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Back to Basics: How many diapers do I need?

Updated March 17, 2014

I remember one of the first questions I had when planning to cloth diaper was "How many diapers do I need?" I've heard multiple answers, "a dozen, two dozen, it depends..."

How many diapers are in my stash?
I started with a stash of about a dozen diapers. I knew I wanted to have more in my stash than just that, but it was a sampler of diaper brands and styles to help me decide what we liked best before totally investing all of our money. I highly recommend doing this before buying your entire stash, but that's another blog post.

We started cloth diapering Noah at 2 1/2 weeks old with a dozen diapers. I knew that was just enough to get us through a day of diaper changes, but I figured I could supplement with disposables or wash nightly. After a couple weeks, we invested in a dozen more diapers. Thankfully, there was a deal going for the brand we choose, "buy 6, get 2 free." AND I shopped at Kelly's Closet and used a free diaper coupon and got a 3rd diaper for free. We placed that order twice and ended up paying for 12 diapers, but getting 6 more for free! Oh yeah, and then there was a Zulily deal for two more diapers that I purchased and a Groupon for a cloth diaper store where I bought 3 more diapers. Okay, so either way, I ended up with 35 diapers. We had decided this was more than enough for one child. Then I became addicted to giveaways and I won...a lot! I've placed a few orders for things "I had to have" and have always taken advantage of the free diaper coupons at Kelly's Closet. So over the course of a year, I have more than enough diapers. Honestly, I don't want to count them, but you can check out my stash and see for yourself. Let's just say, I don't need all of these diapers. You can get by with much, much less!

How many do I really need?
Here's a few questions to help you determine how many diapers you need in your stash.

How many children will you be cloth diapering at once?
If you have more than one child in diapers, you'll need more diapers per day than a family with just one in diapers.

How often do you plan to do diaper laundry? 
It is recommended to wash diapers every 2-3 days. You don't want to go any longer. The smell will be awful, but most importantly, you don't want soiled diapers to sit for too long! Stains will set in, ammonia will creep up. Take my advice, wash at least every 3 days! I have more than enough diapers to go a week or longer between washing, but I don't.

If you can handle washing nightly, you could make do with a smaller stash. Just enough diapers to get you through a 24 period will be enough. If you want to wash every other day, you'll need enough for 48 hours. Three days and you'll need enough for 72 hours.

How old is your child?
Newborns tend to go through more diapers in a day than older babies. A newborn is going to need roughly 12+ diapers a day. This is just an estimate. Don't be surprised if your baby goes through more than that! There were countless times I changed a diaper more than once in ten minute period! It is recommended that you change your child's diaper every couple of hours. Of course, you'll change more than that if needed. At 14 months, my son went through about 6 or 7 diapers a day.

How long does your child sleep at night?
If your child sleeps through the night, you'll only need one diaper during the night. If your child wakes multiple times a night, it's likely that you will change their diaper each time they are awake. This will increase the number of diapers you will need each day.

My suggestion for families that are planning to cloth diaper from birth is to plan for 12 diaper changes each day, but to have more diapers on hand just in case! Diaper laundry is not quick. Between all the wash cycles and waiting for things to dry you will need more diapers to get you through that period. Also, I find that it's best to prepare for the worst! Of course, if you notice your stash getting low and it's not your scheduled time to do laundry, you can always start a load anyway.

If planning to wash every other day:

cloth diaper stash

This of course varies for all families. You should take into consideration all of the factors mentioned above. If you're like me and end up with more diapers than you need, you can always sell some (the resale value is great on many diapers), loan them to a friend interested in cloth, or donate them to a family in need.

A little warning though, cloth diapers can be very addictive. There are always new prints, colors, styles. Good luck! I can't be blamed for any cloth diaper obsessions!

For those of you already cloth diapering, how many diapers do you have in your stash? Do you have enough? Are you like me and have way more than enough?

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