How Many Cloth Diapers Do You Need?

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I said need.

I am often asked this question from moms of children of all ages.  The number will vary depending on the age of your child.

During the newborn stage, regardless if one uses cloth diapers or disposables, babies go through a lot of diapers.  Which is yet another obvious reason why one would choose cloth diapers.

A newborn poops a lot therefore absorbency isn’t as big an issue (except at night).  Since the majority of newborns eat on average every 2 hours, you can count on them pooping during or after the feeding.  This comes out to roughly 12 diaper changes a day.

If you did laundry every day you’d need 18 cloth diapers.  However, that can be cutting it close for most.  I recommend at least 24.  Often I will suggest 20 to readers but the safe side is 24 if you are washing every other day-ish.

During the night you may or may not choose to change your baby. It’s your call and you’ll know what is best for your baby.  For our 1st and 2nd babies I changed them a couple of times at night.  For our 3rd I wanted a cloth diaper that would work all night.  I had a few systems but it wasn’t until our 4th that I found the best.  Sustainablebabyish bamboo fitteds are excellent nighttime diapers even from the very beginning.

Again, your baby might need to be changed every time they pee which would mean a couple (or a few) changes at night.  You have to make that decision.

As your baby grows closer to a year they will poop less (usually) and can go without a nighttime change (usually).  :)

From 10m to 15m, they may only need 10 diapers a day at most.  If they only use 1 for a 12 hour night stretch then you’d really only need about 8 per day.  Most parents don’t like to cut it that close but if money is tight you can make it work.

When we began cloth diapering in 2005 our funds were very limited.  I bought 2 dozen prefolds and 6 prorap covers for my 15m old son.  I don’t like prefolds but they work well for a newbie who knows nothing else.  These diapers were wonderful.  I soon learned of other diapers and saved up to buy 4 Happy Heiny’s.  These were the bomb! (to a newbie going from prefolds ;) )

I was not interested in using anything but those 4 diapers…so I washed them a LOT. At night I would still use a double prefold/prorap combo.  So you can get by with a very small stash.

When your baby is a full-blown toddler they often poop a couple of times a day (again usually) and diaper changes can stretch to every 3-4 hours. I say this, which is contrary to what is “recommended”, because if I change Sterling every 2 hours I’d find a dry diaper most of the time.  At 16m, I go through maybe 5 diapers a day.

I use Bum Genius Elementals during the day and usually the diaper is wet but not soaked.  To relate this to fluid intake, Sterling drinks about a full sippy cup of goat milk in the morning and throughout the day water as he asks for it or sees it and wants it.  He weaned last month (sniff, sniff).

My friend (Grateful for Grace) had just 13 Rumparooz in her stash for a long time and this was enough for 2 days (her son is 2). She says it was tight sometimes and found 15 to be better.

There is no magic number of cloth diapers you will need in your stash.  It really depends on your baby’s preferences and how often you desire to do laundry.  Some moms wash only once a week, obviously they have a large stash.

I’ve found though that even if you have 40+ diapers (which I’ve had), you really only use your favorite dozen over and over.


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About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. Autumn enjoys writing but would choose camping with her family any day!

View all posts by Autumn Beck

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31 Responses to “How Many Cloth Diapers Do You Need?”

  1. Emily Says:

    Maybe it’s just because we use only the BG Organic Elementals (AIOs) and there’s something different about what everyone else is using. But we only have 20 and use them on both our 18-month-old and our 3-month-old. We’ve only been using them for a 1.5 months and I do wash a load every night (to ensure that those dirty diapers will be dry enough for use two days later since they dry rather slowly) but I wouldn’t have to if I didn’t like having the time to leave them in the wash for a bit or not have to fold them right away when they are dry.

    Just thought I’d put my two cents in for anyone who is reading this and not wanting to buy 24+ diapers. Also, I changed probably 8-10 diapers in the very beginning with both our daughters, but once they are past about 8 weeks, I haven’t needed to change that frequently (8 times a day max with the three month old and about 4 times per day with our 18-month-old). Maybe they just aren’t as sensitive to the wetness as other babies?

    Reply

  2. Stacy Says:

    Thanks so much for all the helpful information… I feel like I’m getting a handle on this. One thing I’ve started getting confused on: do you need covers if you’re planning on using only AIO/AI2? Some brands say their AIO have newborn inserts (BumGenius in particular)… do they work or do you still think a separate nb diaper is best?

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      No. Covers are only needed for fitteds and prefolds. An AI2 system consists of a cover and inserts. NB inserts are shorter to fit in the diaper when set on the smallest settings. I prefer nb sized diapers but many moms use one-sized diapers from the beginning.

      Reply

  3. .tif Says:

    I don’t think a dozen diapers is enough for a newborn. I had 18 prefolds and was still scrambling to keep up with laundry; I think that when we get ready for #2, we’ll be looking to have at least 24. Sometimes, you could change a diaper at 3am and have to change again just as soon as you let go of the Snappi!

    We loved the Thirsties Duo covers because they fit from newborn to about 3-months (I had a bigger baby; he was 8lbs, 5oz at birth so he quickly outgrew newborn diaper sizes). I like getting more for my money and have always felt buying some of the sized stuff, especially NB/XS can cost more. Thirsties and a few other diaper brands are nice enough to have a 2-sized system, and I like that almost better than OS. Obviously a one-sized diaper isn’t going to fit a newborn (unless, perhaps, it’s a Softbums … which are my new favorite outing diaper).

    Anyway, with so many choices out there and so many differently shaped babies, it’s best to experiment a little in the beginning and then pick about 2 dozen once you find your favorites. Then you’re not washing too often and you’re not waiting too long between washings.

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      A dozen diapers isn’t enough for a newborn. If you change every 2 hours it would take 12 for just one day. I recommend 24.

      Reply

  4. Charlotte Says:

    Hi, I just found your website today when attempting to research cloth diapers. I was just wondering what the best brand of diapers is? I was thinking of getting the ones that are “one size” so I will be able to use them as the baby grows. I could really use some advice, as there are so many to choose from and this is my first baby.

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Charlotte, make sure and check out the tabs at the top of the blog. One-size are great after about 12lbs. I always suggest using nb sized diaper for the first 2-4 months.

      Reply

  5. Sherri Says:

    24. That is the simple and magic number. Why 24? That gives you 12 diapers per day for two days and then you wash. As your baby gets older, you will change less frequently and those same 24 diapers will begin lasting 3 days before it is laundry day. If you want more diapers than that, that’s just fine, but 24 will work out well.

    Reply

  6. Greta Says:

    I am not sure how many AIOs I have – but not an outrageous amount (probably 30??). I do laundry every 2-3 days, but I also like filling up the diaper bag once a week for day care on Mondays and getting it back on Fridays. (I do get the dirty diapers back every night in a wet bag that I bring in every morning.) It saves me the trouble of bringing in a huge diaper bag every morning! And every diaper gets used! :-)

    Reply

  7. barbara Says:

    Is there a “good” cloth diaper pail to use? What do you place the cloth diaper in after it is dirty?

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      a simple trash can with a lid works great. you can put the pail liner in and fold it over the top. i use a hanging wet bag for mine though. it’s much easier to attach it to the cabinet next to the toilet than have something else on the floor.

      Reply

  8. Sara Says:

    I have 33 BG Pockets and use all of them! I do laundry every three or four days and usually end up using disposables while I’m washing the diapers because I’ve waited too long! :) These have been great diapers…they’ve made it through my two year old and are now used on my 2 month old and work just as well.

    Reply

  9. Wendy Says:

    “I’ve found though that even if you have 40+ diapers (which I’ve had), you really only use your favorite dozen over and over.” So very true :) I would say I have about 30-40 diapers, but really only use the same dozen over and over, too :)

    Reply

  10. Camilla Says:

    What would you recommend as a really good start up stash — not just numbers but types? I am 33 weeks and just ordered some this week and got some stuff off of Ebay.
    Got: 12 OS Bumgenius 4.o pockets, 2 Pooters OS Hemp Fitted, 13 Babykicks pre-folds, 2 size small Fuzzi Bunz AIOs, a Flip starter pack … and some various inserts.
    I’m not sure where to go from here! I know I need some covers for sure, but other than that, I’m not sure what to get. Any suggestions? By the way, your site is awesome! I’ve read almost everything on it!

    Reply

    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Do you normally have big babies? If not (meaning <10lbs) then I'd get some xs covers for those prefolds, get more prefolds or buy some nb fitteds. I do not like using OS diapers on nb. I always have leak issues. Check out My Recommendations tab for nb diapers.

      Reply

      • Camilla Says:

        Actually this is my first so I have no idea how big he will be! I’ll definitely be taking your advice on the covers for the prefolds, and I’ll dig around Ebay to see if I can find some newborn fitteds. Thanks! Love your recommendations page.

        Reply

        • erica Says:

          my favorite PUL covers are bummis super brites, and thirsties duo wraps. My current fav is Gen-y Pul covers (love the prints & snaps).
          they are great for newborn to 8 months so far for me LoL.
          Prefolds are better than fitteds, they are just as absorbent, cost less and have less bulk if you snappi them. I personally also love flats with added absorbancy of a hemp babies or babykicks doublers.
          I personally hate fitted except for the exception of Sustaianblebabyish magic diapers.

          Reply

      • Jami Says:

        so what would you recommend for big babies? mine have all been 8lbs 10oz+ at birth…and all the NB diapers are so tiny I’m afraid to buy any because I know I will only get to use them for a week or maybe 2!

        Reply

        • Autumn Beck Says:

          I’d recommend either a diaper rental program or go for used Kissaluvs size 0 on diaperswappers (there are tons of them). Of course, you do realize you’ll probably have a 7lb baby this time lol No matter how hard I try to plan the babies just keep coming out different!

          Reply

          • Jami Says:

            Let me explain, my oldest was 9lbs 10oz, #2 was 8lbs 10oz and #3 (the girl) was 8lbs 11oz. Big babies run in my husband’s family, of course if I had multiples they probably would be smaller. :) DH is a triplet and all 3 (born at 32wks) were 4lbs(ish)! That’s some big babies! :)

            Reply

  11. Hope Says:

    THIS is great info…I’ve been telling new moms they need about 20 diapers for newborn, and they usually gasp….thanks for reassuring me that this is a pretty accurate number!

    Reply

  12. Trenna Says:

    A big question I had was how many *covers* for a newborn, because I chose to do flats (which I still love most, even above our BumGenius).

    I got 36 flats, 4 Thirsties wraps, and 3 Imse Vimse Wool (machine washable) wraps.

    Washing every other day this has been far more than enough, even though I love the (Green Mountain) flats so much I steal them to use as burp rags.

    In context our son, despite being exclusively breastfed, delivers only one poo a day.

    Reply

  13. Amy B Says:

    I have way to many diapers for one child….plus a great newborn stash for a child yet to be conceived. I do however make sure that I evenly rotate my stash. Diapers that are freshly washed go in the back of the pile so that each diaper gets used maybe once a week. I know, I know that’s way too many diapers! What can I say…..I’m addicted!

    Reply

  14. Carisa Says:

    We need 3 dozen for comfort . When my 5 month old switched to the next size up, I couldn’t understand why I suddenly couldn’t get through a day and a half without raiding all the diapers in the diaper bag and bedroom . Turns out , my husband had snuck out and bought an extra dozen of the smaller size without me realizing it. Now with 3 dozen , I can go back to washing every 2 days .

    (And we reach for the prefolds first… she leaks out of the Flips and AIO we tried)

    Reply

  15. Kristin Says:

    After reading this I thought I would count how many diapers I have for my 14 month old and baby due in a month…70 PLUS 36 prefolds in assorted sizes that we also use as burp cloths and 2 wool covers and about a dozen other covers in assorted sizes. My favorite are my 6 BG organics. I use these everyday and keep my 3 least fav, happy heinys, in the car for emergency diapers. there are times when I have had as little as 12 diapers though. I sell allot on Diaperswappers and buy allot new….i am in a buying phase I think. Regardless of the number I have, I always use my fav 6!

    Reply

  16. Elizabeth Says:

    Wow, I was surprised when I read this! You are suggesting a lot more than what we’ve got! I started CDing at 4 months with 16 in my stash, and now at 19 months we have about 14 plus 3 flip covers and 8 flip inserts. I’ve gotten rid of some of those original 16 that I didn’t like and replaced them with ones I like better. I wash about every three days, when our 5 gallon bucket is full, which is a good schedule for us. Just enough so the bucket doesn’t get too smelly, and we never run out!

    Reply

  17. days_fly_by Says:

    “I’ve found though that even if you have 40+ diapers (which I’ve had), you really only use your favorite dozen over and over.”

    This is the absolute truth, lol.
    I started out with 30 GMD infant yellow edge prefolds and then added in 22 cotton MEOS, fell head over heels in love and, *poof* suddenly the 30 prefolds became burp rags. just. like. that. Later added in 18 FuzziBunz OS (partly out of fascination, partly out of needing a daycare-friendly dipe), sold the cotton MEOS for 18 bamboo MEOS and a small stash of bamboo ME Sandy’s for going coverless, and after 8 months, it’s the MEOS that I’m still reaching for almost every single time. Those 18 diapers are in non-stop rotation. :)

    Reply

  18. Yara Says:

    I love this! My cousin asked me Sunday “How many cloth diapers do we need?” and I honestly said I’m not the person to ask… I have TOO MANY (not that it’s a bad thing).
    I have lately been using me new diapers which are my new faves, with a few classics I am not willing to give up- my new fuzzi bunz, my new bum genius AIOs, a thirsties pocket, my bummis cover with the pandas on it… I’ve actually lost track of some diapers (anyone seen my grobaby with the bird print?)
    All that to say- yup… a dozen or so of your favorites get the most use ; )

    Reply

  19. Lisa Says:

    What diaper covers did you use over the sbish fitteds for a newborn?

    Reply

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