How many cloth diapers do I need? The question every new to cloth diapering mom needs answered!
Your grandma did it. Your mom might even have done it.
So, how about you? Are you ready for cloth diapering?
More parents are turning to cloth diapering as a way to save money, decrease their carbon footprint, and reduce their baby’s exposure to chemicals.
Besides being one-third to one-half the cost of disposables each year, cloth diapers are made of eco-friendly and (somewhat) natural fabrics. They make sense financially and environmentally, but the idea of cloth diapering CAN feel intimidating. Especially when you are starting out.
For example, how many cloth diapers do I need? If you are diving into the world of cloth diapering and have this question…you’ve come to the right place. We’ll dive into some of the basics of cloth diapering and give you a starting point for how many cloth diapers you’ll need.
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- Why Use Cloth Diapers?
- How to Make Cloth Diapering Work for You
- Types of Cloth Diapers
- Essential cloth diapering add-ons
- Sized Cloth Diapers vs One Size Fits Most (OSFM)
- How many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?
- Will You Save Money Using Cloth Diapers?
- The Final Word
- More Reading on Cloth Diapers
Why Use Cloth Diapers?
Disposable diapers have been around since the 1940s and became more mainstream in the United States in the 1970s. Advances in materials and design brought cloth diapering back into popularity in the early 2000s. Some of the reasons parents choose to cloth diaper include:
- Saves money: One of the main benefits of cloth diapering is the money you will save money over time. The initial investment is going to be higher than a pack of disposables, but it will quickly be recouped (especially if you use them on more than one child).
Disposable diapers cost anywhere between $70-80 a month, which amounts to almost $900 a year, or $1800 for two years. The cost for cloth diapers for TWO years (depending on your choices) is around $900-1000. If you plan to have more than one child and re-use your cloth diaper supplies it will save you even more.
- Decreased carbon footprint: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 20 billion disposable diapers are added to landfills each year in the U.S. alone. Choosing to cloth diaper will help decrease your baby’s carbon footprint by eliminating waste.
You’ve probably heard that diapers in landfills take 500 years to degrade and they also create methane and other toxic gases harmful to the environment. Disposable diaper production also uses over 200,000 trees each year in the U.S. alone.
Much of the cloth diapering materials are made from natural and sustainable materials like bamboo. Some people argue that the water needed to launder cloth diapers negates their decreased carbon footprint, but the waste and toxic gases produced along with deforestation effects are arguably more harmful.
- Reduce baby’s exposure to chemicals: The more we learn about chemicals involved in manufacturing, the better educated decisions we can make as parents. While there have been improvements made in the composition of disposable diapers, cloth diapers use natural, non-toxic materials. Diapers will be touching your baby’s very sensitive skin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Choosing cloth diapers will dramatically reduce a baby’s exposure to harmful and/or toxic chemicals that may be present in disposables.
How to Make Cloth Diapering Work for You
One aspect of cloth diapering that isn’t talked about enough is that it can be completely adjusted to what works for your family. It doesn’t have to be all in, all the time to be better for your baby and the environment. Every little bit helps! You can make cloth diapering work for you by adjusting it to your situation. Cloth diapering options include:
- Cloth Diaper part-time: If nighttime cloth diapering is too challenging because you have a heavy wetter, or if your mom watches the baby during the day and prefers disposables, you can make the choice to cloth diaper part-time.
- Cloth Diaper full-time: Maybe you love cloth diapering and it works for your family. Great! You can choose to use cloth diapers around the clock.
- Use disposable products inside of cloth diapers: There are eco-friendly yet disposable inserts that you can use with your cloth diapers. This definitely produces less waste but gives you some of the convenience of disposable diapers.
- Combination of disposables and cloth diapers: If you like to occasionally use cloth diapers or occasionally use disposables, you can have both on hand and mix it up. Again, the benefits that come from cloth diapering are beneficial at every level of commitment.
Types of Cloth Diapers
There are several different types of cloth diapers available in the market today. It is great to have so many choices, but can feel overwhelming! If you are just starting out with cloth diapering, you might want to try one of each type to see which you prefer. Some options include:
All-in-one (AIO) cloth diapers
Just as their name implies, AIO cloth diapers have everything you need in one product and they are the option most similar to disposable diapers. They include a waterproof outer layer lined by a wicking fabric, plus inserts that are sewn into the diaper. One pro of AIO diapers is that you don’t have to buy additional inserts (although you can purchase and add different inserts to better suit your baby). A drawback of AIO diapers is since they have all of the absorbency in one unit, they are thick and harder to fully dry after machine washing. You will also need to change baby’s entire diaper if he soils it.
All-in-two cloth diapers
These cloth diapers come in two parts: the outside, called a shell, and they have inserts that snap in or stuff into a pocket. Because the inserts are removable this type of diaper is much faster and easier to wash and dry. If you have the snap in kind, you may even be able to reuse the outer shell multiple times by just changing out the inserts.
A pocket diaper is a type of All-in-two cloth diaper. The inner layer of pocket diapers is usually suede cloth or fleece and helps to wick the moisture away from your baby’s skin into the insert.
Diaper Cover + insert/prefold/flat
This option is the classic picture that comes to mind when you mention cloth diapers. A waterproof diaper cover (which might have snaps or hook and loop closures) and a separate insert or prefold are used in tandem. A major benefit of this type of cloth diaper is that they are very customizable to your needs. You can basically use any absorbent insert, prefold or flat diaper inside the diaper cover – it doesn’t need to be snapped in or stuffed.
Diaper Cover + fitted diaper
A fitted diaper is NOT waterproof on its own but it looks and fastens very similar to an all-in-one diaper. Fitteds are made of all absorbent material and must be worn underneath a waterproof cover. This type of cloth diaper will stay in place well, but they can definitely be bulkier than an insert or pre-fold. Since the fitted diaper is all absorbent material, it also takes quite a bit longer to dry. This type of diaper is commonly used for night time cloth diapering, paired with a waterproof PUL cover or lanolized woollen soaker.
Do you need a dedicated ‘night diaper’? Maybe! If you have an older baby or a heavy wetter, you may like the option of a specialised heavy duty night diaper that has a high level of absorption. Night diapers are bulky and often come with additional boosters to increase the absorbency.
Essential cloth diapering add-ons
There are products that will make your cloth diapering considerably easier. Consider purchasing:
If you have a heavy wetter that soaks through normal liners, boosters will save so much time and effort! Simply add a booster to your favorite cloth diaper and test it out to see how much absorbency is enough for your little one.
Once baby is eating solids, these make diaper changes easier and help extend the life of your cloth diapers. Liners are basically a sheet of material you place between baby’s bottom and the cloth diaper. They allow fluids to pass through to the absorbent part of the diaper while keeping solids on top. When you go to change baby’s diaper, you can easily pick up the solids on the liner and flush them (not the liner of course!) The liner is disposable, however, you can purchase washable liners if you don’t mind the extra washing!
Another huge help for overnight, wool soakers are an extra layer you place on the outside of the cloth diaper. Wool is breathable, super absorbent and naturally anti-bacterial. When lanolized, your soakers become waterproof. Grab two or three soakers to help your make your night-time cloth diapering easier – they don’t need to be washed with every use, simply aired, with a full wash and re-lanolizing every couple of week or two.
Sized Cloth Diapers vs One Size Fits Most (OSFM)
How do you know what size diapers to buy for your little one? Well, it may seem strange but if you purchase One Size Fits Most (OSFM) diapers, you could use the exact same set of diapers from newborn to toddlerhood.
Here’s what you need to know about sized diapers vs OSFM:
- OSFM diapers have a LOT of snaps on the front – this is so you can fold the diaper down to get the right fit for your newborn. As baby grows you can expand the rise of the diaper by adjusting the snaps.
- Sized diapers – why would anyone buy sized diapers if you can simply invest once in a set of OSFM that’ll last you a lifetime? It can be difficult to get a good fit with OSFM diapers on newborns, which is one reason. It is also overall easier to use sized diapers (less confusing snaps to work out) and you can get a trimmer fit when baby is small. Because sized diapers are only used while baby is in that size, the wear and tear is also less. If you intend to cloth diaper a second (or third) child, using sized diapers may be the way to go.
How many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?
Now that you know some cloth diapering basics, let’s talk numbers.
Unlike their disposable counterparts, cloth diapers aren’t typically something you can grab from a grocery store when you’re running low. Having an adequate amount of cloth diapers on hand will make it less stressful and easier to manage.
If you ask this question to parents who cloth diaper you will get many different answers. But as a general rule, here are how many cloth diapers you will need:
- For a newborn: Brand new babies go through between 10-12 diapers each day. If you plan to wash the diapers every other day, a good number of newborn cloth diapers to purchase is 24. You could go as low as 18 if you are going to wash them more often.
- For baby: Babies from six months to 18 months use around 6-8 diapers per day. If you plan to wash the diapers every other day you will need 16 cloth diapers. You could purchase 12 and wash them more often.
- For toddler: Toddlers use 5-7 diapers per day. Every other day washing means you will need 14 cloth diapers, but if you want to spend a little less you could purchase 10.
Depending on the type of cloth diapering you choose, you might be able to get away with less diapers. I recommend starting on the lower end of the range and adding more if you are getting overwhelmed with keeping up with the laundry.
Will You Save Money Using Cloth Diapers?
Yes! You absolutely will save money using cloth diapers instead of disposables. While your initial investment will be more than a package of disposables, the amount of money you save over time is definite.
You can expect to spend between $900-1000 on cloth diaper necessities for your baby’s first two years of life. In contrast, disposables will set you back that much money each year. If you have two children, you will save approximately $2700 by choosing to cloth diaper.
The Final Word
Jumping into the world of cloth diapering can be intimidating. However, recognizing the long-term benefits of cloth diapering for your child and the environment makes it all worth it.
For the least stressful and simplest cloth diapering experience, plan on purchasing 24 OSFM cloth diapers. This will last you from birth to potty training.
If you’d prefer to use sized diapers, you’ll need 24 newborn size, plus 16 more in each size your baby reaches from 6-18 months. From 18 months, you’ll need to account for 14 diapers of each size.