Before I had my baby, I had grand illusions of discovering all the ins and outs of perfectly cloth diapering a newborn and sharing all my neatly refined wisdom with you in perfectly packaged form.
Now, I know that's not going to happen. I'm not gonna lie, cloth diapering a newborn is tricky. I've even advised some new-to-cloth friends to just go with disposables at first and I'm not even sorry about it. There are a lot of things to keep in mind--some with regards to the diapers, some having to do with your baby, and some are just things that come with the post-partum period you'll be going through when you're taking care of a newborn.
With regards to my newborn, he's pretty huge. I had been hoping for a nice, small 8 pounder because I gained 20lbs less with Baby Bear than with Bunny, but he was, in fact, 4 ounces heavier than her, weighing in at a whopping 9lbs 9oz after a super quick, all natural birth where I only had to push through about 5 contractions. I didn't realize that a 9 plus pounder could come out so easily! Wow! But that's another post for another day. In any case, his size has much to do with the limited amount of newborn experience that I can share with you. I know about cloth diapering 9 pound babies, but I don't have experience with a “normal” sized 7 pound baby.
So, the first thing that you have to take into account with cloth diapering a newborn is size. Newborns come in all shapes and sizes. Most are around 7 pounds. Some are teeny tiny at 5 pounds full term and some are as large as 10 or 11 pounds. That's a lot of different sizes to consider when trying to come up with a cloth diaper stash before your baby is born. My midwife seems to think that your baby's size has a lot to do with yours and your husband's birth weights. I was 8 pounds 12 ounces at birth and my husband was 7 pounds 3 ounces at birth. According to her, this means that I wouldn't have a baby smaller than 7pounds 3 ounces. Then, of course, if you have had children already, you sort of know what size children your body typically produces. Since my daughter was 9 pounds 5 ounces, I knew that I'd have a large baby. I took that into account as I started amassing my stash.
The Umbilical Cord
One of the most difficult things for me, currently, is the umbilical cord. I'm terrified of accidentally ripping it off, or covering it in the diaper where it won't be able to dry properly and might get soaked in urine or feces. I have a bunch of handmade AIO diapers, a few store bought AIOs, plus some newborn prefolds and fitteds and some handmade covers. Not all of these diapers actually fit underneath his little cord which means that my newborn cloth diaper stash is diminished until the cord falls off. It also means that I can't use my one size pocket diapers either--though a couple of them would definitely fit him at this point. When my daughter was a newborn, all I had were one size diapers and after trying them once with the cord, I decided it was a bad idea and I waited to use them until it fell off.
A newborn goes through A LOT of diaper changes! Well, after the first 2-3 days, that is. My little Baby Bear went through about 6 diapers in the hospital as he expelled all the meconium in his system, and then he spent a day and a half peeing only once or twice. About the time I was ready to freak out and call the doctor because I was sure he was either tongue tied or that I wasn't producing enough milk, he began soaking his diaper about once an hour or two. This meant that even though I have 27 diapers that make the cut as far as fit and space for the umbilical cord, I have to do a wash every day in order to keep on top of things. When you're sleep deprived and experiencing a drastic change in hormones, that can be a lot.
Post Partum Issues
Birthing a baby is a lot of work. Apparently, it takes about 2 weeks for everything to initially fall back into place (ie: uterus, lungs, bowels, etc) and because of this, my midwife gave me strict instructions that for two weeks I am only allowed to take care of the baby and myself. Following these directions is hard for me, but I feel that I've come to a compromise where I have mostly obeyed her rules while still doing a couple of tiny chores that help me feel that I am in control of my life. Giving birth naturally means that I feel a lot better the second time around, but it doesn't mean that I can do everything as I wish I could. My body is easily exhausted at the smallest tasks--from wiping down a table to a quick trip to the grocery store. I really wanted to go to church right away and I felt great the Sunday five days after delivery so we went. Halfway through the service my head was nodding and I felt like I'd run a marathon. And this is just how I felt physically. Emotionally, you're drained because you're not getting enough sleep and your hormones are bonkers. Also, you may or may not be experiencing post partum depression or baby blues. All of this plays a role in whether or not you will be up to the task of washing and using cloth diapers all the time, right away.
So my advice to you?
It won't hurt to try to cloth diaper full time. I'm doing it and surviving--but this is my second child and my second baby in cloth diapers. I was prepared… sort of. Just don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work out.
Buy a package of disposables. I didn't, but even though I'm greatly opposed to the idea of placing even one of these diapers on my baby's bum, it would be nice to have even just one package of them to help ease the load when I'd rather lay in bed or snuggle with my newborn on the couch.
Get a variety of diapers. Whatever you do, don't invest in just one kind of diaper. Personally, I've found that newborn prefolds and newborn AIO diapers fit my son just fine but most of his fitteds have too high of a rise currently. Of course, his newborn diapers only just fit him, as large as he is, but they are doing the trick until his umbilical cord falls off.
Don't invest in too many expensive diapers. Share a stash of newborn diapers with a friend. Buy diapers used off eBay. Wait for deals on the tiny dipes throughout the duration of your pregnancy. Rent newborn diapers. Buy sample packages. Stick with prefolds. The thing is, you don't know what you will like, what will work, or what will fit until that baby comes. However, if you have bought loads of the more pricey diapers, have no fear! They have a really good resale value so you'll be able to recoup most of the money spent.
Don't feel like a failure if you have to postpone cloth diapers until things even out in your household. You can use disposables. It's okay. It's like using paper cups and plates when you have a party because you just know you won't be able to handle all of those dishes and enjoy your guests.
So, I'm curious. How many of you have cloth diapered a newborn--especially one smaller than 9 pounds? What did you do differently and what advice do you have to moms and dads using cloth diapers right from birth?
Kristen Date 8/13/2013
I didn't use cloth with my first, but my second is 8 weeks old and we have used cloth since he was born. He was 6lbs 11oz, so really pretty small. We tried a few different brands but the only ones that (still to this day) haven't leaked are the Charlie Bananas. They are pricey, but worth it in my book. We keep a pack of disposable around to use if he visits grandma or we are on a loooong outing. I think you just cant be to hard on yourself. I think cloth diapering is great, just don't beat yourself up if you occasionally put a disposable on.
Masha Date 8/13/2013
My baby girl is now 5 months old, and being our first baby we figured we would just do cloth from the start since we didn't have anything else to compare it to and wouldn't find it any difficult to get used to. She was born at 7lb1oz, but due to issues with breastfeeding she dropped down to 5lb14oz by the end of the first week and her bum was so tiny that we had to go with preemie disposables until cloth actually fit her. We had gotten 32 BumGenius 4.0 and that has worked out amazingly well for us; not a single leak and not a single episode of diaper rash. She goes through about 5 diapers a day and we wash every 2 days. My only concern at this point is that she is going to outgrow them too quickly, since she is already 17 pounds!
Corinne Date 8/13/2013
I'm currently cloth diapering my 3-week old baby boy Boden. This is my first child and I was adamant that I wanted to cloth diaper. Initially, my boyfriend was not on board, but he came around when I filled him in on the cost savings :) Our little fella was born at 37 weeks and came out weighing 7lbs, 5oz. Due to a very hard natural labour/delivery, he had quite the bruise on his head. He spent the next three days of his life under phototherapy lights in the NICU, due to extreme jaundice. While we were at the hospital, the NICU nurses refused to cloth diaper, so we had to get disposables. My boyfriend maintained that our cloth diapers rode too high on his belly when we finally did get home, so we finished off the package of disposable diapers from the hospital until his stump fell off - a week after his birth.
Baby Bo has been in cloth ever since. We have found that although the AIOs are super easy to use, the drying time does not outweigh the ease of use. My boyfriend thought he would enjoy the AIOs and pocket diapers most, but has actually stated he prefers using the prefolds and covers. We use mostly prefolds during the day and then the AIOs and AI2s at night when he wets heaviest. Washing is easy, sunning gets stains out the best and we love our diaper sprayer. Our family is happy to be cloth diapering :)
Mollie Date 8/13/2013
This is my 3rd child but my first time to Cloth Diaper!! My daughter is currently 8 days old! she was born at 8lbs 11 oz and she was my biggest baby. I purchased BG4.0's before she was born and was given a stash of 15 GroVia Newborn AIO's. I waited till my disposables ran out from the hospital and then started using her cloth diapers! Very pleased with my purchase of Bg4.0's... so far NO LEAKS!! Not crazy about my AIO's... I seem to be having leaks and they don't seem to fit her as well as the BG4.0's :(
My advise is listen to other mom's that have experience with Cloth diapering! What I would do differently would be... wait till baby is born before pre-washing your newborn stash! If baby is born bigger or smaller and the newborn diapers don't fit.. you would be able to return if they are not washed. Since I prewashed my AIO's I now have to try and sell them to recoup so of the money to purchase something else!
So far... I'm loving the Cloth diaper experience and super glad I decided to use Cloth right from the beginning!!
Kaitlin Date 8/13/2013
I am on baby #2 in cloth. We have done the same thing with both kids: girl- 8lbs 6oz(20in), boy-6lbs 13oz(19in).
We used prefolds and covers with both. Our son was actually too small for his infant stash so we part-time cloth diapered him until almost a month old because we were waiting for the cloth to fit. He was too long and skinny and I would run out of hook&loop (Velcro) to wrap around him and it would leak.
I like prefolds and AIOs for newborns because prefolds can go in the dryer which gives you time to let the AIOs air dry, so we have 8 AIOs and 18 infant prefolds and I washed every other day because we used disposables in there, too.
With our daughter, it was a piece of cake. We used the disposables from the hospital until they ran out and used cloth after that. Once we got the snappi/boingo situation down, prefold and covers worked all the time (the AIOs were a 1st bday gift for her).
Kim H Date 8/14/2013
When my son was a newborn, we started by usilg up the rest of the hospital diapers & a couple of packages that we got as gifts and then went straight to prefolds & covers, which worked great! I couldn't agree more that you need to give yourself some options & not be too hard on yourself - there were days that we used disposables because I was recovering from a c-section & had fallen behind on the laundry. Even at 18 months, there are times when he is in disposables for a few hours when the laundry gets behind! My advice: Don't kill yourself trying to be the 'perfect' cloth diapering mama. Any cloth time is better than no cloth time and a few disposables won't make you any less outstanding than you already are!
Priscilla B Date 8/14/2013
Baby #1 is just about 6 weeks old. She was 7lb 14oz at birth and is already over 11 lb!!!! I started with prefolds and covers right away, but only have 11 of them that I bought second hand, so we used disposables that we received as gifts between laundering and when going out. She has been exclusively in cloth since about week 2 (maybe 3?) and has now outgrown her newborn diapers. We are on to AIO and (mostly) pocket diapers which I LOVE. Cloth diapering is so easy and fun!!! We go through about 15+ diapers and I wash every two days. I do have some disposables 'just in case'... but haven't had to use them... she might outgrow them too! Thanks for the post.
Whitney B Date 8/16/2013
As a ftm I was so determined o use strictly cloth from the get go. At least that was my plan while I was still pregnant. Having our daughter at home quickly changed my mind. I was terrified to start cloth. No one around me that I knew used cloth, and I started second guessing the whole thing. Finally at around 3 weeks I felt up to the challenge and we haven't looked back.
Kathy G Date 8/16/2013
I have a one year old and another on the way. I struggled with leaks with my one year old for a long time because of his skinny legs. I think with the hassle of two, I will probably use sposies for the first two weeks on the newborn. Heck, if I end up with another c-section, they may both end up in sposies for a couple of weeks. I just love cloth diapering so much that I want to be able to do it from day one full time.
Karin Date 8/16/2013
Expecting baby #1 in a couple weeks and planning to use cloth. This was really helpful!
Maia G Date 8/16/2013
Thanks! I am planning to cloth diaper my child once he/she arrives!
Daniel (Cheri) P. Date 8/16/2013
Very interesting topic and helpful tips. I've clothed diapered my son who is now 1 since birth. It is so worth it! There really is no excuse not to since there are so many different systems to choose from. Finding one that works best for your family is key.
christine k Date 8/19/2013
we used cloth from the start this time and it has been nothing but EASY...
lauren tenley Date 8/20/2013
I've always heard that it was hard to know which kind of cloth diaper to buy since you don't know how your baby will be shaped but man I wish I did. We decided to wait and just use disposables until we figured it out so we would have less blow outs. WRONG! We have had to do so much laundry because every time this girl poops, it leaks everywhere :( might as well of tried any kind of cloth diapers. We never had this much trouble with our first.
Gabrielle Date 8/21/2013
I really don't understand why so many people seem to be almost afraid of meconium & cloth diapers. It's really not a big deal to wash out; for generations upon generations before the advent of paper diapers, babies wore cloth from birth. Why do we now think it's impossible?
Also, I heartily second the recommendation of getting a mixture of different diapers- and DiaperRite newborn sized prefolds are great. In the first few days, sometimes I wouldn't even put a cover on, and it was totally fine.
Rhianna Gonzalez Date 9/27/2013
My hubby vetoed cloth diapers when we had our twin boys and looking back it would have been way too much. This time around I will cloth diaper our baby girl but I am waiting for her umbilical cord to heal first. Glad to hear others wait to start cloth too.
Mary S Date 12/8/2013
I didn't start cloth diapering my son until he was 6 months old. I'm hoping to cloth diaper baby #2 from the start. Thanks for your suggestions!
Helen Date 12/23/2013
I'm expecting my first LO any day now and am excited to try cloth. I'm a little worried it might be a big baby and some of the stash I've ordered might already be too small. Tricky to plan for a baby when you don't know their size yet :)
Kaycie Knarr Date 2/1/2014
Never thought of the umbilical cord getting covered. I was planning on trying to skip buying newborn sizes, but I may need to
Jennifer Date 2/21/2014
Really good information. I'm debating whether or not to start with cloth from day one or not. It is nice to get all the advice I can!
jennifer laur Date 3/24/2014
we didn't start cloth diapering our first child until he was 7 months old. now that we are expecting baby number 2 (due at the very end of june), we absolutely plan on cloth diapering from the very get-go. its a little intimidating, but i'm really looking forward to it.