When it comes to cloth diapering a baby, one of the most common questions asked by new parents is “How many cloth diapers will my baby need in a day?” The number of diaper changes a baby needs per day depends on several factors, including the baby’s age, feeding habits, and whether they are wearing cloth diapers full-time or part-time. Having an adequate cloth diaper supply is important to make cloth diapering manageable on a daily basis. This article will provide a detailed overview of how many cloth diapers a baby is likely to use per day based on their age and other considerations.
Newborn (0-3 months)
Newborn babies that are exclusively breastfed will need around 8-12 diaper changes per day. Newborns tend to have very loose bowel movements compared to older babies, so they require frequent diaper changes to avoid rashes. On average, most newborns will go through about 10-12 cloth diapers per day. Some babies may need fewer changes if they have less frequent bowel movements. Here is a rough estimate of the number of diaper changes a newborn is likely to need:
- 8-12 changes per day
- 1 diaper every 1-3 hours
For newborns that are cloth diapered full-time, having at least 24-36 cloth diapers in rotation is recommended. This allows enough clean diapers available while others are being washed and dried. Some parents choose to use disposables at night for the first few months when babies wake more frequently to feed, which reduces the number of cloth diapers needed. Using a cloth diaper service can also reduce the required stash size.
Key Factors Affecting Diaper Changes for Newborns
- Feeding method – Breastfed babies tend to have more frequent stools than formula-fed babies. More frequent changes are needed to avoid rashes.
- Baby’s digestion – Babies with sensitivity or digestive issues may have more frequent bowel movements requiring extra changes.
- Cloth diaper type – Super absorbent natural fiber cloth diapers like cotton prefolds may allow longer wear time between changes.
- Use of disposables – Using disposables at night can reduce the number of cloth diapers needed.
Infant (4-12 months)
As babies grow out of the newborn stage, their diapering needs change. Between 4-12 months, there is a decrease in the number of diaper changes needed as babies begin eating solid foods. Here are some estimates for cloth diaper changes needed:
- 6-10 changes per day
- 1 diaper change every 2-4 hours
For infants being cloth diapered full time, having 18-30 diapers in rotation is common. Some parents find they need fewer diapers at this stage if baby can go longer between changes with absorbent natural fiber diapers or diaper doublers. Disposable overnights also reduce the cloth diaper stash requirements.
Key Factors Affecting Diaper Changes for Infants
- Solid food introduction – After starting solids around 6 months, stools become less frequent/loose.
- Mobility – Crawling and walking babies tend to have fewer bowel movements.
- Effective diaper system – Finding the right cloth diapers and absorbency level means less frequent changes.
- Disposable overnights – Allows stretching out daytime cloth diapers by using disposables at night.
Toddler (1-3 years)
As babies transition into the toddler years, their bladder and bowel control improves significantly. Most toddlers need just 6-8 diaper changes per day. Here is an overview:
- 6-8 changes per day
- 1 change every 3-4 hours
For toddlers wearing cloth diapers full-time, around 18-24 diapers in rotation is common. Active toddlers tend to need changes more frequently, so the higher end of the range is better. Using disposables at night and/or when out can reduce the number of cloth diapers needed.
Key Factors Affecting Diaper Changes for Toddlers
- Bladder control – Many toddlers potty train between 2-3 years old, so require fewer diaper changes.
- Diet – Solid food diets mean less frequent stools.
- Activity level – Active, mobile toddlers may need more frequent changes.
- Going out – Disposables when out and about can reduce cloth diaper needs.
In addition to a baby’s age, there are a few other factors that can affect how many cloth diaper covers are needed per day:
Some babies are simply heavy wetters and require more frequent diaper changes than others. Doubling up on inserts or using ultra absorbent natural fiber diapers can help extend wear time for heavy wetters.
Night time diapering
Many parents choose to use disposables or hybrid diapers at night. This means fewer cloth diapers are needed during daytime hours. Using cloth at night usually requires ultra absorbent diapers and/or doublers to avoid leaks.
Part-time cloth diapering
Families who use cloth part-time will need fewer diapers. Using cloth just on weekdays or only at home are common part-time options. The required stash size is very individualized for part-time users.
Using a diaper service
Cloth diaper services provide clean diaper deliveries, reducing the number of diapers parents need to own. Diaper services typically require use of their own diapers, with 12-24 provided per week for full-time users.
Cloth Diapering Recommendations by Age
Here is a quick overview of the recommended number of cloth diapers needed based on a baby’s age when cloth diapering full-time:
|Diapers Per Day
|Recommended Stash Size
These recommendations provide a general guideline, but individual needs vary. Factors like night time diapering, heavy wetters, and part-time cloth diapering can all impact how many diapers are ideal. Many parents recommend starting with smaller stash and adding more diapers as needed. Cloth diaper laundering requires washing every 2-3 days, so most families only need a 3-4 day supply of diapers.
Cloth Diapering on a Budget
While building a stash of cloth diapers has an upfront cost, it saves thousands of dollars over using disposables long-term. There are also ways to cloth diaper on a budget:
- Buy used diapers in excellent condition
- Use flour sack towels or prefolds as affordable diaper layers
- Make your own diaper inserts from old blankets, sheets, or t-shirts
- Choose less expensive diaper covers and reuse covers between changes
- Use disposables or hybrid diapers at night to reduce cloth diaper needs
- Part-time cloth diapering still provides cost savings over full-time disposables
With some creativity and planning, cloth diapering can work with almost any family’s budget. The long term savings compared to ongoing disposable diaper costs is substantial.
Choosing a Cloth Diaper System
When preparing to cloth diaper your baby, investing some time researching the different diapering systems available is helpful. Here are some popular types of cloth diapers:
- Prefolds – Rectangular cloth diapers that fasten with a Snappi and require a cover. Very affordable option.
- All-in-Ones – Diaper cover, inserts, and waterproof layer are sewn in. No stuffing required.
- Pocket diapers – Diaper cover with a moisture wicking liner and space to stuff absorbent inserts.
- Fitteds – Diaper cover and absorbent layers sewn together. Require a diaper cover.
- Hybrid diapers – Have both reusable cloth components and disposable pad options.
Consider convenience, cost, wash routines, and other factors when choosing your diapers. Having different types of diapers that allow customize absorbency as baby grows can be beneficial. Many families find that using a combination of diapering systems works well.
Diaper covers made of waterproof materials like PUL (polyurethane laminate), wool, or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) are needed for many cloth diapering systems. Look for double gussets around legs and stretch at the waist and legs for the best fit. Having 6-10 covers in rotation is common, and they can be easily wiped clean between diaper changes.
Inserts and Doublers
Inserts provide the absorbent layers of your diapers. Natural fibers like cotton, hemp, bamboo and microfiber blends work well. Having a range of light, moderate and heavy absorbency inserts allows you to customize as needed. Inserts typically are sold in packs of 5-10.
Doublers add extra absorbency for heavy wetters or overnight. Microfiber or hemp doublers 5-10 layers thick can extend the time between changes.
Washing and Care
Proper washing is key to keeping cloth diapers clean and absorbent. Most brands recommend washing every 2-3 days. Hot water, an extra rinse, and line drying inserts helps maximize their lifespan. Non-chlorine bleach can be used for disinfection.
A diaper sprayer for rinsing soiled diapers, wet bag for storing dirties, and drying rack are useful accessories for cloth diaper care. With a good routine, washing and prepping diapers takes just a small amount of time each day.
Cloth Diapering Makes Financial Sense
While cloth diapers have an initial start-up cost, over time they save thousands compared to the ongoing cost of disposables. Here is a look at the potential savings:
|Est. Disposables Cost
|Cloth Diaper Cost
These are rough estimates, but indicate substantial savings from birth through potty training with cloth. Disposable diaper costs add up quickly!
Other Financial Benefits of Cloth Diapers
- Reuse on multiple children – Diapers often last through 2+ kids
- Better resale value – Diapers retain around 25-50% of original price when resold in excellent condition
- Reduce garbage waste – Less environmental impact than thousands of disposable diapers
- Lower impact on landfills – Cloth diapers biodegrade like other laundry
- Save money on laundry needs – Eliminate purchase of disposable wipes
The numbers demonstrate that cloth diapering provides substantial financial savings in most family budgets. And many hidden benefits beyond the actual diaper costs.
Making Cloth Diapering Work for Your Lifestyle
Here are some tips to help make cloth diapering work smoothly in your home:
Establish a wash routine
Wash every 2-3 days to avoid smells or stains building up. Having enough diapers to go 3 days between washes is ideal.
Use a diaper pail and wet bag
Store dirty diapers in a wet bag, then transfer to a diaper pail with a hanging wet bag or air filters to contain odors.
Have a diaper station
Set up an area with a changing pad, storage for diapers/covers/inserts, and a diaper pail nearby. This saves time with each change.
Prep diapers ahead
After washing, stuff pocket diapers and fold prefolds so they are ready to just grab as needed.
Use disposables when out
Bringing cloth diapers when leaving home takes planning. Disposables while out saves hassle.
Consider part-time cloth diapering
You can alternate cloth on some days/times with disposables on others if needed. Any cloth diapering provides savings!
Finding the approach that fits your family’s needs and lifestyle will help you be successful with cloth diapering. Don’t be afraid to tweak your system until it works for you.
FAQs: Cloth Diapering Basics
Does cloth diapering require extra laundry?
Cloth diapers do add more laundry. Most parents find washing every 2-3 days manageable. Cloth wipes can also be washed with diapers. Streamlining laundry routines help make cloth diapering worthwhile.
Do cloth diapers leak more than disposables?
When properly fitted and with absorbent inserts, cloth diapers should not leak more than disposables. Using the right diapering system and adding doublers as needed prevents leaks.
Is cloth diapering more work than disposables?
There is a small time investment in washing and prepping cloth diapers. But parents find benefits like cost savings, environmental impact, and baby health outweigh extra effort.
Do babies potty train later with cloth diapers?
There is no evidence that cloth diapered babies potty train later. Cloth diapered babies learn to recognize wetness and associate discomfort just like disposable users.
Is cloth diapering messier than disposables?
Cloth diapers require rinsing solid wastes before washing, but laundering human waste is very manageable. Systems like diaper sprayers, pails, and wet bags help contain messes.
The Bottom Line
Cloth diapering requires an initial investment of time and money for supplies, but pays off dividends in cost savings and other benefits. While the number of diaper changes a baby needs per day varies based on age and other factors, most families find having around 20-30 diapers in rotation adequate for full-time cloth diapering. Choosing a diapering system that fits your family’s needs and sticking with a easy cloth diapering routine is key to making it work smoothly.