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Cloth Diapering a Newborn

By KateTietje |

I love cloth diapering newborns.

I know many mamas — even those who are firmly committed to cloth — prefer to use disposables in the early weeks.  It’s less laundry to do and it’s hard to get diapers that fit those tiny newborn bottoms and skinny newborn legs.  But despite that these things are true, I still prefer to cloth diaper right from the start.  Let me tell you why.

I didn’t cloth diaper my first from birth.  I only got interested in cloth just a couple weeks before she was born, and there was no time to do research or buy diapers.  Plus, I can sew, and I didn’t like the idea of paying $18 per diaper when I knew I could make them a lot cheaper if I sewed them myself.  I really had no idea what would work, though, as far as pattern, style, size, materials….  I sewed up a couple that looked cute but seemed way too small.  Once I had a baby to try them on, I realized they were really quite big, for a newborn, and they really didn’t fit that well.  Or work that well.

(Now…if you’re not not like me, you can just buy them and trust that they will probably fit your baby fine.)

Over the next few months, I sewed various styles and sizes and versions of the diapers.  Around 6 months I hit upon a style that worked okay (I was designing my own — and yes, I still use these diapers as back-ups).  I still wasn’t thrilled and decided I wanted snaps, so I bought a snap press and tried yet another design, since my daughter was outgrowing the ones I’d made anyway.  Those were nice diapers and are still in heavy use over 2 years later.

Based on that design I created “small” and “newborn” sizes, too.  I chose pockets, which I stuffed with prefolds.  They are all snap diapers.  In anticipation of my second baby, I sewed 25 newborn pockets, and about 24 small pockets.  I have about 12 “small” pockets from my old stash still in use too (I like a really large stash, 36 of each size.  It is not necessary, it just makes my life easier.  Paying $18/diaper I’m sure I wouldn’t have so many, but when I sew them they cost around $2/diaper, so it’s not a big deal).

So, I was prepared to cloth diaper in the newborn stage.  I really hadn’t liked using disposables at all the first time; they leaked, the newborn poop easily shot out the legs and up the back (making more laundry for me), they smelled yucky…I just didn’t like it.

Literally an hour after he was born, Daniel was wearing a cloth diaper.  They were no big deal to wash, especially since we were already washing diapers.  Ben (my husband) did all the laundry in the early weeks, until I could get up and do it, and he did not mind at all (he hates disposables too).

So why do I love it so much?

1. Newborn poop is well-contained: strong elastic makes for fewer blowouts.

2. Some styles allow a nice, tight fit, even around skinny legs: pockets did allow for a few leaks in the first couple weeks (but not after that, and only a couple times), but prefolds with covers using FOE never leaked.

3. Washing diapers from a breastfed baby is brain-dead easy: the poop completely washes away without any pre-rinsing or treatments whatsoever.  Even a formula-fed baby probably doesn’t need too much “extra care” in the wash (I say, because often times I still do nothing to the diapers…though my kids eat almost entirely solids…oops.  But the diapers always come clean and never stain, so…).

4. You never run out of diapers: In a serious pinch you can fold up a receiving blanket and stick it inside a cover while you quickly wash some diapers.  But you don’t have to run to the store.

5. They last awhile: Babies grow notoriously fast.  If you’re buying disposables, you always have to check if your baby has outgrown the newborn size and is ready for stage 1.  What if it happens in the middle of a package?!  Newborn diapers usually fit until about 10 lbs. (which for my babies around 2 months old), so I’m not scrambling around for more diapers.  By the time they need new ones, I’m healed and up and around again and I can pull out the bigger ones — which, of course, I already have, just in case they wake up too big one day!  (My “next size” fits from 10 – 30 lbs., so they fit Daniel at 2 months and still fit him quite easily at 20 months…and I can get one on Bekah in a serious pinch, at 32 lbs. — who only uses them at night anyway.)

6. One diapering system, all the time: no need to decide when to switch, wait for the baby to grow big enough, etc.  Plus, since I stuff all my diapers with prefolds, I still use those newborn prefolds now to stuff Daniel’s daytime diapers.  Yes, that’s actually enough for him.  I use the infant size to stuff the “night” diapers for both kids.  I have only ever needed these two sizes to cover from birth to potty training, and I used a couple different cover or pocket sizes to accommodate the kids as they grew.  So simple…so cheap.

That’s why I love it!

I recommend, for most people, to simply use newborn prefolds with covers for the early weeks, since the covers can often “grow” with the baby, and the prefolds can later be used as inserts or doublers.  They’re also really cheap.  You can easily get a couple dozen good-quality prefolds for $40, and with 3 – 4 covers you’re looking at less than $100 to cloth diaper for the first couple of months.  Reuse it for other babies or use it a bit longer (some styles have a newborn/small cover that goes from 7 – 15 lbs.) and you save even more.

Do you cloth diaper newborns?  Why or why not?

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About KateTietje



Kate Tietje is a food blogger who focuses on natural food and cooking. In addition to Modern Alternative Mama, she has contributed her writing to the Parenting and Pregnancy channels on Babble.

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9 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering a Newborn

  1. Katy E says:

    I agree! I loved cloth diapering my first son even from the very start. He never had a rash and he was in cloth from the moment we got home from the hospital. Granted, I didn’t sew my own, but I LOVED how soft they were and how I never had a blow out. Since we’ve moved out of town and temporarily into a rental with it’s own builder-grade washer/dryers(which, while they have quick cycles, they just don’t get my diapers as clean as the washer we had before we moved) we’ve switched to disposables until we are in a place where we can have our OWN washing machine and dryer. Let me say that I HATE disposables. They are 100 times stinkier than a load of dirty cloth diapers. Also, my dog has a hard time resisting the lure of a dirty disposable diaper. Yuck!

    I will say that researching cloth diapers and listening to all the conflicting advice can be exhausting and is tons worse than actually using cloth diapers.

  2. Liesel says:

    I used sposies for the first month or so (still hadn’t received cloth dipes in mail yet) and when I switched it really was a pain. A pain in that newborn prefolds are either way too small to hold anything (like mine were) or way too bulky. Since that phase lasts such a short time I still plan to use sposies at first this time. I am appreciative that I have been gifted newborn sposies and received some size 1 sposies that someone else didn’t end up using.

    I totally understand the poop issue, but I had that even with cloth at first anyway and pretty much every cloth diaper leaked pee until I was able to switch up to the next size prefold. I KNOW there are better options for cloth diapering newborns, but for me, it’s not worth the investment. Even if I sew them myself it would take me a long time to do them and I’m not ok with investing that time.

    Otherwise, I DO absolutely LOVE cloth diapering and will definitely be doing it again :)

  3. NoAdditives says:

    We just got done using cloth diapers. No, we’re not potty training. we made the switch about 4 months ago and the cloth diapers just never worked out. They weren’t absorbent enough to last all night and my son would wake up with his jammies and sheets soaking wet. He couldn’t even stay dry through a nap. And, the entire time we used them he had a near-constant diaper rash that eventually spread to his tummy and thighs from sleeping his own urine. We’ve been using disposables for 3 days and his diaper rash is gone and he’s sleeping through the night, finally. Plus, with studies showing the environmental impact is about the same for both cloth and disposables and trying to conserve water while living int he desert, there’s no reason for us to stick with cloth.

  4. Suzie says:

    We have invested in BumGenius One-Size cloth diapers for our baby. It helps that we live in the same town where they are made, so we got a great deal on them. We had hoped to use them on the baby from the time she is born, but not knowing how big she will be, we’ve also bought some newborn disposables. I hate the idea of using the disposables, but I also don’t want to invest in newborn size diapers which she will only be in for a very short time. She should be able to wear the cloth at 8 lbs. Since I am a first time mom, this is all new to me, but I’ve known since I was pregnant that I planned to use cloth diapers and not disposables. I don’t believe that the environmental impact is the same for cloth and disposables. I want to do what is best for her and for the environment.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Little Lions prefolds + Thirsties Duo Wraps covers. Never had a leak, never had a blowout. I am blown away by how many mamas claim their cloth diapers leak or aren’t absorbent enough. Seriously?! My son is 15 months old and nurses all night. He still doesn’t leak. Use prefolds and stick in a doubler, y’all.

  6. Rachel says:

    I have started making my own prefolds, too. I found instructions using old flannel sheets & T-shirts in Amanda Soule’s The Handmade Home, and convinced my younger sister & mother to spend two days helping me put together a big stash. We got about 50 made! It was such a special time to spend with them — talking about babies & our future plans. And for a bonus, we cleaned out our closets at the same time.
    Also, we don’t get trash pick-up out where we live, so we really have to think about how much waste we produce, because I’ve got to pay to take it to the dump later. That makes us very aware of how much waste we produce & is a strong incentive to steer away from anything “disposable” in this house.

  7. Linsey says:

    I am expecting my first and the kickback we have gotten about cloth diapering has been amazing! My mother refuses to support it. My MIL went and bought a giant case of disposables for use at her house (ummm – I don’t think so). Friends and family alike tell us we are insane and it will last a day. I so feel the love! We chose cloth because it is more economically and ecologically friendly option plus both of us were allergic to the dyes, chemicals, and platics in disposables and had to be cloth diapered (which is why the parents say they will not support us – they all hated it.) We are considering a diaper service for the first 3 months. Then we will have to go to disposables for part of the time once I return to work – no day care we can afford will do cloth.Since she will be 3 mos and only using them at home and at night by then I figured I could purchase the one size adjustables. Kate – ever conisder making and selling your diapers? I would much rather pay you $15 for a diaper it cost you $2 to make than some mega corp $20 for a diaper it cost them $1 to make.

    Do you make your own covers or do you purchase them?

  8. Ashley says:

    What about when they have their meconium poops for the first couple days? Did you use cloth during those days or disposables? We have our cloth dipes all clean and ready and I was going to bring a couple to the hospital, but then I thought of the meconium poops and how those will probably ruin the cloth dipes and make for a harder clean up. What did you do? And also do you use cloth wipes?

  9. KateTietje says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I did use it in the first few days, yes. The meconium was sticky but it still seemed to roll off the fabric. I’m not sure how well that would work with fleece, it might be worse there. I used dark green suedecloth (smooth) and it never stained or stuck or anything. I don’t think anything special was done to the diapers, either, although I wasn’t the one who washed them those first few days! I did/do use cloth wipes too. My first ones were literally just scraps of terry cloth. Baby wash cloths work too. Later I made some out of terry cloth and flannel, but it’s not necessary. And of course you can buy on Etsy if you prefer, or wherever you like. I preferred cloth because I didn’t have to have a separate place to throw just the wipes, I could toss diaper and wipe all together in my diaper pail. Though after kids were older I did buy disposable wipes for traveling (their skin was too sensitive early on, it would immediately turn red even from unscented).

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