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Cloth Diapering a Newborn

newborn cloth diaper
You may ask why cloth diapering a newborn is different than diapering an older baby. It is different for a number of reasons. Newborns have thinner thighs, affecting the fit. Newborns have runnier stools, which can be a leak issue. New babies have umbilical cord stumps which can get in the way of the diaper. Newborn babies also eliminate very often. If your newborn baby is your first, then you will also be in the process of learning how to diaper. We are happy to try to help with tips and information that will help your venture into cloth diapering successful from the start!

Fit tips:

You will want to choose a diaper that fits a newborn well, otherwise you will have leaking. You can expect a newborn to weigh between 6-10 lbs. The diaper will need to fall below the belly button until the belly button heals. You may want to choose a diaper with an umbilical cord cutout, or you will have to fold the diaper and/or cover down to fit which will create extra bulk. Newborns typically have skinny thighs, and it is important that the diapers be snug at the leg openings as well as the waist. Note: Generally, one size diapers do not fit newborns!

What if your baby is premature?

If your baby is a preemie, then you will need to purchase preemie diapers. Fitted diapers or fastened prefolds will be your best leak-proof options, especially when dealing with liquid breast fed stools. Many people choose to use disposables until the baby fits into newborn diapers, but there are cloth options.

How many diapers?

You will need about 12 diapers a day for a newborn, sometimes more. We recommend that you wash every other day, meaning you will need 24 + diapers in rotation. If you choose to use a two piece system such as prefolds/covers or fitteds/covers, you will also need about 8 covers. If you plan on fastening prefolds, you will need to buy a few fasteners such as a Snappi.

How do I know what kind of diaper to choose?

We suggest a trial program to find out what type of diaper will work for you before buying a whole stash. You can also try prefolds and covers if you sign up for a diaper service. You can find a list of Thirsties retailers that offer our diapers in a trial here. Note: Please keep in mind, you will have leaking once in a while no matter what diaper you are using!

Nighttime diapering

You will want to make sure that the diaper you use at nighttime is absorbent enough to last 3+ hours between feedings. What you use in the daytime for 1/5 hours or 2 hours may not last for extended periods at nighttime. You do not want to intentionally wake the baby up to change the diapers, unless they are soiled. Newborns do not go a lot at once, but go very often. Fitted diapers and prefold diapers are good nighttime options.


You can practice on a doll or teddy bear before the baby is actually born. That way, you will not be so nervous when your new bundle arrives! If using a two piece system, you will want to make sure that the diaper is tucked into the cover to avoid wicking (liquid leaking onto the cover). You will want to make sure that there are no gaps around the waist or legs. You can see a great article on how to change diapers here.

Diaper Changes

Give yourself some extra time at diaper changes, and keep extra diapers, wipes, and wipe spray within reach. Always have a towel/diaper handy at the changing station to "block" any explosions or sudden leaks - newborn babies are notorious for going again after you have wiped them! Newborns also produce a lot of gas, and this makes their bowel movements more explosive. It is a wise idea to lay a prefold diaper or towel over the diaper area while changing.

newborn cloth diaper

How do I wash the diapers?

We recommend washing your cloth diapers every 2 days. You will avoid a lot of headaches if you follow the manufacturers’ washing instructions to wash the diapers. You can print out a copy from the website to keep by your washer until you get the hang of it. Use a cloth diaper safe detergent. If you have a High Efficiency machine, be sure to use the HE instructions. If you want to cloth diaper but do not want to wash the diapers, you can enlist the help of a diaper service.

What do you do with the poo?

Newborns have liquid stools until they start eating solids. Babies who are exclusively breast fed have stools that are water soluble, and thus it is not necessary to rinse the soil off before washing. If that makes you cringe, then there are diaper sprayers that you can hook onto the toilet’s water supply. If using a diaper sprayer, you simply take the soiled diaper, hold over the toilet, and spray the soil into the toilet. You then put the diaper in the diaper pail until wash day. Babies who are formula fed do not have stools that are water soluble. You will need to scrape or rinse off the soil from the diaper. To scrape, some use a spatula and dispose in the toilet. Or, you can use a diaper sprayer as outlined above. Many parents stay away from cloth diapering because of “The Ick Factor”. The truth is, having a baby has its icky moments whether you cloth diaper or not! Icky, sticky, dirty, gross, funny, precious, innocent, heart-warming… it all comes in one package. Cloth diapering is one way to care for your baby in the most natural way possible. Enjoy that little bundle of joy - this stage does not last long!

Thirsties Live: Cloth Diapering a Newborn

Please send any questions you may have to ~Sonya
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  • Oh very helpful, we usually start cloth at 4 months but this time we’re starting right away!

    Catherine Bedford Wilke on
  • This is a great resource to help us to prepare for Little One. Thanks for a great post! Can’t wait to try out our prefolds and Thirsties Duo Wraps!

    Erica on
  • This was very helpful, as a fifth time mom but first time newborn cloth diaperer it answered pretty much all my questions!

    Alicia on
  • Very informative! I have a 2 1/2 year old girl and I’m switching her to cloth to get some experience with cloth diapers for my baby boy due in 7 weeks. I know even with getting experience with my toddler it will be different for a newborn!

    Jessica on
  • Great post…Thanks! Every question I had about cloth diapering a newborn has been answered!we didn’t use cloth on our first child until she was about 6 months, and still then it was part time. With our second I had three small pockets and two thirsties fitteds/one cover for the early days. This time I am ready…and you bet thirsties is part of that! :)

    Nichole Gibson on

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