Nappies for newborn babies

Many of the cloth nappies sold nowadays are called "Birth-to-Potty", "One-Size" or "One Size Fits Most".  These generally fit from about 4kg right though to potty training (on all but the chunkiest of toddlers or children who potty train late).  However, they don't fit newborn babies at all well, even big newborns, because new babies are so tiny and their legs are so skinny.  You can buy newborn sized nappies but these may only fit for a few weeks if your baby grows fast and so can work out very expensive.

(1) One solution to this problem is to just use disposable nappies (preferably eco-disposables) for the first month or two until your baby is big enough for Birth-to-Potty nappies.  Relax, get to know your baby, get feeding well-established and then think about saving the planet and using cloth nappies.

(2) A second solution is to borrow or hire a set of tiny nappiesThe Nappy Lady has some but they do tend to get booked out months in advance.    Alternatively there may be a nappy library located near you who can lend you some tiny nappies.  You can find out from the UK Nappy Network map

(3) A third solution is to just buy some tiny nappies of your choice and to hell with the cost.  If you plan to have several children, or can pass the nappies on to a relative or a friend, this isn't such a daft idea.  Some special newborn nappies (such as Close Pop-in Newborn, Li'l Joey Newborn and TotsBots Teenyfits) are really very small and will only fit for a few weeks - nice for premature or especially small babies - other brands last for the first few months.  Baba+Boo Newborn nappies are lovely little pocket nappies that will fit from birth for 4-5 months.  They have extra rows of elastics inside to catch explosive milky poo.  If you fancy a two-part nappy, with separate wrap, TotsBots Bamboozles and wraps in size 1 fit a new baby and LittleLamb and Easy-Peasy nappies come in a newborn size. Tjs Cloth Nappies sell good quality tiny wraps at a very reasonable price

(4) A fourth solution is to buy some very cheap and simple old school flat nappies, some Nappi Nippas to fasten them, some tiny waterproof covers (=wraps) to go on top, and then learn how to fold them.  It's not very difficult and the nappies are surprisingly effective. If you are only planning to use these nappies for a few weeks, you don't want anything too thick or too big - muslin nappies or size 1 prefolds are probably best.  When I had babies (back in the Dark Ages, when all babies wore cloth nappies) we used to use the same thick, fluffy, full-sized terry towelling nappies on our babies from day 1 right through to age 2-3 years.  (The midwife showed you how to fold them before you left hospital.)  The nappy completely covered a newborn baby from armpits to knees and it was quite a hilarious look. I don't think many mums would be happy with this nowadays!

Here's a bit of help with terminology.  There are 3 main types of flat nappies.

Terry squares.  These are traditional British nappies made of squares of fluffy terry towelling - your mum may have used these on you.  They are normally made of 100% cotton but bamboo+cotton mix are also available.  They are usually 60cm square but you can get 50cm for little babies and 70cm for toddlers.  Beware of getting anything too thick if you want to use it on a new baby as it will be hard to fasten neatly and will make their bum look huge.   I sell cotton terry squares in the Nappy Shed shop but only the 60cm ones. Bamboo+cotton terry squares are lovely and soft and absorbent but a bit thick and fluffy for a newborn

Muslin squares.  These are 70cm squares of thin cotton fabric (muslin) - so thin that you can just about see through it when you hold it up to the light.  These are mainly used as burp cloths and general mopping cloths and are only absorbent enough to work as nappies on tiny babies - but they can see you through the first few weeks. You can use two at once if you need more absorbency, or add a bamboo booster in the wettest area at the front and between the legs.  Muslin squares are used a lot in other parts of the world but they are generally bigger than our muslin squares and so can be used on bigger babies.  They're ideal for a hot climate.  There are various ways of using a muslin nappies and I've shown a few below.  You can buy muslin squares from the Shop section of this website.

 Prefolds.  These are huge squares of muslin or similar thin cotton fabric that have been folded (hence the name) and stitched to make a smaller square or rectangle. There's a strip down the middle that's 3-4 layers thick but the sides are just 2 layers thick.  They come in 2 sizes - size 1 for use from birth to about 6 months and size 2 for bigger babies.  Bambino MioDuo (which used to be called Bambino MioSoft) are prefolds.  (Not to be confused with Bambino MioSolo all-in-one nappies). 

MerryGoRound sell prefolds and all sorts of flat nappies to fit new babies.  TJs Cloth Nappies sell very tiny wraps to fit newborn babies at very reasonable prices.


There are lots of ways to fold flat nappies.  Here are a few to try with tiny babies.  Any fold that is used on a big baby, using a big terry square nappy, can be modified for use on a tiny baby with a muslin nappy. Start by folding the corners of the muslin to the middle to make a smaller square of double thickness.

There are dozens of other nappy folds. Try Google and The Nappy Lady website!



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The simplest way to use a muslin nappy or prefold is to just fold it into a pad and place is neatly in a tiny wrap, then put the wrap on the baby.  The trouble with this method is that it doesn't catch runny baby poo well and poonamis can be a problem.   Poo may run over the edge of the nappy on to the wrap so you need a clean wrap at every nappy change - and then you find you haven't got enough wraps! 

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With the Pad Fold, the nappy is just held in place by the wrap so the wrap needs to fit well.  The best sort of wrap for this is one with double seams on the legs (generally called "gussets") such as LittleLambs, Muslinz,  Tjs or Motherease Rikki wraps.  The outer part of a Close Pop-in newborn nappy can be used with a little prefold or muslin nappy instead of the pads supplied.

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This is a fold for Prefolds.  The nappy is folded up at the front or down at back to make a rectangle of the right size for the baby and then the sides are folded in.  You can also roll the sides instead of just folding - then it's called a Jelly Roll Fold. The folded edges help catch the poo.

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The folded nappy is wrapped round the baby and fastened with a Nappi Nippa.  When you put the wrap on top, be careful to get all the nappy tucked inside or it will wick wetness through to your baby's clothes (and yours!)

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JO fold (Stage 1)

This is a variant of the Angel Fold for use with a muslin nappy.  Start by folding the corners of the nappy into the middle to make a smaller square.  Then fold the nappy in three to make a pad.  You can use this as it is and hold it in place with a good wrap (Pad Fold) or move on to stage 2

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Jo fold (stage 2)

Open out the top to make wings and fold the front up to make it small enough for your baby.  Wrap round baby and fasten with a Nappi Nippa. Tuck loose edges inside. Once you've got a nice wrap on top it will look neat and tidy! Make sure all the nappy is tucked inside the wrap.

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The kite fold 1

This is the fold that I used on my babies.  It's very easy and works well using a thick terry square on a big baby too.  Start by folding a muslin nappy corners to middle (as for Jo Fold) then fold sides to middle to start making the kite shape.  If the nappy seems too big fold the sides in further, overlapping them.

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kite fold 2

Fold down the top and fold up the bottom as short as it needs to be for the size of the baby.  Wrap round baby and fasten with a Nappi Nippa.  You'll need to tuck the nappy up and under around the legs to get a good fit and so that your baby can move their legs.  This also acts as a barrier and helps reduce poonamis.