Newborn Cloth Diapers

For our first baby, we used a diaper service. For our second baby, I was feeling more confident I could handle washing our own. I was dreaming about making diapers. I had made a handful of flats for my first baby after she was over a year old, but felt modern-style diapers would work out better all around for us. I still had all the wool diaper covers/soakers I had made my first, so I did not want integrated covers.

After looking around on the internet and comparing the available free patterns, I decided to try out Darling Diaper’s free newborn diaper pattern. (Mama Kat is a great blog, by the way—she has made all manner of diaper patterns and taken pictures of them on real babies, along with side-by-side comparisons.) After some deliberation, I decided on the “smaller NB” size, because I figured second baby would be a small & skinny baby like her sister, full term or not. (She turned out to be 7+ lbs at 37 weeks, but I digress.)

newborn cloth diaper - showing padding sewn to inside pieceThe first one I made as a pocket diaper, then promptly realized it’s just too small to stuff on a practical level. The rest I made with the padding quilted right into the diapers. For the padding, I used scraps of the cotton flannel and such, as well as 100% cotton quilt batting. I got the batting idea from Little Comet Tails tutorials.

newborn cloth diaper - finished diaper outside & snappiedI also knew I wanted my homemade diapers to fasten with a Snappi. I was familiar with them from diaper service days, still had some, it would give a precise custom fit (important on my first, super-skinny baby), and it would save me the time/hassle of adding fasteners to the diapers. In my previous experiments making flats, I had learned that up/re/down-cycling cotton flannel receiving blankets (also my plan for these diapers) didn’t give consistent “catchability” results with the snappi during real use, even when it seemed the fabric was “snappiable.” For those earlier flats, I ended up layering cheap flour sack towels outside the cotton flannel, and that is what I did for the fitted diapers as well. I either used a flour sack towel or a layer of (dismantled) garage sale Gerber prefold diaper material as the most-outside layer. In other words, I had 3 pieces of the main diaper pattern for each diaper: the cotton flannel inside and a 2-layer “snappiable” fabric outside (as it was thinner fabric). The 2 outside pieces I quilted together before assembly according to pattern directions. I also added a little padding to the wings/tabs as I thought a mere 3 layers of fabric would not be enough protection against the snappi’s “teeth.”

newborn cloth diaper - close up of lock stitch on bias tape
newborn cloth diaper - showing bias tape being threaded with elastic

Another way I thought I’d be clever, was to use bias tape as my elastic channel on the outside of the newborn diapers, since quilting the padding in meant you could not turn them inside out, etc. I wanted the elastic to be easy to replace, thinking & reading about cloth diapers generally outliving their first set of elastic. I wanted to be able to pass these diaper down to my siblings if they wanted to use them, make it easier for them to repair if needed. So, you’ll see that (blue) bias tape in these pictures, but after using them I will tell you now, I ripped all bias tape off all of the diapers I made this way. I did not envision the diapers in real-use correctly. The bias tape doesn’t stay “outside” the diaper away from baby’s skin, the leg openings touch the baby’s skin at the edge of the inside/outside seam… and the bias tape was too rough/chafing.

newborn cloth diaper - showing bias tape before elastic newborn cloth diaper - showing bias tape after elastic newborn-diaper-6_webkm

So, like I said, I ripped it all off, sewed a channel 5/8-inch inside the leg seam, ripped out the topstitching in same area, ripped out little openings in the seam between the inside/outside fabrics, and pulled my elastic through and repaired the openings in the inside/outside seam. Much softer! I made all new diapers without the bias tape and got the elastic in the legs the same way, except I skipped topstitching the legs in the first place so the only seams I was ripping out were the opening holes for threading the elastic in. Another change I made when ripping the bias tape was skipping the elastic on the back. I felt a smooth back was probably more comfortable for a newborn (back to sleep) anyway, and skipping it meant I had a functional diaper that much sooner for a baby already born by this point.

Related Misc

newborn cloth diaper - on babyThe diaper cover shown in the photo is a Real Nappis newborn size; a six-pack on Amazon was the most economical newborn size I found. I didn’t start making wool covers for my first baby until she was older; I had rented PUL preemie and newborn covers from the diaper service. I didn’t get any newborn wool covers made, save for a pair I had made just for fun years ago.

And, because I never did finish all the newborn fitted diapers I had intended to make, I filled in the rest of my stash with some small, thin flats my mother had found at a garage sale. In the pictures below, you can see the same diaper flat folded to be used like a prefold, and origami folded. Green Mountain Diapers has a lot of information about flats and folding methods for them. In the end I had about 50-50 flats and homemade fitteds for the newborn phase.

diaper flat on newborn folded as prefold diaper flat on newborn origami folded

After we moved on from newborn size, I sewed velcro on some of the fitteds so that my older daughter could use them as play diapers. The small newborn size is perfect for this, and she had plenty to satisfy her desire to diaper every doll and stuffed animal she owned. :)

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