Once you decide to use cloth diapers, one of the first questions you'll probably ask is "How many cloth diapers do I need?" The answer varies a bit depending on how often you plan to wash diapers, how old your baby is, and what style of diapers you use. Of course, if your baby is a heavy wetter, you might need to change them a bit more often as well.
Natural fiber diapers can be very absorbent, but for some babies a stay-dry lining is important to keep baby feeling dry for as long as possible.
Wet or dirty diapers are a sure recipe for diaper rashes - so you'll want to change your baby as soon as they are wet or dirty. While the super-absorbent gels and other chemicals in plastic and paper diapers have helped convince people that letting a baby sit in a wet diaper half the day is normal - it is not good for their skin. Doctors generally recommend that babies are changed about every 2-3 hours during the day. Once your baby is sleeping through the night, you will want to find a diaper that can keep baby dry for as long as they sleep.
You will need as many diapers as your baby uses each day, times the number of days between washing. While some people wash only once a week, this is hard on your diapers and can lead to odors and faster breakdown of the fabrics. Daily washing is possible if you really can only afford to start with a few diapers. However, washing daily will wear out the diapers faster and will waste a lot of time and water.
Washing cloth diapers every 2-3 days is the most efficient way to use water (24 diapers is perfect for a washload). Washing a few times a week is also the best way to make sure that your diapers remain odor and stain-free.
It never hurts to have extra diapers. You will want to get a few extra diapers to have on hand while you are washing cloth diapers. A few extra diapers are worth the investment to make sure you never run out at a bad time - and it makes it easier to keep a few extra cloth diapers in the diaper bag.
|Wash Daily||Every 2 days||Every 3 days|
|Up to 6 Mos.||10-12||20-24||30-36|
For prefolds, contour diapers or fitted diapers, you will want to have at least one cloth diaper cover for each 3-4 diapers you have. Most people use 2-3 diaper covers for each day and rotate them to allow the covers to air dry between uses. For newborns, contour diapers, or trifolded prefolds, you'll need a few extra covers. This is because the covers tend to get dirty more often in these cases.
Wool diaper covers don't need to be washed as often as other materials. Wool is naturally antibacterial and when properly treated with lanolin (the natural wool moisturizer) they are water-resistant. Wool covers can be washed every 2 weeks or so as needed. PUL or fleece diaper covers are easy to wash and dry, and can be quickly handwashed if you run out of covers between wash days.
If you are on a budget, you can start with a few diapers and add more each pay day until you have enough diapers for your needs. If you are really hard up for cash, a few one size diaper covers and some flat diapers will work quite well to keep your baby dry. In a real pinch, flat diapers can even be handwashed.
Our cloth diaper layaway plan can also make cloth diapers more affordable. You can start paying for your diapers early in your pregnancy, for instance, and have them all paid for by the time your baby arrives. Not sure which diapers you want to use? Our trial programs make it inexpensive and risk-free to try cloth diapers and see what you like.
Prefold cloth diapers and covers are cost-effective, easy to clean, and easy-to-use. You can get a full set of prefolds with covers for about $125-150. Econobum diapers are designed to last from birth to potty for under $100.