When planning to use cloth diapers for your little one you might struggle to find a complete answer to the simple question “how many cloth diapers do I need?” Most people say a minimum of 24, but this number is generalized and will change based on multiple factors.
I’ve put together this article to help mamas like you easily understand how many diapers you’ll need based on your unique circumstances!
I remember first learning about all the incredible benefits of cloth diapering. No harsh chemicals, fewer skin reactions, beautiful prints, excellent resale value, better for the environment, cost-effectiveness, and the list goes on. It was a no-brainer for me that I needed to try it, but as someone who wanted to ease into it with a part-time stash and an older infant, I couldn’t figure out how many cloth diapers I really needed to get started.
On this page… (JUMP TO)
- How many diapers per day by age?
- How often will you wash your cloth diapers?
- How many covers will you need?
- How many diapers for part-time use?
- How many diapers for heavy wetters?
- How many doublers or boosters for added absorbency?
- Calculate how many diapers and covers you need (a step by step infographic)
- My recommendation
Generally, you can determine how many cloth diapers you’ll need by counting how many diapers your child wears in 24 hours and multiplying it by how many days the diapers will go between washing.
Add that number to your desired emergency stash and any additional boosters you need, and you have yourself a good starting point for cloth diapering.
Read more below to get a more complete picture including how many covers you need!
The number of cloth diapers you need will depend on multiple factors:
- Age of child
- How often you are doing laundry
- Diapering system used
- Full-time vs part-time
- Whether or not your child is a heavy wetter
You can jump below to our easy-to-follow infographic to visually calculate how many diapers you will need.
How many diapers do I need per day by age?
The exact number of cloth diapers per day will vary with each baby. However, there are average ranges we can expect to see by age.
- 0 – 6 months: 8-12 diapers per day
- 6 – 12 months: 6-8 diapers per day
- 12+ months: 4-7 diapers per day
- 4yr+ (child incontinence): 4-6 diapers per day
With cloth diapering, you are looking at changing diapers every 1.5-2 hours or so for a newborn through the daytime, and 2-3 hours for an older baby during the day.
How often will you wash your cloth diapers?
How often you plan on washing your cloth diapers is one of the biggest determining factors in how many you need.
It’s recommended to wash your cloth diapers every two to three days. Some choose to launder their cloth diapers every day. There are even some who choose to wash once a week, though it’s not recommended due to the increased risk of mold, residue and smell build-up.
You want to have enough on hand for each day that you need to get by without washing, plus a minimum of 2 extras for any bathroom emergencies.
If budget isn’t a concern, you can buy a full day’s worth of cloth diapers for emergencies or for the added flexibility of going an extra day here and there without washing.
How many covers will you need?
The number of cloth diaper covers you need will vary depending on the type of system you choose to go with.
If you’re using a system with reusable PUL/TPU covers, have one cover for every 2-3 diaper changes. When using wool diaper covers, have 2-3 for babies who are eating solid foods, and 3-4 for babies who are not since they are more likely to get diaper covers soiled.
All-in-one’s & pockets:
These do not require separate covers since they are either attached or get soiled along with the diapers. If you were to use inserts to try and buffer the absorption, the inner lining of the cover itself is still absorbent, thus still requiring washing after each use.
AI2 or hybrid covers are often sold separately from their snap-in inserts. Since AI2s offer PUL/TPU “wipe clean” covers, you can reuse the cover for 2-3 wears between washes. This means you can have fewer covers than the attachable inserts/diapers for this system.
Flats, prefolds, fitteds, contours:
These must be used with a separately purchased cloth diaper cover over top. Since most suitable covers can be reused more than once, fewer covers are needed than the absorbent diapers. These diaper types can also be used with AI2 diaper covers but will not snap in to secure onto the cover.
Wool diaper covers:
In my opinion, wool diaper covers are far superior to PUL/TPU covers. Typical PUL/TPU covers typically last 2-3 uses if not soiled. Whereas one wool cover can last 3-4 weeks if not soiled, plus they have a number of amazing benefits to consider. With babies who have not started solids, covers are far more likely to get soiled due to their poo consistency and frequency, so more wool diaper covers are recommended for the 0-6 month range to accommodate for this.
How many cloth diapers do I need for part-time use?
Yes, you can use cloth diapers AND disposables! Even when only using cloth diapers part-time, there are so many benefits. Using cloth diapers part-time looks different for each family. Sometimes daycares don’t allow cloth diapers. Sometimes families only use cloth throughout the day, at night, or only while at home.
The number of cloth diapers needed per day for part-time cloth diapering can only be determined by you. How many changes per day do you want to be cloth vs disposable?
You can multiply your part-time “diapers per day” with the number of days of your desired wash schedule to get an educated estimate of how many you will need.
Once you get that number, add a minimum of 2 diapers up to a full day of diaper use for emergencies. You could also stick with disposables for emergencies.
Once you get a feel for it and develop the habit of cloth diapering, you can see if you want to add more to the mix!
RELATED: I’ve created a whole post about cloth diaper inserts that you can reference to pick out the combination that’s best for you! From absorbency comparisons to picking out materials and layering them – we’ve got you covered.
How many cloth diapers do I need for heavy wetters?
With the ranges given above for various ages, you should use the highest number if you know your baby is a particularly heavy wetter. With heavy wetters, you will need additional absorbency to help diapers last longer between changes.
For heavy wetters you will roughly need:
- 0 – 6 months: 12 cloth diapers per day
- 6 – 12 months: 8 cloth diapers per day
- 12+ months: 7 cloth diapers per day
- 4yr+ (child incontinence): 6 diapers per day
You should use diapers or inserts made with natural fibers that retain more moisture such as cotton, bamboo, or hemp for better absorbency. Microfiber absorbs quickly, but if squished after it has been fully saturated, microfiber lets the liquid leak back out easily.
RELATED: Planning on overnight cloth diapering a heavy wetter? Find the best tried-and-true leak-proof combinations.
How many doublers or boosters for added absorbency?
Boosters or doublers are simply inserts that are meant to add extra absorbency to a cloth diaper. They can be made of hemp, bamboo, cotton, or microfiber. Some babies require a booster at all times, while others might just need one for naps, car trips, longer outings, and bedtime.
Whether or not you need boosters in your stash will depend a lot on your baby. I recommend having about 6-10 boosters available in your stash to start with and only increasing if you need more.
Calculate how many cloth diapers and covers you need (an infographic)
So, how many cloth diapers do I need?
Ultimately, I recommend having enough cloth diapers for 2.5 days and washing them every other day. Remember, you might go through fewer or more diapers depending on your baby. So, when starting out it’s a great idea to have a few disposables at hand. That way, if needed, you can purchase more cloth diapers and use disposables as a temporary backup.
Whew! You did an awesome job at covering all the possible fluctuations for how many diapers a baby goes through. As a mom of six, I find the suggested numbers for cloth diapers to be spot on.
I’m so glad you found it helpful and accurate!
This was awesome! I love how you broke everything down and your graphics are so pretty.
Oh I loved cloth diapering my little ones. It was such a great option for our family. Such a great article sharing information on the essentials of how to cloth diaper with your babies.
Love that you mentioned part time CD! People tend to think its all or nothing and are shocked when they hear they came do both. Great article.
Great info! Thanks for sharing!
Such great baby insights. Most of them I did not know about. Thank you for sharing.
This is interesting to know about. It will help when having babies. Definitely keeping this information in mind