So you’ve decided to cloth diaper, and you have a baby on the way. You’ve decided on the style and brand of diapers to buy, and now you just need to decide how many to buy. As tempting as it is to get all of the styles and colors possible, you will discover that buying cloth diapers upfront can absolutely bankrupt you if you go a little crazy. Many people know this from experience. I, uh, may or may not be one of those people. So, before you drain your bank account, let’s explore the question: how many do you really need?
People will suggest a newborn in cloth needs to be changed 10-12 times a day. This is not an arbitrary number. This is a number parents have discovered through bleary-eyed experience, though I tended to lose track some time around change #8 at 2am. Advice that was learned in the middle of the night after weeks of severe sleep deprivation is quite valuable, and in my experience this number is fairly spot on. New babies pee frequently, and generally need a change every two hours. You probably also don’t want to go more than two days between washes. Here we can create a mathematical equation of:
d = w x (24/2)
And before I completely scare off half the readers of this post, we will quickly break this equation down to layman’s terms:
# of newborn diapers needed = days between washes x (24 hours in a day/2 hours between changes)
One day’s worth of diapers is about 12 diapers. If you wash every other day, you will need 24 diapers. If you wash every three days, you’ll need 36. These are minimums. They should be sufficient, but you just never know if your baby will have a day where he decides to poop every ten minutes on the dot, so you’ll probably want to throw in an extra five or six diapers just so you’re never caught without diapers. Of course, this is just if you plan to use cloth full time. If you are using a combination of cloth and disposables, you can definitely have the minimum number of diapers or less.
Now that I’ve offered up a silent apology to all the math teachers whom I rolled my eyes at when they said, “Of course you will need to know math when you are an adult, even if you plan to major in writing or art!” we can ask if this number is sufficient in practice. I believe it is. For my youngest baby we had 30 newborn diapers and washed every other day, and I never felt like we were going to run out. Of course, he was a huge baby and had his older sister’s one-size stash we could grab diapers from if we needed to. When my daughter was a newborn, we lived in a small apartment and used coin-op laundry facilities, so we did laundry every three days—sometimes every four days. We only had 36 newborn diapers, but people had gifted us many disposables we used at night and when we were out and about, so that number was perfectly fine. The exact number you “need” really depends on your situation, but I do believe these numbers are extremely good guidelines for using newborn cloth full time.
Is it cost efficient to have up to 36 cloth diapers your child will probably only wear for a couple of months? I think so. While your child will wear a larger cloth diaper stash for a couple of years, definitely getting you your money’s worth, those larger diapers rarely fit a newborn well, even if they are marketed as “one-size.” If your newborn stash is mostly flats or prefolds, which are very cheap, you may even be able to have a newborn stash for under $50. And because newborn diapers aren’t worn for very long, they often don’t have time to start wearing out, so they hold their monetary value very well if you want to try to get some of your money back by selling them after your child has outgrown them.
Did you use newborn diapers? How many did you have in your stash, and would you have more or less if you were to do it again?