With our first baby we didn’t start using cloth diapers until around three or four months, so I was excited to have the opportunity to start cloth diapering from birth with our secondborn.
This post won’t provide a general how-to or other info on cloth diapering more broadly. There’s plenty on that elsewhere around the internet. In fact, we’ve already got our very own cloth diapering guide and picks for the best cloth diapers right here on the blog. Instead, we’ll focus this post on cloth diapering a newborn.
The basics of cloth diapering a newborn
OK, so here’s what you need to know about cloth diapering a newborn:
- Newborns go through a LOT of diapers. At least 10-12 per day. So, depending how often you plan to do laundry, you’ll probably need ~24-36 diapers (if you plan to do full-time cloth).
- Newborns are very small people (surprise!). Although some cloth diaper manufacturers would have you believe that their “one-size (OS)” cloth diapers fit from birth, the reality is that, even if they do fit without terrible gaping at the waist and legs, they will probably be incredibly bulky (not to mention look ridiculous) on your newborn. If you’re already committed to cloth, we recommend that you invest in at least some newborn-size diapers (or, if you think you’re likely to have a larger baby, perhaps size 1/small diapers).
- Newborns poop. Yep, a lot. In fact, they often poop often at every diaper change. And it’s messy: runny, explosive…you get the idea. Containment (involving some sort of elastic) is absolutely key — unless you want to be dealing with blowouts left and right.
- But believe it or not, their poop isn’t that bad! EBF poop in particular rinses right out of cloth diapers (like yogurt), and hardly even smells (no, really). So although many cloth newbies are grossed out by the idea of handling poop (and putting it into their washing machine), you’ll soon see that it really isn’t that bad.
- The early days may be a bit different. Many people choose not to cloth diaper for the first few days because meconium. You absolutely can if you like, just expect you may get some stains that may not come out as easily. (I admit that myself was lazy and just opted to use disposables for the first 3-4 days, during my own recovery.) Also, until your baby’s umbilical cord falls off (usually around 1-2 weeks), diapers with umbilical cord snap-downs are helpful. I reached for diapers with snap-downs for the first two weeks.
Which cloth diapers are best for newborns?
Your basic options for cloth diapering newborns are pretty much the same as for older babies. See our basic overview of cloth diaper types (fitteds, prefolds, AIOs, AI2, pockets, etc.). Now, here are some thoughts on using each with respect to newborns in particular:
- Fitteds with PUL/wool/fleece covers: These offer excellent absorbency — sometimes more than many newborns need. Trimmer fitteds are great, though, as the elasticized waist and legs provides excellent containment of newborn poop.
- Prefolds with PUL/wool/fleece covers: An excellent, super affordable option for newborns. I’m personally not a big fan of prefolds for older babies (whose mobility can cause them to shift and wreak havoc), but I found myself pleasantly surprised at how well they worked with my newborn. The “jelly roll”-fold-plus-Snappi combo provided pretty darn good containment of newborn poop. They washed up well (retained far fewer stains than my fitteds, which have more nooks and crannies), and were dirt cheap to boot.
- AI2s (all-in-two): I loved the convenience of being able to reuse the cover and just swap out the insert — this made this style a great option for on-the-go (since you have to carry around less in your diaper bag). With explosive newborn poop the cover often doesn’t last that long, but even with an extra cover or two the overall system is still less bulky to carry around. Some of the AI2 systems are also very trim fitting — great for under clothing.
- AIOs (all-in-one): Not my favorite option, due primarily to the high cost, especially for a newborn stash that will only be used for a few months. However, as a one-piece diaper they’re definitely the easiest to use, so could be a great option for cloth newbies as well as Dads, grandparents, daycare, etc.
- Pockets: Similar to AIOs, but require a tad more work to stuff and unstuff.
- Hybrids: Similar to fitteds, but thanks to the water-resistant fleece layer, can be worn without a cover around the house and so can be even more convenient.
I mostly prefer to use wool covers with cloth (as I prefer all-natural fibers and need greater breathability for my babe’s sensitive skin), so we mostly used NB-size fitteds here. However, I also bought a few prefolds, PUL covers, and AI2s to test out (especially for on-the-go, since it can be a hassle to carry around multiple backup wool covers). Basically, I bought all the highest-rated newborn diapers out there (all the ones I’ve been coveting since researching our Best Cloth Diapers guide), so I could test them all out in person 🙂
So here are the cloth diapers we tried out with our newborn, and my assessment of each:
These were the fitteds that we ended up reaching for most during the daytime. They are absorbent yet fairly trim, fit well, and contain newborn poop explosions well — I don’t think we ever had a leak. They are also shockingly cheap (especially given that they are organic), at $5.50 each in the newborn size. The resale value on these is also amazingly high (you can often sell them used for almost the full purchase price), so you really can’t go wrong with these.
These are a top-rated newborn diaper, so I amassed a pretty big stockpile of them before birth; unfortunately, they ended up not working that well for us. They are super absorbent, and I love that they are all-natural fibers. However, IMO the snap configuration is poorly designed: the umbilical snap-down is awkward, the bottom row of snaps was too low for us rise-wise after the first week or so (~7 lbs.), and the top row of snaps remains too high & loose for us even now at eight weeks and ~10 pounds. Maybe these will fit better around 12-15 pounds, but at that point we should be fitting into many OS / size 1 diapers already. Also, the cotton/hemp material does not wash well at all (they quickly become very rough); perhaps the cotton fleece (10% polyester) material would fare better. Anyway, I was bummed that I didn’t love these more. Perhaps they work better on other babies.
The gold standard in NB prefolds is absorbent, organic, and perfectly sized for newborn covers. They fit perfectly in both our Blueberry Mini Coveralls and our Thirsties Duo Size 1 Wraps. I was a big fan of these and recommend them highly to anyone who is looking for newborn prefolds.
Best Bottom AI2 system (OS cover + small inserts)
This is IMO the best, easiest AI2 system for newborns. The OS cover fit our newborn great on the smallest setting, and the size small hemp/organic inserts are absorbent, trim, easy to wash, and fit the snapped down cover perfectly. The cover is very effective at containing newborn poop explosions, however, because the inserts don’t have elastic around the legs, you should expect you’ll probably have to swap out the cover fairly frequently. Still, this is my favorite system for outside the house; you just need to carry around one extra cover and a few inserts.
Blueberry’s Mini Coveralls are my favorite standalone PUL covers for newborns. They fit well over both fitteds and prefolds; the snap-down rise offers great adjustability; and the leg gussets provide excellent leak protection. Also, the prints are also absolutely adorable! If I were just going to recommend one newborn PUL cover to a friend about to have a baby, this would be it!
This very popular PUL cover also performed very well. Its leg gussets contained newborn poop well, and it is trim fitting so it works well even with unpinned prefolds. I wasn’t a huge fan of the (very tall) wing shape, so I ended up reaching more for the Blueberry Mini Coveralls, but these are also a very solid choice.
Wool covers (Loveybums, Disana, etc.)
Wool is the way to go if you prefer all-natural fibers on your baby and/or need a more breathable cloth diapering solution. Wrap-style covers are hands-down my favorite for the first month or so, when it’s more challenging to get pull-on covers on a tiny, squirmy baby. My favorite wool wraps are from Loveybums, Babee Greens, Organic Caboose, and Imse Vimse. Later, when baby starts feeling slightly less breakable, I also loved pull-on covers like those from Disana, Lanacare, Sloomb, and Wild Coconut Wear.
Well, that’s about it. I’ve loved using cloth for the first couple of months, and would definitely do it again. If you have the inclination — rest assured that you can do it! All the best and congratulations on your new little one! 🙂
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