How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?

Stocking up on Cloth Diapers for Your Little One

One of the biggest questions parents have about cloth diapering is how many diapers to purchase. While you do save money over time, cloth diapers come with a hefty price tag upfront. But you don't want to skimp on your stockpile, or you'll spend all your free time washing the diapers. To balance budget and convenience, calculate a good number for your baby based on age and needs.

Number of Diapers Needed

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How many diapers? That depends on the age of your baby, her bathroom habits and how much you love doing laundry. Having one to three day's worth of diapers on hand is a good start. If you don't mind doing daily laundry, you can start on the low end. If you want a buffer, so you only have to wash every other day, aim for enough diapers to last two or three days.

Newborns often need the highest number of diaper changes per day. Expect your newborn to go through at least 10 to 12 diapers per day. Some newborns need changes even more often. As your baby gets older, the number of diaper changes needed decreases slightly. Infants typically need eight to 10 diaper changes per day. Older babies and toddlers may need only five to eight daily diaper changes.

If you're switching to cloth diapers, track how many disposables your child uses each day. Multiply that number by two or three to figure out how many you need for a multiday supply.

Don't want to mess with calculating diaper usage? For a newborn, stock between 24 and 36 diapers to give yourself enough diapers for two or three days. Cloth diapers come in different sizes, so you'll need to buy more diapers as your baby gets older. As the number of diaper changes decreases, you can get away with fewer of the large diapers. A stockpile of 15 to 24 diapers is sufficient for older babies.

You can add to your supply over time. Having extra diapers can cut down on wear and tear. Rotate the diapers so they don't get used as often.

Another option is to use a cloth diaper service. The service drops off a set number of diapers per week. They pick up the dirty diapers at the end of the week and deliver a fresh supply for the following week. You always have clean diapers, so you don't have to worry about running low or washing laundry every other day to have a fresh reserve.

How to Choose Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers come in different styles with varying price range and features. Comparing the options helps you pick a type that works best for you.

Common cloth diaper styles include:

  • Prefolds: These traditional diapers go inside a diaper cover. You need to fasten the diapers and place the waterproof cover over them.
  • Fitted: These diapers have the same shape as a disposable diaper and usually have snaps or other fasteners attached. They also need a cover to prevent leaks.
  • Pockets: Pocket diapers look similar to disposable diapers. They feature an outer waterproof layer and an inner liner to draw moisture away from your baby. You add an insert inside the pocket to hold the mess.
  • All-in-ones: Most like a disposable diaper, all-in-ones have all layers built into them with an outer waterproof layer and inner padding to absorb the pee. 

If you're looking for convenience, all-in-one diapers are a good choice. If cost is your biggest concern, prefolds are the way to go. You can build a larger stockpile with the lower-priced prefold diapers.

Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapers

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Before you invest in a large supply of cloth diapers, consider how they compare to disposables. Looking at the pros and cons can help you decide if you want to go full-steam ahead with cloth diapers or test it out first with just a few.

Pros of going the cloth diaper route include:

  • Less trash in the landfill since you reuse the diapers
  • Fewer chemicals touching your baby's skin
  • Lots of style choices and fun patterns on the covers
  • Cheaper over time

Potential drawbacks of cloth diapering include:

  • Time consuming when you wash the diapers
  • Less convenient away from home
  • Difficulty finding a day care provider willing to use cloth diapers
  • Higher upfront cost
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