Thoughts on Newborn Diapering

I typed up most of these initial thoughts a couple of months ago, but he was still wearing most of the newborn diapers at that point, so I waited to post. Then I slipped a disc, had sick kiddos, planned birthday parties and next thing I know it’s the end of April! 

We started cloth diapering the little guy when we got home from the hospital when he was about 3 days old. I had a large wetbag full of fluffy goodness we took to the hospital, but in the chaos of things it got forgotten ’til morning. After they had already opened a package of disposables (which they can’t use on other patients after it’s been opened) and he had multiple mega quantities of meconium pass through his system, I guess it wasn’t all bad. It was less stressful on my husband who was really supportive about it until a few days prior when he started getting a little stressed out about the fact that he’d be carting it home to wash and was going to be tending to my daughter while I was in the hospital. 

I was a little bummed, because I had gotten so excited about using cloth from the start and raising some awareness (and eyebrows) at the hospital, but my labor accelerated so fast after we got to the hospital my plans changed. I did get to deliver naturally, without medication, which I really wanted to do this round, so at least one goal came through! Does this make me a terrible cloth diapering mama? Although those thoughts have crossed my mind, I know it doesn’t. I had the best of intentions and at least got the diapers to the hospital, right? Oh and the wetbag full of fluffies ended up being my make shift nursing pillow since all the rooms were full (busy Christmas day on the OB unit!) and they were short on pillows and things. 

I started cloth diapering my daughter when she was 3 months old, after the newborn months, and there are some initial challenges I didn’t experience with my daughter since she was older and chunkier. I will note, however, that some of these challenges aren’t exclusive issues to cloth diapers. Since we used a handful of disposables over the past few months and only disposables with my daughter for her first 3 months (and six months overnight), I know that some of the issues are specific to a newborn rather than the type of diaper being used. Newborns are a lot of work (and laundry) and there’s no way around that! So to start I will mention that he was 7 lbs. 4oz. at birth and lost the typical 5% so he was in the upper 6 lb. range for his first couple weeks of life

1. Avoiding the umbilical cord. This was challenging the initial 2 weeks before his stump fell off, so for this reason the newborn specific diapers with an umbilical cord snap-down or similar feature were the first I would grab for (i.e. lil joey and swaddlebees newborn). I did accordion-fold the front of the diapers that had too high of a rise, but these would often unfold and scoot up towards/over his cord stump. Right around when his umbilical cord was ready to fall off we had one of the diapers scoot up over it getting it moist, so it took longer to heal and got icky. This is one good reason to consider a newborn stash if you can afford it unless you know you’re going to have a chunkier newborn. Either way a couple newborn covers and some newborn prefolds won’t set you back all that much if you are on a tight budget or you can just grab some smaller sized diapers to alternate with other ones.  

2. Leaking. Newborns have chicken legs and are so tiny that I end up using a roomier snap, because I don’t want to squish his little legs, which has resulted in some leaking. So although I have been a die hard snap fan, I can see how velcro would be better in some ways for this tiny stage, because you have a lot more adjustability, although you will need to make sure the velcro is not to big, chunky or would potentially rub on their healing umbilical cords. It must be because I am diapering a boy this round, but we have had some leaking in the tummy region as well, but this was mainly when I was waiting for his cord to heal, so I was fastening it a little looser to play it safe for his tummy’s sake. 

Basically, the leaks I have experienced are mainly ones that I knew could potentially happen as I was putting his diapers on, but I’d rather wash a few extra outfits than mess with his umbilical cord area or leave red marks on his little legs before they get their layers of squishy baby fat. After his belly button healed up and legs chunked up a bit, this has not really been an issue (although I have had those leaks from over saturation when I looked at the clock and realized I had forgotten to change the poor baby for an embarrassing length of time. I know you’ve been there!).  Again I felt that XS or newborn sized diapers and covers helped minimize these issues, at least on an average-sized newborn compared to one size diapers so it’s a good idea to have some if not a couple dozen changes ready-to-go. Looking back I wish I had bought some small newborn covers (I only had one wool newborn cover that didn’t fit him quite right and the rest were size smalls and one size…I thought I would have a good 8 lb. baby!) so would recommend that you plan to use them even if it’s only for a few weeks if you have a larger newborn.

3. Bulk. This is a topic that comes up with cloth diapers in general, and although there are many trimmer options now on the market, most diapers are bulky. Newborns don’t roll over, sit or move around much, so the bulk doesn’t affect their activity or comfort, although my husband was particularly concerned about it hurting his back or affecting his nasal congestion when laying him in his crib at night (since their heads can end up a tad lower than their bottoms if it’s too bulky). This is another reason why newborn-sized diapers are nice to have, but if you know you have big newborns or would rather deal with some bulk for the first month or so and save some money in the long run, one size diapers will do the trick. Some things that have helped for naptime and bedtime, especially with the wetzone of a boy, are to use a larger insert and fold the bulk in the front so there are less layers and bulk in the back of the diaper. Newborns also wake so often to be fed and changed that a true overnight diaper is not needed for a little while, although after about two weeks my son started saturating the newborn inserts very quickly and I soon had to start using larger inserts which did bulk his little tushy up a bit. One alternative is to use cloth wipes as doublers in the wetzone to add a little more absorption without as much bulk to stretch them a little longer, but we were using regular inserts after just a few weeks.

4. Lots of Laundry. So this is basically a given when you have a newborn between the dirty outfits and bedding, your soiled outfits, and cloth diapers, but I remember feeling like I was washing diapers and clothes every day and it can be overwhelming when you’re sleep deprived (and juggling other kids). This does get better after the first month or two when they start wetting less and you start getting your groove as a new mom or mom of multiple kiddos. I also had extra laundry, because my son has reflux and spits up multiple times every feeding and even when you think he’s done he’ll surprise you with some more. SO this is the culprit of at least half the extra laundry. We also went through tons of cloth wipes and would need to refill them 1-2 times a day so I was thankful for the large stash of wipes we had, since I often thought I had too many when it was just my daughter. 

So newborn and extra small diapers are lovely to have and can minimize or eliminate some of the issues I experienced above, but expect to have days or weeks where you are run down and wonder if grabbing some disposables would make life easier. I will tell you, though that my husband grabbed some disposables at the store after I slipped a disc in my back in February and it seemed to make things less stressful in the moment, but the extra laundry that came along with the frequent newborn poo blowouts all over his onesies and jammies make me think the grass is always greener on the other side (It was also funny when my husband came home with the package of disposables, because he almost seemed to be sneaking them in the house as if he thought he’d get scolded). 

In conclusion, although it seems like an added expense to your diaper stash, you are still saving money in the big picture by cloth diapering even with a couple dozen newborn diapers. Having newborn diapers truly cuts down on the bulk, leaking and umbilical cord care.  All-in-one and all-in-two systems can make the folding of the loads a lot easier, and and I’d recommend sticking to one or two brands especially for pocket diapers to make life easier and laundry quicker during the busiest first 6 weeks. I had so many different diapers I was trying out that it made it more work for me and made it harder for my husband or anyone else to help out, so keep that in mind when purchasing newborn dipes. The many brands, prints and styles will have plenty of room in your main stash after the first six to eight weeks so you can have more fun shopping then. 

{If you enjoyed reading Thoughts on Newborn Diapering I would be tickled pink if you left a comment. To read more about my green(er) parenting aspirations, advice and adventures be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed or get updates via email.}


By Emi Stapler. I am a cloth diaper advocate, green parenting blogger, mother of three and a military wife who enjoys sharing my motherhood adventures and advice. Follow me at The Cloth Diaper Report on Facebook, Twitter @TheCDReport , Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.

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