from your baby's bottom.
    a) Too much detergent: When you wash, be sure you use only 1-2 tbsp of detergent. Though cloth diapers can be very soiled, poop is very water-soluble and doesn't actually require much detergent to wash away. Be sure to always follow this rule: use as little detergent as possible, with as much water as possible. Basically, set your washer to "Super Large Load" (or equivalent) even if you're only washing a few diapers. The more water involved in washing and rinsing, the more the diapers will get clean, and the more likely every single bubble of soap will be rinsed out. If any soap is left, it can act as a barrier to absorbency, making it difficult for urine to pass through the diaper and into the insert below. Also, do not overstuff your washer with diapers. Try to limit your loads to 20 or so diapers; any more, and the soap may not rinse out adequately.
     b) Wrong detergent: There is no one "perfect" detergent that will work for everyone. Which detergent works well for you will not only depend on its ingredients, but also will be based on your particular water chemistry (ie, how well it rinses out), your washing machine, how often you wash, and how many diapers you wash at a time. It is possible that your particular detergent is leaving a residue because there is an element in it that just won't rinse out properly (think of hair shampoo - after a while of using the same shampoo for weeks, hair often becomes flat and dull. As soon as you switch to a different one, the old residue is rinsed out and hair is lovely again). Your detergent that you currently use may not be ideal for your cloth diapers. Now that you've been washing your diapers for a while (assuming you've been using the same detergent), it's possible that over time you have been getting more and more buildup without noticing, only to suddenly have leaks because the buildup has only now begun to prevent liquid from absorbing optimally. There are a few solutions to fixing build-up (see "How to strip diapers" below).
     c) Fabric softener: Fabric softener is a major culprit in contributing to buildup on diapers. Be sure you never use it with your diapers, and try to avoid using it with your other household laundry, too. Fabric softeners are found hidden in detergents, or they can be used as extras such as Downy liquid or Bounce sheets. Even fabric softener used with other laundry loads can coat the inside of your machine, transferring to your diapers later on. If you suspect fabric softener has come into contact with your diapers, try stripping them with Dawn (see "How to strip diapers" below).
     d) Creams/Lotions: Any creams or lotions you use on your baby can easily transfer onto your cloth diapers, coating the fleece and causing a repelling problem. If you do use any of these items in the diaper area, be aware that they often contain repelling ingredients (usually oils), and you'll need to protect your diaper to prevent a transfer. Lotions and baby oils should not be used at all in the diaper area. If diaper cream is necessary, protect your diaper by laying a piece of fabric on the diaper, so that transfer occurs only on the fabric. Disposable diaper liners can also be effective at protecting your diaper, too. If you use fabric, wash it separately from the rest of your diapers. Some people opt to use disposable diapers when the use of diaper cream is required, just until the rash clears up. That way, there is absolutely no chance that diaper cream will come into contact with your cloth diapers. If you suspect that one or more of your diapers has come into contact with a repelling substance, it may be beneficial to scrub the affected fabric with full-strength Dawn, using a soft toothbrush. Be sure to scrub both sides of the affected fabric if possible. Rinse well.

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