Nappy leaks: getting to the source

A few weeks after making my two new wool nappy covers, I found that Evie was constantly having nappy leaks. One moment she is standing there, looking suddenly focussed, the next a great flood of wee comes down her leg. “Poo-poo!” She announces, and I sigh.

Cutest wooly nappy bottom ever!
Cutest bottom ever!

I was pretty disappointed, and I blamed my new nappy covers straight away. That was a bit unfair, though, because when I switched over to my old covers, the same thing happened. Frustrated and defeated, I tried disposables for a while.

And then … the same thing happened! Well, not as frequently, and mostly at nap time. Not every time. Clearly I needed to actually understand what was going on, instead of just giving up!

Here are the symptoms I noticed as I cast about looking for the problem:

  • Between enormous floods, the nappy was dry (for like … five hours and more!)
  • When the flood happened, the top of the nappy was also dry
  • Once when a leak occurred in a disposables, the inside …. was dry.  (huh?) This was the only time a disposable leaked when she wasn’t napping
  • Whenever a disposable leaked at nap time, it was soaked, soaked, soaked.

So something was going wrong in her nappy world, and it was up to me to find out what!

First up, I tried adjusting her new nappy covers. I’d noticed that without any elastic at the waistband, that the cover would sometimes ride down, causing looseness around the leg area, and exposing some nappy at the waist. Maybe the leaks were because the nappy wasn’t catching the wee at all?

Okay, no change there. This didn’t surprise me a whole lot, but since the nappy inside wasn’t particularly wet I thought it must be some kind of containment problem.

Heat a tube of pure lanolin
Pure lanolin

I tried re-lanolising the covers, again with no effect (I will post soon about how to do this). Given that the disposables were also flooding out sometimes, I didn’t have much hope of this option.

With no real idea what to do next, I turned to the internet. Good old internet, it won’t let me down! Sure enough, there is a lot of information out there about why your cloth nappy might be leaking. Turns out that wool covers are one of the better options for preventing leaks, so I was a bit miffed that I was having more problems with wool than with a disposable!

This is my favourite cover now
This is my favourite cover now

But my reading led me to the concept of a “compression leak”. Basically, this happens when you get a big build up of wee in part of the nappy, and then (for a bunch of different reasons) it can come out. That sounded exactly what was happening with the disposables at nap time. Basically, a lot of wee would accumulate in one spot, and then squeeze out like a sponge when she rolled over! (Yeah, ew.)

This seems to be linked, apparently, to a really heavy wetter.

Bing! Heavy wetter sounds plausible! I think Evie is at the point where she could toilet train, if I had the stamina for it right now. She holds onto her wee for hours, and then it all comes gushing out at once. And she tells me that it came out! (Yeah, it’s a glamorous life.)

So basically, the nappy I was using inside the cover was not enough to contain the big wee. I had been looking in entirely the wrong place, fiddling about with covers.

It took me a bit to really trust this, because the upper part of her nappy was bone dry when this happened. It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Surely if the nappy is still dry, it can absorb more liquid? But no, apparently not if it comes out in one enormous gush! I think the take-up rate in the cotton flat is just too slow, so the bottom of the nappy would get soaked and then start leaking, but there was no time for the moisture to “wick up” into the dry upper part of the nappy.

My solution turned out to be adding another flat nappy inside the cover. This one I just fold as a basic pad so that I get the most fabric under her bottom as I can manage, without turning her walking gait into “waddling sumo-wrestler”. I place this on top of the previously insufficient nappy pad, and really strap her into it. Thank goodness for the Snappy! I can’t imagine doing this with safety pins. Especially when she’s wriggling!

The new nappy covers go on over the double nappy just fine, so I’m glad I made them a little roomy. It doesn’t look insane, and she doesn’t seem to feel any discomfort. Who knew it would be that simple? I’m wondering now whether I really need a whole extra nappy, or if a half one would do. I might try cutting one up into two pads and try it out. 🙂

For now I’m back in happy nappy mode. The bucket sure fills up fast using two nappies at once! But it’s a relief to have proper containment again at last.

I really love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment! :)

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