Today, disposable diapers are by far more common than cloth diapers, so parents don’t have many people to turn to for advice. It’s been decades since your granny was laundering cloth diapers, and your friends probably buy disposable diapers by the box, without noting how many they use each day. How is a new parent supposed to know how many cloth diapers to get? The number of cloth diapers you’ll need will depend on several factors, including what kind of cloth diapers you use, how old your baby is, and how often you’re willing to do laundry.
Your baby will pee and poop more often as a newborn than as an older baby or toddler, and as you start potty training, you’ll need fewer and fewer (and eventually none!). A newborn baby will go through about twelve diapers per day, while older babies need eight to ten diapers per day, and toddlers need six to eight diapers per day. That means that if you’re willing to wash your diapers daily, you’ll need at least twelve for a newborn, ten for an older baby, and eight for a toddler.
Don’t want to do laundry every day? (I don’t blame you!) If you’d rather do laundry a little more sparingly, just double, triple, or quadruple the number of diapers you would normally need. For example, if you want to do laundry every two days, you’ll need twenty-four diapers for a newborn, twenty diapers for an older baby, and sixteen diapers for a toddler.
If you use old-fashioned prefolds or flats, you’ll go through more diapers, because they start leaking fairly soon after they get wet. Pocket, all-in-one, and fitted diapers might be able to go a little bit longer without you noticing that they are wet, so your best bet is to get five or six “extra” diapers if you’re using flats or prefolds.
You’ll also need some diapering accessories on hand based on the type of diaper you’re using. If your diapers need covers (which is the case if you use prefolds, flats, or fitteds), have at least one diaper cover for every four or five diapers. They need to be laundered after a few uses. If you use pocket diapers, have plenty of inserts ready: expect to go through one or two for daytime use and two or three for night time use. If you plan to wash your diapers daily, you’ll need about fifteen inserts per ten diapers.
Some other personal preferences can come into play when it comes to how many cloth diapers you will need to have. Every parent should have a small stash of “emergency” diapers in case something happens, such as an illness or a sudden problem with your washing machine. You may want to keep couple of disposable diapers on hand for these situations, although, if you want to use cloth with no exceptions, two or three extra diapers should be sufficient. You don’t want to end up with no diapers at all during a run-in with stomach flu! You might also choose to keep a few “travel” diapers in your diaper bag, as well.
Ultimately, the decision about how many cloth diapers you need will depend on how often you’re willing to wash them, as well as factors like what kind you’re using and how old your baby is. If you have an older child and you’re willing to wash diapers daily, you can get away with as few as eight diapers, but, if you have a little baby and do laundry twice a week, you can easily need fifty. A good middle ground is to get about 25 diapers for average use, but your mileage may vary. Be prepared for the possibility of needing a few more, or a few less, than average.