6 Surprising Causes of Diaper Leaks

6 surprising causes of diaper leaks blog header image. there is a baby wearing a lil helper cloth diaper looking at the camera with a shocked expression on it's face

Hello everyone! Tamara here. I came by today to talk about 6 surprising (yet very common) causes of diaper leaks, and how you can avoid them.

GIF of 4 dancing adults dressed up in giant baby suits. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog
Compression Leaks:

Imagine that you are holding a damp dishcloth in your hand. What happens when you make a fist and tightly squeeze it? Water squeezes out and through your fingers, right? The same thing happens with a cloth diaper. Squeezing a damp diaper causes diaper leaks, imagine that!

An astronaut squeezes water from a cloth while in zero gravity. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog

If your little one’s inserts are wet enough and they are then strapped into a tight car seat or carried snuggly against your hip, you may experience compression leaks out of the legs of their diaper. Yes, even with the use of a diaper cover.

A mom holds a baby on her hip. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog
Surprisingly the vast amount of my son’s compression diaper leaks came from dressing him in too-small-onesies. The onesie would snap up between his legs, and that continuous pressure alone would be enough to cause a leak.

Baby wearing a onesie sits on his dad's knee. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog


How to avoid it?

Size up generously in your onesies, use a onesie extender, or ditch the onesies altogether. (They only cover up the adorable diaper anyway!)

Also, consider changing more often or adding some extra absorbency in the diaper by using an additional liner or ‘booster’.

Inadequate Prepping:

Have you ever noticed how the old, shabby, thin towels in the back of your Mom’s linen closet do the best job of drying you after a shower?

Or, have you ever bought a luxurious new towel from a fancy department store, only to bring it home and find that it had the absorbency of a plastic bag? What gives?!

GIF of a soaking wet cat, sitting in a sink, wrapped tightly in a towel. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog


Many cloth diapers, like towels, get more absorbent with use.

This is especially true for natural fibres (like cotton, hemp, and bamboo) which contain naturally occurring, water-repellent oils which need to be washed away before the material reaches peak absorbency.

It is advisable that brand new, natural fibre diapers are washed & dried 5-10x before use to reach full absorbency potential.

Click HERE for details on how to prep your natural-fibre cloth diapers & prevent diaper leaks.

How to avoid it?

I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I find ‘prepping’ diapers annoying at heck and also to be a huge waste of time, water, and electricity! I don’t want to have to wash my perfectly clean diapers TEN TIMES before they do what they are supposed to do. That seems crazy to me.

That’s why I use Lil Helper Diapers exclusively!

Did you know that Lil Helper charcoal diapers do not need to be ‘prepped’ before use? That’s right! Lil Helper diapers are absorbent right out of the package.

Of course, you should still wash your new Lil Helper diapers once before use just to rid of them any dust or dirt that may have accumulated on them from the storing and shipping process. But one wash is enough. They will do their job from then on.

Check out Mohammed’s tips on how easy it is to prep Lil Helper diapers

Poor Fit due to Loose Elastics:

This might seem like a no-brainer, but a diaper needs to fit snuggly at all openings in order to prevent diaper leaks. A diaper should be snug around the waist and especially around the legs. If there is any gaping while the baby is in any position at all, you might experience leakage.

After countless washes, elastic material relaxes & loses its elasticity over time. This is especially a problem in previously worn diapers that have been around the block a time or two before. Thankfully, Lil Helper cloth diapers use the best elastics we can find. It is VERY rare to find a Lil Helper cloth diaper with loose elastics – even after catching poo for multiple children from newborn to potty training.

GIF of two kids pulling a 'Stretch Armstrong' doll from the 90's. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog


How to avoid it?

If you are buying previously-loved diapers, make sure you ask how much use they have seen and/or inspect the elastics yourself. Elastics should feel firm, and snappy.

Also, it’s a good idea to wash your diapers in warm water and only with other diapers. Washing diapers with anything that they could get tangled up in could cause your diapers to stretch on the washing machine putting undue wear & tear on the elastics.

Loose Elastics + Pee = Diaper leaks.

6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog


Did you know that a build-up of minerals, soap, diaper creams or fabric softener can cause perfectly good diapers to leak? Well, they can!

Many people make the mistake of using ‘natural soap’ detergents to wash their diapers, but what they don’t realize is that soap is made out of oil and we all know that oil is not known to be very water soluble.

Infographic of various Detergent Strength Rankings for Cloth Diaper Laundering. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog

An improper wash routine is one of the #1 causes of diaper leaks. If you’re wondering how best to wash your Lil Helper cloth diapers, go here.

How to avoid it?

First and foremost, educate yourself on how to wash your diapers and what products to avoid altogether.

Using Tide Original, avoiding diaper rash creams, and never using fabric softener is key.

If you must use diaper rash cream (and let’s face it, sometimes we must), use a disposable liner to keep the cream off the diapers.

Fluff Love University has the most comprehensive wash routine information available online right now. Follow this link and let your mind be blown.

Mind Blown GIF. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog

Too Much Fluff:

Often when our little ones diaper leaks we assume that their diaper just didn’t have enough absorbency. Many caregivers will assume that the diaper needs another insert to boost absorbency.

But sometimes too much fluff can actually be a bad thing!

If you add so much fluff your child’s diaper that the elastics of the cover are no longer able to fully encompass the inserts, you will likely experience diaper leaks.

FluffLove University did a really cool experiment a few years ago to demonstrate the absorbency of various types of inserts. They found that a folded up flannel receiving blanket was the most absorbent material that they tested, holding a whopping 13oz of fluid!


How to avoid it?

If possible, change that diaper more often. It is said that cloth diapers should be changed every 2-3 hours, but some heavy-wetters need a new diaper every 1.5 to 2 hours. Don’t get hung up on when you last changed the diaper. If it’s wet, change it.

Also, as Fluff Love University found out, thick inserts do not necessarily mean super absorbent inserts. Be smarter with your inserts, not bulkier.

an open cloth diaper with a 'booster' laying inside of it. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog

For my 18-month-old fella, I use the two charcoal inserts that come with every Lil Helper Charcoal diaper and often add in a Lil Helper Bamboo & Microterry Booster. This combo provides us with more than enough absorbency to get us the 2 hours between diaper changes without diaper leaks.

Power Peeing

At the end of the day, no matter how well prepped the diaper, how perfect the fit, or how absorbent the inserts, if a child empties a very full bladder all at once before the diaper can absorb it, there might be a leak. Young infants tend to dribble pee slowly over the course of the day, but older babies will start to ‘hold’ their pee and let it go in large bursts. This can overwhelm even the most robust of diapers.

gushing water sprays over top of a building. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog

How to avoid it:

If this suddenly starts happening to you, the good news is that your baby might be approaching potty-trainability! Congratulations!

In the meantime though, you still need to deal with the power-peeing-problem.

Consider adding a slim-but-very-absorbent booster into the diaper. Also, be mindful of when your child consumes large amounts of liquids; 20 minutes later they will likely need a diaper change.

Baby reclines wearing sunglasses and the words 'Deal with it' scroll across the bottom. 6 surprising causes of diaper leaks by LilHelper.ca Blog

If none of the above causes are the source of your leak issues, please take a look through our Leaky Diaper App! This app is NOT specific to Lil Helper and can be used if you are experiencing leaks with any kind of cloth diapers. 

If you are STILL experiencing leaks after reading this blog AND having gone through our app – please email us at delight@lilhelper.ca and we will do everything we can to help you.

I want to hear from you!

Have you ever run into a sneaky cause of diaper leaks? How did you deal with it?

One thought on “6 Surprising Causes of Diaper Leaks

  1. I was making sure that the insert was flat in my daughter’s diaper from the time we started using them at 3 weeks. She’s 2 months now and I’ve been noticing more leaks out the legs. I definitely think part of it has to do with her out growing her onesies! But just yesterday I started rolling the sides of the insert the way I’ve seen it suggested to roll prefolds for newborn girls. So far so good! I even have her squeezed into a onesie that is not the new size!

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