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Cloth diapering a newborn

Thinking about using cloth diapers? It’s not as hard as it sounds. Try these tips, tricks and essentials for cloth diapering a newborn — from preparation to beyond the first few days.


Shopping for cloth diapers

One of the best parts about preparing for baby is the shopping — and there’s no shortage of options when it comes to cloth diapers. Unfortunately, there’s no way to accurately obtain the weight of your unborn baby, so you might need to buy a little of everything to get started. Once your baby has arrived, you can assess fit and what works best for you and your child, as not every brand or system works for every baby — just like disposable diapers.

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How many do I need?

How often you plan to wash cloth diapers — if you forgo using a diaper service — directly impacts how many cloth diapers you need to have on hand. Newborns generally require diaper changes every two hours, give or take, so if you plan to wash diapers every other day, you will need at least 24 diapers. If you plan to use prefolds and fitteds with covers, the general rule of thumb is one cover to every three diapers.

Which diapers should I try?

There are many different newborn-sized cloth diapers on the market, but because newborn babies require frequent diaper changes, it’s usually best to go with a system or brand that is easy to use and dries quickly.


Look for cloth diapers that dry quickly and fit your individual needs and likes. Also look into cloth diapers that are “one-size” to get the most for your money.

Just remember that the first few weeks of cloth diapering your newborn will require a lot of trial and error. You will quickly figure out which diapers fit best on your baby, which diapers you despise at 2 a.m. and what system you grab for first over all the rest. Invest in a variety pack to get started or look into some of my favorites to see which cloth diapers you prefer:

The cloth diaper quick guide

Pockets, covers, wraps, fitteds and all-in-ones… What does it all mean? Here’s a quick guide to help you better understand cloth diaper terminology while shopping for your newborn.

  • Fitted diapers: Fitted diapers are absorbent diapers that require a waterproof cover. Fitted diapers usually have a snap or Velcro closure.
  • Prefolds: Prefold diapers, also known as burp cloths to some parents, can be folded and adjusted to fit your baby. Prefolds require diaper pins or snappi fasteners and a waterproof cover and are generally more economical.
  • Contours: Contoured diapers are a mix between a fitted diaper and a prefold. Contoured diapers have the shape of a diaper but do not have a snap or Velcro closure. Contours require diaper pins or snappi fasteners and a waterproof cover. (I love these for nighttime diaper changes).
  • Covers or wraps: Covers and wraps are the essential piece for fitted diapers, prefolds and contours. Covers and an absorbent diaper — fitted, prefold or contour — can be bulky on a baby but together they offer a more customizable fit and are usually less likely to leak.
  • Pocket diapers: Pocket diapers have a waterproof shell and require the use of an absorbent insert or prefold. The absorbent layers are stuffed into a pocket to create a complete diapering system.
  • All-in-ones: All-in-one diapers are the most like disposable diapers because they do not require any stuffing, snapping, pinning or folding. All-in-one diapers have a built-in waterproof outer shell and sewn-in absorbent layers.

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Washing newborn cloth diapers

I suggest the use of washable or disposable liners while your newborn passes meconium the first few days, as the meconium can be difficult to wash out of the cloth diapers. After the meconium has passed, all soiled newborn diapers can be washed directly in the washer — you shouldn’t need to soak or take any extra care with newborn cloth diapers.

Keep a good diaper pail and a few zippered wet bags close to where you change your newborn’s cloth diapers to collect soiled diapers before washing.

Image credit: Kissaluv

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