Beginner, How to Cloth Diaper, Troubleshooting, Types of Diapers

Cloth Diapering with a Newborn – Successful Options for Your Family

I have been very blessed that cloth diapering has been pretty easy for me almost the whole time I have been doing it. The one exception was this: the newborn days! In hindsight, I recognize a lot of my mistakes and I’m going to share them here with you to help you avoid making the same ones. I will be sharing some options that have proven successful for cloth diapering with a newborn, and in addition to that I’ll also let you know about what to avoid during the newborn days to save your sanity.

If you’re interested in jumping straight into specific brand recommendations, check out part two of this post by clicking here.

What to Consider When Choosing Newborn Cloth

saving-money-being-greenBefore we get into all the details, you need to think about your motives for using cloth diapers. Are your motives:

  • To save money?
  • To lessen your environmental impact?
  • To use more natural materials with your baby?
  • Because they’re adorable?

While your reason for cloth diapering may not make as much of a difference when buying your main diaper stash, it will absolutely make a difference for choosing your newborn stash. Figure out your number one reason and keep it in mind as you go through this article.

Different Styles of Newborn Diapers

When it comes to newborn sized cloth diapers, there are a lot of options out there. You can find almost any style of diaper you want in a newborn size, but that doesn’t mean that they will actually work very well for your newborn. Here are some styles you can find:

  • All-in-Ones
    • The easiest to use with a newborn.
    • One of the more expensive newborn options.
  • Pockets
    • Not as common, but you can find some–especially from some of the Chinese diaper brands (like Alva and Kawaii).
    • Functions similarly to one-size pockets, they are just smaller.
  • Flats with Covers
    • One large, single layer of natural material. This will be wrapped or folded around the baby, and then secured with a pin or Snappi. You put a cover on over it. Flats are usually one-size, but they work for newborns unlike some other one-size diapers.
  • Prefolds with Covers
    • Very similar to a flat, but it is usually a multi-layered material instead of just one. It is also usually sized, not one-size.
  • Hybrids/All-in-Twos
    • Similar to the other systems that use covers, but you put an insert inside the cover instead of wrapping a cloth around a baby and securing.
  • Fitteds with Covers
    • Fitteds usually go on pretty easily, much like an all-in-one, but they may need a Snappi or pin to secure (depends on the brand). They do not have a waterproof layer, so they must have a cover with them.
    • One of the more expensive options for newborn diapering.
  • One-Size Diapers
    • Many one-size diapers advertise that they are great for birth through potty training. Most people find them not to work well right after birth, but it is an option and something you can try, especially if you had a bigger baby.
  • Disposables
    • Many cloth diapering families choose to use disposables for the first month or two. It depends on your reason for using cloth diapers and your diaper preferences. Because of the cost associated with investing in a newborn stash of diapers, combined with the fact that many babies only need to be in newborn diapers for a few weeks up to a couple months, many families go the disposable route for the first month or two, and then switch over to their one-size stash.

What to Avoid/Common Mistakes

crying-baby1. First off, do not buy or try to use newborn pockets.

Just don’t. Save yourself the frustration. It’s not that they don’t work, but trying to stuff an insert into a newborn sized pocket is almost impossible.

Pockets seem like they will be great–no folding or pinning like a prefold, cheaper than a fitted or all-in-one…but just don’t do it. They are so frustrating and end up being a waste of money because you try to avoid using them at all costs. There is a reason why pocket diapers are harder to find in newborn sizes–it’s because they are so hard to use! Pockets in general are great, but wait until your baby fits into one-size to use them.

2. Do not force the one-size if it’s not working.

There is nothing wrong with trying out your one-size diapers right away to see if you can manipulate them to fit. Just don’t keep doing it if they don’t! It will only make you frustrated and leave a bad taste in your mouth regarding cloth. People that try to force the one-size may end up giving up on cloth and wasting a lot of money and time because they believe they don’t work, when really it’s not that they don’t work, it’s that their baby just wasn’t big enough yet. Most one-size diapers start fitting between 10-12 lbs.

3. Do not buy a full stash of any one type of newborn diaper.

This is common advice for your one-size stash, too, but I really don’t worry about it as much for one-size. Newborn diapers, however, are VERY finicky. My son can really wear almost any type of one-size diaper, but there are some newborn diapers that did NOT work for him at all. I’m glad I did not invest in a full stash of the ones I thought would be my favorite, because they ended up being my least favorite in the end.

Styles of Newborn Diapers that Work

Now that I’ve gone on and on about the negative stuff, time to get to the positive stuff! There are three types of newborn diaper that I really think will work well for most families:

My Top Recommendation: Prefolds and Covers

prefold-with-snappiEven if you have no interest in using prefolds for your one-size stash, they are a really great option for newborns. They are very absorbent and it is much easier to get the right fit with appropriately sized covers and the various sizes of prefold. They are also a fairly economical choice when it comes to newborn diapers.

If you’re nervous about using pins, you can secure them with something called a “Snappi”–you can see it in the picture here. They really are a pretty slick invention in the cloth diapering world. I love not having to mess with pins or worry about poking the baby or myself!

Prefolds do not have a moisture-wicking layer, so if your baby has a wetness sensitivity, you might want to look at adding a layer of fleece between the baby and the prefold. Nothing too crazy, just cut a rectangle of fleece a little smaller than the length of the diaper.

My Second Recommendation: Fitteds with Covers

newborn-fittedAs far as preferences go, fitteds would actually take the number one spot. They are an awesome style of diaper–very absorbent and easy to put on. The only draw back is they tend to be more expensive, which can make investing in a lot of them just to use for a month or two a little difficult for some families. If cost is not a consideration for you, I’d definitely pick up some fitteds!

Fitteds will need a cover because they do not have a waterproof layer. Like prefolds, they do not have a moisture-wicking layer. You can also use a rectangle of fleece with these to help if your baby is extra sensitive to wetness.

My Third Recommendation: All-in-Ones

newborn-all-in-onesWhile these are the easiest to put on and the simplest to use, they get the third spot because the absorbency isn’t as good. They work great for the brand new babies, but in my experience I reached a point with both of my kids where they were out-wetting the all-in-ones but still not fitting into one-size diapers. That is a frustrating spot to be in! That problem is less frequent with the first two options.

I will say, it does vary on brand a little. But the ones that hold more liquid also cost a little more, so it’s a trade off!

One perk of all-in-ones is that many of them have a moisture-wicking material, making them a good choice for babies with a wetness sensitivity.

Back-up Idea: Try Your Hybrids

I actually had some success using the one-size BumGenius Flips system with my babies when they were as small as 7-8 lbs. The trim fit of the inserts allowed me to get a better fit around their chicken legs. This may not work for everyone. Like I said before, diapering a newborn can be a bit more finicky than diapering a 3+ month old. But it’s worth a try, anyway!

flips-on-newborn

What Do I Need to Cloth Diaper a Newborn?

To cloth diaper your newborn, you will need the following:

  • At least 18-24 diapers (prefold, fitteds, all-in-ones…you decide, or do a mix)
    • Newborns need to be changed A LOT. Anywhere from 8-12 times per day. 18-24 diapers will have you doing a load of laundry every 1-2 days, depending.
  • Around 6-8 covers (if using primarily prefolds or fitteds)
  • Snappis or Pins (if using prefolds and some types of fitteds)–between 2-4 is probably plenty.
  • Wet Bags
  • Diaper Pail (can even use an old garbage can or laundry basket)
  • Pail Liner
  • Baby Wipes (Cloth wipes are easy to make and use, but you may also choose to purchase some or use disposable wipes).
  • A laundry detergent approved for cloth diapers (most detergents will work as long as they don’t contain fabric softeners–if you use a plant-based detergent, you need to do more research into your particular brand to make sure it is fine. Here is a list of approved detergents.
    • Note: Homemade detergent is not recommended for cloth diapers. Most homemade detergent recipes are actually laundry soaps, not detergents. Soaps aren’t good for your diapers. Not only will they not get as clean, but the soap will build up and cause repelling.
    • Other homemade detergent recipes that aren’t soaps are usually just water softeners, like Borax. Those will NOT get your diapers clean, either.

Newborn Diapers – Are They Worth It?

Now that you know your family’s reasons and goals for using cloth diapers, and you know a little more about different types of newborn diapers, it’s time to decide if using newborn cloth is the right option for you.

I firmly believe that cloth doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If your family’s goals are to save money and you’re hesitant to invest in a newborn stash, do not feel bad about using disposables for a few weeks until your baby is ready for one-size diapers.

If your family’s goal is to put the least amount of waste as possible into the landfill, getting a newborn stash will be very important for you. Following my recommendations in this article will save you a lot of frustration.

So which brands of newborn diapers are worth investing in? Look for part 2 of this post for some excellent recommendations.

What do you think of newborn diapers? Are they worth it to you, or would you rather use disposables for a few weeks? Let me know in the comments!

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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8 Comments

  1. Dale says:

    I think Im going to have to bite the bullet and buy some of these.  Our newborn grandson is 3 weeks old and I would love to see his parents try cloth diapers.  There thing is they think they are costly and time consuming for the laundry time.  I am going to show them your website and see if I can try one more time.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      That’s great Dale! If they are at all interested but just have a few things holding them back and want more info, here is a post about cloth diapering on a budget that might help them see how they can save on starting a stash, and here are a couple posts about caring/washing for the diapers: Cleaning Cloth Diapers at Home Part 2 – Washing Instructions and Cleaning Cloth Diapers at Home – What Do I Do with the Poop?

  2. Venus says:

    I wish this site was around when my girls were in diapers.  

    I would have like saving money on cloth diapers rather than using much more expensive disposable ones.

    When my girls were little there were no buttons or “Snappi”, there were just those really big diaper pins and I wouldn’t want to use anything sharp around a baby.  They wiggle so much sometimes and you wouldn’t want to hurt them by accident.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      I agree, the pins would make me very nervous! I’m so glad we have the Snappi and snap options now. While cloth diapering isn’t as mainstream anymore, I think the cloth diaper “technology” is better than ever.

  3. Evette says:

    My twin girls are 1 year old now but before they were born I seriously considered using cloth diapers for all of the reasons you listed: save money, be environmental friendly, and use more natural items on them. My main reason was the environmental impact. Every time I take the pamper trash out I think about them sitting in a landfill stinking it up. We decided to use disposable pampers because cloth pampers did not seem practical for our situation. We live in an apartment and access to a washer was not easy. Also, my mom would be watching them while I’m at work and I know she wouldn’t like using cloth diapers.

    I plan on having another child and I want to know if you think it is worth using cloth diapers at home and disposable diapers outside the home? I need something quick and easy which style would you recommend? I was thinking the all in ones. Thanks for this article. I tried to do so much research on them before I had the twins but cloth diapering seemed so intimidating for 2 babies.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Evette! I totally understand where you’re coming from. It would be difficult to cloth diaper if you did not have easy access to a washer, and other care givers can definitely throw a wrench in things.

      I do think it would be work it to cloth diaper at home and use disposables outside the home if that’s what would make it easier for you guys–cloth doesn’t have to be all or nothing. 🙂 You will just want to make sure you choose some wallet-friendly options if you won’t be using them full time because you won’t want to have to wait too long until you break even on your investment. 

      All-in-ones tend to be the simplest, but they also can be more expensive than other styles, and they’re not SO much simpler that I think it’s necessarily worth it, unless those are what you really want! The average price for an all-in-one is about $20-$30, and if you were only wanting to CD part time and saving money was one of your goals, I would probably go for pockets or an all-in-two system. Here is a post about budget friendly cloth diaper options. You can also take a look at this post to get a deeper look into the types of styles available.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Alice says:

    I never thought cloth diapers would ever see the light of day again. I was born at a time when disposable diapers were not that popular because other than being expensive, the quality wasn’t that great. So me and my siblings grew up using cloth diapers that our mom herself made. I must say, mom was resourceful and practical too, he he.

    Anyway, when choosing diapers for our babies, we really need to experiment on different kinds to see what will work best for them. Perhaps most moms will opt for cloth diapers in order to save money but nobody should choose that over their baby’s comfort, right?

    Which one would I go for? Fitted with covers. They maybe more expensive than prefolds and covers but very absorbent and easy to put on. I am actually thinking of getting some for my sister who is due to deliver her first baby in a week’s time. Just wondering if they come in different sizes.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Alice! Sounds like your mom was indeed resourceful. I’d like to try making some diapers sometime, too.

      Yes, baby’s comfort should always be a top priority. Luckily, cloth diapers are comfortable! 🙂

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