Newborn Cloth Diapering

One of the questions that we field a lot during our Cloth Diapering 101 workshop, and from parents that we communicate with in our online venues, pertains to cloth diapering a newborn baby. Most of the cloth diaper brands that we carry at TGN are one size diapers, meaning they use rows of snaps on the front to adjust the rise (or length front to back) and either snaps or hook and loop waist closures to adjust at the waist, so the whole diaper adjusts to fit a baby for almost their entire time in diapers, roughly a range of 8-35 lb. The smaller end of that range can be a totally average weight of a newborn, so it stands to reason that a one size diaper could fit from right at birth, right? So why even consider investing in a set of newborn sized cloth diapers?

The answer is not super straightforward, unfortunately, and here’s why. There are few other variables to consider aside from the number on the scale. One of the factors to consider is that most newborns have the teeniest, tiniest little skinny legs. Seriously, there is nothing quite so teeny and amazing as the absolutely petite circumference of a newborn leg. It will set your hormones ablaze. It will also make filling out the leg gussets of some one size diapers a bit hard to accomplish. Getting a good fit around those teeny legs is pretty essential - newborn babies pee about 10-12 times in a 24 hour period, and if that’s not already insane, you should hear about how messy their bowel movements can be. A good fit around the legs is what is going to keep that mess contained, and not all over that adorable sleeper that you love so much. (And even with a good fit, cloth or disposable, if a blowout is meant to happen, it is probably going to be in this particularly messy newborn stage. Consider it like the hazing period of parenthood.). This is not to say that a one size diaper won’t possibly fit. Many one size diapers can get very teeny in their adjustments. It is mostly to point out that a newborn sized cloth diaper will absolutely adjust down to a small enough size, no gamble. Most newborn sized cloth diapers fit a range of 5-12 lb, give or take in either direction. That very particular range allows for a construction that gives a sincerely good fit around the body shape of a newborn.

Top selling brand GroVia,:newborn size diaper, not adjusted in rise, on the left and fully adjusted to smallest size one size diaper cover on the right.

A newborn size diaper is constructed to fit the very specific size range of a newborn baby, so the fit is very form-fitting and very trim. While some one size diapers may give a good fit around the legs, keeping messes in, it is important to remember that a one size diaper is cut to fit a very impressive size range, and in order for it to do so, it has to have the fabric to accommodate the higher end of that range. When the diaper is snapped fully down to its absolute smallest, it is still not usually what I would describe as “bulky”....except maybe on a newborn. That bulk is often more like flounce (think of, for example, a bubble top for clothing when I say flounce; the fabric will lay and bunch a bit, but it isn’t firm to the touch or sticking out). This flounce may add a little bulk under some garments. Not a big deal to some, a slightly bigger deal to others.

A great fit without any extras.

Another factor to consider is how the cost shakes out. I mean, for many, cloth diapering is just as much of a financial decision as it is for any of the other wonderful reasons to use cloth. A newborn stash of cloth diapers is a second stash of cloth diapers, and there’s no way around disclosing that they will cost you money. Here’s the skinny: if you decide to not use newborn size cloth diapers, and your one size diapers do not give a good fit on your newborn baby, you will likely be investing in disposable diapers to fill in until the one size diapers do fit.

For some, this choice is intentional - a new baby is a lot of newness, and a little time to transition into using one size cloth diapers feels a bit less intimidating. (Full disclosure, we went this route with our first baby. Part of it was because we wanted an adjustment period before using cloth, and part of it was that the nurses predicted that he would be this big Goliath of a baby and we figured one size diapers would maybe fit right away. He was completely average in size at 8 lb and 7 oz, and one size diapers took a full month and a couple of pounds in weight gain before they fit well.) Whether an intentional decision or not, disposable diapers are likely filling the void for a period of time, and those puppies come at a cost.

Here’s something that unfortunately you can’t predict until you’re living it: how long that period of time will last. In my own experience, my first baby would have worn exclusively newborn size cloth diapers for at least four weeks, and then for a while both newborn and one size diapers would have fit, and then one size diapers exclusively after the newborn size was outgrown. My second baby, with whom we did use newborn size cloth diapers, was only one pound smaller and he wore newborn size cloth diapers for over six weeks before one size diapers fit well. For reference, a friend who had three petite newborns had all of her babies in newborn size cloth diapers for almost three months. Another friend had two 10 lb newborn babies, and her newborn cloth diapers were used for only a few week stint each time. It can vary a lot, and even a medical professional's prediction of your baby’s size can be totally, uselessly wrong, making it hard to weigh (no pun intended) how much money you will end up spending on disposables vs. newborn cloth diapers. Its a bit of a gamble.

Here are a few last pros to investing in a newborn cloth diaper stash, if you are on the fence and unsure if it will be worthwhile for your family. For one, if you or any of your friends or loved ones plan to have more children, your newborn diaper stash will be in fantastic shape to pass along, loan out, and use again; the wear and tear on newborn size diapers is much less than that on one size diapers, since they fit for a smaller window. For two, they are an excellent way to be eco-friendly, if you are quite opposed to the waste that disposable baby products create. For three, and very importantly,....they are just so cute. You might think that’s silly now, but when you snap that first newborn cloth diaper on your tiny, beautiful baby, it will be everything. Picture below for proof.

First cloth diaper on the bum, cutest milestore!

As always, we are here to help answer any questions you may have. Still unsure if newborn cloth diapers are for you? Drop us a line!

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