Reader Q+A: Cloth Diapers and Tummy Time

A reader recently asked for Tummy Time tips for a newborn wearing cloth diapers. This mom noticed the bulk of the diaper shifted her baby's weight towards her head. She wondered if this was making Tummy Time harder and if I had any suggestions. 

Do Cloth Diapers Make Tummy Time Harder? 

Potentially, yes. Although it tends to be a minor and very temporary concern. The physiology of a newborn's body proportions (very head-heavy) and positioning (hips and knees slightly bent, arms folded close to the body) will naturally shift weight toward his upper chest, shoulders, neck and head during the early weeks of Tummy Time, regardless of what type of diapers you use. I recently shared how valuable this sensory input and stretching of this early Tummy Time is - even before baby can really lift his head well

We cloth diapered in the beginning (before that plan was hijacked by recurrent yeast diaper rashes in cloth diapers) using old-school trifold diapers in a newborn size with thin Thirsties covers. I have to say that I never noticed it making a big impact on Tummy Time - BUT I've also seen babies with other forms of cloth diapers that appear much bulkier. Some of these thicker cloth options might elevate baby's hips, create a concave curve of the spine and affect weight distribution in Tummy Time in the very early weeks. 

Note that as baby begins to stretch out of his womb position and push some through his arms and lift his head in Tummy Time, his weight will naturally begin to shift toward his pelvis. He'll also likely have added some fat to his midsection to help reduce the gap between diaper height and belly height in Tummy Time. So any cloth diapering challenges to belly-down play are very-short term. Here are some tips to help in those early weeks when your tiny baby is sporting a bulky diaper:

SUPERVISED napping in Tummy Time (eyes on baby within arm's reach). All unsupervised sleep should take place on the back and on a firm, flat sleep surface.

SUPERVISED napping in Tummy Time (eyes on baby within arm's reach). All unsupervised sleep should take place on the back and on a firm, flat sleep surface.

Tips for Tummy Time in Cloth Diapers

Pad your Tummy Time surface

It's important for strengthening and sensory benefits that baby get plenty of Tummy Time on a firm surface but that doesn't mean it can't be covered with a soft padding like a folded fleece blanket. A softer surface will allow the bulk of the cloth diaper to sink down a bit. 

Much of our guy's earliest Tummy Time was either on our bodies or on his soft sheepskin rug on the floor or on our coffee table. Note that BOTH of these situations were closely supervised for safety (eyes on baby within arm's reach). A softer surface will also be gentler on baby's healing umbilical stump. 

Use a thin blanket or towel

Tips for baby Tummy Time in a cloth diaper.

A folded thin receiving blanket or towel can be placed under baby's upper body to raise it just a bit to the same level as the bulky diaper. In the photo here, I used a folded muslin receiving blanket to lift baby's upper body to match the bulk of the diaper. (*don't panic about this pale baby's color or the fact that he's wearing his diaper over his clothes - he's my trusty doll model dressed this way for demonstration only). Again, closely supervise your infant.

Naked Tummy Time

That's right - if the diaper's in the way, who needs a diaper?! With the right set-up, you can let your little one enjoy daily naked playtime. Learn how this is great for your baby's sensory development plus tips for keeping it mess-free. It won't be practical for every Tummy Time, but it will give your newborn the experience of Tummy Time free of the extra bulk of a cloth diaper. 

Need More Tummy Time Tips and Ideas? 

Books filled with great play ideas for your kiddo from birth to Kindergarten: