Cloth Diapering a Newborn with Wool

After months of scraping, spraying, rinsing and soaking toddler cloth diapers and overcoming the tremendous challenges of potty training, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed cloth diapering a newborn.  I welcomed the simplicity of a diaper that requires nothing… extra, other than the sheer joy of gazing into my sweet newborn’s face while putting a fresh diaper in place.

When our first son was born, we had not yet discovered the joys of using wool full-time, hence the great struggle with stinky polyester covers that never seemed to breathe enough to keep the diaper rash away.

This time, everything is different, and I am thrilled to report that it is entirely possible to use wool full-time, even on a tiny newborn.  Cloth diapering a newborn with wool covers does require some preparation and planning ahead to be sure that you have the right supplies on hand, so we have compiled a few tips to make it as easy as possible.

Fitted, sized diapers will make your life a lot easier when using wool on a newborn.  You will need approximately 2 or 3 dozen fitted, organic cotton diapers in a newborn size.  If you plan on using cloth full-time for your newborn, it’s not a bad idea to invest in newborn, sized fitted diapers, such as the Organic Caboose newborn fitteds or the OsoCozy fitteds, as opposed to a one-size diaper.  You can certainly use a one-size fitted diaper, but we have yet to find a one-size diaper that actually fits a newborn baby, so unless you want a diaper that is so gigantic that your tiny baby can hardly move, it will be well worth the money spent.  Plus, newborn sized fitted diapers typically fit babies between around 7 and 13 lbs, so your baby can wear them for at least a few months.  Compare this to the cost of buying a package of disposables every week, and your savings are big.

Photo courtesy of Organic Caboose

Tie nappies are great for newborns, but with wool covers, they work best only if you have become quite skilled at tying them so that there are no gaps at the legs (to avoid messes inside of your wool cover)

We suggest fitted diapers for newborns because of the notoriously explosive newborn poo!  We love prefolds, flats, and tie nappies, but if you want to use wool full-time on a newborn, you may quickly tire of rinsing out stained wool covers, which must be hand washed.  Fitted diapers are much more effective at containing the orange explosions—far better, in fact than disposable diapers, from which newborn poo inevitably finds an escape route and ends up all over the blankets, clothes, and anything else that was just cleaned.

Wool soakers and newborn babies are a match made in heaven. We love wool soakers for newborns for so many reasons- organic, soft, warm natural fibers keep your baby just the right temperature, warm and dry, and they can wear them all the time!  With so much time spent at home just cuddling and loving, your newborn can wear his or her soaker on its own or underneath loose clothing and stay comfy and warm.  There is really no need for separate day/night covers when using wool full-time on a newborn.  The soft wool envelops their tiny bodies, rising up to the chest to keep their mid-sections warm, and the long legs of the soaker fits a newborn like a little pair of pants, keeping those tiny legs just the right temperature too.  With a fitted diaper underneath, your wool should stay clean enough to require very little washing, which is always a relief for a new mother.  A wool soaker that has been lanolized properly will keep your little one’s clothing and bed dry at night time as well.  If your budget is small, purchase a wool soaker one or two sizes up, which will fit big right now but can be used for many months, if not years.

Another type of wool cover that we adore for our newborn are the lightweight, Engel nappy pants.  Lightweight, breathable, and comfy, these little wool shorts will keep your newborn dry just long enough for you to know it’s time for a diaper change.  Since frequent changing is ideal for sensitive newborn skin anyway and helps prevent diaper rashes, the nappy pants offer just the right amount of protection.

Prep your wool covers in advance!!!  This means before baby arrives, not after.  This must be part of your nesting duties.  If you wait until after your baby arrives, weeks will pass before you have any desire to stand over a sink lanolizing and washing wool covers, so unless you have a family member who loves you enough to do it for you, prep your wool while you’re still pregnant!

This means washing and lanolizing brand new soakers several times, and allowing for a few days of drying time.  This also means prepping your cloth diapers if they are brand new- remember that cloth diapers made from natural fibers must be washed in hot water 3-5 times before they are ready for use. Do not skip these steps and attempt to put a brand new cloth diaper with an unwashed wool soaker on your newborn because you’re anxious to try them out. Skipping this important step will result in lots of leakage.

Have a wool wash bar on hand for spot cleaning.  Despite your best efforts and a stash of fitted diapers that fit your baby well, there will be times when your wool gets messy.  As a new mom, protect yourself and respect those first few precious weeks of recovering from childbirth and bonding with your baby- the last thing you should be doing is washing your wool.  With a wool wash bar, you can easily rinse out stains and rub a little soap onto the stain in less than 2 minutes, set the wool aside to dry, and by the end of the day, your cover will be good as new!  This is a great job to delegate to husbands and other family members who can offer a helping hand.

Most importantly, make sure that cloth diapering is enjoyable for you and your new baby!  If it’s too much, give yourself a break and use disposables for the first few weeks.  We moms have enough mom guilt for the rest of our babies’ lives to stress over extra laundry when we should be resting, so if you don’t have someone doing laundry for you, don’t do cloth, and don’t beat yourself up over it!  Spend every minute you have resting and cuddling with your precious new baby.  Bringing a baby into the world is hard work, and you have earned every minute of this babymoon.


19 responses to “Cloth Diapering a Newborn with Wool

  1. I absolutely love this post, Bethany! The pictures are beautiful and your simple but practical tips for using wool with a newborn are so well-presented. How wonderful that the soakers can not just keep moisture and messes in, but also provide warmth and comfort for a tiny one!

  2. Great post! I started wool at 6-8 weeks but now wish I had started sooner. I was intimated, and didn’t know where to begin! I wanted to add that we used PUL/TPU covers the first 6-8 weeks along with occasional prefolds and mostly fitteds and had no diaper rashes. Also, he outgrew all his newborn diapers in about 6 weeks due to being very long (I am also long and lean so I guess it follows..), and many newborn diapers have a low rise. Just for people to keep in mind–that said, I don’t regret my investment though because it really made a stressful diapering period much easier and we never had a blow out and nary a leak (for first time parents doing only cloth from the get-go–meconium washed right out btw!). Properly lanolized wool is bullet proof and feels amazing…PUL feels so plastic-icky after using it. Also, I can smell when my infant is wet because it pulls the moisture up and out of the diaper–and it has facilitated early potty training communication with him using signing. We use both the Engel nappies and thicker soakers. My son holds it for 12 hours overnight (since he was born) and then unleashes everything in the morning and there are never leaks–he’s the ultimate heavy wetter. Love them!!

  3. Congratulations! Wool is wonderful full time! Enjoy your new baby snuggles

  4. Great post! You offer many good tips on how to use these diapers. Thanks!

  5. Thank you for this post! I’m in my first trimester and I feel overwhelmed by all of the options for diapering a newborn. I think disposables would be cheaper (until you resell, assuming you do) and certainly easier, but I just can’t bring myself to want to use them on my new baby. I used disposables with my daughter until just a couple months ago. She’ll be 3 in March and she’s almost fully potty trained, but I figured I could get my feet wet while I have plenty of time to experiment with detergents and everything so I’m not brand new to it with a newborn. I already bought 2 wool shorties and have been considering using them at night. I never even thought about using them full-time. I think I should get a couple for my toddler too, because she’s over 40lbs already and the Thirsties and Sunbaby covers/pockets I have for her leave marks around her chunky thighs. If I got some wool for her and some XL fitteds (if there even is such a thing!) or prefolds, I think that would be so much more comfortable for her!

  6. Pingback: Cloth Diapering Your Newborn: Diaper Covers

  7. Great post! With a newborn, did you find that you used covers or longies more often? I can’t decide which one to get more of!

    • Hi Sheila, I think it’s nice to have some of each, but I find that I use my soakers on more of a regular basis than my wool longies, so I personally would purchase a few more wool covers than longies. Longies are excellent to have as well, especially if your baby is born during the fall or winter, but soakers are incredibly versatile and can be used year-round- on their own during the summer or underneath regular clothing (or underneath a pair of longies) during the winter. We rely heavily on soakers for night time cloth diapering as well, and often pair a soaker with longies at night. It also depends on how thick your longies are- some can probably be used on their own without a soaker underneath for night time. You might try one or two of each to get started, and you’ll quickly learn what works best for you and your baby so you can later invest in more of your favorites. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  8. Bethany maybe you can help with this: I’m having my second baby in September and want to go with wool covers from the get-go this time: what diapers and covers would you recommend for the umbilical stump period? I am having a hard time finding covers. From your shop it looks like the caboose and kissaluvs fitteds have newborn umbilical snaps (I have some kissaluvs from my son–loved them– but he was 8.5lbs at birth and this will be maybe a smaller girl so not sure if those will fit!), but what wool covers would you recommend? Would the engel nappy covers work (I have some from you that are still in perfect shape which I used with my first). There is no real way to secure them down in the front. I wonder if I could rig something. Would a soaker be too harsh on the umbilical area? From what I remember newborns are so little it’s easiest to use something that you don’t have to pull up like a pair of pants–like the disana velcro cover–but obviously that is too big for a newborn. I have plastic TPU/polyester style covers for a newborn but really want a natrual cover option!! What did they do back in the day?

  9. Thank you for posting this! Did you find that the newborn poop escaped often into the wool cover? I’m afraid that even with fitted diapers, the liquidy poop will dribble onto the wool and need to be spot cleaned with each diaper change. Thank you in advance for your thoughts!!

    • Hi Kati,
      Newborn poop will escape into the wool cover from time to time, but really only with the occasional, explosive blow-out poop that is likely to escape from any diaper your baby is wearing! Fitted diapers do a pretty good job at containing runny poop- better than a tie nappy or a prefold, and much, much better than a disposable! When poop does get onto the wool cover, if you don’t have time to spot clean with a wool was bar right away, just be sure to rinse with water and set it aside to clean later. Spot cleaning is pretty quick with a wool wash bar, and drying is much faster than drying when the entire cover is washed. As long as you have a few extra wool cover to rotate in, it’s not usually too much of an issue. So yes, this is something you will encounter, but probably not with every single diaper change. Even if you’re not using wool, when newborn poop escapes, there’s no stopping it, and you’ll end up needing to rinse runny poop off of something else- a PUL cover, a pair of pants, or even an entire outfit! I hope this helps!

  10. Love my Woolies and totally recommend wool. It is such a great fibre but people often think it’s just for Winter but it is actually the perfect fit for Summer too. Marion 🙂

  11. Thank you so much! This is so helpful. I’ve never cloth diapered a newborn before and I’m looking into wool for the first time. I was wondering how people keep that newborn poo off their wool covers! Do you have any recommendations on economical newborn fitted diapers? I can sew so I might just end up making my own if that is cheaper.

  12. THis is excellent information, however, when reading the LanaCare website regarding their diapers, they mentioned, that the natural lanolin should last a week or so before washing. Do you agree? Or should all wool diapers be washed and re-lanolized prior to using initially.
    Thank you…

  13. If you are interested, we started a facebook group for the tie nappies. Tips and questions etc. Look us up!

  14. Hi there, I’m glad to have finally found a post about newborn wool! I have a couple of questions about how you dress a baby in a wool cover for day/night. Everyone always posts pictures of babies just in the cover with bare legs and tummies, the better to show off the product I guess, but I can’t get my head around what else they should wear! If I’m swaddling at night, will the swaddle just get leaked on straight away? And in the day time, if I just put a T shirt on and keep the cover exposed as pants, even with socks on won’t their little knees be cold and breezy? I’m pregnant for the first time, so maybe these things will become clear once I get started, but for now I’m a bit baffled! I could wait til baby’s onto solids to try my hand at wool, but I’m having a winter baby (July Southern Hemisphere) and love the idea of a cozy Disana cover, especially for those frosty nights.

  15. oursurnameiscloud

    6 years late to the post, but thanks! I am 20 weeks with number two and DH ordered 3 Thirsties covers, but I remember HATING PUL covers and loving our teenie (2) wool stash. We still have one of the covers and I’ve convinced DH that we will return these 3 PUL covers and go straight to Etsy WAHM wool!

  16. Heidi at EC Peesy

    Thanks so much for this informative post! I’ve read it multiple times. I’m preparing for my second baby, expected this spring. I’m planning to use fitted diapers and wool wrap covers during the newborn phase, along with practicing elimination communication. It’s one of the most expensive cloth diapering systems, but I think it will be worth it for the ease of use!

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