The most budget-friendly newborn (and in fact any size) cloth diapering option is flats with covers. Flats can be anything from the terry squares our moms used to birdseye cotton flats (popular in the US) or even just improvising with something like a receiving blanket. Essentially it is a single layer fabric that you fold (using a variety of different folds) to fit your baby and then fasten onto your baby using a snappi, boingo or pins. Since flats on their own are not waterproof you will need a cover to put over it - either a PUL, fleece or wool cover.
Doing the Flats and Handwashing Challenge for the first time last year I compared the commonly used and freely available terry squares with the more unorthodox option of receiving blankets. In terms of trimness and absorbency receiving blankets were hands down my favourite of the two and it is definitely the option I would recommend for newborns since it is so much trimmer than the terry squares. Price wise receiving blankets work out to cost about the same as good quality terry squares and their prints make them a lot cuter.
I've had quite a few people ask me how to fold a receiving blanket to use on a newborn baby, so below I demonstrate my favourite fold, the Jo-fold, using a small receiving blanket on A's doll.
1. Lay your receiving blanket flat on the floor, print side down. The two short sides should be at the top and bottom.
2. Fold the bottom up - this controls the rise (ie the length of the nappy). You will have to guess and eyeball this at first, then try on your baby and adjust down or up according to how long you need it to be.
3. Now fold the two sides in - this is what controls the width on the waist of the nappy. So you can fold it in more or less depending on your baby's waist. Again, there will be a measure of trial and error with this, but you will soon figure out how much you need to fold it. Of course, there is still quite a bit of adjustability possible since you will be folding it around your baby and securing with a snappi.
4. Fold the top down - this again controls the rise. You could choose to skip this step and instead fold the bottom up more in step 2. But it's easier to adjust this back part once you try it on your baby since the sides are already folded in.
5 & 6. Fold the right side of the square/rectangle shape you now have in about a third of the way. Repeat with the left hand side.
7 & 8. Now fan out the top part - first the left and then the right hand sides. This forms the back waist of the diaper.
9. Place your baby on top of the diaper, with the back waist part level with your baby's waist.
10. Bring the bottom part up between babies legs - you might want to fold the sides in slightly to get a better fit between your baby's legs.
11. If the front comes up a bit high on babies waist, you can fold it down a little as I have down here. This is also a good option for little boys as it gives extra absorbency up front where they tend to wet the most. For a little girl you might choose to rather fold the back down.
12,13 & 14. Bring the back 'wings' of the diaper around to the front of the waist and secure with a snappi or pins.
15. Lastly - add a cover over the entire diaper. You can choose to use either a PUL cover (as pictured on the left - this is an Imagine newborn cover) or use a fleece cover (as pictured on the right - this is a Hippie Safari size small cover).
And that's it! Your baby now has a cute, custom-fit diaper on plus a cover to ensure no moisture escapes. And the best part is that you will be able to keep using the receiving blankets as your baby grows, plus of course they can also be used as actual blankets, burping cloths or nursing covers. All you will need to buy extra as baby gets bigger is bigger covers. Not only is this a very affordable option, but I think it looks super cute on!
What do you think? Would you try this on your baby? If you have tried it, please share your experiences!