Cloth Diapering a Newborn


Though many mamas desire to use cloth diapers for their little ones, the thought of using them soon after the birth or with a newborn is often a bit overwhelming. I think the general impression is that it is much more difficult than it truly is.

After mentioning the other week that I was finding it a relatively simple thing to diaper my own newborn, I received several requests for more info on just how to go about using cloth diapering with wee ones. In this post, I will address the key questions and concerns to hopefully reassure those wanting to use cloth and give some helpful advice as well! Not wanting to just give me own opinions and experience, I’ve also asked a couple of other bloggers who are new mamas for their input (Lindsay of Passionate Homemaking and Michele of Frugal Granola), as well as the friendly staff over at Kelly’s Closet and Nicki’s Diapers. As a result, this post ended up quite lengthy, but I hope that you will find it truly helpful and informative!

So here we go…

What types of cloth diaper systems work best for newborns?

Michele: We’ve been using Kissaluvs (size 0) diapers with Enoch from the beginning (which I bought from Lindsay, off of craigslist, ironically) :). They’ve worked great! He’s a heavy-wetter, but I haven’t had to use the diaper doublers that I made, yet. I love that they have a fold-down snap in front to allow for the umbilical cord. We use them along with newborn size Proraps or Bummis snap covers.

Lindsay: If you really want to cloth diaper right off the bat, or you have a smaller newborn, my recommendation is to go with the
infant size prefolds and newborn covers. These are a good investment as they last forever and can also be used for burp clothes or rags in the future. The newborn size prefolds really are not absorbent at all, so I recommend the infant size and folding it the opposite direction, horizontally into thirds. This makes for a smaller more absorbent diaper.

So overall, after beginning cloth diapering my second little one, I found that using infant prefolds is the most economical option and transitioning quickly to one size diapers. Then he is set for the rest of his diapering life.

Kelly’s Closet: One Size? While most one size diapers are designed to fit from birth to potty training – this doesn’t
necessarily mean they will fit your little one at birth. Newborns tend to have itty bitty legs and therefore the diaper is more likely to leak than after a few weeks when your little one has had some time to “thicken up.”

Therefore we highly recommend prefolds and diaper covers during the early weeks for daytime use. Prefolds and diaper
covers, while intimidating for most folks, is really quite simple and straightforward. Simply fasten the prefold on to baby and then fasten a cover over the prefold and you’re ready to go! Prefolds also a bit easier to wash and care for compared to pocket diapers.

Prefold Cloth Diapers

Diaper Covers

Now, with all that said – for those late nights when you’re sleep deprived and just the thought of driving one more diaper is ready to make you cry – we also recommend some X-Small sized pocket diapers or All-in-One diapers such as the bumGenius Deluxe All-in-One 3.0 diapers. These will make the middle of the night diaper changes very quick and easy!

Nicki’s Diapers: I highly recommend using newborn size prefolds and Prorap Classic diaper covers size newborn. The newborn
prefolds fit tiny babies nicely without a lot of bulk and the Prorap Classic diaper covers size newborn have a great umbilical cord cutout allowing you to use this diaper cover as baby’s first diaper. This combination also contains the newborn explosions very well with no up the back leakage as experience with disposable diapers. This system fits up to about 10 lbs whereas at that point a one size diaper system will start to fit.

Stephanie: Personally, I find that we have the greatest leak protection when using a fitted diaper with a cover like Bummis or Proraps. Though I really enjoy using pocket and one-size diapers, I have had a few more leaks with those as they don’t seem to fit quite snug enough on a newborn unless you purchase the extra small sizes, which hardly feel worth it to me considering how long baby wears them for. The one-size do work okay once they’re past the first week or two (depending on how big your babies are- I have babies that are under 8 lbs), but I find that they’re fairly bulky once folded small enough to fit a newborn. That said, it is so nice to have a quick, one-piece diaper (like a pocket diaper) to use for middle of the night changes, rather than messing around with a fitted or prefold and a cover in the dark. I have also noticed that in order to get through the night or long naps, regardless of which system we use, extra liners or doublers are a MUST! I really love microterry inserts/doublers, and have just ordered some hemp doublers because I have heard that they are even thinner but just as absorbent as the microterry, and I am all about less bulk and dry bums!

How many diapers do you need to have and how often will they need to be washed? 

Michele: I have about 30 newborn cloth diapers; if I get behind on the laundry and run out, I just use a prefold diaper with a Snappi (to close), along with a cover. Since I’m using “mama cloth” pads, and we still have some nighttime cloth diapers to wash for our toddler, we just toss everything into a washer load each day.

Kelly’s Closet: As far as how many diapers a newborn will need – our general rule of thumb recommendation is 8-12 diapers per day – and it would be best to have a minimum of a 2-day supply. This will allow you to wash the diapers every other day (if you want to go slightly longer between washes then you will be a few more diapers accordingly).

Stephanie: I would say around 20-24, which will allow you to wash every 2-3 days. My newborn babies seem to go through a good 8-10 diapers a day, so that will be a pretty comfortable amount. Though I can get by with about 4 covers for my older babies/toddlers, I think that you need to have more like a minimum of 6 for newborns, just because with more frequent changes (and poops!) you are more likely to have soiled covers more quickly. On this note, I have learned that it’s a necessity to keep lots of diapers around- in the diaper bag, near baby’s bed at nighttime, etc. Always have more on hand than you think you need!

What do you do about meconium poops? 

Michele: We only had a few disposable diapers on hand (free samples that came in the mail), which we used for the worst of the meconium poops. After that, we just used a flushable liner in his diapers until the meconium was gone. We
also oiled his bum with every diaper change to make it easier to clean those sticky meconium poops off. (I used hemp oil, but pretty much any oil would be fine.)

Lindsay: I love cloth diapering to the extent that I wanted to place my new infant Titus into cloth diapers immediately upon his arrival. The husband was not so key on that idea due to my need to rest and the lovely meconium that arrives through the baby’s bowels shortly after birth. This substance is not fun to wash out. (That is a warning! 😉 Anyway, so we did use disposables for the first week of his life.

Stephanie: I confess, we also did a few days (I think 5 or 6?) of disposables and I was glad that we did. I think that it would be feasible to use cloth from day 1, with disposable or old cloth liners for the meconium, if you have extra help around the house to deal with the extra laundry that will be produced (in addition to the other things you will need help with). One good option for those who really want to avoid conventional diapers is to pick up a package of newborn Seventh Generation diapers (or a similar brand that is unbleached and chlorine free), just to get you through those first days. It is also a blessing to not be worrying about extra loads of laundry in those early days, when there is already so much extra laundry just from regular newborn life (spit up, wet blankets, changing outfits often, etc.).

What about the umbilical cord? 

Michele: We’ve been using Kissaluvs (size 0) diapers with Enoch from the beginning…I love that they have a fold-down snap in front to allow for the umbilical cord.

Stephanie: Prorap covers dip slightly to accommodate the cord (and I found that the Bummis covers came fairly low as well). We did find that in general any cloth diaper tended to rub a little bit and after it fell off (while it was still tender) we put a bandaid over her belly button to keep it from getting rubbed and from bleeding. After about a week, this wasn’t necessary anymore. Regardless of what you use, you can try to fold it down or position it a bit lower to keep it away from the cord.

How often do they need to be changed? 

Kelly’s Closet: Newborns are such precious little beings, so fresh and innocent to their new world outside of the womb! Diapering a newborn, however, can be a tedious task because they typically “go” frequently (typically between 8-12 times a day – and almost every diaper change is poo). Just as soon as you change that precious pint sized bum – the inevitable gurgle and explosion tells you you’re going to be doing it again!

Stephanie: I have found that newborns really need to be changed often, as little diapers just don’t hold as much as big diapers. It seems to me that I change Johanna’s diaper about once per feed cycle (so usually every 2-3 hours), as well as anytime I specifically know that she has wet or dirtied her diaper, and there are sometimes longer gaps between changes if she sleeps well at night (maybe up to 4-5 hours). Usually doing a change 15-20 minutes after each feed works well, or else just before they go down for each nap. Trying to change the diaper of a hungry newborn right when they wake up just isn’t practical, unless you enjoy listening to crying and trying to change a really unhappy, squirmy baby!

Other tips or general advice?

Michele: Here is a recent post on some things I’ve sewed for diapering: Cloth Wipes and Diaper Doublers

Lindsay: My honest opinion is that you really do not need to have a separate newborn diapering system. Most people will feel more comfortable using disposables for the first several weeks, and that is completely understandable. You are adjusting to life with a new little one and many really don’t want more laundry during this stage. If you have an average size baby, you should
be able to transition to a one size cloth diaper after this point. Most one size diapers fit babies at 8 pounds and I have found this to be so with several brands (Fuzzi Bunz, Bum Genius & Happy Heiny’s are in our collection). My little guy was born at 7 lb 4 oz and transitioned into one size pocket diapers at 2 weeks. Not bad.

that week, we transitioned Titus into Kissaluavs Fitted diapers size 0 with newborn Prorap covers. I thought this was the best most recommended newborn system. I didn’t think he would fit so soon into the one size diapers as I mentioned above. I really wanted to love these diapers because they were so soft and comfy on his little bum. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by how quickly their wonderful softness disappeared. A few washings later and they were rather rough on his skin and caused irritations. He also soaked through them in less than an hour sometimes, which resulted in more frequent changes. I had to use a extra doubler inside the fitted diapers, causing excess bulkiness. I found they just were not worth the money to purchase unless you have a really tiny baby (5 lb or so). They grow out of them so fast! Considering how many diapers a newborn goes through, and at
$11-12 per fitted diaper, it is an expensive route. Thankfully we purchased most of ours used. It would have been far cheaper to use disposables for those first two weeks than buying a whole newborn system.

So overall, after beginning cloth diapering my second little one, I found that using infant prefolds is the most economical option and transitioning quickly to one size diapers. Then he is set for the rest of his diapering life.

Kelly’s Closet: Changing the diapers is the easy part – it’s picking a cloth diaper that is the challenge. Every baby is unique and while there are cloth diapers that generally work for the majority – getting a good fit in a cloth diaper can take some trial and error. Therefore, before investing in a big stash of diapers we highly recommend sampling a few diapers to get a feel for what works best for your baby (and what fits your personal preference). If nothing else, is frustrating to invest a few hundred dollars on a stash of diapers only to discover they don’t work well for your little one! Therefore, after researching the brands you would like to consider- order 1-2 of each diaper and try it out!

Stephanie: Though I have traditionally gone the route of fitted diapers with covers (and don’t get me wrong- I still think it’s a great system and one that I’m not about to stop using), I have recently begun to use some pocket diapers, including some that are one-size. I am falling in love with these one-size pockets, mostly because they work for both my son (almost 2 1/2) and my daughter (1 month)! This is a real bonus for any mom who finds herself with two littles in diapers at the same time. It means that I can bring a few one-size diapers out with me, and know that I have something to fit either kiddo, depending on who needs the diaper changes. I don’t have to make sure that I have several newborn options as well as several for the toddler, which only results in a very stuffed diaper bag (and an aching shoulder). It also helps to ease the amount of diapers that I need to store in their bedroom and on the change table, and just helps to keep things simpler overall. Though they certainly cost more up front, I am beginning to see how the cost just might be well worth it in the long run, as well as allowing me to have one more compact and easily storable system instead of 3 different size sets of diapers hanging around my house!

Brand Recommendations:

Stephanie: A really absorbent newborn fitted diaper or prefolds with Bummis Super Whisper Wrap
(Proraps are also pretty decent).

Michele: Kissaluvs Size: 0 with Proraps or Bummis Snap covers

Lindsay: Infant Prefolds with Prorap or Bummis Super Whisper covers, and then a one-size pocket diaper like BumGenius, Happy Heiny or Fuzzi Bunz.

Kelly’s Closet: Prefolds and diaper covers, as well as a few x-small or one-size all-in-ones, like BumGenius.

Nicki’s Diapers: Newborn size prefolds and Prorap Classic diaper covers size newborn, until baby begins to fit a one-size diaper system.

Any more questions on cloth diapering a newborn? What about other tips, suggestions or brand recommendations from all the other cloth-diapering mamas out there?

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  1. A very comprehensive post! Looks great!

    A few things that I have found: -the Bum Genius One size pocket diaper did NOT fit my newborn (born at 8 lbs, 2 ounces) until around 4 weeks. However, both my kids seemed to have long, skinny legs and waists, so that could be part of it.
    -I did cloth from the very first diaper with the second baby. This meant meconium. Since I use all prefolds and Bummis covers for newborns (using the Bummis original smalls as I found they went low enough, and around a few weeks, started using the Bummis Super Whisper wrap smalls) I just fastened the prefold (with snappi, I found that works better) onto the baby and then used my cloth wipes to clean off the meconium on the baby. I never used any oil or anything on the baby’s bum. I then put them in a wetbag and about 3 days later did the laundry (yes they sat that long, but prefolds are fairly forgiving), washing the meconium into the toilet. I had to do a bit of scrubbing at it, but I didn’t find it hard at all- not much harder than washing off toddler diapers into the toilet really. Flushable liners might have helped. I then washed the diapers and wipes, and there was some faint staining, but that washed out with further washings (a few washes later) and so now you can NOT tell in any way which wipes and infant prefolds were used in those first few days. Just in case anyone wanted to know what it was like for me. I would totally do that again, but I realize its not for everyone. I’m just a little wierd/overly enthusiastic that way, LOL.

  2. We started cloth the moment we walked in the door from the hospital with #2. The transition was seamless for us since I was already using cloth with my 16month old. Some extra diapers added to the wash, yes, but I was so tired I didn’t even notice 🙂

    I love Thirsties fab fitted w/ covers or Thirsties AIO’s for our newborn.

    I was not a fan of the prowrap covers, but it’s just a personal preference.

  3. I know you had mentioned wanting to do EC with Caden are you planning on trying it with this baby? I’m really interested in getting it to work. I tried it with Benjamin but didn’t follow through.

  4. What an awesome post! We did disposable for the first month, like a lot of people it seems, but I’ve been considering trying cloth when/if we have another one. I had wondered all these things – what’s the best system, what about meconium, etc., and I’m so glad to read other mama’s thoughts! Thanks for such an informative post!

  5. Maybe this is a silly question, but what do you do about changing your baby’s cloth diaper when you are out? say in a store or at another person’s house? I am curious what happens to the dirty diaper.

  6. Ok, I have to weigh in since I have now been cloth diapering for 6 weeks (since baby was 6 weeks old). I like the idea of one-size, but not really the actual use. I find them quite bulky even now that DS is 11 weeks and almost 14 lbs. That being said, I have bought some that I think will be most useful during transitions from sm to med and med to lrg. I like the use of AIO’s (All-in-ones) the most due to their ease, but have found that almost all brands take forever to dry and have started to stink as a result. None of my fitted/prefolds or pockets smell, so my guess is that the AIO doesnt breathe quite as well. As for cloth-ing a newborn, I found a local momtrepreneur who makes amazing hemp fitted diapers that I use with a Thirsties cover (I love Thirsties covers!). Her fitteds are perfect from 7-14ish pounds and are super soft. It works for us!

  7. Hello Stephanie & Everyone,

    I used Kissaluvs with Bummis Super Whisper Wrap and that system is amazing! They worked FAR better than any disposable. Our daughter’s runny nb poop would ‘blow-out’ in disposables, but with the Kissaluvs we NEVER, EVER had a leak. Absorbancy is not an issue in Kissaluvs while babies are little, but around 6-7 months, when they start peeing larger quantities, you’ll want to switch brands. The very best I’ve found is FUZZIBUNZ (either the perfect size mediums or the one-size). These diapers are amazingly well designed and you won’t be disappointed with them.

    Lydia– you just put the dirty diaper in a used grocery store bag, wrap it up and put it in your diaper bag. Or, if you can afford a small investment to go with your cloth diapers, buy a zip-up wet bag. These are made of waterproof PUL (basically, polyester treated to make it waterproof), not vinyl, they last forever and you just carry the bag inside your diaper bag. Once home, just toss the bag and its contents into your diaperpail. Too easy.

    To all those out there who think cloth diapers are overwhelming, I encourage you to try it. The health benefits for your baby are SO worth the little bit of extra laundry. Besides, did you know the average baby costs $2000 to diaper in disposables and only around $500 (or less!) in cloth?!

    Only one other word of caution– I’d avoid the cheaper brands sold at stores like Wal-Mart, as they are cheaply made and leak like crazy. The low price is not worth the frustration!

  8. Rebekah, yes, I would like to try using Elimination Communication, but I haven’t actually thought much about it lately. I really need to get myself a good book to refresh myself on the concepts, as it’s been so long now since I first read about it. I think my first priority, though, is potty training Caden! 🙂

    Lydia, I have a wet bag (which is a zippered bag made with PUL, a water-proof fabric). I keep it in my diaper bag, and that’s where I put wet/dirty diapers and cloth wipes. When I get home, I just dump the contents into my diaper pail. Every couple of times I wash the diapers, I toss the wet bag in as well. It keeps my diaper bag from getting wet or smelling. Before I got a wet bag, I actually just used a large ziploc bag in the same way. It doesn’t work quite as well and it doesn’t look fancy, but I did it for years and it was cheap, anyways. 🙂

    Jessica, I totally agree about AIO’s not drying quickly and getting stinky. I’m not a fan. My pockets don’t smell either, and they offer pretty much the same convenience, and in a way even more, since you can adjust the stuffing inside for the absorbency that you need. I haven’t gotten to try a Thirsties cover yet, but have heard good things about them.

    I should also mention that another excellent cover (that I haven’t used for a newborn, but have used for slightly older babies) is Motherease. I think they’re just as good as Bummis.

  9. I thought I might also mention that a bunch of online/local diaper co’s do testing packages. Basically, you rent everything you need for a two week trial run- diapers, wetbags, extra liners, even detergent! It is around 40$ and you get exposed to a wide variety of brands. I dont know about the States, but here in the Lower Mainland, I know of three companies that offer these trials. It is a great, no hassle way to see if cloth diapering is for you. I have converted several friends by getting them to do a “no strings attached” trial.

  10. I have cloth diapered both of my children, starting with the very first diaper after they were born. I used prefolds and Thirsties XS covers, which worked great with leaving room for the cord. I use a diaper sprayer to spray off dirty diapers into the toilet once the baby is eating solids, so since I already had that sprayer when my second baby was born, I was able to use that to spray off all of the meconium before dropping the diapers into the pail. I was able to avoid stains that way, although I laid the diapers in the sun with my first baby, and the stains were bleached out anyway. I have not had problems with cloth diapering from birth and would highly recommend it. Once my kids fit into the one size pocket diapers (around 2-3 weeks), I use pockets overnight and when we go out of the house and prefolds at home during the day.

    I wash every other day and for a newborn have 24 prefolds and 4 covers, as well as several dozen wipes.

  11. I’ve often used disposables with nb when I’ve had pph but like to get to cloth quickly. However, I think the Elimination Communication or Diaper Free is superior in the long run. Its great for bonding and intimacy with your babe, and way less laundry even if you miss occasionally. As a mom of many (expecting number 10) I haven`t given it my all, although wish I had. Maybe we`ll be successful with this next blessing. EC is TOPS!

  12. Excellent info! I eased into cloth with my little one – love the pockets! I mostly love the way solids roll off fleece. In case the above commenter checks back, I was given a case of disposable wipes as a shower gift and they came in opaque zipper top bags. I saved them and use them to hold diapers when I’m out and about. Bread sacks work well, as do plastic grocery bags. It’s surprisingly not a big deal once you get used to doing it – in fact, there have been several times that I’ve just folded a wet diaper up and shoved it in the diaper bag, though not when it’s sopping. :>)

    Anyway. I wanted to say that I linked to this on my weekly roundup – post is under my name. Thanks!!

  13. We cloth diapered my daughter from the time she came home from the hospital. We mostly used prefolds during the day when she was a newborn, but we invested in a few fitted diapers (both Thirsties and GM infant fitted) for night time diaper changes. It made sleep deprived changes easier and we learned to use prefolds in the light of day instead of stumbling around her low lit bedroom at night. Eventually we transitioned to using AIOs and pockets for when we are out of the house but even at 18 months, prefolds are still the staple of our day time diapering.

  14. I noticed one of the contributors had a problem with Kissaluvs becoming rought. I don’t have direct experience with this yet but since I’m having a baby in a few months I’ve been reading up on cloth diapering. I was reading the section on how to wash diapers at and they mentioned that they type of detergent you use can affect how rough the diapers feel. Apparently sometimes people complain that after a few washes Kissaluvs in particular and hemp diapers roughed up and they advise that the customer try Biokleen liquid detergent before giving up on them and that mostly fixes the problem.

  15. My 3rd baby is 4 months old and she has been exclusively cloth diapered from birth. We used (and still use) mostly prefolds and covers. It was very easy and meconium was never a problem. I just packed away her infant sized as she is a chubby baby, and I look forward to CD’ing a newborn with them again if we ever are blessed with another baby.

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