Cloth Diapering a Newborn without Breaking the Bank + Pro Tips

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The idea of cloth diapering is often overwhelming to first time parents.  When they hear the sheer number of diapers a newborn goes through each day, cloth or disposable, it becomes that much more frightening.

“You mean I need to have HOW MANY cloth diapers if I don’t want to wash more than every two days?!?!”

I get it.  I was there once too.  I was pregnant and researching cloth diapers and balking at those figures.  Since then (over 3 years ago) parents to be have MANY more choices for newborn cloth diapering.

You can certainly buy 36+ diapers if you want to.  And I know MANY of you want to.  But when you have a budget to keep that just isn’t feasible.  Here are a few options you may not have considered before that will help you stay in the black while giving your new bundle of joy a big fluffy booty.  I have also included a few Pro Tips from my days of newborn cloth diapering at the end.

Rent Newborn Cloth Diapers:

Did you know that many online and brick and mortar cloth diaper stores will rent a stash of newborn cloth diapers?  It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.  Babies are only teeny tiny for a blink of an eye.  Depending on your baby’s weight at birth, they might only be small enough to fit into newborn cloth diapers for a few weeks.  Instead of buying cloth diapers for such a short time rent them instead.

Modern Cloth offers a trial featuring New or Used newborn size cloth diapers.  There are five different diapers to choose from.  More details on their website.

Sweetbottoms Baby Boutique offers a trial of Clover Fitteds (not cheap when purchased new) that equals about 36$ per month.  More details on their website.   

Nell’s Natural Baby offers a KL0 (Kissaluvs Size 0 fitted) trial package. I used these tiny fitteds with Everett and fell in love with them. Comes with 3 Thirsties Covers. More details on their website.

There are many more rental programs with a variety of options, including packages featuring bumGenius Newborn AIO‘s or Fuzzibunz XS.

Pro Tip: I would suggest trying the Cloth Diaper Retailer Database and search for “newborn rental.”  This is updated frequently so while there are only 3 matching now, I’m sure more will list soon.

Use a Diaper Service:

Diaper Services aren’t extinct!  In fact, they are popping up in more and more local communities every day.  Even if you aren’t keen on using one full time due to their price tag, which may be slightly less than using disposables to more than, using them during the newborn period might work better for you than buying a newborn stash while still saving money.

Many cloth diaper services offer options in the short term for the first few months for parents who want to cloth diaper but also don’t want to worry about having to wash diapers while bonding with the new baby and healing from childbirth.  Once you are feeling comfortable with cloth diapers and life as a new mom, you can start using your own stash and laundering at home.

Pro Tip: use the RDIA’s website to Locate a Diaper Service

Buy Used:

I get it.  The thought of buying used diapers is hard for a lot of people to stomach.  If you can get past the barrier of buying something another baby has pooped in, you can score great deals on a newborn cloth diaper stash.  The best part is that, like your needs, the previous owner probably only used them for a short time.

Many Forums offer FSOT (For Sale or Trade) forums for used cloth diapers.  In most cases, like on DiaperSwappers, you can search by the type of diaper- such as Fitteds, Pockets, All-in-One’s, and so on.  My tip would be to search in the Diaper Lots forum.  Often you will find lots with just Newborn Diapers.  Find a good lot and you will save a lot of money and a lot of time.

Other places to find used diapers would be Craigslist.org or Kijiji.ca (for the Canadians).  If you belong to a local Mom Listserve you might post an ISO (In Search of) for newborn cloth diapers.  Or even try looking to Freecycle.org.  You never know!

Anytime you are buying used cloth diapers there are some things to keep in mind: always look at the photo carefully, ask about wear on the elastic and velcro, and find out what type of detergent the owner used.  You may also want to strip your used diapers before using them.  On online forums- check the seller’s user rating and only buy from those with a good reputation to avoid scam artists.

Pro Tip: Buying used is the best way to get the most for your money.  You can find more expensive diapers like All-in-One’s, used, for what you would pay for new Prefolds and covers.

Buy Affordable New Cloth Diapers:

Because you won’t be using your newborn diapers very long, one option that most families choose is Prefolds and Covers.  This is the route my family and I took for my first son as a first time mom.

Prefolds can be intimidating but they work so well!  Most first time cloth diapering families would love to have a stash of All-in-One diapers since they are most like a disposable and are considered more convenient and easy.  Financially they can’t afford that.  24-36 Newborn AIO‘s can run you as much as 300-600$ for what will last 1-3 months, if that!  Instead, buyng Prefolds or Flats and a few Newborn covers is a GREAT option.  I have videos on how to fold Prefolds and how to fold flats.

Here are a few ideas:

Nell’s Natural Baby offers a Newborn Bundle with EVERYTHING you need up to 15 pounds. 3 Thirsties Size 1 Duo Covers or Bummis Super Brite Covers in Small, 30 Infant Prefolds, Package of Snappi’s, and a roll of BioLiners.  $118.00.  More details on their website.

Bummis Newborn Pack (available at many retailers, including affiliate Kelly’s Closet) is a tiny bundle for TINY babies and runs $42.00. It comes with 12 Preemie Prefolds and 2 Newborn Super Brite Covers (which has a notch for the umbilical cord). This isn’t enough to last more than a day so you might think about buying 2-3. This kit is good for anyone expecting a smaller baby or twins since it fits 5-9 lbs. Preemie prefolds are very small and might not fit every single newborn or last long. More details on their website.

Flats- Keeping in mind that flats have a higher learning curve than prefolds, you can also save a lot of money by using them. Flats are versatile and fit newborns and older babies. They are economical. They dry fast. They are cotton and hard to destroy with even the worst wash routine. I have to admit that I have special place in my heart for these simple and effective diapers that have been used for over a hundred years. A dozen will run you 25.00 in the Small size. They fold up to be quite trim. I would recommend visiting the Green Mountain Diapers website to see just how they look on a newborn. I haven’t had the chance to use flats on my own newborns but it seems most people prefer the Origami fold with a twist, which makes the diaper trimmer above the hip to fit under covers. More details on their website.

Pro Tip: Another time saving option is searching my Cloth Diaper Finder for “newborn” in the Size filter, and narrow it by your price range.  A list of results with details on the diaper, and user reviews, will appear.

Borrow from a Friend: 

This is the FREE option!  If you are lucky enough to have friends who cloth diaper you might luck out and “inherit” a newborn cloth diaper stash to borrow.  You could also buy them from your friend; I’m sure they would give you a great deal.  If you friend isn’t local there is still a chance.  I sent my entire newborn stash to a friend in another state.

More Pro Tips:

No matter what option you choose, whether you spend hundreds on adorable, teeny tiny AIO‘s, or spend nothing because you found a whole set on Freecycle, remember that cloth diapering a Newborn is a learning experience.  It could be your 1st or 10th child and you might find yourself having leaks.  Take solace in knowing it isn’t you.  Finding your groove with the diapering method you have chosen can take a few weeks.  Sadly, sometimes when you just get the hang of it your baby has moved up to their One Size Stash or the next size up.  As Alanis Morrisette would say, “Isn’t it ironic, dontcha think?”

If you are having leaks and want to continue using your diapers while troubleshooting the source- try using PUL or Nylon backed mattress protectors under your child when they sleep to save yourself from washing your baby’s bedding, or your own if you bedshare.  I also have a few tips on Troubleshooting Cloth Diaper Leaks.

Other handy tricks:

For the first days of life your baby will be passing Meconium, affectionately called “Tar Poo” for its black and sticky attributes.  You CAN still use cloth diapers!  I did, and the meconium washed right out and the stains were gone within a few washes without even sunning.  You can opt to use flushable or fleece liners during this time if you desire.  Another Pro tip is to coat your baby’s bottom with a light layer of olive oil.  The worst part of meconium isn’t washing it out of the diaper; it is washing it off your baby’s butt.  The olive oil keeps it from sticking.

From experience, you don’t HAVE to use covers or diapers with umbilical cord notches on them.  If you have diapers without the notch or snap down, just leave it a bit loose on top of the cord and stay mindful that it is there.  I did and my baby didn’t die or have any harm come to him.  Remember- his tight onesies and shirts are also likely rubbing that stump.  There are lots of covers and diapers with the dip, such as XS Thirsties, Small Bummis, and many XS AIO‘s have them as well.

My last tip is to RELAX.  Take the challenges, if there are any, in stride.  If a diaper consistently doesn’t work for you then leave it to the side.  If you only have a handful and you keep having trouble and you are pulling out your hair, take a break. There- I said it!  No new mother/father needs to worry about cloth diapers when they are learning to care for a newborn.  If you have to buy a pack of disposables then do it.  In the meantime, ask around online or in your local cloth diaper store for advice.  I don’t like using disposables but in my mind they do have a purpose.  A back-up, a last resort on vacation, a night time solution when all else fails.  No one is perfect and no one can do one thing 100% of the time.  Pick your battles.

For more Newborn Cloth Diaper Resources you can re-visit a few of my old posts from the archives: Cloth Diapering Options For a Newborn {video}, Newborn Cloth Diapers Chart Comparison and Video, and Newborn Cloth Diapers Compared to Their One Size Counterparts {video and chart}

And for newbies I have a list of all of my most helpful cloth diaper articles:  Cloth Diaper Information for Newbies: Cloth 101

I’m always happy to help moms in need as much as I can.  You can leave a question in the comments or post them to my Facebook Page.

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Kim Rosas began Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009 out of a desire to help more parents understand modern cloth diapers. She lives in Florida with her husband of 5 years and her two boys. Even though none of her boys wear diapers anymore she is still just as committed to promoting them. In her spare time Kim enjoys video editing, photography, and coffee.
  • Rachel

    Thank you! I’m planning to use a combination approach when I have my first baby next month…some flats, prefolds, x-small Best Bottoms inserts, and possibly some disposables during the meconium days. I appreciate reading both your positive experience with washing out the meconium diapers and your reminder to relax!! I know that I’m committed to using cloth, but it won’t be the end of the world if we use a few days of disposables while we’re getting things figured out. (I’m planning to also cut up a few old tshirts to use as disposable inserts during those first few days, so I’ll have options!)

  • Laura Cooper

    I am diapering my current, and third, newborm for nearly nothing. I am using preemie prefolds, NOT the expensive speciality sized newborn ones, and cheap used covers, mostly XS Thirsties (the very first version, without crossover aplix!).
    I have 4 dozen preemie prefolds, and 6 covers. The preemies pfs are the same length as specialty newborn, just not as thick, so I use 2. I got the prefolds for $6/dz shipped (its possible, with patience and good Googling) and all 6 covers for $16ppd. I have $40 in my newborn stash, and its working just as well as the big, varied more expensive stashes I had for my other two.


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