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Using cloth on a newborn

Newborns can go through a lot of nappies, and we do mean A LOT! Because their colons are so short, waste matter passes through their bodies so quickly that they are constantly wee'ing and pooping. Most people do need to change multiple times in the night in the early days regardless of whether they use disposables or cloth. It is never advisable to leave a baby in a poo nappy due to the high chance of getting an infection.

Here is a general guide to cloth diaper'ing a newborn.

Which style is best for newborn?

In recent polls run on SACNU, the consensus is that most people like prefolds, flats and covers. They are economical, easy to wash and have sufficient absorbency to hold a new baby's output. They may not suit everyone's needs as they require folding and snappi'ing. Although you can also just padfold them and lay in a cover, which is easier. Newborn flats and prefolds can also be used as boosters when baby gets bigger, therefore it is the more affordable and practical choice for newborn cloth.

Newborn pockets are easy to use and can be quite cheap. They are often tricky to stuff because they have such a tiny pocket. Newborn pockets generally get outgrown quicker than prefolds and flats.

Newborn AIOs are extremely convenient as you don't have to try to piece together nappies while holding onto a wriggly baby. They require no post-laundry prep. However, they can be costly and are outgrown (and outpeed!) very quickly.

Fitteds are usually very popular because they can absorb a large volume of newborn pee. They can, however, be bulky and take longer to dry.

Conclusion: Most moms will agree that it's nice to have a variety of all these styles as sometimes you feel like using one type and the next day, you feel like using the other.

It is also perfectly acceptable to use both cloth and disposables as you take time to adjust to life with a new baby.

How many do I need?

The answer to this question always depends on what you have available. If your weather is warm and your nappies dry quickly (or you have a tumble dryer), you need less.

To wash every day, we'd recommend 24 changes. To wash every second day, we'd suggest 36. To wash every third day, we'd suggest 48.

The Calculations

Is it economical to use newborn cloth nappies?

(Please note these are average prices and may not reflect all brands; some will be cheaper and others more expensive)

Newborn AIOs: 

36 at R200 = R 7,200. 

Newborn Pockets:

36 at R150 = R5,400

(not easily available in South Africa)


8 x newborn PUL covers at R100 = R800 

36 x prefolds at R100 = R3,600

Total: R4,400


8 x newborn PUL covers at R100 = R800

36 hemp flats at R80 = R2,880

Total: R3,680



8 x newborn PUL covers at R100 = R800

36 flannel flats at R30 =  R1,080

Total: R1,880


R3 per nappy x 12 per day x 30 days in a month x 4 months =

Total: R4,320

It is also possible to rent newborn packs at about R1,000 a month. The benefit is that you would get a variety of styles to try out in a rental pack and could try many different brands and types before committing to buy your one-size stash. You would have to return them though and would not be able to sell them and get some of your money back. Bear in mind, these will be used nappies too (but they are sterilised and stripped by the rental companies).



It's perfectly possible to cloth diaper a newborn and still save money. Take into account as well that your newborn stash can be used on a second, third or more baby and/or resold to recoup some of the cost. There is a good secondhand market for newborn cloth and you could even opt to buy second hand to save on costs. 

Many parents regret not buying a newborn cloth nappy stash as they anticipate only needing to use disposables for 2 months and plan to switch to OSFM cloth nappies at 4/5kg. OSFM cloth nappies tend to be quite bulky on a smaller baby, so if bulk bothers you, we would strongly suggest that you consider investing in a newborn cloth nappy stash. Small flats & covers can be used up to around 8/9kg at which point you can switch over to OSFM cloth nappies and get a great fit.

Not everyone uses cloth just to save money though. Many people are content to pay extra for newborn nappies because they prefer cloth against their delicate skin and want to do their part for the environment.. Either way, using cloth on your newborn is a good idea!


Can I use one-size fits most (OSFM) on a newborn?

It depends entirely on the brand but the vast majority of one-size-fits-most (OSFM) will not fit a newborn baby. One-size nappies tend to fit from about 5kgs (bear in mind they will be on the bulkier side until around 7kg or so) so unless you have a very large baby, you'll need an alternative. That's where newborn nappies are useful.

How long will I use newborn nappies for?

Some newborn nappies can last up until 8/9kgs which is usually around 5- 6 months. Again, it depends on brand and style though. Some newborn nappies will no longer fit from about 2 months. Remember that if you choose prefolds or flats, you will still be able to use them as boosters later on. Newborn nappies also have quite high resale value so you can usually make some of your money back.

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