“How many cloth diapers do I need?” That is an excellent question, and answers vary from person to person. It is probably a question you are asking yourself if you are considering cloth diapering. You need to ask yourself some additional questions before answering that question, so in this article, I hope to answer those for you!
- How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?
- Which Types of Cloth Diapers Are You Using?
- Create a Diaper Stash
- How Often Should You Wash Cloth Diapers?
- Always Have a Backup
How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?
The standard answer is twenty-four diapers, and here’s why. Cloth diapers need to be either washed or sent out with a diapering service. Most people wash their diapers every other day, and the average newborn diaper use is eight to ten a day (1).
I had about 36, which is becoming the new normal. This allowed me more breathing room with drying because I did not have an outdoor space, so air drying took longer. Having extras in your cloth diaper stash means you can leave some clean ones in your diaper bag. It also allows some breathing room if your baby uses more than the average diaper use per day here and there.
For a two-piece diaper system like Flip or Econobum, you should have at least eight covers and twenty-four inserts. You can typically use a cover 2 or 3 times before needing a change.
|Washing daily||Washing Every Two-days||Washing every Three-days|
|Newborn 0-3 months||12-15||20-24||24-36|
|Infant 3-6 months||9-12||18-20||24-30|
|Infant 6-12 months||9-12||14-18||20-22|
|Toddler 12-24 months||6-8||12-16||18-20|
As your baby gets older, they will both urinate and poop less, meaning there are fewer diaper changes.
The amount of cloth diapers you honestly need depends on how often you plan to do laundry. Three days is the absolute max you should wait to avoid mildew (2).
Newborns use roughly 8-10 diapers daily, three to six-month babies 6-8 diapers, six to twelve-month-olds 4-6 diapers and toddlers, and above roughly 3-5.
Newborn 0-3 Months
Newborns have their own distinct kind of poop and usually have around two bowel movements a day (3). Don’t be alarmed by the color; I know I was! The first few days, your baby’s poop will be black and sticky, and over the first week, it slowly progresses to yellow and seedy.
They will have many more wet diapers, and after six days, they should have at least six wet diapers per day (4).
It is a good idea to have at least 20-24 cloth diapers if you will be washing them every two days. Air drying is the best method, so you need to have enough dry diapers while those recently wash dry.
Infant 3-6 Months
By three months of age, babies will have a bowel movement about once a day. Formula-fed babies will have slightly firmer bowel movements, but they shouldn’t be hard.
They will have fewer wet diapers as well, roughly six to eight. At this point, the number of cloth diapers you need per day may slightly decrease to 9-12. If your baby does not have enough wet diapers, they may be dehydrated (5).
If you were washing every day, you might be able to step back to every other day. Plus, it is always good to have backups dry and stashed in other places like your car.
Infant 6-12 Months
By six to twelve months, your baby will be having about 8-10 wet or dirty diapers per day. As you introduce solids to their diet, their poop will change, and it will also become more solid.
It may also change colors as you introduce new foods, and it will likely smell worse.
Some babies experience constipation once they start solids. This happened to my older son, and we used prunes to help him go! If your baby seems to be in pain while pooping, you notice blood in their poop, or their poop is very firm; they are likely constipated.
I noticed blood and panicked, but it likely means there is just a small tear in their anus from pushing hard poop through.
Toddler 12-24 Months
Once your baby hits the one-year mark, they may begin to poop less often; sometimes, they can go 1-3 days without pooping.
If they do not seem constipated, then there is no reason to be concerned. If the consistency is firm but slightly soft, then that is what you are looking for! The good news is that at this age, there are fewer diapers needed.
Toddler diapering also becomes easier because as your baby reaches the age of two, they may begin to tell you when they are soiled or wet. At this age, you can expect to use anywhere from 4-6 diapers daily on average.
Most children are ready to potty train somewhere between 2 ½ and 3. You will know your little one is ready when they begin telling you that they are wet or soiled, show interest in using the toilet, and can dress and undress.
Forcing a child to potty train who is not ready will only lead to frustration and delays! As an early childhood teacher, I have seen many parents try to rush their child only to cause so much angst!
Potty training should be avoided when a significant change occurs, such as a new sibling, moving, starting a new child care center or divorce, etc.
The style of potty training you use will determine how many diapers a day you will use. Some parents use the bare bottom approach; if so, you will only need diapers when you are out of the house. Assuming your child is wearing diapers all the time, you will need roughly 10-14 cloth diapers for a toddler who is potty training.
Which Types of Cloth Diapers Are You Using?
How many diapers you need also depends on the type of cloth diaper you are using. There are all in one diapers (also known as aio diapers), hybrid cloth diapers, cloth diaper covers, and prefolds.
For example, diapers that use covers need the outsides less often, while an all in one diaper will need to go in the wash with each use.
All in one cloth diapers are just that; they are a single unit cloth diaper with an absorbent inside and waterproof outside. In essence, cloth diapers all in ones function like a disposable except you don’t throw them away.
If you are using all in ones, you will need a minimum of 20-24 in your newborn diaper stash if you plan to wash them every other day. Because they are all one piece, they are the thickest type of infant cloth diapers and take the longest to dry.
All-in-Twos (AI2 or Hybrid)
Hybrid diapers or all in two diapers are similar to all in one diapers, except the inner material is not attached. They come in two varieties, one where the inner portion is washable and one where it is disposable.
Since the two sections are not attached, the drying time is shorter even with the washable option. AI2s require some assembly, so keep that in mind. It is recommended you have 20-24 washable inserts and 4-6 cloth diapers for a newborn.
Pocket diapers are a three-piece system with a removable padded insert placed into a pocket. The pocket diaper’s inner material is slightly absorbent, but the padded insert is where most of the waste is absorbed.
Both parts of this diaper need to be washed after each use. These were the types of cloth diapers I used, and I found them to be cozy for my baby and virtually leak-free. One benefit is that the insert often does not get stained when the baby poops since an absorbent layer covers it.
Again it is recommended you have 20-24 diapers and inserts in your newborn cloth diaper stash. You may want to consider purchasing extra inserts; I found that doubling up helped keep my baby drier, especially when sleeping.
Flat/Prefolds with Covers
Prefolds are rectangular pieces of fabric that are sewn with an absorbent section in the middle. Since there are different ways to fold them, you will need to experiment with them to see what works best for you and your baby.
You may need to purchase separate fasteners. You will also need to purchase waterproof covers. Prefolds are very affordable, and you only need one cover for every three diapers. You will need 20-24 prefolds for newborns and 4-6 covers.
Fitted with Covers
Fitted diapers with covers are similar to prefolds, except for the absorbent part of the diaper is already in a fitted diaper shape with fasteners.
The benefit of using these cloth diapers for a baby is that you can use the same cover three or four times before washing. Fitted diapers are also less likely to leak and very absorbent. The prefab shape and fasteners make this system easy to change a cloth diaper.
Create a Diaper Stash
While it is entirely possible only to own a dozen or so cloth diapers and wash them every day, it is recommended to have more. The daily wear and tear from wearing and washing will decrease their lifespan, same as if you wore the same pair of pants every day.
That is why a minimum of 24 cloth diapers be in your cloth diaper stash. When you have a larger rotation, you will reduce the wear, especially since newborns go through many more than toddlers use.
Many companies offer discounts when you buy cloth diapers in bulk. You will save money if you buy several upfront rather than waiting to replace worn ones. Most cloth diapers sizes are also adjustable; they can go from newborn diapers to toddler ones.
So how many cloth diapers do you need? The consensus is a minimum of 24 and 4-6 covers for the styles that require those. With pocket diapers, you will need the same amount of diapers as inserts.
How Often Should You Wash Cloth Diapers?
Most people wash their cloth diapers every day or every other day. Three days is the most you should go to avoid mildew (6). The first step is to run the diapers through a cold water rinse cycle.
Next, wash them on hot with detergent approved for cloth diaper use. If your washer has the option to add a second rinse cycle at the end, add it.
If not, then run them through another rinse, this time on warm or hot. After the rinse, smell them; if they still smell of urine or poop, rinse again. Cloth diapers should be air-dried in the sun if possible.
Since air drying takes longer, having extra diapers in your stash is beneficial. Even if you cannot dry them outside, you can get a hanging rack or clothesline for inside use. I was in an apartment and used a hanging drying rack on my shower curtain rod!
Always Have a Backup
You never know what could go wrong or prevent you from doing your daily load of diapers, so it is a good idea to have a backup plan. Once when my second son was a newborn, the water in my building was turned off for an entire day due to a water main break!
Things like losing electricity, illness, and sheer forgetfulness also happen. Keeping an extra stack of clean diapers on hand is always a good idea. No one wants to do a last-minute run to the store or a trip to the laundromat with a baby in tow.
By keeping a day’s worth of clean diapers stashed away will prevent more stress during an emergency. As your baby gets older, the good news is the fewer diapers they need daily, making extra diapers handier. The general idea is one set in the drawer, one set in the wash, one set drying.
How many cloth diapers should I buy?
20-24 cloth diapers are the recommended minimum amount, but most people purchase 30-36. If you can realistically wash every day, you might be able to stay towards the lower number.
How many newborn cloth diapers do I need?
Newborns use the most diapers, so if you start cloth diapering with a newborn, you need the highest recommended amount. You should have somewhere between 20-36, depending on often you plan to wash them.
How many cloth diaper covers do I need?
If using a system that has covers and inserts, you will need one cover for every 3-4 inserts. If you purchase 36 inserts, then you should aim for 9-12 covers.
How many pocket diapers do I need?
You will need roughly 20-36 pocket diapers, depending on how often you plan to wash them. You will also need the same amount of inserts. Consider purchasing extra inserts to double pad your baby’s diaper at night.
How many prefolds do I need?
You will need roughly 20-36 prefolds, depending on how often you plan to wash them. You will need fewer covers; 1 cover for every 3-4 prefolds you have.
How often should you change cloth diapers?
Since cloth diapers are less absorbent, you will need to change them every one to two hours. As children, they will go less frequently, and you can check every two to three hours. A bowel movement should be changed as soon as it is noticed.
How many diapers does a newborn use?
A newborn can use anywhere from ten to twelve diapers a day; with cloth diapers, it might be more due to absorbancy—plan for 15 a day to be safe.