The basics: Cloth Diapering a Newborn

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-21-2011
The basics: Cloth Diapering a Newborn
Tue, 01-29-2013 - 2:18pm

There is a lot of really wonderful information available out in the world for people who are curious about getting started cloth diapering a newborn.


But sometimes, it is so much information in so many places that it is hard to figure out what you need to know and what the choices really are.  What I have summarized below is a quick and very basic list of diapering supplies and questions that often come up for people thinking about starting to cloth diaper.  It really isn’t nearly as confusing or scary as it seems.


The basics:


You need to decide what kind of diaper you want to use.  There are 4 main types of cloth diaper to choose from.


1.      Prefold/flat diaper + a waterproof cover = this is the big really traditional rectangular piece of fabric that has to be folded and held in place (no diaper pins required these days).  The diaper is generally made of cotton, very easy to wash and dry.  Covers can be reused multiple times with just a change of the inner diaper, so long as the cover has not been soiled.  These are extremely cost effective and versatile.


The downside is that you will have to practice, just a little, how to fold and get these on properly so that they work for you and your baby.


2.      Fitted/contour diaper + a waterproof cover = a piece of hourglass-shaped fabric that often has elastic on the legs.  It may have fasteners on the diaper itself or it may require use of a snappy, like a prefold does.  Fitted diapers come a multitude of different colors, shapes and materials—some more or less absorbent or trim.  These are generally easy to wash and dry because the cover and inner part separate completely.  When the baby wets the diaper, the cover can be reused with another clean diaper as long as it was not soiled. 


The downside again is that this is a 2 part system, so it takes a tiny bit more time and practice to get the baby diapered, but no wrapping or folding skill is required.  The fitted diapers also cost more than the prefolds, but generally less than pockets or AIOs.



3.      Pocket diaper = an hourglass shaped waterproof cover layer with an inner layer sewn to it.  The inner layer is generally microfiber that will touch the baby’s skin and is open at one end so that the absorbent layers can be added as needed and removed to wash easily.  Absorbent layers are often microfiber but there are many options as far as what kinds of inserts you can buy.


The downsides—every time the baby wets, you will need an entirely new diaper.  Also, the pocket has to be stuffed again after every washing.  Washing and drying can be a little more finicky because the cover is essentially sewn in.  These can get pricey.


4.      All-in-one/AIO = the whole diaper is a single piece that cannot be separated for laundering.  The waterproof layer and all the absorbent materials are stitched together.  There is nothing to stuff or assemble.  This really is like using a disposable since everything is one piece.


The Downsides—Generally, this is the most expensive option to buy.  Every time the baby wets, you will need an entirely new diaper.  Washing and drying can be a little more finicky because the cover is essentially sewn in.



There are a lot of different brands of pocket and AIO diaper out there.  They are made from different materials, with different types of closures and have different looks to them.  Some work well for different sizes and shapes of babies.  Here are some resources that specifically compare different types of diapers for newborns to help you pick what might work best for you:



How many diapers do I really need to cloth diaper a newborn fulltime?

·         2 dozen minimum.  3 dozen to be safe.

·         If you are using prefold or fitted diapers that require covers, you will also need 7-10 covers.  I vote Velcro/aplix/hook and loop closure for newborn diapers and covers if it is an option because they are so fast and adjustable, but snaps will certainly work.

·         If you use prefolds or fitted diapers, you may also want to get a few snappis.  A snappi is the neat little modern convenience that means you don’t have to use diaper pins to fasten the diaper.  Here’s a picture of a snappi and cotton diaper on a newborn.



What else do I need? Some place to store your used diapers—2 large wet bags will be enough to get you started.  You will have one to use while the other one is in the laundry.  Then you just switch back and forth.  If you plan to use cloth when you are out and about with your little one, you will want a small or medium sized wet bag for when you are on the go. 


What about wipes?  Cloth wipes are a great option to use with cloth diapers.  You can buy a stash when your baby is a newborn and use them as long as he or she is in diapers without ever having to buy more.  They will last and last.  You can certainly choose to use disposable wipes also.  But it seems like extra work to have garbage just for wipes where you change your baby when cloth wipes can just go into your wet bag with the diapers.


Do I need anything else to start cloth diapering my child?  NO!  I promise.  There is nothing else youneed, though there are a lot of other things you could buy and use if you wanted to get fancy or spend the money.


Cost concerns:

Cloth diapering can be extremely cost saving.  It can also be extremely expensive if you are buying fashion prints, organic fabrics or other specialized items.  Cloth diapers help families save money where the items can be reused for a long time because of their good fit and durability.  They will lose money for families where the diapers are not well used, don’t get a good long life or just over-buy for what their needs are.


One risk of buying more pricy newborn AIO or pocket diapers is that your child will outgrow them before you get good use out of them.  This happened to me.  My DS was out of newborn sized clothing and diapers by the time he was 1 month old.  The little tiny pocket diapers we had got used about 3 times before they were handed off to a friend.  One option to get around this is to rent newborn diapers (even by mail) rather than buying them.  Depending on whether you plan to cloth diaper subsequent children, this may or may not help you save money.  Here is a link to a listing of newborn cloth diaper rental programs.



For experienced cloth diaper families, please feel free to add more if there are things that I forgot or seem important to new parents.


For the new families thinking about cloth, please let us know what you are concerned about and how we can help you make the best choice for your family.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-21-2011
Thu, 04-11-2013 - 10:59am