Heavy Wetters

image of baby crawling away from camera wearing raspberry colored fleece diaper cover

I received this via private message this evening:

“A few online discussions this week have me grateful that we discovered Wallypop fitted diapers! I have always called my DS a heavy wetter, but after trying your fitteds, I’m not sure if he is any more. He peed out of everything else we had – mostly pockets and AIOs – and we were growing desperate for an overnight solution Someone pointed me your way, and I love love love the fitteds we bought from you. Zero leaks overnight with our ‘heavy wetter’ DS. Thanks!”

It was interesting because a few online discussions I’ve read this week (perhaps the same ones, lol) have me wondering about the perception of having a “heavy wetter.” The email above isn’t the only time we’ve seen this happen – a mom calls her child a “heavy wetter” because he’s peeing out of everything they have, which is usually big name brand pockets, particularly on overnights. Someone points them my way. I give my suggestions for “heavy wetters” and they invariably end up trying out a fitted diaper or two. A few weeks or months later, I get an email or message saying the fitteds were working PERFECTLY!!

And that’s GREAT!

But it does have me wondering – has our perception of what constitutes a “heavy wetter” changed in recent years? I would not generally perceive of a child whose pee can be contained by one of our regular instock fitted diapers as a “heavy wetter.”

Ten years ago, our fitteds were pretty well-situated in the middle of available levels of absorbency in diapers – perhaps off towards the “more absorbent” end, but still in the middle third. Then we’ve had this trend toward trimmer and trimmer diapers – and those diapers are also getting less and less absorbent. Add the influx of Chinese knockoff diapers, which aren’t renowned for being absorbent. And new parents are being advised that using just an insert or two with these expensive but not terribly absorbent diapers should hold their baby all night. Then when it doesn’t, the child is labeled a “heavy wetter” and the parents are understandably frustrated. The addition of the label “heavy wetter” really serves nobody but the people who sold/made the diapers in the first place – “hey, it’s not our fault – your kid is just a freaky heavy wetter!”

When I first started out diapering, it was not super common to hear parents describe their babies as “heavy wetters.” Now, a good 40-50% of the cloth diapering families I know believe one or more of their children is a “heavy wetter.”

Is it, perhaps, that our standards for what a cloth diaper should be able to do have just declined over time?

Because, truly, if Wallypop’s regular, nothing special, in stock fitteds can contain a child’s pee for a reasonable amount of time… that’s not heavy wetting. That’s pretty much a normal quantity of pee.  🙂

Now, you were probably wondering what I’d suggest for heavy wetters.

– If you feel your child is a heavy wetter and you haven’t tried a good, absorbent fitted diaper, that should be your first step. Doesn’t have to be ours, but of course, ours are awesome and affordable.

– If you’ve tried a good, absorbent fitted diaper and that’s not doing the trick, make sure you pair it with a good quality (using Malden Mills brand fleece) fleece cover, or a nice thick wool cover that’s been lanolized well. If you buy or make knitted or crochet wool covers, make sure you make the fabric thick enough.

– If that’s not working, I have made for some kids an extra special super absorbent fitted. I’ve checked back with literally 100% of the families I’ve made these for, at intervals, and not a one has been unhappy with this solution. 🙂  It’s a hemp and sherpa fitted with a hemp and sherpa soaker pad hidden inside the diaper, then a hemp and sherpa soaker pad  attached at the front edge, and an extra hemp and sherpa soaker pad that snaps in to the back of the diaper, and then another hemp and sherpa soaker pad that’s available as a lay-in soaker if you really really need it. Pair that with fleece or wool. Poof, no more wetting.


How do I care for wool diaper covers?


Wool does need special care, but it’s not as difficult as many people are afraid it will be!

You don’t need to wash wool with every wearing – hang it up to dry after each use, and wash once it starts to smell bad or if you notice it’s not performing up to par.

You may wash your wool by hand or in the machine on the delicate or handwash cycle (do this at your own risk – there’s a slight chance that your machine’s delicate cycle will have enough agitation to shrink your wool).

Use a wool wash, and follow the directions on your bottle of wash. Wash in warm water, and avoid extreme temperature changes.

Squeeze out as much water as you can, then wrap your wool in a towel and press to remove even more water.

You may hang your wool to dry, or dry flat. I like to lay my wool on our radiators during the winter!

After several washes, if you notice your covers aren’t performing as they should, you may need to re-lanolize. (If you use a high lanolin content wool wash, you may not need to lanolize your covers separately.) To do this, melt some lanolin in a small cup of hot water. Fill the sink with warm water, add the (clean) covers, and add the lanolin. Agitate just a bit, let soak for a bit, then remove and dry as above!

My husband doesn’t want to use cloth diapers

This is my Husband Drawer.

My husband didn’t care that much one way or the other about cloth diapers, but he was reluctant to actually change a diaper, and didn’t want to actually put any effort into learning about the different diapers. He was worried (and I was worried) he’d forget to put a cover on with a fitted, or he’d use a cover alone instead of a pocket diaper, and it made him less than enthusiastic about the whole process. So I made the Husband Drawer. It had a few prestuffed pockets and a few all in ones, and a small pile of wipes. I kept it stocked at all times. This is a good solution of your Husband problem lies, not so much in actual reluctance to allow cloth diapers into the house, but just in the diaper changing department. Disposables feel fool-proof (they’re not); cloth seems weird and confusing (it’s not).

But what if your husband problem is more that your husband doesn’t want to use cloth diapers at all?

Many families find that they can compromise.

First, I’d encourage you to actually consider how much diaper changing your husband does (or will do). In our house, 90% or more of diapers are changed by me. If my husband were going to really be difficult about it and absolutely refuse to touch cloth diapers at all, that wouldn’t have dramatically impacted my life much. Some women find that they’re ok with simply completing all or most diaper changes themselves, and those women typically find that their husbands eventually get on board as long as they don’t nag or push.

It’s also possible to use a combination of cloth and disposable. If your husband doesn’t want to use cloth, he can use disposables when he completes diaper changes (and you can put baby in a disposable if you’re leaving the house and dad will be with the baby). And you can use cloth when you complete diaper changes. If dad works during the day, you can use cloth during that time (whether at home or at daycare) and switch to disposables at night. This combination approach makes everyone happy and still saves you money on diapers.

If the main problem is that dad just doesn’t want to have to deal with poop… well, poop is a part of life with babies. There’s no avoiding it, regardless of diaper type!!

What do I need to start cloth diapering?


1) Diapers. For a newborn, start with a dozen diapers for each day you don’t want to do laundry. (I want to do laundry every three days, so I need three dozen.) Get 6-8 covers, if you’re using prefolds or fitteds. You can always buy more if you need them! (Want to see what my newborn stash looks like? I talk about it here on my blog.)

For an older baby, you probably have a good idea of how many times you change your baby during the day. You’ll find that you change the baby more often when he’s wearing cloth, so add a few diapers to your daily diaper total and that’ll tell you how many to buy! Most people use 2-3 dozen diapers and 6-8 covers in the medium and large sizes.

2) Wipes. Plan on a dozen per day.

3) Diaper Pail. You can use a step-lid garbage can. Pair it with a pail liner if you wish. Or, skip the pail and just use a wet bag or pail liner.

4) Wet bags. For on-the-go diapering. A small size will work for day trips and errand-running, a larger bag will be suitable for longer trips.

5) Optional accessories. Some people like to use diaper liners and doublers. You might want a changing pad or two.

Help, My Diapers are Stinky, Leaking, Repelling, or Visibly Dirty!

My diapers are stinky.

There are many causes of stinky diapers and many solutions to try.

  • Vinegar in the rinse. This can cause stinky diapers for some people, it can solve a stink problem for others, and it makes no difference for still others. If you have stinky diapers and you use vinegar, try cutting out the vinegar for a few washes. If you have stinky diapers and you don’t use vinegar, give it a try.
  • Detergent. Some detergents just don’t get things clean. Our family had terrible luck with Melaleuca detergent (but other families like it). Homemade laundry soaps often don’t result in a satisfactory clean, especially in hard water. For some, the “CD-safe” detergents just don’t get the job done. Consider switching brands.
  • Wash frequency. Diapers that sit for longer than three days can start to really absorb odors. If you can’t wash that often, at least rinse your diapers often.
  • Rinsing. A hot rinse can lock in odors and stains. Many families do not need a pre-rinse at all, but if you’re having stink problems, try a cold pre-rinse.
  • Diapers just not able to get completely clean. Maybe they’re too wadded up when you put them in the washer (like if you roll up your diapers when removing them from the baby). Or maybe your water level is too low to allow the diapers to agitate.
  • Not using enough detergent. Yes, if you use too much detergent, you could get detergent build-up, if it’s not getting effectively rinsed out. This is not as common as you might think. More common is too LITTLE detergent. If your diapers stink when you take them out of the dryer… they’re just not getting clean. “Barnyard stink” is often caused by too little detergent. Try using more detergent and hotter water.
  • Hard Water. Add a water softener like Calgon.
  • Join the FB group The Cloth Diaper Compenduim, read their files.

My diapers are leaking

Cloth diapers should not leak. Here are some common causes and solutions.

  • Have you washed them? Some diaper materials and some diaper brands need to be washed 1-3 or more times before use to attain full absorbency. Check with the manufacturer of your diapers. It’s always a good idea to wash any diaper before use, just to make sure any dirt from the manufacturing and shipping process has been removed.
  • If you’re using a fitted or prefold, make sure the diaper is completely contained within the cover.
  • If you’re using a pocket, make sure the insert is completely inside the diaper, and not sticking out the back a bit.
  • Does the diaper fit right? The elastic around the legs and waist should fit snugly against baby’s skin without cutting in. Gaps will allow urine to run right out, particularly around the legs. Diapers that are too small or too big will tend to leak.
  • Is the diaper absorbent enough? Is the diaper completely saturated? This is an indication that it is not absorbent enough for your needs (or that you’re not changing often enough).
  • Is the diaper repelling? To check, take a clean, dry diaper and pour some water on it. Does the water soak in, or does it bead up and run off? If it beads and runs off, that’s repelling. See Stripping Diapers.
  • Is the cover a good cover? Covers tend to wear out more quickly than diapers, and many covers that are purchased second-hand or given as hand-me-downs are at or near the end of their life span. Old covers sometimes just leak and there’s nothing to be done. Sometimes, you can revive an older cover by giving it a good spraying with a waterproofing spray (sold in sporting goods stores for tents).
  • Is it a pocket or an all in one? Try running it through the dryer. Needle holes in these diapers can open up over time, causing wicking and leaking. Drying will help seal those holes back up.
  • Is your pocket or all in one wicking around the legs? Check to make sure that the fleece or suede inner is rolling to the OUTSIDE. Do not tuck this inner fabric back in! It should be touching baby’s skin all around the leg openings.
  • Have you overstuffed your pocket diaper? Overstuffing can actually cause the diaper to fit very oddly – the center of the diaper will be firmly against baby’s bottom, but the leg openings will be kind of hovering just above baby’s legs. This means that urine will tend to run down the baby’s legs and out the diaper.
  • Is the leaking mostly at night, because baby is sleeping longer and going longer between changes? Up the absorbency and try a wool or fleece cover.
  • Are you using a waterproof cover? Fitted diapers and prefolded diapers must be paired with a cover to be waterproof. They can certainly be used without a cover, but they will not be waterproof.
  • Are you using prefolds that you fold into covers, relying on the cover to hold the diaper in place? Many families do this without problem, but sometimes, baby’s movements can make the diaper shift and bunch, which could mean that there’s no diaper where it needs to be when baby pees. Try using a Snappi or pins for a few days to see if that solves the problem.

Often, you can start your troubleshooting by looking at where the leak is coming from. Leaks around the waist are often caused by inserts or diapers not being completely contained by the cover. Leaks around the legs are most often caused by poor fit, not enough absorbency, or repelling. Leaking around the legs plus a diaper that is only damp usually means the diaper and cover are too big or not closed up tightly enough, or that the diaper is repelling.

My diapers don’t look clean

If your diapers are actually still dirty, you have a problem with your wash routine. Maybe you’re wadding the diapers up too tightly when you toss them in the pail, maybe your water level is too low in the washer, or maybe your detergent just isn’t getting the job done.

If your diapers are dingy, it’s probably your detergent. Try another brand.

If your diapers are stained, well, that’s pretty normal. We are talking about poop, after all. Hang them out in the sun, or try some Bac-Out.

My diapers are actually repelling water

This can be caused by soap build-up (not usually by regular detergents), by fabric softeners, by diaper ointments, or even by using too much essential oil in the wash. See Stripping Diapers to take care of this problem.