how-many-cloth-diapers-do-I-need
Beginner, Types of Diapers

How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need? Numbers Based On Your Situation

How many cloth diapers do I need? is a common question asked by first-time cloth diapering parents.

While there are some general recommendations out there, the truth is each family is different. The number of cloth diapers you need will depend on a lot of variables.

If that stresses you out and you don’t want to have to figure out those variables right now, the standard number given for every other day washing is 18-24 diapers. Take that number and run if that satisfies you.

If you want to get a better idea of the true number you will really need for your lifestyle, read on!

It’s important to note that you may not wish to buy your WHOLE diaper stash at once. You might think you’re going to love a particular type of diaper, so you stock up on a good sale only to find out that once you start using it, you don’t really love it like you thought you would.

However, if you’re really not a picky person, you’ll probably be fine to do some stocking up ahead of time. You still run the risk that some diapers won’t fit your baby as well as others, but you will probably be able to make most work.

Here is a quick video to give you an idea of the variables you need to consider. For more details, continue reading.

Consider the Age of the Baby

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Newborn babies need to be changed much more frequently than an older baby or toddler. If you are planning on using cloth diapers right away after your baby comes (or within the first few months), you are going to need to have a few more diapers on hand than someone who starts cloth diapering when their baby is a year old.

You should plan to change a newborn every two hours, so enough for 12 diaper changes per day is a good number.

If you wait to start cloth diapering until your baby is a few months old, you can cut that down to 8-10 per day. It all depends on how your baby sleeps at night and if you need to change their diaper at wake ups (that will depend on what kind and type of diaper you are using).

Once your baby becomes a toddler, you may use slightly less than that. My son is almost 2, and I probably do 5-6 changes a day and have done that many for a while now.

Consider the Type of Diaper

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The type of diaper you choose makes a difference in the amount you need.

For example, if you use all-in-one diapers, it is pretty straight forward. You consider how many times per day you need to change your baby, and that is how many diapers you need to have (multiply by the number of days you want to go between loads of laundry).

If you use a system like flats or prefolds & covers, or all-in-twos & fitteds, then you need to consider how many you need of separate parts of the system.

The flat/prefold/insert/fitted part of this system is pretty straight forward–you need the amount that matches the number of diaper changes you do.

As for covers, they can typically be wiped down between changes and reused as long as the baby didn’t have a messy bowel movement that got everywhere.

Some babies have a pretty predictable pooping schedule and just do it once or twice a day. Other babies poop at every diaper change! So this can definitely make it hard to give a definitive number. Baby poops will also space out as they get older.

If you’re using a system with covers and plan to cloth diaper right from the start, you will probably want at least 6 covers per day that you want to go between washing.

If you wait until your baby is a few months old, you will get a better idea of how many times per day your baby poops and be able to use that information to help you plan a bit. 4-5 covers per day that you want to go between washings is a safe number.

Now that my youngest is a toddler, I could get by with 3-4 covers per day. It all varies–as you know, some toddlers struggle with constipation while others have pretty active systems. My kids also tend to have more bowel movements based on what they eat, so sometimes having a few more covers is necessary.

With pockets, it might be more straightforward like all-in-ones, but it does depend on what you want & need to use for inserts. But generally speaking, you need the same amount as the number of diaper changes that you do, and you may find you want to double up inserts later on, but to start you can definitely use a 1:1 ratio.

Consider Your Lifestyle

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How much laundry are you willing to do? If you’re already drowning in laundry, do you really want to try to get by with a small diaper stash that requires you to do a load every day? (However, I do find diaper laundry to be the easiest laundry I do, so maybe that won’t be an issue).

Maybe you would be happier doing laundry every other day, every third day, once a week, etc.

You also need to consider your laundry situation: do you own a washer, or will you be relying on a laundromat?

Do you want to line dry your diapers, or do you want to use the dryer? Line drying is great, but your diapers may dry more slowly that way (depending on the material your diapers are made from–synthetic materials will probably dry a little more quickly than natural fibers) or laundromat?

The answers to these questions will determine a good amount for you. If you need to leave your home to wash your diapers, it is probably more convenient for you to do laundry once a week. (If this is you, I highly recommend an all-in-two system or a hybrid system. They will help you maximize the number of diaper changes you can fit in one load of laundry).

Consider Your Preferences

Are you going to cloth diaper during the newborn stage? Or wait until your baby is bigger?

You may very well need a separate newborn stash and one-size stash depending on the size of your baby. That newborn stash may only be used for a few weeks, or it could be a few months! It depends on how big your baby is when they are born, which is obviously hard to predict.

If you do plan to use newborn cloth, you will need to decide what is more important to you: having a bigger newborn stash to do less laundry, or having a smaller newborn stash since you will not be using them for very long to maximize money savings.

Either way, 12 diaper changes per day you want to go between loads of laundry is a good number for a newborn cloth stash. See here for some of my top recommended newborn options.

The next thing to consider as far as your preferences go is whether you are committed to using cloth diapers full time. Do you want to use them 100% of the time, or do you want to only use cloth diapers part-time?

If you plan to just use cloth diapers part-time, it doesn’t really matter how many you get to start. You will find a routine that works for you, and you can buy a few of them to try out, using disposables when you run out and need to do a load of laundry, and then add more as you feel necessary for your desired routine.

If you plan to use cloth full time and have not read the first part of this article, refer to the sections above to get a good idea of how many you need.

Recommended Amounts

Here is what I recommend for building your stash. I just want to reiterate that this isn’t a perfect science and the number of diapers you need ultimately depends on a lot of factors, many of which I described above. The numbers given below are averages. You may find yourself using more or less. Use these tables as a starting point. Add more as necessary.

If you end up not needing as many as the tables suggest, lucky you! You can sell the extra diapers to recoup some costs if you want, or you can add an extra day between loads of laundry. That’s a win!

Here is a starting point for the number of diapers you will need if you want to wash every day.

Age of BabyAll-in-OnesFlats/Prefolds & CoversFitteds & CoversPocketsAll-in-Twos/Hybrids
Newborn1212 flats/prefolds, 6 covers12 fitteds, 6 covers1212 inserts, 6 covers
3 to 8/9 months8-108-10 flats/prefolds, 4-5 covers8-10 fitteds, 4-5 covers8-108-10 inserts, 4-5 covers
9 to 18 months6-86-8 flats/prefolds, 3-4 covers6-8 fitteds, 3-4 covers6-86-8 inserts, 3-4 covers
18 months +5-65-6 flats/prefolds, 3-4 covers5-6 fitteds, 3-4 covers5-65-6 inserts, 3-4 covers

If you would like to wash every other day, here are the amounts I recommend:

Age of BabyAll-in-OnesFlats/Prefolds & CoversFitteds & CoversPocketsAll-in-Twos/Hybrids
Newborn2424 flats/prefolds, 12 covers24 fitteds, 12 covers2424 inserts, 12 covers
3 to 8/9 months16-2016-20 flats/prefolds, 8-10 covers16-20 fitteds, 8-10 covers16-2016-20 inserts, 8-10 covers
9 to 18 months12-1612-16 flats/prefolds, 6-8 covers12-16 fitteds, 6-8 covers12-1612-16 inserts, 6-8 covers
18 months +10-1210-12 flats/prefolds, 6-8 covers10-12 fitteds, 3-4 covers10-1210-12 inserts, 6-8 covers

You can use this data to calculate the number you would like for any number of days: if you want to wash every third day, add the amounts from the two tables together. If you would like to wash once a week, take the higher end of the ranges given in table 2 and multiply by three.

Conclusion

Don’t stress too much about getting the perfect amount of diapers. If you are just starting out but fully committed to using cloth, I recommend getting enough for every other day washing (the second table). You can add more of your favorites after you have begun using them.

If you aren’t totally sure you are committed to cloth, you might want to start with the amounts for everyday washing (table 1) and either commit to washing daily while you try them out or use them part-time with disposables while you decide.

How many diapers do you have, and how long do you go between washings? Let me know in the comments!

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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20 Comments

  1. Nia M says:

    This is a very detailed and informative post. Thank you so much for taking the time to thoroughly explain this process. I’m currently looking into cloth diapers as many people have recommended this to me. My mother used them with me because I was allergic to diapers. I’m hoping my child won’t be the same, however, I want to be on the safe side and just have a few on hand. However, from your post, would you recommend to start your newborn on cloth diapers? Or would waiting a couple months be a better approach?  

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Nia! If you’re worried about potential allergies, it would probably be safest to start using cloth right from the beginning. If you don’t think allergies are likely, then I would probably wait until a couple of months in if your goal is to save money.

  2. Wendy says:

    I’m going to a shower for my niece at the end of the month and I was thinking about getting her some cloth diapers thinking it might be a unique gift and even if she decides to use disposable diapers, it’s always a good idea to have a few cloth diapers on hand. But now after reading your post, I’m thinking it is a more personal thing. Perhaps I should just get her a 12 pack of the fitted ones. Any suggestions? And by the way, thanks for all of your suggestions.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Wendy! That is such a wonderful gift. You’re right that it is a personal thing. If she doesn’t have any interest in using cloth diapers, then I probably wouldn’t buy her too many as she may never try them out. But if she has some curiosity then I’d probably recommend some all-in-ones! They are the easiest ones for people used to disposables to switch to.

  3. Tolu says:

    Thanks Holly for this informative post. It is quite informative. Like you rightly said, the amount of diaper a baby would need depend on different situations. All babies are different, and taking from my experience when our last daughter was born, we started using cloth diapers right from day one. We used an average of 10 to 12 cloth diapers daily for the first 3 to 4 months. it was the all in one diapers we were using and had to rely on laundrymat for the cleaning. The amount we used from the fifth month decreased to 8 on a daily basis.  great post

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks, glad you found it helpful! 🙂

  4. Louis says:

    Hello Holly,

    When we had our first child, we alternated between cloth diapers and disposable diapers. In my community, you have to line dry the diapers because we don’t have dryers, to save moms the stress of having to clean up the diapers, it’s much better if you alternate between the cloth diapers and disposable diapers.

    Cloth diapers can be used during the day, and disposable diapers can be used at night or when you’re out of the house. I think it will also work quite well this way. Thanks for giving us numbers to help with the planning.

    1. You’re welcome!

  5. Rose Dean says:

    I’ve heard so many horror stories of people not having enough cloth diapers. This table is super helpful! I love how it’s searchable. I will have to pass this along to a friend of mine who always runs out. She is always complaining about not knowing the right amount.

    I think its always safer to go with more rather than less.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks, Rose!

  6. Anthony Hu says:

    Hi Holly, it is very kind of you to write the informative article. I remember when we have our new baby, my wife decided to use cloth diaper exclusively and she felt it was not safe to use disposable diaper. I guess nowadays disposable diapers are much safer than before. When we used cloth diapers, we bought a lot. We washed the diapers daily and spent a lot of time washing and drying the diapers. Even though it is some extra work, we were happy that our baby seemed feeling good using them, since when we switched from cloth diaper to disposable diapers, he was crying much more. What is your favorite choice, disposable or cloth diaper?  

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Anthony! While I believe disposable diapers have a purpose in modern society, I am definitely an advocate for using cloth diapers. I don’t think we have to be all or nothing, but if more families would be willing to use cloth diapers while at home and save disposables for travel or long days out of the house, that would make a big difference!

  7. Gracen says:

    Hi Holly, I have made use of cloth diapers in the past. I remember using it for my first baby, the only issue I had then was that my son became incredibly big two months after his birth, and all the nice cloth diapers I bought, couldn’t size him again. It wasn’t a nice experience for me. This singular scenario made me to divert back to non cloth diapers. I love the point of considering ones lifestyle, somebody that hates laundry or a busy mom might not find it funny using cloth diapers, but all the same it is great to use and a lot cheaper and healthier, because you get to wash and sundry the diapers by yourself. If I had read your blog earlier, I would have probably both the right quantity instead of stacking lots of them at the time. I think with this your guide, I will consider using cloth diaper when next I put to bed, because I have learnt the perfect amount to buy.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Gracen. Cloth diapering can be tricky without support! It sounds like you had a stash of a particular size of diaper. That definitely wouldn’t be fun once baby starts growing. Most one-size diapers work well from about 10 lbs to 30+ lbs.

  8. Vapz says:

    It’s so unfortunate that I got to know about these modern cloth diapers a little too late. The older ones used by our parents just seemed too inconvenient for me, so I went with the one-use disposable diapers. These cloth diapers are definitely more cost-effective in the long run than the disposable ones which end up polluting our environment.

    Truly,the amount of cloth diapers one baby would need can differ from another baby. And newborns grow so quickly so I’d use that time as a first-time cloth diaper user to monitor my baby’s change in pattern. So, using the disposable with the cloth diapers would be a better option for my situation and that’s the advice I gave to my sister-in-law. It did work better for her, so I guess you are right on that too. 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      I agree! It’s always good to learn your own baby’s pattern before getting committed to a certain number.

  9. Sujandar Mahesan says:

    The chart that you posted in your site is very helpful and important for new parents. The chart has all the criteria that parents can use to decide on the amount of cloth diapers they need. You also had so much valuable information about making the right diaper decisions for your family. Thank you so much for sharing this post

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Glad you found it helpful!

  10. Henry says:

    Hi! Thank you very much for suggesting not to stock up on a particular type of diaper. We may think we’ll like them but after using them, we realize they weren’t as we initially thought. I hadn’t considered this and was ready to commit this mistake.

    Another thing we should consider is our life style. We can only wash diapers once a week so we’ll have to buy an amount of diapers bearing that factor in mind.

    Thank you very much for these tables you have included. We’ll just buy diapers for our first week. And we’ll gradually be adding to that initial purchase.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Glad you found it helpful, Henry!

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