It’s common to start using cloth nappies once you’re baby is a little bit older, around the three month mark, mainly because having a newborn can be enough work as it is without adding in loads of washing to the fuzzy, messy mix of it all.
However, if your baby arrives and you’re feeling strong physically and mentally, using cloth on a newborn baby is actually super easy. I’d packed some ‘biodegradable’ nappies (here’s why I’ve added that pesky apostrophe around biodegradable) in my hospital bag but, asides from one weekend away, I found using cloth from day one and around the clock on tiny Abe very straightforward. Bear in mind, newborn babies are smaller, less wriggly, and their poo is far more palatable before they get to the weaning stage. OK, let’s dive in…
How many nappies do I need?
Unlike disposable nappies with their polymer beads and various plastic components, reusable nappies are made from cloth, are chemical-free and by their nature, are less absorbent and require frequent changing (every 2-3 hours). You’ll therefore need a healthy stash of clean nappies – depending on the material of the nappy and how fast drying it is, as well as how often you want to do a wash, around 20 nappies should be fine if you are washing every day, or 30 if you’re washing every other day. (By the way, popping a nappy wash on is such an easy and helpful job for a supportive partner / mum to do). The good news is that newborns are teeny and so your nappy options are basic and wide-ranging – read on for more info!
Which newborn nappy should I go for?
Firstly, ignore the realms of complicated wording around different types of cloth nappies (one part, two part, pocket, all in one – it’s so unnecessarily complex!) and follow the simple rule: you need something absorbent and something waterproof over the top. Secondly, I recommend different types of nappies depending on the scenario. For example, if you’re out and about, you might want something simple to put on your baby, if you’re using cloth overnight, you might want something especially absorbent and if you’re on a strict budget, you might be looking for a more economical option. Let’s break it down a little…
1. The Straightforward Option
I loved the Close Parent Pop In which is termed as an ‘all in one’ and is definitely the most straightforward nappy to use – these were the ones I took to hospital to use straight after birth and that Sam preferred to use. Suitable for babies between 5 – 12 lbs, the front section is contoured to sit just below the umbilical cord and the nappy itself is very slim and intended for the lower wetting, high frequency changing during those first few weeks. I treated these nappies as my ‘luxury’ item as they really were so simple to use with super cute patterns, a lovely fit and surprisingly absorbent – the bamboo viscose terry soaker has 5 layers.
These nappies lasted Abe until he was about 4 months – finding pre loved newborn nappies or reusing for subsequent children will all help save money over time. Alternatively, why not look in to hiring a newborn nappy kit? Remember, the overall saving of using real nappies can be £600 less than using disposables (source). A box of ten double-sided newborn soakers and six newborn outershells (which can be wiped clean and re-used if not soiled – you just switch the soaker over) currently retails at £47.99.
2. The Economical Option
I hadn’t use pre folds or muslins before but due to how economical, quick drying and versatile they are, I was keen to give them a go this time round with Abe. And if you’re wanting to use reusables from a little bit older and don’t want to invest in specific newborn nappies, muslins / pre folds and a wrap are a great option until your baby gets that bit bigger and can go in to birth to potty nappies. Prefold nappies are simply cotton rectangles with a thick absorbent layer in the centre and need to be pinned close around the baby and topped with a waterproof layer – a plastic or wool wrap. I wasn’t too fussed by the wrap (remember too, this can just be wipes clean between wears, only the absorbent part will need changing) – I used a combination of gNappies, Ecopipo (anything with a double gusset = more elastic to keep everything contained!) and wool wraps. Some mothers swear by the Motherease airflow wrap though I’ve not tried this.
A quick word on wool: Wool and lanolin have natural benefits which make them a perfect cover for a cloth nappy – they’re the most breathable cover of all (great for teething and when wee gets particularly potent), waterproof and antibacterial. Just remember to treat the cover with lanolin (the stuff that makes sheep waterproof) – this makes the water bead against the fibres and ensures no wetness soaks in. It’s remarkably effective! Lanolising properly is really easy – try Little Pants soluble lanolin sachets. Oh and wool wraps don’t smell – wool doesn’t pick up any smell of wee. In fact, if they’re not soiled, they only need washing about once a month – just air dry them and only relanolise if the’re feeling wet in any way. I bought some second hand Responsible Mother wraps second hand from Facebook or try Sloomb for something extra special. Otherwise find yourself a lovely aunt who loves knitting! Oh and make sure they don’t find their way in to your washing machine with your other nappies – washing them at high temperatures will sadly ruin them.
In terms of folds – again, it doesn’t have to be complicated – remember that our grandmothers were folding nappies day in day out but if the idea of a safety pin or ‘nappy nippa’ worries you, this might not be the best option for you. Pre folds, muslins or terries with a wrap over the top are by far the most economical nappy system and I found them excellent at containing runny breastfed poop because they’re pinned so close to the exact shape of the baby. Though be aware – the more wriggly the baby gets, the trickier it might become to keep them in place for pinning! Don’t forget muslins either – a folded muslin does the job perfectly, is cheaper and dries extremely quickly.
Mainly, keep it simple – there were many times I simply used a fleecy cloth wipe with a plastic wrap on top. And remember – pre folds and muslins can be kept afterwards to use as cloth wipes or boosters for bigger nappies when your child is older. Ecopipo pre folds currently retail at £5.50 per nappy – they have a soft layer of cotton velour on one side and a layer of bamboo on the other side with an additional absorbent bamboo layer at the core with a wrap over the top. Alternatively, grab a pack of 12 muslins for £15.95.
3. The Nighttime Option
I’d definitely recommend a two part nappy for nighttime simply because they’re so much more absorbent and leak proof. Thats a lot of material for wee or poo to have to get through! I used the size 1 TotsBots Bamboozle and Peenut wrap (you can use any wrap..) which fit from 6-18lbs and have been through all my kids and fitted Abe until he was 5 and a half months. Also as Abe got older, I started to use a booster at night to add absorbency. And yes, your baby’s bottom will look pretty bulky and yes, some sleepsuits might be a little tight, but I think we can look past that! Also – you can of course use these for the day time too – you just might find an all in one nappy easier if out and about. Try a Peenut wrap for £12.99 with a Bamboozle .
Anything else I should know?
How does it work with the umbilical cord?
Simply make sure to do the nappy up underneath the umbilical cord and lower on their waist to allow for air to get in and around the stump. The cord really wasn’t a problem at all, and it dropped off by itself at around day 10, as is totally normal.
Any trouble with nappy rash?
Nope, never. Cloth nappies are chemical free, and in addition the upside of the more frequent changes with cloth nappies is that the chances of nappy rash are also lower.
Hang onnn, what about the meconium?
Meconium might look like tar but it washes right out in the machine. If staining is ever an issue, pop your nappy in the sunshine (either outdoors or by a sunny window), and let the sun work its magic. If you’re really concerned about staining, you could also pop a liner in. It’s worth mentioning too that there’s no need to flush newborn poo down the toilet first before washing – just whack soiled nappies in to your wet bag or bin.
What if my baby starts leaking?
This is most likely down to an ill-fitting nappy – try to pop along to your local nappy library or alternatively, try adding a booster to enhance absorbency of the nappy. Facebook also has a tonne of very useful groups where people post photos and might be able to advise.
Whilst we’re here, what works best for wipes?
A damp cloth wipe works great as it’s so soft for a newborn’s bottom. Once used, just pop it in the nappy bin (or wet bag if out and about) and wash with the nappies.
I used a combination of the above options until Abe was about 3/4 months or around 12lbs. At this point I switched to birth to potty All in One during the day – I mainly use Bambino Mio Mio Solos and I haved moved on to the next TotsBots size for overnight.
Starting on cloth from day one with Abe, stopping hundreds of nappies going to landfill and keeping his bottom chemical-free, has been simple and satisfying, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a go. Do you use cloth on your newborn? Or are you pregnant and considering giving it a go? Either way, drop some thoughts below.
P.S. Epic cloth nappy Q & A and My Cloth Nappy Washing Routine
We have used cloth from day 1 with both of our sons! My second is just 3 weeks old now and we love love love cloth diapering. The first time was a few hundred bucks start up cost. This time we’ve spent $60 total replacing only diapers that were worn out. Less than $200 per child and about 60 total diapers between them with half being biodegradable cotton prefolds and wool covers. My sister is having her first 3 months after us and will be using our newborn stash for a third baby! For newborn we do a combination of prefolds with wool cover at night and pocket diapers during the day. For OS we do prefolds with a cover at home and on weekends, and save pockets for daycare and Dada.
YES to all this Noel, thank you for sharing how you’re working with cloth. love it xxx
Hi! I am from Durban, South Africa, am 39 weeks pregnant with my first baby! I stumbled on your site today. So happy I did! We are very keen to use cloth from the start. What tips do you have for setting up your changing system, especially at night time? I still can’t picture how it all works with the dirty nappies.
hi and congrats ! i have to say we dont have a changing station or change at night so not sure im much of a help! you’ll navigate it wonderfully though and work out what works best for you x
We have used pop ins since day one and cloth wipes. I have Bambino Mio to switch to when the bubs is a bit bigger. After reading this I bought the bamboozle and peenut wrap for over night as I was having to lift the little one to change her over night. The combination of bamboozle and peenut has done the trick! She stays dry all night – thank you!!
ah YAY! so happy to hear that x
We started cloth diapers with our first and bough them new. Unfortunately due to bad research I ruined some of the elastic on the shells but a good friend took them to her grandmother and she helped put new elastic in. 😊
We are planning on having one more (4 babies total) and love using cloth. We are not perfect and used disposal diapers when we were moving every 2 to 4 weeks due to our house under construction and not having an easy access to a washing machine but now that we are back home we are in the swing of cloth diapers again.
My husband was helping me pre make them last night and mentioned how amazing it was that we will use these for 4 kids and how he loved using them. I thought it would be hard to get him on board but sometimes I think he likes using them more than me. ♥️
love the part about your husband – sort of feel the same over here with mine! p.s NO ONE is perfect. x x
I like Baba and Boo and bought most of them second hand.
Bambino mio stě also quite good as all on one but for the price and only one microfibre is a joke. Always have to boost with bamboo otherwise I would have to be changing nappy all the time.
Apart from week in a hospital we are 1 year in a it is worth not to contribute to more waste, save money and not using chicals on his bottom 🙂
yes yes YES! p.s i also boost my Bambino Mio x
I’ve been using the bambino mio newborn wrap with the booster for my 6week old, but i find it leaks a lot and I’m not sure if the synthetic booster is good for his bum. Have you used these? Is the booster meant to lie with a certain side up!?
I’ve also just purchased some second hand bamboozles which I’m really exited to try out!
I’m living in Northern Ireland where there isn’t so much reusable nappy love, so your blog is one of my favourite help sites!
i havent tried their newborn nappies but i do know they have amazing customer service so perhaps pop them a line ? what makes you think its not good for his bum? Bamboozles rock! x
You are inspiring me to use reusable nappies for my third baby- would you recommend 1 newborn pop in set or would I need 2 sets minimum? Happy to wash regularly… thank you 🙂
1 newborn pop in set IF you have some other nappies too xx eg. pre folds and covers xx
First time round, we had birth to potty nappies and my son was too small for them until he was 6 weeks old. I hated seeing so many disposables going in the bin, so was determined second time round to have some newborn nappies too, so we could use cloth from day 1. I managed to find a set of pop in newborn nappies second hand, and they were so simple to use!
YES! newborn pop ins are super, arent they x
Thanks for such a brilliant article! I’m 31 weeks pregnant with our first baby and so far we’ve bought a set of the two part little lamb nappies in the smallest size and plan to use those, hopefully from newborn. I am slightly worried that they might be a bit big initially – the wraps seem huge and I can’t help thinking that they’re going to come up above the umbilical cord stump? I’ve got plenty of muslins too so I guess worst case scenario I should be able to fashion something out of them!
We are planning to use cloth. I’ve bought 6 pocket nappies and a totsbots newborn kit of 15 (love that totsbots use recycled plastic bottles to make the wrap – double the positive impact). Still feel nervous about making it work with the umbilical cord at first as neither seemed designed for this. I’m hoping I can fold them down or something. Also planning on buying little lambs two part for night time. I have had a lot of giggles and funny looks from families who don’t think I’ll manage which makes me even more determined! Hearing its possible and fairly easy is refreshing!
it is TOTALLY possible, you so got this. And when you don’t, there’ll be a little leak and you’ll keep learning. Any questions at all, just shout. Big love x
exactly! if they’re too big then a muslin + wrap will be perfect. best of luck eleanor <3
This was so helpful thank you. I’m 36 weeks pregnant with 3rd child and planning to use cloth nappies this time round. I am a bit nervous as it’s my first time so thinking to start after a week of arrival. Wish me luck.
Where can I find a nappy library in my area I would love to go to a demonstration.
ah, so exciting Maryam! check out http://www.uknappynetwork.org/find-a-library.html x
I have a question – I noticed some of the absorbent part is outside the wrap on your picture, is that ok? It didn’t cause leaks onto clothes? I’ve got in such a muddle trying to contain all of the absorbent part that I gave up with that idea. I then tried loads of others but they look so tight on her belly so they are not loose on her legs I stopped using them too.
I feel so sad our cloth journey is not going to plan, any help gratefully recieved!
yes ideally, the entire absorbent part should be covered. the reality is with newborns though, that you’re changing so frequently, it’s not too big a deal. which nappies did you try?
Since sending this I was inspired to try again and found petit lulu wraps, which have solved the problem and they look so cute and comfy. I got so hung up on it being perfect. I now use old muslins with some sort of boosters in the middle fasten with a nappi nippa and wrap over the top. I was making it far to complicated. 🙂
We’ve been using prefolds with our seven week old baby (also Abe!) since he was two weeks. Find that they leak way less than pampers and the washing is totally manageable. Cloth wipes also much better at getting him cleaned up easily. We love the Thirsties wraps which aren’t too bulky and use Bummies organic cotton prefolds.
Highly recommend going to a demonstration at a nappy library. Joy at Nappy Ever After in East London was super helpful in breaking down the confusing terminology and showing me how simple pre-folds could be. Made me realise we could do it!
yes you are NAILING it Antonia! And yes, Joy is wonderful isn’t she. P.S Hi fellow Abe ! x
This is super helpful! We’ve been using a combination of prefolds and fitted nappies on our 5 week old and it’s been so easy, much easier than trying to use cloth on a wriggly toddler!!