You’re about to read advice on how many cloth diapers do I need from a mama who wants ALL the diapers.
Okay, joking aside, it is helpful to make a distinction between how many cloth diapers you actually NEED and how many diapers will make things more comfortable. That is, how many cloth diapers are essential to ensure that you will always have a clean cloth diaper on your newborn versus how many diapers would make lifeeasier?
How Many Reusable Diapers Do I Need?
The short answer is, “It depends.” The number ofcloth diapers you need will depend on a number of factors and will also change over time. A lot depends on your baby's needs, as well as your diaper style preference, budget, and lifestyle. Here are a few things to consider before deciding how many cloth diapers you need:
Doing the Diaper Laundry: How Often Do You Plan to Wash?
First things first, how much do you love doing laundry? How many diapers you need will largely depend on how often you’re able to wash them.
The more often you’re able to wash your diapers, the fewer diapers you’ll need. If you can wash your diapers daily, you might get by with just enough diapers for each day, with a few extras. Conversely, the longer you go between washes, the more you need. Visit our wash page if you need a few tips onhow to wash cloth diapers.
Considering Cost and Style of Cloth Diapering
If you're looking for a cost-effective diapering system, using waterproof covers with inserts, flats or prefolds is the way to go. These diapers are less expensive, and you won’t need as many of them. That's because you can reuse the cover until it becomes soiled.
So, if you’re using covers with an absorbent inner, you’ll need at least 12 inserts and 4 waterproof covers per day for a newborn. Covers have the added benefit of being easily hand-washed, and they also dry very quickly.All-in-two diapers with snap-in inserts work similarly to this system.
If you decide to use all-in-ones or pocket-style diapers, you will need the total number of diapers between washes.
Yet Another Point on Laundry for Cloth Diapers
The more often you wash your cloth diapers, the more they’ll show wear and the shorter the diaper’s life will be. If you would like to resell your diapers or preserve them for future babies, washing the same diapers every day or every other day can seriously wear them out.
If your preference is to extend or preserve the life and value of your diapers, you may want to have enough diapers to prevent washing the same diapers too often. Having enough diapers to rotate wear helps extend your diapers' life and value.
So, How Many Newborn Cloth Diapers Do I Need?
A newborn typically eats every two hours and, on average, requires a diaper change on that same schedule. A newborn can pee as often as every hour, and I’m pretty sure my twins had a bowel movement every…single…time they ate. That roughly translates to 12 diapers in a 24-hour period.
On this schedule, if you plan on washing your diapers every other day, you’ll need 24 newborn cloth diapers to make it between washes and have time for drying. That being said, there are moms who have made it work with as little as 16-18 diapers.
Drying cloth diapers can take some time. Some diapers dry more quickly and will be ready for use shortly after laundry, while others have a longer drying time.
Stay-dry diapers have a waterproof shell that’s separate from the absorbent layers, reducing drying time.Flats and other diapers made of organic fabrics tend to dry more slowly because they have multiple layers.All-in-one style diapers take longer to dry than prefold or flat diapers because they’re so thick.
If your diapers are quick-drying, you may be able to use 16-18 diapers if you’re on a daily wash schedule. However, if your diapers take a longer time to dry, you’ll need a few more diapers to carry you through until laundered diapers are ready for your baby.
And How Many Cloth Diapers for Toddlers?
As your baby gets older, they’ll pee less often and will be able to go a bit longer between changes. Hopefully, your little one will also be sleeping through the night, or at least most of it, and will not require a diaper change for a 10-12 hour period.
During these older stages (6-24 months), your baby might need anywhere between 5-10 diaper changes throughout the day. If you’re washing every other day, you’ll need 18-20 diapers to maintain this schedule.
As a rule of thumb, prepare for the unexpected. Your baby may pee and poop on a less predictable schedule, and things might change from day to day, so it’s still good to have a few extras.
Again, you could get by with less if you wash on a daily schedule, but you’ll need more if you decide to go longer between washes.
How Many Cloth Diapers To Make Things Comfortable for Mom
Now that you’ve some idea of how many diapers you might NEED, let's talk about how many diapers would make things a bit more comfortable.
Although some folks go several days between washes, the general recommendation is to wash diapers every 2-3 days to avoid stink, ammonia, and mildew. If you’re doing laundry every other day, I would recommend having enough diapers for three days.
For three days of diapers while washing every other day, a newborn (0-6 months) will need at least 36 diapers, an older infant (6-15 months) will need 24, and at least 20 for a toddler (15 months). Of course, these are averages and estimates, and a lot will still depend on your baby’s toileting habits.
If you’re still uncertain, here is a general formula for how many cloth diapers your baby needs:
Number of diapers per day ✕ Days between washes + One extra day of diapers = Total diapers needed
That’s Nice, But I Have More Than One Child in Cloth Diapers…
Well, so do I! Multiple kiddos in cloth mean more laundry and likely more laundry more often. With multiple babes in cloth, you might not be able to get away with longer times between washes.
The upside to all the laundry with more than one in cloth is that you’ll never have to worry about bulking up your diaper laundry. The same logic would apply regardless of how many you have in cloth. Depending on your little ones’ ages, you’ll need enough diapers for each child's stage that works with your wash schedule.
What I Did When Using Cloth Diapers
I decided I wanted to cloth diaper my twins as soon as I brought them home. I anticipated my babies would likely be on the smaller side, so investing in newborn sizes seemed worthwhile. I struck a balance between utility and cost by gettingprefolds and diaper covers. I started with 16 covers and 48 prefolds.
Although this worked really well for us, now that I’m more experienced in cloth, I would’ve gone with an all-in-one newborn option for ease and convenience. My husband and helpers struggled with the prefolds anddiaper covers.
Right now, we use all-in-twos for daycare, but we have as many shells as inserts because daycare uses them as all-in-ones.
If your baby or babies will be in a daycare that is willing to do cloth, you might want to discuss how often they’ll be doing changes. You’ll also need to decide with your provider whether you’ll be sending diapers daily or enough for a couple of days at a time. This will also impact how many diapers you’ll need.
The Final Tally: Wrapping Up: So, How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?
If deciding on how many diapers you’ll need still seems like a daunting task, just remind yourself there truly is no one right answer.
- Consider your baby's age at the point you’ll start using cloth.
- Decide how often you would like to do laundry.
- Consider your budget. (Remember, you can always add more later.)
- Think about what style of diaper you would like to use.
- And don’t forget that emergencies happen, so add a few extras when you come to a number.
A helpful point to remember when choosing cloth diapers is that the more you have, the less often you need to wash them, saving water and energy. Many parents have found that investing in a diaper sprayer can be a huge help in rinsing off the diapers before washing, helping to reduce stains and smells. It's an additional cost, but well worth the convenience.
Moreover, when your child starts eating solids, you may want to add a diaper liner to your cloth diaper routine. These liners are placed in the diaper to catch the solid waste, making the cleanup easier. The liners can be disposable or reusable. The reusable ones just need a rinse and can go right in the wash with the diapers. This is an extremely helpful piece of cloth diapering that is often overlooked but can really make a difference, especially when you're out and about.