Reusable nappy leaks can be a frustrating discovery for parents, but luckily there's usually a really easy fix for your problem....we just have to work out the problem first! Most nappy leaks are due to absorbency and fit which are very easily adjusted, but occasionally it can be down to incorrect washing. Read this guide to fix your nappy leaks today!
If your baby’s nappy is sodden wet inside when it leaks, with no dry spots, then you’re probably lacking absorbency. Not all reusable nappy materials are created equal, so two nappies of the same thickness could have drastically different levels of absorbency. Instead of immediately stuffing more inserts into your nappy, let's work out your current absorbency
Microfiber - Least absorbent, a lot like a sponge. It soaks water up quickly but doesn't take much to begin leaking. When squeezed, such as in a car seat or sling, all the liquid leaks out causing compression leaks. Super fast drying though, so most nappies contain a small amount (20-30%) to make air drying easier.
Cotton - Medium absorbency and hard wearing. Most towels and face cloths are made of cotton as it has decent absorbent properties whilst being fairly easy to dry too. Cotton can be tumble dried on high which makes it preferable to those who lack air drying space. It’s also readily abundant and affordable so many budget nappies are made from cotton.
Bamboo & Hemp - Both have high absorbency making them a commonly used nappy material. Hemp dries at roughly the same rate as cotton but bamboo takes a little longer. They can be slow to absorb liquid so are usually combined with another material like cotton or microfiber.
Don’t be concerned if your nappies are mixed with other materials as this is often needed. Due to the high cost of hemp it is usually mixed with cotton in a 60:40 ratio. Bamboo is a rough material used on its own, so it is usually mixed with microfiber in a 80:20 blend to make it suitable for use in a nappy. However, if a ‘bamboo’ or ‘hemp’ nappy contains less than 60% of that material, I would be wary as it often won’t be as absorbent as claimed.
The average day nappy needs 2-3 medium or high absorbency inserts, such as…
- A pocket nappy with two bamboo inserts.
- A wrap containing a 100% cotton prefold, folded into thirds.
- An all-in-one nappy with one long hemp/cotton mix pad, folded in half to create two insert layers.
- A birdseye flat nappy pad-folded into a wrap, with an additional cotton booster.
I would avoid microfiber nappies unless you specifically need a fast-drying nappy. If you have a microfiber all-in-one such as a Bambino Mio Miosolo Classic then this one layer of microfiber will be nowhere near enough. We recommend boosting with 1 or 2 layers of bamboo or hemp for best results. It still separates for faster drying, but increases absorbency significantly during use.
Still confused by nappy materials? Read our simple guide and become a nappy pro in no time!
If you’re getting leg leaks then it’s likely a fit issue. Most reusable nappies are designed to cover a large range of weights and heights, therefore they contain rise and waist snaps (or aplix) to adjust the fit for your baby’s current size. Remember, a cloth nappy should sit on your child’s waist, below their belly button. Many parents overestimate the nappy rise needed for their baby. It’s worth remembering that one size nappies are designed to fit from a few weeks old, right through to potty training, so your baby won’t reach the fully open rise stage until at least 2 years old - and yes this includes babies on high centiles!
Lay your baby on a changing mat with their nappy on and lift their leg up in the air. Is there a gap between their leg and the nappy elastic? If there is - the rise snaps need to go down a setting to make the nappy smaller! When you lift your baby’s leg, the nappy elastic should sit flush against their skin but it shouldn’t dig in at all. You can expect the nappy to leave ‘sock marks’ like your sock elastics do - a light red mark that disappears shortly after removing the nappy, this isn't uncomfortable at all. The back elastics should sit flush on the back without digging in too.
Once you have adjusted the rise snaps, try again and you’ll probably find the leaks stop! It’s okay to have a nappy gap of about two fingers width at the tummy. Your baby’s stomach will naturally change size and shape throughout the day depending on whether they have been fed and also their position.
This may seem odd, but incorrectly caring for your nappies can have a huge effect on the absorbency of your nappies. One of the main issues experienced is when using fabric softener. Like towels, you shouldn’t wash your nappies with fabric softener as it affects their absorbency. Fabric softener is oil-based and coats the fibres in a water-resistant oily substance which makes them feel softer. Many gels, liquids and pod detergents contain softener which is one of the many reasons we recommend using a powder detergent.
If you have accidentally used fabric softener on the odd occasion, then a standard long, 60°c wash with powder detergent should revive your nappies back to their more absorbent state. If you have been regularly using fabric softener then it may be harder to remove. A few long 60°c washes with powder detergent, back to back, will hopefully do the job.
Want to check your wash routine? Check out our complete reusable nappy wash guide
If the inner nappy is balding then it has lost a lot of the absorbent fibres that hold the liquid, resulting in a lower capacity being held before the nappy leaks. A few things can cause balding:
- Very old nappies - sometimes nappies just reach the end of their life! Nappies that are 4 or 5 years old will likely be much thinner and balder than new nappies.
- Tumble Drying - particularly at high heats can cause nappies to wear down much faster than normal. Tumble drying on a gentle heat on occasion (such as during rainy days and winter) shouldn’t cause any problems, but may slightly reduce the life of your nappies if done on a regular basis for many years.
- Bleaching - Never a good idea for nappies, it’s much too harsh for the nappy fibres to handle and can quickly result in balding of your nappies, even if done on occasion or as a one-off.
Balding nappies unfortunately cannot be restored and will simply need replacing.
If you are finding that your nappy leaks in random spots across the laminate, even if the nappy isn’t very wet, then your nappy may have delaminated. Delamination is rare when a nappy is washed correctly, but can also be hard to spot so it’s best to ask your retailer for help if you think this has occurred. Delamination is when the laminate bubbles or cracks on your outer nappy shell or wrap. It allows liquid to leak through the cracks and holes, meaning the outer wrap is no longer water resistant.
Sadly delaminated nappies cannot be fixed, so you will need to replace the wraps and shells. If your all-in-one nappies have delaminated then you can always cut out the inner pads, and buy some pocket nappy shells to place them in.
Whilst delamination is less common nowadays due to better knowledge on nappy care, and more advanced nappy materials, it’s not unheard of. The reasons a nappy wrap may delaminate are similar to why the inserts may bald:
- Very old nappies - From my experience, even the best looked after nappies still have a limited life, like anything really. I have successfully got 2 children and 4 years of use out of my nappies without issues, but I would imagine they may struggle to see a third or fourth child through.
- Cheaper nappies - Budget branded generic nappies don’t usually last as long as a premium or mid-range nappy brand. You will usually get 1-2 years out of a budget brand, which is still better for the environment than the 3 to 5 thousand disposables that would have been created in that time.
- High heats - Nappy laminate isn't a fan of high heats, which is why I always recommend air drying your wraps even if you want to tumble dry the inners. You shouldn’t place the laminate of your nappies directly on a radiator or heated airer either. In hotter countries where the summers regularly soar above 30°c, nappy wraps and shells should be dried in the shade as the direct sun can get very hot, but in the UK this is rarely an issue.
- Bleaching - This can destroy wraps instantly as it’s much too harsh, it doesn't take regular bleach to cause issues. Nappy experts can spot bleach a mile off as it causes a characteristic orange/pink tinge across the nappy, and brittle cracked laminate. It’s really not worth the risk and instantly invalidates your warranty so just don’t do it.
If you're still struggling with leaks then get in touch with us and we can help!