When Tamaira Kaster, Circle Leader for Real Diaper Circle for Ventura County, informed her labor and delivery nurses that she would be cloth diapering her daughter from birth they told her, “Yeah, yeah, we hear that all the time. People say they’re going to do it but…” Tamaira was firm and committed though and was quickly able to get the hospital staff on board, even in the face of an emergency C section situation.
I have cloth diapered 3 newborns now. With my first, we waited about two weeks after we were home from the hospital, and had used up the baby shower gifts and “free” hospital diapers before switching to cloth diapers full time. With DS2 and DS3, we brought cloth to the hospital. Like Tamaira, I found that using cloth from birth was pretty easy once I busted some myths and faced my fears. (PS: Did you know this little guy graces the pages of the RDA coloring book? Get your copy here!)
Unfamiliarity with cloth diapers is often one of the biggest hurdles to using them. You may find that you must educate your partner, friends, family and healthcare providers about cloth diapers, before your birth.
We had a great time discussing strategies for using cloth diapers from birth during a recent RDA webinar, which you can listen to here. The biggest takeaway from our discussion is that with a bit of advance preparation, parents can certainly cloth diaper from birth, even if cloth diapers are new for your partner, birth team, hospital, birth center, and even if your birth does not go according to plan.
Reflecting on all of the different personal stories we have heard from RDA Advocates and Circle Leaders, here are our tips for successfully cloth diapering from birth:
Tips for Success
Take a class. Get your partner on board. Write your choice to cloth diaper your newborn into your birth plan. Tell your health care team. Enlist your support team to back you up. Pack the diapers and supplies in your bag ahead of time. Set yourself up for success!
Check to see if you have an RDA Circle Leader in your area for classes and face to face cloth diaper support. If not, many retailers offer regular CD 101 classes and local diaper services are always willing to meet with new parents and demonstrate how cloth diapers work before a baby arrives. The more you make your wishes known to those around you, the more confident you will become, and the more prepared everyone will be. In those first heady moments after birth, you’ll be glad your plan was already in place.
2. Talk to other parents.
Parents who cloth diaper love to talk about cloth diapers. It’s true! We have all gushed about our favorite cute little print, or the adorable wholesome look of a newborn in cloth, or the strange but undeniable joy that a freshly laundered pile of cloth diapers brings us. If you want to know what cloth diapering is like, ask someone who uses them. They will tell you! Our RDA Circles are an excellent place to find parents who can support you face to face in your community. If you prefer online support, try:
3. Build your support network.
Enlist your partner to advocate for your wishes in case you are unable to during and after your birth. If you have family and/or friends helping you in the days after your birth, delegate those first few loads of diapers to your helpers, so that you can focus on your babymoon. Teach them how to launder before the baby comes, and provide them with an RDA Laundry Tip Sheet. Post it by your washing machine and you’ll always be able to refer to it when needed.
4. Build a Stash.
You’ve heard it before, cloth diapering can be a huge money saver for families. Of course, it can also become a serious financial investment if you decide to collect the latest fancy prints and designs, but all the frills and artistry fall into the category of form, not function. Decide what you think you will need first, then choose how to build your stash. You can build a cloth diaper stash on a budget. You can hire a diaper service. Some retailers offer rental programs. If you are having a baby shower, consider telling guests that you will be cloth diapering, and ask for reusable diapers instead of disposables.
5. Jump In!
All of the diapering missteps that occur during the newborn stage are universal. Tiny legs can be hard to fit in both disposables and cloth diapers. However, if you use prefolds, or fitteds, you may find that you can more easily achieve a snug fit on a tiny baby due to the inherent adjustability of cloth. Simply fold down the fabric at the umbilical cord site to allow that area to heal, just as you would with a paper diaper. Meconium is sticky and can stain, but there are many solutions. You can use a liner for the first few diaper changes, or even a scrap of cloth laid over your diapers can catch the first poop and make it significantly easier to clean. Remember, all diapers, both reusable cloth and single use disposables consist of the same basic components, an absorbent layer, and a waterproof layer.
6. Bring what you need, not what you want.
We all know that cloth diapers come in a wide array of adorable prints, styles, systems, and sizes. Indeed, that is part of the fun! By all means, enjoy the ride but consider that in those first moments after birth, a simple no frills system may be easiest for your birth workers, family and friends to use. Prefolds, fitteds and covers will offer you the most flexibility in sizing and laundering simplicity. AIO’s with newborn sizing can also work great but can be a challenge to fit on very tiny babies.
As your baby grows and as your life together develops, you may want to expand your cloth diapering stash and try different diaper styles or brands. Go for it! That’s part of the fun. Once baby starts sleeping longer, or goes through longer stretches between soiling their diaper, don’t be afraid to try new fabrics like hemp or wool.
Above all, remember, all diapers, whether they are made of disposable paper and plastic, or soft natural fibers like cotton and wool that you can launder and reuse, exist to catch pee and poop. They are made up of an absorbent layer, and a waterproof layer. Reusable cloth diapers have the added benefit of being safer for babies, cheaper in the long run, and way more adorable!
Emily Kuhn, Real Diaper Association Board of Directors and Real Diaper Circle, Butler County Circle Leader
Michelle Dominguez, Real Diaper Association Executive Director