How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need? 5 Factors to Consider

Making the decision to switch to cloth diapers can be overwhelming, especially when you think about the many considerations you need to make before you actually get around to buying them. One of the most common questions new parents have is how many cloth diapers they will actually need for their baby.

A good rule is to take the number of days you plan to go in between laundry loads and multiply that by the number of diapers your baby goes through in a day and add one extra day’s worth to that. The additional day being the ones you will use for emergencies or while the others are in the wash.

diaper checklist

While this may be a guide, there is not a one size fits all answer to how many cloth diapers a baby needs. The amount will depend on a variety of factors and will ultimately depend on what works best for you and your baby.

Factors to Consider

Age

 one year old

The number of times a baby goes to the bathroom depends on his/her age, and thus the number of cloth diapers needed varies greatly as well. A newborn baby typically needs a diaper change every two to three hours, which amounts to eight to twelve diaper changes in a day, while a twelve-month-old may need less than half of that.

Remember to add at least three extra cloth diapers to the actual number that your baby actually goes through in a day.

Newborn to one-month twelve to fifteen cloth diapers a day
One-month to six-months ten to twelve cloth diapers a day
Six-months to twelve-months  eight to ten cloth diapers a day
Twelve-months to eighteen-months six to eight cloth diapers a day
Eighteen-moths and up three to six cloth diapers a day

Laundry

washable diapers cloth

The number of cloth diapers you will need also depends on how often they are washed. As with other clothing, less frequent use and less frequent washing equals less wear and tear. A smaller supply of fifteen cloth diapers which requires daily or almost daily laundering will wear out much faster than a supply of forty which lasts three days and requires less frequent laundering.

It is recommended that cloth diapers are washed at least every three days, preferably every two. Leaving used cloth diapers unwashed for more than three days between washings can lead to residual staining, smells, mildew, and increased wear and tear, given that it will take more wash cycles to get them clean.

It is recommended that no more than eighteen cloth diapers are washed in a single cycle, and that they are run through two cycles, a cold cycle first, followed by a hot cycle. Line drying diapers is also recommended, as the heat from a tumble dryer may cause plastic closures and lining to warp.

The type of cloth diapers you use could also affect how often you need to launder them. Certain cloth diapers known as all in twos have removable absorbent inserts which allow for less frequent complete diaper changes.

Budget

 diapers piggy bank

While cloth diapers save money in the long run, the initial cost of them is quite high. A large supply of cloth diapers, including accessories like wet bags and wipes can cost anywhere from $300USD to $500 USD. Having a larger supply of cloth diapers means not having to launder them as frequently, decreasing the wear and tear on your cloth diapers, and decreasing the number of times you will need to buy new ones to replace worn-out diapers.

A smaller supply of twenty-five cloth diapers may cost less but might have to be replaced every nine-months, while a larger supply of fifty can easily last two or three years. With proper care, a large enough supply of cloth diapers could even last multiple children.

Types

 types of diapers

While there are many styles and types of cloth diapers, they can generally be boiled down to two main groups based on how often complete diaper changes are needed.

All-in-One Cloth Diapers

All-in-one diapers, as the name suggests, come in one piece, with the absorbent material, inner lining, and outer waterproof cover all sewn together. All-in-one cloth diapers come closest to disposables when it comes to form and are preferred by some people for their convenience, especially while on-the-go. Because of the way they are designed however, each diaper change requires an entirely new diaper.

Pocket diapers also come under the category of all-in-one cloth diapers. The difference is that pocket diapers have a removable absorbent insert between the inner lining and outer cover, allowing you to switch between different absorbencies. The interchangeable insert may reduce the number of different cloth diapers you need, although the entire diaper still needs to be changed each time.

All in Two Cloth Diapers

All in two cloth diapers come in two parts, a removable absorbent liner and a waterproof outer cover. The absorbent liner, which can be either disposable or reusable, sits on top of the outer cover directly in contact with the baby’s skin.

The absorbent liner is removed and replaced with each diaper change, but the outer cover can be wiped down and left for up to two or three diaper changes as long as it is not entirely soiled.

Because the outer covering of all in two cloth diapers can last a few diaper changes, you may be able to get away with buying fewer ones than you would with all-in-one cloth diapers.

Sizes

diaper sizes

One Sized Cloth Diapers

Many of the cloth diapers on the market today come in a one-sized system. These one-size diapers come with a variety of adjustable button closures which allow the cloth diapers to fit your baby at every size from birth onwards.

A large enough set of good quality one-size diapers could be enough to last a baby through all of their diapered years. Keep in mind that because they are meant to be used for a much longer period, they will incur more wear than sized diapers, and may need to be replaced more often, depending on how often they are worn and laundered.

Sized Cloth Diapers

Sized cloth diapers come in sizes much like disposable diapers do. With sized cloth diapers, you will need to buy new ones more often to keep up with your baby’s growth.

Because sized cloth diapers are meant to be used for a shorter period, they incur less wear and tear. This makes them a better and possibly more economical option if you plan on reselling or reusing the same cloth diapers on future siblings.

To Sum It All Up

Cloth diapering can be intimidating, especially if you are new to it. It takes a bit of practice and a bit of experimentation to figure out what works best for you. If you are unsure of whether or not cloth diapers are right for you, you may want to start out with less and add more to your supply as you get more comfortable with using them.

The number of cloth diapers a baby needs will be different for each baby and each family. The total number of cloth diapers you will need to keep your baby happy and healthy will depend on your baby’s age, the type and style of cloth diapers you have, how often you launder them, and how many you plan to buy at once.

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