Prefold cloth nappies for newborns, a flexible and economical option
Why bother with reusable nappies for newborns?
Newborn babies go through 10-12 nappies a day! That’s around a thousand nappy changes in the first three months. That’s a lot of waste… and a lot of money. If you plan on using OSFM modern cloth nappies until toilet training having separate newborn cloth nappies reduces the wear and tear significantly on your main stash. So they will be in better condition for resale or for your next baby.
It’s definitely not necessary to pressure yourself to use cloth nappies from birth but if you are wanting to take the plunge from birth don’t be afraid. Using cloth nappies from birth (or near birth) is great because it so quickly becomes your norm and you don’t know any different. It also means you can control what products, chemicals, and fabrics are against your newborn baby’s delicate skin.
To successfully cloth from birth preparation and research are your best friends. It’s a great idea to have a changing station set up and ready to go with everything you need (we’ll talk prefold specific accessories later in this series but check out some general cloth accessories here). If you worked out your wash routine before the birth that will really help in those early days. Writing it down isn’t the worst idea, it means other people can put a load of laundry on for you and when you’re sleep-deprived you don’t have to try to remember things. Also, don’t forget to get a dry pail with plenty of ventilation, a plastic laundry basket is perfect. Being set up before baby comes will make everything so much less stressful. You can also prep your prefolds before bub arrives so you're already to go, see how to do that here. That said, newborns have such small bladders that your prefolds probably won't need to be fully prepped when bub arrives.
So why specifically use prefold cloth nappies on a newborn?
The brilliance of prefolds lies in their simplicity. They unfold flat and contain no delicate parts like PUL or elastic. This makes them economic, durable and customisable.
Prefolds derive their name from the idea that they are “pre-folded” down from a flat so they already a smaller size and contain more absorbency where you need it – in the centre strip. They’re broken into thirds with usually twice the absorption in the middle panel. This means some of the hard work is done but they still fold out flat. This is great for drying because you have maximum surface area and this is even more helpful as newborns go through so many nappies a day.
Those first few months involve a lot of nappy changes no matter what you do and using a dedicated newborn nappy system can come out to about the same cost as disposables so it’s not the practical choice for everyone. However, prefolds are an extremely economical solution, coming out to half or even a third of the cost of disposables. We have luxury bamboo prefolds which are stretchy, soft and beautiful. They are excellent for getting a tight but gentle fit around skinny legs and are so soft on baby’s skin. While they are more expensive than the cotton prefolds they are definitely cheaper than using fitted or all-in-one newborn nappies. The most economical option is our cotton prefolds which are around $5 each! Personally, I’m a big proponent of a mix in stashes, a trial pack is a great way to test things out and see what works for you. Bulk out your stash with prefolds and maybe keep a couple of all-in-ones up your sleeve for the odd grandparent change or middle of the night poo. Either way, if you’re not in a position to buy newborn modern cloth nappies this slightly more traditional option is a great way of getting bub into cloth from birth without breaking the bank. Remember the upfront cost of cloth always seems a little daunting but that’s only because disposables are like a slow leak out of your wallet. And remember as always, this cost breakdown is for one baby. You’re saving so much more when you use them on multiple children or if you on-sell them!
Speaking of washing, this is where the simple structure of prefolds shines again because they don’t contain PUL or elastics so they are a lot more durable than an all-in-one or fitted newborn cloth nappy. Newborn poo varies a lot, some people can get away without even rinsing it and some have stains no matter how good their wash routine is. Try a stain spray or Napisan paste if you’re having problems. But remember one of the great things about prefolds is they’re quite hardy and can handle hot washes and Napisan soaks.
Newborn poo can be a challenge, it’s a bit of an escape artist. The two-part system of a prefold and waterproof cover is ideal for explosive and runny newborn poos as it is your best bet for containment. If anything escapes the prefold it will get caught in the cover. They’re totally bomb-proof! Our double-gusseted covers are on the larger size so there’s lots of room to grow into them and your baby can get tons of wear out of them. The gussets make it easy to get a great leg seal even on tiny newborn chicken legs. They are nice and soft at the top and the velcro is further down so the cover can fold down over the velcro and protect that soft newborn skin.
Because prefolds are flat and will fit all babies well it also means you can buy them before the baby comes and prep them so they’re all ready and waiting when you are. We’ll be discussing prepping your prefolds next week, but the short story is (like all natural fibres) they need a few washes to build up absorbency.
There’s no such thing as a bad fitting prefold because you customise it to your baby. Using different folds you can tailor the perfect fit for the skinniest of baby legs. There are a few different folds to try and we’ll cover them soon but watch the video below to see the most basic fold, the angel wing.
As Vicki demonstrated, prefolds are a bit more fiddly than say an all-in-one or all-in-two but the great thing about newborns is they don’t move very much. No newborn is crocodile rolling off a change table while you work out how to use your Snappi. They lie patiently there while you work out how to do this whole nappy thing. This is true even for disposables, it takes a while for that muscle memory to set in and you start feeling comfortable. (Another great reason to cloth from birth, you only have to master one thing).
One last awesome thing about buying prefolds for a newborn is they’ve got longevity as baby grows. They are great for extra inserts in your all-in-two nappies and also as boosters for night nappies. (Check out more information about night nappies in this blog or podcast)
The key with everything when a baby is concerned is trying not to be too hard on yourself (easier said than done, I know). If you have some bad days and use disposables don’t stress! Remember every cloth nappy you use is one less single-use nappy in a landfill so don’t pressure yourself with perfection. Have a look at our prefold options here, feel free to email or call Vicki if you want to talk through the options for newborn cloth nappies. Prefolds really are such a fantastic option for newborn cloth. They are often over-looked but this slightly more traditional option offers flexibility, economy and longevity.
PS - Still feel like prefolds might not be for you? Check out our other newborn cloth options in this video.