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Tips for choosing the right size cloth diapers.

Posted by Becca on 1/2/2012 to Getting Started
Determining Cloth Diaper Sizemeasuring cloth diapers

When it comes to buying clothes for your baby, purchasing the correct size is important. It’s necessary to not only buy clothing that isn’t too short or too small, but also clothes that they can grow into a little bit. If you’ve decided to use cloth diapers on your child—consider them an addition to your baby’s wardrobe and realize that buying the right sized diapers for your baby is just as important as buying the right sized clothing—actually, more so, because jackets and onesies have never been asked to contain poop or keep sheets dry at night!

There are a few factors to consider when determining what size cloth diapers to buy for your baby:


Age is generally not a good way to determine size when it comes to cloth diapers, but you probably already figured that since you don’t buy your clothing based on age! Different babies of the same age generally don’t weigh the same, have the same waist and thigh measurements, or have the same height. Based on this, age is usually a pretty poor way to determine size, although it may be a good, rough starting point.


A fairly accurate way to determine which size cloth diaper will suit your baby best is weight. Generally, sizes list a weight range. For example, A Lil’ Joey All In One diaper claims to fit newborns who are preemies to twelve pounds or more. Size 2 of the Bamboozle Fitted Diaper claims to fit babies who weigh from 9-35 pounds. However, 9 pounds can look very different from baby to baby, so often weight is just a starting place when it comes to determining the correct diaper size. It’s a good way to give you a rough estimate on where to start.

Waist, thigh, and rise measurements

The best way to determine the correct sized diapers for your baby is by measuring him or her.

Measuring the waist is easy: use a soft tape measure against your baby’s skin starting at the belly button and going all the way around your baby’s tummy. If measuring for a cloth diaper cover, you will need to wrap the soft tape measure around baby's waist ATOP a cloth diaper (or if you do not cloth diaper your baby yet, you can use a disposable diaper). Keep the tape measure snug, though not too tight - especially if using a disposable diaper as your measure for a cloth diaper cover; disposable diapers tend to be slightly trimmer than cloth diapers.

The thigh measurement is important because a diaper that fits big at the thighs will leak and one that fits too small will pinch your baby’s skin. To measure the circumference of the thighs, start almost at the top of your baby’s leg, at the fattest part, and measure around. It’s important that you don’t measure at the very top of your baby’s leg where the leg is slightly thinner than the chubby thigh because this can lead to diapers that fit too snugly and pinch or leave red marks.

Finally, the rise, sometimes called the “depth” of a cloth diaper, is important—sometimes the most important—because in sized diapers, it can’t be adjusted. Using the tape measure, start at your baby’s belly button, then go down, loosely through the legs, and back up the butt to the waistline at your baby’s back. This will give you the length your diaper should be when laying open, and flat. The same applies here as it does for measuring the waist. If you are measuring for a cloth diaper, you just keep it comfortably loose atop baby's skin while you measure. If you are measuring for a cloth diaper cover, you should measure over a cloth diaper, or if you do not have one, a disposable diaper. And again, remember that disposable diapers are trimmer than most cloth diapers, so allow a bit more room in your measurement.

Sample First

Most manufacturers and retailers of cloth diapers offer both weight and measurement guidelines for each size cloth diaper they produce, distribute or sell. Without this information, you have absolutely no starting point by which to ascertain a certain fit. Occasionally, a diaper brand may simply give weight ranges. If that’s the case, it would be wise to start by buying just one diaper in the suggested size for your baby’s weight. When that diaper comes, try it on, checking that the diaper fits properly in all the right places before completing your stash. Often, your cloth diaper retailer will offer trial periods, which means you can try the diaper on your baby risk free, and consequently buy all of the correct size that you will need.


A size small might is not going to be the same from one brand to another. Each brand of diaper will fit your baby differently, and you’ll find that some brands work better for your baby’s body type than others. Again, it is recommended that you sample a brand before buying a complete stash.

One Size Diapers

One great way to take some of the guess work out of sizing is to use one size diapers. With many different adjustment options at both the rise and the waist (and sometimes at the legs too) these diapers fit a wide variety of babies with different weights, heights, and measurements. However, even with one size diapers, sizing varies from brand to brand. A brand that your friend swears by might not suit your baby’s body type—or it might. Again, it’s best if you buy just one of the diaper to try on your baby before committing to buying an entire stash.