How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need? A Guide to Getting Enough!

I’ve held on to the many lists I made when pregnant with my first baby, lists containing all the items that I thought I’d need when she came along.

These were predominantly made up of onesies, muslin squares, socks, and cute weekend outfits (thinking we’d be going out, showing off our darling girl every single weekend, and that she would need a million and one outfits for this).

And then, one fine day, I came to the realization that I’ll probably need plenty of diapers! Turns out, I had thought of all the fun items we’d like to have (and enjoy purchasing), but not the basic items to see me through the baby’s first months.

It was time to pull the brakes on spending money on what I wanted the most, and really focus on what I needed the most instead.

That’s when cloth diapers came into the picture!

Bunch of cloth diapers of different colors placed in an open drawer

The general assumption is that cloth diapers need a substantial upfront investment. The start-up cost is higher when compared to disposables, but unlike disposables, cloth diapers are gifts that keep on giving.

While I’m not exactly saying that cloth diapering until your baby graduates from potty training is cheap, knowing exactly what and how many of each you’ll need will seriously help you plan everything ahead and keep your costs at a minimum.

This article will go into the numbers you need to know: exactly how many cloth diapers you’ll need as your baby grows, regardless if you’re opting for flats, prefold diapers, or all-in-ones.

Let’s delve right in!

How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need if Going by Age?

Here’s a fun fact: babies urinate around 20 times daily in the first several months of their lives. Changing your little one’s diaper following every pee will see you at the changing station nearly every hour of every single day.

Scary, right?

However, as the American Pregnancy Association notes, ‘it would get incredibly expensive and exhausting if you tried to change your baby’s diaper every time. You do want to change him/her every 2 to 3 hours, but it is not necessary to wake a baby to change a wet diaper.’

That said, this advice does not apply for bowel movements. The acid content of poo can irritate your baby’s delicate skin, which means that soiled diapers should be changed as soon as your little one awakes.

This also applies if your little one is sensitive to moisture – in this case, a wet cloth diaper must be changed immediately.

With this in mind, here’s an overview of how many changes (and hence, diapers) you’ll be going through in a day:

Age Number of Diapers per Day
Newborn 10-15
6-12 months 6-10
12-24 months 4-7

This equates to a cloth diaper stash numbering:

Age Minimum Number of Diapers (Daily Laundry) Ideal Number of Diapers (Laundry Every Two Days)
Newborn 17 36
6-12 months 12 26
12-24 months 9 20

These numbers are based on averages. Ultimately, the number of diapers your baby will need is unique, and will depend on several factors. However, these figures serve as a great baseline.

You may also need some preemie sized prefolds if your baby was born prematurely.

When cloth diapering, building a stash is a must. Unlike disposables, you can’t simply toss the diaper in the trash and go buy a new packet if you’re out.

You have to have enough cloth diapers to last you between washings, and to regularly rotate. Using the same cloth diapers on the daily will result in earlier wear and tear.

The ideal big stash for a one-size diapering system amounts to 40-50 diapers. These will last you through your little one’s diapering years.

Some cloth diapers are so great that they will also last you for any other siblings you might have in the future, too.

Opting for differently sized cloth diapers means you can do away with a smaller stash, but you’ll be changing these as your baby grows, approximately every 6 to 9 months.

What Determines How Many Cloth Diapers I’ll Need?

There’s no universal answer to how many cloth diapers each family would need, as this is determined by many personal factors and specific choices only you can decide on.

With that being said, let’s talk about each of the factors that end up influencing just how many cloth diapers you’ll need to have to last you through those tricky few diapering years.

Laundry

Laundry is the number one determinant. How often you plan on washing cloth diapers determines how many you’ll actually need.

Most cloth diaper brands recommend washing every other day.

You can opt for storing dirty cloth diapers in wet bags and having a laundry day every three days, but this may present issues with stains setting, diaper fabrics breaking down faster and, lest we forget, the smell can get serious!

You’ll also need a bigger stash of diapers if you opt for the three-day interval.

So, your cloth diaper stash should ideally last you at least two days between washes, plus a few extra for emergencies.

The positives of a bigger stash is that you’ll be washing less frequently, never get caught without clean cloth diapers to use when you need them most, and each of your diapers receives less wear and tear.

P.S: Speaking about cloth diapering laundry, read on some of the most important mistakes to avoid doing here.

Type

For the uninitiated, there are different types of cloth diapers out there, each with varying degrees of ease of use and skill need from your end.

For instance, you’ll require less hybrids than all-in-ones, more flat diapers, and less diaper covers.

When using prefolds or flats with diaper covers, a ratio of 3:1 applies.

Go to our ‘Number of cloth diapers, by type’ section to learn more about all of this.

Baby’s Bathroom Habits

Some babies seem to experience one blow out after another, while others are more laid back (and neater).

If it’s normal for your newborn to have a bowel movement after every single feed, then you’ll of course need more cloth diapers than a baby who goes longer between number twos.

Being Prepared for Emergencies

Life has a habit of throwing things our way unannounced. The last thing you’ll need is ending up with no clean diapers!

Keeping a day’s worth of extra clean cloth diapers sees you well prepared to tackle such instances when you least expect them.

How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need if Going by Type?

Type of Cloth Diaper Minimum Required Optimal
Hybrid 12 Shells 14-16
24 Soaker pads 36-45
All-in-Ones 24-26 36-45
All in Twos with snap in inserts 8-10 covers 12-15 covers
24 inserts 36-45
Flat diapers or prefold diapers with covers 8-10 covers 12 – 15 covers
24-26 prefolds/flats 36-45 prefolds/flats
3 snappis 6 snappis
Fitted Diapers 24-26 36-45
2-3 wool covers 3-5 wool covers

As your baby grows, you’ll start needing less and less cloth diapers, but these initial figures should see you through just fine.

Not using fitted cloth diapers on a full time basis? Many parents still recommend having 2 to 3 fitted diapers with covers for naps or nighttime. These help keep leaks at bay and are most recommended for babies over 6 months of age.

A note on snappis – most come in packs of three, but these need to be changed every six months or so, so it helps to have an extra packet handy at all times.

As a new cloth diapering parent, it’s recommended you start on the minimum end and build your stash as you go along.

This ensures that you’re well covered until laundry day, as well as give you some budgeting flexibility. It also gives you time to understand what works best for your little one and your family, so that you don’t find you’ve purchased too little or too many.

Number of Prefolds by Age

Prefold diapers come in diverse sizes – here’s the number of prefolds you should expect to go through during your little one’s cloth diapering journey:

Age Prefolds Diaper Covers
Newborn 24 8
6-12 months 20 7
12-24 months 16 5

When Should Parents Start Preparing Their Cloth Diaper Stockpile?

Ideally, you should have your newborn cloth diaper stash ready before your baby’s arrival. In reality, though, you will very probably find yourself adding to the collection in your baby’s first weeks.

You’ll only know what your lifestyle will look like once the baby arrives – what you thought was a complete shop, might very well require some additions as you work towards a routine!

The benefit of having your cloth diaper stash at the ready once baby arrives is that you’ll avoid frantic last-minute shops with a baby in tow, as well as avoid potential nighttime panic because of not having a clean diaper available at such a tough time to find a suitable plan B.

No new parent needs any of that stress, especially in the middle of the night!

Once hiring caregivers or enrolling your little one in daycare comes into play, you may find that your cloth diapering routine needs change.

Back at work and need to go longer between washes? In this case, some additions would be necessary.

Some daycares do not accept all kinds of cloth diapers, either, so make sure you check ahead before investing.

If your baby is staying for long hours at once with other caregivers, it may be wise to invest in a second stash for them to keep and have handy at all times, too.

As your baby grows, some elements may need boosting, and others not.

Retailers note that they see many toddler parents drop by to purchase boosters and go for more absorbent diapers. While you’ll be changing less diapers (so the amount of diapers needed will decrease), you will need as much absorbency as possible for your energetic munchkin.

A Note on Taking Care of Multiples

Cloth diapering twins or triplets is not an impossible feat. In Krista Manning’s own words, ‘It’s not that hard’, but ‘It’s not totally easy’ either.

Manning cloth diapered her triplets and says that ‘once you get into the swing, it just becomes part of your daily routine,’ adding that, based on her experience, cloth diapering only involves an extra 25 minutes in daily chores.

At the same time, she says it was also a learning curve ‘covered in poop and pee’. It took them about two weeks to figure out cloth diapering – following that, it was a much more straightforward process.

So, how does cloth diapering multiples affect how many cloth diapers you need?

With multiple babies, you will need a larger stash of cloth diapers. With some scary numbers in sight, it’s easy to resort to cheap lower-quality diapers, but please don’t do that!

Manning recommends getting a lesser number of quality cloth diapers and washing them more often, rather than going the cheaper route and ending up with continuous leaks (and hence, more effort).

For twins, a collection of 46 to 50 cloth diapers appears to work well for most parents. If you find you need more, you can buy more as you go, but that’s an excellent starting point.

For triplets, you can get by with 60 cloth diapers, but daily laundry might be necessary in this case, especially in the newborn stage. If having to wash your diapers daily isn’t your thing, consider buying 120 cloth diapers when caring for triplets.

Wrapping it Up

As we’ve seen, there’s no magic number of cloth diapers that works for everyone. Some people need less, while others need more, and that’s perfectly fine.

When calculating how many cloth diapers you’ll need, you should factor in the number of times you’re ready to tackle the laundry chore, your baby’s age, the cloth diapering method you’re using, other caregivers who’ll be helping you out, and the number of babies you have currently being cloth diapered.

The cloth diapering journey starts before the baby arrives, and building your cloth diapering stash early on means that you’re well prepared for baby’s arrival.

Your little one’s first days are full of new and unexpected events – ideally, the diapering element does not bring any unpleasant surprises for you!

Happy cloth diapering!

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