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How many cloth diapers do I need?

Posted by Bryana on 12/15/2011 to Getting Started

One of the first questions a cloth diapering newbie faces with a bit of trepidation is the question, “How many cloth diapers will I need?” Most people agree that a good number of diapers to have is 18 if you want to cloth diaper full time and wash them every other day, but this answer might not suit for everyone. How many diapers you have will really depend on your baby’s age, and on how often you wash diapers. In order to know how many cloth diapers to buy, you should count the amount of diaper changes you typically do in a day and multiply it by two or three so you only have to do diaper changes every day or every other day. It is not recommended to let dirty diapers sit for more than two-three days before they’re laundered so even if you do buy enough cloth diapers to hold off laundry for longer than that, you need to make sure you wash diapers 3-4 times a week. Here are some suggested numbers for you to go by based on your baby’s age.

Full Time Cloth Diapering

Newborns start elimination slowly, but a day or so after they’re born they’ll start needing a diaper change just about after every feeding. They feed every 2 hours which means 8-12 diaper changes a day depending on whether or not they sleep through the night or not. If you have a newborn and you want to use cloth diapers full time and wash them every other day, you should have 18-24 diapers.

6-18 months. Somewhere in between newborn and toddler, your baby will gradually change their elimination schedule and only you can be the judge of how many diapers they will need based on how often you change them and how often you do diaper laundry. At this stage, it’s still good to have 18 or more diapers in your stash. This is often a time when parents will modify their cloth diaper stash to accommodate more flexibility in the thigh and waist for baby's added comfort. If your newborn stash was made up primarily of prefolds, you can re-purpose them as burp rags, changing pads, or diaper doublers.

Toddler. By the time a baby becomes a toddler, they have often learned to alleviate themselves less often. On average, a toddler will need a diaper change 5-8 times a day. If you have a toddler or an older infant and you want to use cloth diapers full time and wash them every other day, you should have at least 12 diapers. A potty training child might only need one or two diapers a day—usually just for night, or if they’re out in public. So, if your child is potty learning, you should only need 4-6 cloth diapers, but I’d invest in some pull-up style cloth training pants as well.

As you can tell, there is really no need to become overwhelmed with the question "How many diapers should I buy?" Though it might alter slightly, overall you can count on needing 18-20 cloth diapers for a full-time cloth diapering system from birth to 18 Months. If you are cloth diapering your baby part-time, and using disposables at night or out of the house, you can cut that number in half. This said, it’s good to remember that like any other item of clothing, diapers that are worn less often will last longer. If you do choose to have a large stash of cloth diapers, it means that each individual diaper will get worn less often and will, thus, will last longer.

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