Cloth Diapering a Newborn – What you Need to Know Before you Start
The Do’s and Don’ts of Cloth Diapering a Newborn
You will probably agree with me that cloth diapering your newborn baby, is beneficial because it eliminates the toxins and other yucky stuff that goes into disposable diapers, from coming into contact with your baby’s skin.
Cloth diapering a newborn may seem daunting, but let me assure you – cloth diapering is as easy as disposable diapering … with a few extra steps. That’s true.
In this article, I discuss the do’s and don’ts of cloth diapering your newborn, to thereby make your journey an easy one.
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DO Buy the Right Size
Apart for the environmental benefits of using cloth diapers, they’re also a great money saver too. Yes, the initial costs of cloth diapers are pretty high but your entire cloth diaper stash could cost you around $600 at the high end, while disposable diapers will costs you well over $2000 (from birth to potty training). So, if you’re cloth diapering a newborn and you want to save money, it makes no sense to buy cloth diapers for newborns, that you’d likely use for a few weeks or as long as 3 months. Right?
Well, actually – you are going to want to rethink that. Yes, one-size diapers are available and can be used for newborn babies to toddlerhood but seriously, you’re much better off starting with newborn sized cloth diapers. Check out Nourishing Souls’ Kate Skero’s opinion – whose blog entitled “cloth diapering – what I wish we’d known before we started“, has received over 7.9K pins at the time of this writing.
Buying slightly large diapers may sound like a good idea at first – after all, baby will grow into them sooner or later – but is it really worth the aggravation because the one-sized diapers may very well be too small for your baby, and his/her poops may escape through the diaper if the fit isn’t good. On top of that, all that extra fabric is just plain uncomfortable; think of how you’d feel with super bulky pants.
Now having said all that – some babies are just big and they fit into those one-size diapers really quickly. Why waste money on newborn diapers if they’ll only wear it for a month or so. It’s an awkward question and you won’t be able to answer that until you have your baby. What many moms and even I would recommend, especially if you’re trying to save money, is to look for newborn-size diaper rental services or mom to mom diapers groups in your area or cloth diaper exchange groups on Facebook. These could be really effective in getting you started for really cheap so that if baby quickly outgrows the newborn stage, you didn’t waste too much money on cloth diapering your newborn. Also consider that newborn cloth diapers can be worn up to 14-16lbs. One-size diapers only start at around 10lbs anyway, so you will need the newborn diapers anyway – unless your baby was born weighing 10lbs.
Also consider that while your baby may wear the newborn diapers for a short period, you will likely reuse them if you have more children. If you do not have more children, you can usually resell them.
DO Consider the Velcro vs. Snaps and Baby’s Umbilical Cord
When it comes to convenience, Velcro will always win because getting the diaper on your baby is so much easier, and you can place the little velcro tab easily and just the right spot to fit their little waists. Velcro is also easier to put diapers on bigger babies, especially when they’re squirming, but you won’t have that issue with cloth diapering a newborn. However, that’s where the benefit of Velcro ends because if you’re not careful and pay attention, Velcro could scratch baby’s skin and the sensitive umbilical cord. If you’re aware of this, you will likely be much more careful when you place the Velcro strap but it’s important to mention, especially as it concerns baby’s umbilical cord.
If you are considering Velcro while you are cloth diapering a newborn, do consider that while they are easier to use, they are not as durable as snaps. This should be something to consider if you want to reuse the diapers for your next child, or sell them.
So while snaps do last longer and are more durable than Velcro, they are harder to get on your baby. Some newborn diapers with snaps come with an umbilical stump snap that gives the stump room without the diaper rubbing against it.
DO Take Special Precautions to Care of Circumcised Babies
If you have a boy and you decide he should be circumcised, diapering with cloth diapers will be a bit of a challenge that first week or two while the circumcision heals. Why? Because your periatrician will likely recommend that you put a healthy dollop of vaseline on his penis every time you change him. Vaseline and Cloth Diapers don’t mix, at all because it will prevent your cloth diapers from absorbing. To prevent the vaseline from coming into contact with your precious cloth diapers, you can put a dollop of vaseline on a make-up pad, then cover that and the penis, with a liner. Tara Porter from PaddedTush.com wrote a great blog on how she dealt with it.
DON’T Underestimate How Many Diapers You Need
It’s easy, when you first buy cloth diapers, to lowball the number and end up completely out of clean diapers when it’s time to change baby’s latest dirty diaper.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Cloth diapers needs to be changed more frequently than disposable diapers. Why? Because disposable diapers have chemicals in them that make the diapers feel dry to baby, even when they’re wet. That way, baby doesn’t feel too uncomfortable. This is not the case with cloth diapers, of course. Once baby wets him/herself, it is felt and it’s often uncomfortable, and that’s the reason why cloth diapered babies need to be changed more often. And now you’re asking – how many cloth diapers per week for my newborn? Newborns go through 8 to 10 cloth diapers on an average day, (don’t worry, this number drops significantly after 3 months), so building up a stash of at least 20 (preferably more) will give you a chance to get through a day without doing a panicked laundry load.
- When you are cloth diapering a newborn, you will likely be very tired from lack of sleep. If your cloth diaper stash is too small, you’ll be forced to wash daily. Allow yourself some breathing room by buying a big enough stash that will allow you to wash every other day.
DO Change Baby’s Diaper Regularly
As I mentioned above, cloth diapers need changing more regularly because baby will feel uncomfortable otherwise, but also:
- the longer it takes you to change baby’s diaper, the greater the risk of baby leaking through his/ her diaper; and
- the long baby has to sit in his/her wetness, the risk of diaper rash increases. This of course does depend on the fabric of the diapers you are using. If you’re using man-made inserts like microfiber, your baby is at a higher risk of diaper rashes. However, with inserts or prefolds or flat diapers made of natural fabrics like cotton or bamboo diapers or hemp inserts , that risk goes down because natural fibers are more breathable and hypoallergenic.
DON’T Overdo It with the Diaper Cream
Just because baby’s skin is red every time you change their diaper doesn’t mean you should reach for the diaper cream. In fact, it could just be a little dampness? Mainstream diaper creams, or creams that aren’t designed for use with cloth diapers, can soak into baby’s diaper and reduce its absorbency, which means even more diaper changes and irritation. This is a big deal – experienced cloth diaper moms have a serious dislike for diaper creams because the cream causes a build-up on your diapers, which as mentioned, causes them to be less absorbent, which means they’ll leak, which means YOU will not be happy. Do try to avoid them but if baby does have a rash and you really do need to use a diaper cream, use one that is friendly to cloth diapers, like Angel Baby Bottom Balm or Baby Diaper Balm.
Better yet, use cloth diaper safe diaper rash cream AND a disposable liner like Baby Tooshy’s Flushable Cloth Diaper Liners to add further protection to your cloth diapers.
DO Be Ready To Deal with Messy Diapers On the Go
Babies wet themselves whenever they please; it’s a fact of life. That’s inevitably going to happen while you’re out running errands or on a family outing, and you need to be ready to contain that mess; otherwise you get to look forward to Diaper Stink following you around until you’re able to change it. Wet bags are perfect for this kind of situation because they’re waterproof and really do a great job and containing any funky smells. Zip-top plastic bags or regular plastic grocery bags may help contain the mess too but not always the smell.
DON’T Wait To Rinse Off Poop
It’s important to get solid messes – poops – into a toilet as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you risk stains, bacteria, general nastiness, and poo getting all over the inside of your washer! Flushable cloth diaper liners are great because they lay on the inside of your baby’s diaper, and is put on your baby like that. It’s like a barrier between baby’s bum and the diaper. Disposable diaper liners are not meant to be absorbent so urine will go right through them, but they do catch baby’s poop. So, once baby poops, all you do is pick up the diaper liners by the corners, and plop it into the toilet. Easy. Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but disposable cloth diaper liners are not all made equally. Some are great, but some cheaper ones are not because you put it on the diaper and once it’s time to change baby, it’s moved all over and was not in place to catch the poop when it came. Of course this is more prominent with older babies who are crawling and walking, but it’s a very frustrating.
Disposable cloth diaper liners, like the Baby Tooshy diaper liners, can be tossed into any sewer-connected toilet with no trouble.
If you’re using cloth liners or no liners, or at a place on a septic tank, rinse or spray the poop into the toilet once you’ve changed baby. You’ll thank yourself for taking that extra step later.
DO Wash Diapers Daily or Every Other Day
Now you’re thinking – “you just told me to try to build up a stash so that I don’t have to do panicked loads, so why do I need to wash my cloth diapers regularly”. Well, letting messy diapers sit around increases the odds that poop stains will set before they can be washed out. If that and the stench aren’t motivation enough, consider the fact that messy diapers will grow mold and bacteria very quickly if they’re not cleaned up often. Ever heard of ammonia in diapers? That comes from letting urine sit for long periods. However, if you can get yourself into a routine of perhaps washing every other day, you’ll avoid the stenches. Here is a comprehensive and easy guide to washing cloth diapers. It tells you exactly how to wash cloth diapers, and answers all questions you may have about that topic.
DON’T Wash Diapers with Fabric Softener
When it comes to washing diapers, keep things as simple as possible. Clear, unscented detergents are your best bet. Yes, you will hear about cloth diaper detergents but if your budget is limited, go with something as mainstream and reliable as Tide. Check out this post from experienced cloth diaper mom, CGMRB and read about how she effectively deals with cloth diaper laundry.
Whether you are cloth diapering a newborn or toddler, fabric softener is a definite no-no for cloth diapers because it will develop a layer on your diapers, which will lower their absorbency rate drastically. Reduced absorbency is not good because it will cause leaks. However, if you accidentally used fabric softener – it’s not the end of the world. You may not notice any change in absorbency but if you do, a few extra hot water washes may bring your diapers back to their previous absorbency levels. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider stripping your diapers, but do not let this alarm you because even stripping can be an easy process.
Scented chemicals also increase the chance of rashes in uncomfortable places.
DON’T Use Diapers Made with Synthetic Fibers – if you can help it
When it comes to cloth diapering a newborn, natural materials like cotton, hemp inserts, wool, or bamboo diapers are your best bet because they are both softer and safer in the long run. Synthetic fibers like microfiber aren’t always the safest or best thing to put near baby’s delicate bottom. They can cause diaper rashes because they do not possess the qualities that come with natural fibers, like the fact that most natural fibers are antimicrobial and breathable.
DO Air Dry Your Diapers, If Possible
It may take longer, but air-drying cloth diapers is the best way to keep them in good shape. On top of that, sunlight is a natural bleaching agent and bacteria killer; one sunny afternoon can take care of nasty poop stains as well as adding bleach to the load!
In this blog, I covered the do’s and don’ts of cloth diapering a newborn. The do’s: Buy the right size, Consider Velcro vs Snaps and Baby’s Umbilical Cord, Take special precaution of circumcised babies, Change baby regularly, Be ready to deal with messy diapers on the go, Wash regularly and Air-dry your diapers if possible.
The don’ts: Don’t underestimate the amount of diapers you need, Don’t overdo it on diaper cream, Don’t wait to rinse off poop, Don’t use Fabric Softener.
In closing – if you’re brand new to cloth diapering and you’re researching the topic before you commit – good for you. You might be a little reluctant because there is so much more to know about cloth diapers, than disposable diapers, right? But, let me put your mind at ease – it may seem hard and complicated but that’s because there is so much information out there. Cloth Diapering a Newborn or a child of any age, is Not Hard. It just takes a little bit of a learning curve. And, moms have been cloth diapering their babies for yonks and millions of moms continue to do it. You can too.
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