How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need? Complete Guide

If you are thinking of using cloth diapers, you are headed in the right direction. 

While disposable diapers are convenient and easy to use, they cause a lot more mess than clean up. 

Cloth diapers are just the opposite of the disposable ones–cheaper, reusable, environmentally friendly (over 27 billion disposable diapers end up in landfills each year), and chemical-free.

If you are a new parent (congratulations!) or soon will be (best wishes!), you must know that babies poopoo and peepee a lot. A baby uses a shockingly large number of diapers by the time they are potty trained.

When it comes to disposable diapers, the calculation of how many you need does not matter. You buy as many as you want to. You use up as many as you buy. 

But how about cloth diapers? How many do you need to buy upfront?

Essentially, the question we are trying to answer is this: If I want to buy enough cloth diapers never to run out, yet not stock more than I need, how many do I buy? 

This article provides you the guidance you need. By the end of this article, you should have already begun some number crunching in your head for cloth diapers and for diaper covers too!

How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need dadgold baby tips

Cloth Diapers – Why Choose Them Over Disposable?

We touched upon this above. You might think that the main reason to choose cloth diapers over disposables is cost. Yes!

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But there are so many other reasons. By using cloth diapers:

  • You don’t generate waste and put a load on landfills like you would with disposable diapers. So, you stay in the good books of mommy earth.
  • You don’t bring harmful chemicals in contact with your baby’s skin. 
  • You find it easier to potty train the kids. 
  • You avoid diaper rash on kids, which is a common issue with disposable diapers.
  • You enjoy lots of style choices and fun patterns.

You must, however, know about certain drawbacks related to cloth diapers in comparison with disposables. You’ll spend significant time on laundry. Also, it becomes a tad difficult to manage with cloth diapers away from home; outside the home (such as in daycare), disposables are pretty convenient.

How many cloth diapers do I need to start with?

To arrive at this figure, you need to make three key considerations: 

  • Daily requirement as per the child’s age 
  • The number of days between washes
  • Adjustments

Daily requirement as per the child’s age: On average, newborns need a diaper change every 2 hours. So, you’ll do the diaper service about 12 times a day in the first six months.

These numbers reduce as the baby grows up. Infants (6-12 months old) need diaper service 6-10 times a day, and toddlers (12-24 months) range from 4-7 times a day. 

These are general averages. Each child is different, and so is their wetting and pooping habit. 

If you like precision, observe your baby’s per-day bathroom count over a few days. Identify the highest number; that would be a reasonable estimate of what works for you.

The number of days between washes: This is the most critical piece of information you need to factor in for estimating your cloth diaper needs.

There is a significant difference between an adult’s dirty clothes and dirty cloth diapers. 

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Remember, the cloth diapers are soaked in poop and urine. So you can’t keep them waiting to be cleaned for long. To avoid stink and other issues (such as mildew), you must wash the dirty cloth the same day or the very next day. It is not recommended to keep them as is till the third day.

Many parents are too disciplined and do diaper laundry every day. Hats off to them!

At the same time, many stick to a 2-day cycle.

Let’s assume that you’ll wash every second day, which means you need two days of stock at the bare minimum. The longer you intend to go between washes, the more diapers you need.

Adjustments: You have already considered the two major factors. 

Next, you may adjust your needs according to the following considerations:

  • Additional diapers for emergencies? (recommended to stock for an additional day)
  • Additional diapers for daycare?
  • Additional diapers to keep in different places such as the car and diaper bag? (helps avoid repacking every time you need to go out) 
  • Additional diapers to reduce overall wear and tear on each diaper? (large stock helps keep diapers in good condition for a second child)
  • Reduction in the required number of diapers if using disposable diapers as well?

There you go! You have all the information you need. 

So, if you have been wondering ‘how many newborn cloth diapers I need to start with,’ a sample calculation could look like this:

(The number of diapers per day x The number of days between washes) + Extras 

(12 diapers x 2) + 12 (for emergencies) = Around 36 diapers

Thirty-six cloth diapers are a decent-sized stock, to begin with. Remember, the baby will outgrow the size quickly. If you can speed up your laundry, you can survive with a lesser count. Anyhow, we’d recommend not going below 30.

How long will a cloth diaper last before I need to replace it?

It depends on the kind of cloth diaper you purchase and the kind of wear and tears they endure. 

Always buy high-quality diapers. A high-quality diaper that is made of durable fabric and good stitching will last longer. 

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The wear and tear depending on how often a diaper is used (and subsequently washed). So, if you have a large stock, the wear and tear will be less. A cloth diaper’s life increases when the washing decreases! 

Typically, a diaper with lots of wear and tear (frequently used and washed, part of a small stash) lasts 6 – 9 months. 

What about diaper covers – how many of those do I need?

cloth diaper covers

Cloth diapers come in varying styles and prices. A cloth diaper does not always mean a single, one-piece cloth. 

Some diapers are two-pieced, where the primary function is performed by a piece of super-absorbent cloth (referred to as inserts). The other piece is an outer cover that prevents leakage. 

During a diaper service, you’ll only change the insert. You won’t replace the cover until it gets messy due to heavy wetting. 

On average, you can expect to replace the cover on every third diaper service. Therefore, the generally accepted calculation of the required number of covers is 1/3rd of the number of inserts (diapers). 


I am certain this article has given you some guidance for how many cloth diapers you need.

Cloth diapering is an excellent method of keeping costs down when you have a newborn. Sure, it does take more effort, but the environment will thank you in the long run!

If you are not sure, begin with a small-to-medium stock and see how it works for you. Parenting is all about learning on the go. The good news is, you made a great choice to go with cloth diapers. 

For those who are switching over from disposable ones, you’re going to massively enjoy a break from buying packets after packets of disposables. That’s going to give you an extra dose of happiness. 

Over to you… please let me know what cloth diaper system works/worked for you? How about sharing some hands-on tips with fellow parents.

Good luck!


About ME

Let’s start with the obvious, I’m a dad.

I have 2 kids. One was dragged out from the comfort of his Mother’s womb kicking and screaming, and the other was a little easier.

Dad Gold was created to give tips that I wish someone had given me!

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