Now that you have made a decision to cloth diaper, you probably have a lot of questions. One of those is – How many cloth diapers do I need? The good news is, I’m here to answer that question for you. The bad new is, it may not be the answer you are thinking. It isn’t 42 . . . or is it?
The truth is, a lot of things factor into making this decision, so there is no hard and fast rule that says you have to have X number of diapers.
How many cloth diapers you need will depend on what works best for your family, how much laundry you’re prepared to do on a regular basis, the type of cloth diaper you choose, and your budget.
I can tell you from experience what worked best for me, and I can talk you through all the things you will want to consider when making your decision. But ultimately, the exact number you feel comfortable with is your choice. There is no right answer to this question.
So, lets talk about those factors that play a part in helping you decide just how many cloth diapers you need.
Your Baby’s Age
One thing to consider when deciding how many cloth diapers you need is the age of your baby. This is important because your baby’s age will affect the number.
Younger babies require more diapers and need to be changed more frequently than older infants and toddlers.
Here is a generalized breakdown of how many diapers you typically go through in a given day for each age group. This number is across the board for both cloth and disposable diapers, so it doesn’t matter what type of diapers you are using.
- Newborns: If your baby is a newborn, you’ll find that you go through a lot more diapers. Newborns typically need a diaper change every 2-4 hours during the day. This means they will go through A LOT of diapers. In fact, on average, newborns easily go through 10-15 diapers a day.
- Infants: While infants age 6-12 months won’t need as many diaper changes as newborns, it can still be significant. On average, infants can go through 6-10 diapers per day.
- Toddlers: Lastly, 12-24 month old children will most likely need fewer diapers. They might only need a diaper change 4-7 times per day.
Of course, these numbers are based on averages. How many cloth diapers your child goes through will vary because not every kid is the same, and other factors can affect this number.
Additionally, the amount of diapers your baby goes through could vary by the day. Some days you may only use 6 diapers, while other days you could use 15. But the important thing is, these statistics can give you a general idea of how many cloth diapers you will need.
Another important factor to keep in mind when deciding how many cloth diapers is your budget. While the initial investment in cloth diapers can be a bit pricey, the good news is, once you have bought the diapers you need, you don’t have to buy any more diapers. If you are trying to decide if cloth diapering really saves you money, I have worked out the diaper math for you here.
But lets talk brass tacks of cloth diaper budgets.
You can start cloth diapering at any point in your parenting journey, be it from the moment you find out your expecting to when your baby is 12 months old. There is no bad time to start, nor point when it is too late. There may be more convenient times, but there are never bad times.
If you know from the beginning that you want to give cloth diapering a try, then you can begin to build your diaper stash before your baby arrives. By buying a few each month during your pregnancy, you can you can spread out the expense over a nine month period. This way, you aren’t busting your budget with a huge purchase at one time.
If your baby is already here, you may feel more pressure to build a collection quickly. Again, there really is no need to. You can still work on growing your diaper stash over time, and use disposables to fill in the gaps until your stash is established. Then once you have the number of diapers you want, you’ll no longer need those disposable diapers.
Your Laundry Routine
If I am being honest, this was the most influential part in helping me decide just how many cloth diapers I wanted to have in my stash. Nothing will make you feel like you are succeeding or failing at cloth diapering more than your wash routine. So, if anything will influence how many cloth diapers you want to have the most, this is it.
I had a few diapers left over from my second to last child, and I started buying more diapers when I was pregnant with my youngest. So, when she was born I had a modest stash of around 15 – 20 diapers, but I found myself having to wash diapers every day just to make sure I had enough for the next day. And I quickly learned I didn’t want to do diaper laundry every day. That just didn’t work for our family.
This is where you have to do a little diaper math. Don’t worry, it isn’t hard.
If your baby is using 10-15 diapers a day, you’ll want to have at least that many in your stash. But what about the next day? Like me, you’ll find yourself washing diapers every day. But if this is your first born, this may work well for your family.
Quid Pro Quo: You can definitely succeed at cloth diapering with this many diapers, but you’ll be putting a lot of wear on your diapers, meaning you’ll eventually have to replace them for new ones in a few months time.
Maybe you’re thinking you want enough for two full days. In the beginning that will be around 30 diapers. This means you can wash your diapers every other day, which gives you a bit of a break from diapering, and gives your diapers a bit more longevity.
For me, I chose to have enough in my stash to go 3 days between washing. This meant I had around 50 diapers on hand . . . or maybe it was 42? Hmmm. Nope, if was somewhere between 50 – 60.
Now, I will say this, I don’t don’t recommend going beyond a 3 day wash cycle. At that point, you run the risk of doing damage to your diapers that you don’t want to deal with – smells, mildew, staining, etc.
Since this was our last child, meaning we had other . . . blessings . . . running around the house who needed clean clothes, being able to wash diapers every 3rd day was what worked best for our family.
So, you’ll want to look at what you want your laundry routine to look like. Do you want to wash every day, every other day, or every three days.
And don’t worry if you don’t know the answer to this question now. The best way to really know for sure is to start off with the bare minimum and decide if the laundry load is something you can live with.
Confession: If I am being completely honest, I had closer to 60 diapers for my daughter by the time it was all said and done.
There was a point where I developed an . . . addicted . . . to buying cute cloth diapers for my baby, especially when I discovered the world of small business diapers.
You may not need 60, but there may come a point where you want more than you need. So, at this point the question of how many cloth diapers you need becomes irrelevant.
So, how many cloth diapers do I need? Is it 42 diapers or not? The short answer is maybe. The long answer is, it depends on what your overall cloth diapering journey looks like. Are you cloth diapering full time? Only when at home and using disposables on the go? Or are you doing a 50/50 split between cloth and disposables? The truth is, you need however many will make your journey successful. And maybe that is 42 diapers.
How many diapers do I need for emergencies? There are times when you will need to have extra diapers for emergencies, such as stomach bugs or a broken washing machine. Things happen that either prevent you from washing your diapers, or cause you to use more than normal. In these instances, it is always a good idea to have a cushion built into your stash size.
Example: If you are using 12 diapers a day, you may want to have 18 on hand so you have a few extras for an emergency.
The answer to this question, as with the how many cloth diapers question, comes down to what you feel comfortable with. You may decide you want enough for an extra day, or enough for half a days worth. Or, maybe you just choose to keep disposables on hand for emergencies. Either way, there is no right or wrong answer to this question.
What type of diapers do I need in my stash?
I always recommend buying a variety of diapers in the beginning so you can decide which style works best for you. There are a few different styles to choose from, and you may find that you prefer one style over the others. The only way to know for sure is to give each one a try.
I found that I tended to prefer fitted diapers in the beginning and pre-folds and pockets as my daughter grew. I did like AIOs and AI2s, but I didn’t reach for those as often as I did other kinds, but I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t try them all out.
As you can see, the answer to the question of how many cloth diapers you will need really depends on a variety of factors, so there is no universal truth here.
However, how many cloth diapers you’ll need to have at one-time will depend on your budget, your baby’s age, the types of diapers you purchase, and how much laundry you plan on doing. You just have to figure out what works best for you and your family’s need.
As a rule of thumb, I recommend having 2-3 days worth of cloth diapers on hand as a starting point.