Options for Diapering a Newborn

Many parents-to-be worry about how to approach cloth diapering a newborn or whether they should both with cloth diapers at all during the newborn phase. While most “one-size” diapers claim to fit from birth through potty training, a number of parents have found that one-size cloth diapers are far too bulky on newborns and don’t fit properly around those skinny chicken legs characteristic of newborn babies.

Diapering a Newborn

What can you expect from diapering a newborn baby, anyway? A few special considerations…

  • The first couple of dirty diapers you change will be full of a sticky black odorless substance called meconium.
  • You need to take caution with the care of the umbilical cord area for the first week or so, until the cord stump has fallen off and the belly button has healed.
  • You’ll be changing 10-14 diapers a day, including throughout the night.
  • Your baby’s dirty diapers will be very liquidy, but won’t smell too offensive.

None of the special considerations for diapering a newborn should give you any reason to shy away from using cloth diapers from the get-go. However, each option for diapering a newborn has its own set of pros and cons. You’ll have to decide what your biggest priorities are before you can choose the best newborn diaper strategy for your family. Do you want convenience? Maximum cost savings? The ability to try some different cloth diapers before investing in your own? Make a list of what matters most to you, and I’m sure you can find a newborn diapering strategy that will suit you!

Rent Newborn Cloth Diapers

Many cloth diaper retailers offer newborn cloth diaper rental packages as a way to help introduce families to cloth diapers. A typical package contains 24 diapers or more so that you can do diaper laundry about every other day. Most rentals last about 3 months, which is the average amount of time it takes for the average baby to grow into “one-size” diapers. Expect to pay an upfront fee that consists of a refundable deposit and a non-refundable rental fee. Prices will vary depending on the types of diapers in your rental package and whether you rent new diapers or used, but expect to pay about $10-15 per week (in nonrefundable fees). It will be less expensive than using disposable diapers, and you can try out several different kinds and brands of cloth diapers to get a feel for what you like. Find a retailer near you and ask if they offer rentals!

Buy Newborn Cloth Diapers

If renting doesn’t appeal to you, there’s nothing wrong with buying a full stash of your own newborn diapers. It could be the most expensive option in terms of upfront cost (unless you go with something very basic), but if you use the newborn diapers on more than one child you’ll likely save money in the long term. If you don’t love the diapers your bought or you don’t plan on having any more children, you can also turn around and sell those diapers when you’re done using them. With only a few months’ use, they should still be in excellent condition and you can likely recoup 60-70% of what you paid if you purchased them new. (But who says you have to buy new newborn cloth diapers? Save even more by buying used newborn cloth diapers – provided you keep them in good condition, you can probably sell them for about the same amount you paid!)

Use a Cloth Diaper Service

If you’re lucky enough to have a cloth diaper service in your area, consider using their services for the first month or two to ease you into the routine of cloth diapering a newborn. While your choices of cloth diaper systems may be a bit more limited, it’s a great way to try cloth diapers out without a large upfront financial commitment. Plus, you don’t have to do the laundry yourself – and who wouldn’t enjoy that kind of service when you have a newborn to care for?!

Use Disposables for a While

Gasp! Is it blasphemy for a cloth diaper advocate such as myself to mention this? Still, a lot of moms (particularly first-time moms who are feeling nervous about their new responsibilities) decide to use disposables for a while so they can adjust to life with a new baby. This may be the most expensive option for diapering a newborn, though – Seventh Generation newborn diapers cost $0.39/each; assuming you change 12 diapers a day, you’ll be spending about $33/week with no way to recoup any of that cost.

How did you go about diapering your newborn? Would you do it that way again?


  1. Judith Martinez says:

    I’ve used disposables on most of my newborns. That is mostly because I’ve been given enough disposables as gifts to diaper for free for at least the first 2 months.. Since the budget is the primary reason I cloth diaper free disposables wins over cloth every time. Interestingly enough no one gave me any diapers when I had my first two. That was 18 and 21 years ago and I had a diaper service until my 2nd one was about 4 months old.

  2. I use BG 4.0 with snaps that I bought new when I had my first. I used disposables until she was 3 weeks old and by then, she was plump enough around the legs for them. With this one (4 weeks away), I bought a big box of Kirkland diapers on sale (less than 15$ for 160 diapers), and I will go through these before switching to my BG. I make big babies, so that helps!

  3. I intended to use cloth from the first minute in the hospital, but as I was a little wiped out at the time, the nurse just grabbed a disposable and put it on my baby… so in the end, we used the disposables in the hospital and when we got home started cloth. We used newborn dipes for about 8 weeks but then my baby grew so fast we quickly moved on to regular one-size diapers. I do use disposables for rashes and sometimes at night because finding a night time solution is challenging. 🙂

  4. Katrina Steiner says:

    LO was 10 lbs at birth never fit in the newborn diapers