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Cloth Diaper Basics: Newborn Diapering

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing with you our favorites from the cloth diapering world as well as expanding on the basics you’ll find in our Cloth Diapering Guide.   Since I’m just about back in newborn diapering mode, I figured newborn diapering would be a great place to start!

Like all cloth diaper recommendation guides, I must preface this with a general piece of advice:   What works wonderfully for one mama and baby may not work so well for the next; one mama’s favorite is another’s most hated.  The best thing to do when starting out in cloth is to try different types; I think it’s best to buy very small quantities of something until you are sure that it will work for you.  It’s also helpful to remember that your favorites may change as your baby gets older and changes shape.  If your diapers suddenly seem to not be working for you anymore, it may just be that you need to switch up your stash.  There are several online cloth diaper stores that offer cloth diaper trials – Jillian’s Drawers and Granola Babies are two to check out.   While no trial offers every possible diaper style/brand, it is a good place to start if you have no clue what will work for you!

Callum at 2 weeks in a Thirsties x-small cover over a prefold

While many people love using one-sized diapers, most (I’d argue all) one size diapers do not fit newborns, even “big” newborns.  It’s likely that you find yourself needing a different stash of diapers for the newborn phase (first few months depending on how big baby is at birth and how quickly he grows).  The list below is based on what I used and loved with Callum (who was 8lb 6oz at birth) and is broken down by “basics” (which are perfect for those on a budget or those who just want something to fill in until one-size diapers fit) and “beyond basics” (which include things that I found worked well even when Callum was small).   I should note that I tend to prefer natural fibers (with a few exceptions noted below), and don’t usually worry about “stay-dry” layers in diapers (and Callum has never minded or had diaper rash).  I also tend to go for more trim fitting diapers (another reason I don’t care for one-sized options for wee babies).

The “how many diapers should I get?” question is always a bit tough to answer.  Depends in part on how often you want to wash (every 2 days is normal and you probably don’t want to go beyond 3 or things might get funky!).  Newborns need frequent changing as they often poop many, many times a day.  24-36 diapers is a good range to consider.  I’m including the numbers of each item we had just to give you an idea; you’ll need to adjust according to what you’d most like to have in your stash.

Another common question is “should I use cloth from birth?”  Some feel very strongly about never using anything but cloth; others prefer to wait until the meconium passes (as it can stain rather badly or be difficult to scrape off) or the umbilical cord stump falls off.  In my opinion, it’s easier to just use the hospital diapers if you are planning a hospital birth (one less thing to pack and keep up with).  We actually waited a few days to start our cloth because it took us a while to figure out how to avoid the umbilical cord stump (not sure why as most of our diapers had a “dip” for just this reason!).  The first few days of newborn care are tough so don’t feel bad if you don’t want to add washing cloth diapers to the mix just yet.  Although, I have to say, I was very excited to switch as our sposies kept leaking (and our cloth never really did).

Newborn Diapering Basics:  What to get if you just want the essentials.
  • Orange Edge Prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers (2 dozen):  Prefolds are the workhorse of the diapering world; cheap, easy to care for, and long lasting – you can’t go wrong!  While they may seem a bit intimidating at first, you’ll become a pro in no time.  Much to my surprise, Jesse preferred prefolds over any other kind of diaper!  GMD is well known for the quality of their cloth diapers; there are other good brands out there but do avoid the prefolds (usually Gerber brand) you’ll find in big box stores like Babies R Us or Target – they’ll work for burp rags but aren’t very absorbent as diapers.  GMD has good info on sizing on their website; the orange edge diapers should work well for most babies for at least the first 6 weeks.  As cheap as these are, it’s worth it in my opinion to buy the orange edge instead of going straight to yellow.  It’s much easier to diaper a newborn with a diaper that’s not too big!  GMD offers both bleached and unbleached; I find the unbleached to be softer (and more stain resistant).
  • Snappis (2-3):  These little plastic fasteners eliminate the need for pins and make putting on a prefold a “snap.”
  • Thirsties Duo Diaper Covers (4-5):  You’ll need a waterproof cover for prefolds (or fitted diapers below).  I tried several brands but kept coming back to Thirsties.  I found the aplix version easier to get the perfect fit on a skinny legged babe, and the Thirsties gussets prevented any poop blowouts (seriously, never had a one!).  I actually used the now discontinued Thirsties x-small covers; the duo size 1 should give about the same fit on the smallest snap setting (although I’ve found they seem to run a bit smaller than the sized Thirsties covers).  Covers can be reused in between wears as long as they don’t get poop on them.
  • Basic Newborn Fitteds (6-12):  I found it helpful to have at least a few fitted diapers on hand (also used under Thirsties covers) as they were easier for going out (or for those sleep deprived middle of the night moments!).  Kissaluv size 0 diapers are generally well liked for catching runny newborn poop.  I also liked the x-small Thirsties Fab Fitted diapers (even though they contain synthetic fibers) with aplix (which have now been replaced by Thirsties Duo Fitteds size 1).  Neither of these is super absorbent as fitteds go (compared to the fitteds mentioned below), but they are more than enough for wee newborn pees (and their poop catching power is really more important for the first couple of months).
Newborn Diapering Beyond the Basics:  My favorites if you want to try something different.
  • Sun Seedling Small Fitted Diapers:  I have to give a shout out to this great WAHM business.  These are the best value sized fitteds I’ve come across.  Her work is great and she’s super fast (even with custom orders).  The small size diapers may be a bit bulky on smaller newborns but they will last longer than some of the options above.  Callum was always on the skinny side so I liked that I could get these as a side snap diaper (which I think fit skinny legged babies better).
  • BubuBebe Newborn Fitted Diapers:  B4s (as BubuBebe’s are often dubbed) are well known for being quality one-size fitted diapers.  Their newborn version is definitely a splurge, but the cute range of prints and the longer fit range may make it worth having a few in your stash.
  • Bright Star Baby (formally Fishnoodles) size 0 All-In-Ones:  I had a hard time finding an All-in-One diaper that worked well for us because of Callum’s skinny legs (and runny poops!).  The fact that these are side snapping made them a better fit.  These are also some of the trimmest cloth diapers on the market; Callum’s medium sized Fishnoodles (which still fit him at 28 pounds) are just as trim as a sposie.  The size 0 is the smallest BSB, but it may be a bit large on the smallest newborns.  BSB have snap in inserts which cuts down on drying time.
  • BumGenius Newborn All-In-Ones:  This is the most popular newborn diaper for someone who wants a cloth diaper that works “just like a sposie.”  No stuffing, no snapping – and they go on just like a sposie would.  BumGenius has recently discontinued their sized all-in-ones and renamed the x-small size “newborn.”  These do have a “stay-dry” layer and synthetic fibers.  The fact that they don’t have anything to snap or stuff means they do take quite a while to dry.  Even so, it’s worth giving these a go, especially if you need to convince anyone that cloth really is super easy.
Other Things You’ll Need to Get Started:
  • Diaper Pail and Wet Bags:  You’ll want something to use as a diaper pail (a kitchen trash can with a lid works great) and two pail sized wet bags (one to use while the other is washing).  You’ll also want a wet bag or two for when you are out and about.  I really like Planet Wise wet bags for both purposes.
  • Diaper safe laundry detergent and diaper rash cream:  Our Cloth Diapering Guide has more details on washing and how to choose safe products.  I’ve very rarely needed diaper rash cream but I’ve used and liked both California Baby and Northern Essence.
  • Cloth Wipes and Wipe Solution:  It’s easy to make your own wipes if you are so inclined but if you want to buy, I don’t think you can do better than the Kissaluv wipes – they are generously sized and have a “scrubbing” side and smooth side.  Mine look great after two years of constant use.  There are also lots of recipes out there for making your own wipe solution.  I’ve used Northern Essence’s foaming wipe solution almost exclusively and highly recommend it.
  • One other note, you don’t have to worry about “shaking off the poop” until you start solids.  So no need for a diaper sprayer until later on.  Just toss your dirty dipes straight into the pail and then into the wash.

There you have it – my two cents on how to cloth diaper for the first few months!  I’ll be sure and report back after newbie arrives as I’ve gotten a few more things to give a go this time around – I may just find a new favorite!

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Published in Cloth Diapering