How many diapers do I need?

We are talking about quantities of diapers.
We have lots of moms on the list who have picked up cloth when their child was 3-6 months old, now expecting their next baby and going to be doing cloth from birth. I have seen some websites recommend 3-4 dozen prefolds/fitted/pockets/AIOs, whichever you are going to use, and I would offer the advice to start with much less.

Our reasons for this are:

-We believe strongly in washing frequently. Many stain and odor issues are eliminated by washing every day or every other day, and when you have 4 dozen prefolds and use 15-18 a day, it is hard to find the motivation to wash. The more that buildup in the pail, the more odor from the pail you can have, and the harder to get them clean.
-I am somewhat of a minimalist with diapers, for the reason that I want to save my diaper allowance for the bigger sizes, and if something new comes out I want to try. Instead of buying an extra dozen diapers, save that money for the bigger sizes, when you see what you are liking and disliking about your current system, and either to upsize it, or try something new later down the road.
-Most babies (not all, I know some customers who have the super-poopers who like to go every 15 minutes) will have a tiny bowel movement with every urination, which usually means you are changing a diaper every 1.5 hours or so. Sometimes more, sometimes less, you will see what your baby’s pattern is, at night if he/she cluster feeds they may go through 3 diapers in 2 hours, but in the morning after a lot of night nursing, space out to 1.5-2 hours in their bowel movements. I advise to have 18-20 diapers for daily washing.
-You can always upsize. I would rather see you underbuy and then decide you need 2-3 more diapers to get to your wash routine you want to have, then to be diapering and realize you never get to the last 6-12 diapers in your stack in the changing area. I liked the assurance knowing I had the perfect number for my routine, and saved some extra dollars for future needs.

So, what we recommend quantity wise for newborns:
18-20 prefolds
3-4 covers (one for the diaper bag, one to use while washing the other, and then an extra if it gets soiled)
2-3 Snappis
Baby wipes (you can use baby washcloths from the dollar store, we do sell some lovely wipes, but in a pinch, go to your dollar store, for $5.00 get about 25 washcloths to use as wipes)

To make yourself:
-Optional: fleece liners to keep baby feeling dry. You can cut these for pennies from scrap fleece, no sewing needed.

Right there that is a very economical and basic stash that is truly all you need to diaper. That got us through two babies, washing every day, and learning to do a very snug bikini twist to avoid cover blowouts. You can cloth diaper on a dime, and that system is reuseable for subsequent children~

If you want to accessorize, here is what I would add:
-2 pail liners
-3-4 fitteds for nighttime diapering (a bit easier during the 2, 4 and 6 am changings than using a Snappi)
-a wet bag

And if you want to go Cadillac style into diapering:
-a dozen fitteds
-6 extra small Bumgenius AIOs
-Or just ditch the prefolds, and go all fitteds/covers or extra small AIOs

If you have any questions, let me know. This economy rings very true to how I got into this business. When Abby was born, I was supposed to go back to work at 12 weeks to my previous career as a waitress/bartender. As the days got closer, I was about to the point of researching how to sell my organs to stay home with her. We cut out every extra in our budget, and diapers was a big one. I started diapering with gerber prefolds my mother had used (which were 25 years old at that point), and 3 rubber pants and 2 sets of pins from walmart. You truly can do it on a dime, I remember buying my first snappi a few months later thinking I had died and gone to heaven-LOL
If you are willing to do some folding, and frequent washing, you can diaper very inexpensively, all the way through potty training.


August 19, 2010. cloth diapers, FAQ, Q & A.


  1. Julie replied:

    Thanks for this post! I think this is great advice – scaling down to begin with until finding what one needs/likes could’ve probably saved me some money in the beginning! 🙂

  2. Sally Clark replied:

    this really informational. i get asked this all the time and i don’t have a great answer except way less than what i have. i always advise starting with a handful before you put all your eggs in one basket:)

    i love the story of how you got into diapering in the first place. very sweet.
    my sister-in-law adopted triplets a few years ago and cloth diapered out of necessity when she realized how much it was going to cost to put food into their mouths and clean up what was coming out. she got nearly everything for free from random people, diaperswappers with the free lots and with homemade diapers. they are now 2 and she unfortunately had to stop because she didn’t have anything high quality to hold a 2 year olds needs and the homemade ones cause severe skin problems. disposables are definitely expensive – almost double what they were in price 5 years ago with my first child. i just love the cuteness of a big bubble butt:)

  3. Maria replied:

    I think 20 is perfect. I can still buy a new one if I like but I’m not overloaded. I was every oter day now.

    I started when my son was 4 mos old though…I might want a few more for a newborn.

    I also always advise my readers not to put all their eggs in one basket!

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