How many diapers do I need?

I often get the question why we recommend fewer diapers per child than other sites. For newborns we recommend 18-24, older babies around 12-15. Some will say if you buy twice as many diapers, the wear and tear will be cut in half, and you will see them last twice as long. This may or may not be true, anecdotally I can vouch for many brands being washed daily with hot water and machine dried and lasting for years, and others will see they have worn out within a year’s time. The advice is kind of “six of one, half dozen of the other”.

You can buy twice as many, but on the offchance yours would have lasted, you would have spent half as much, and saved that much more money for the next size. If they wear out anyway, you willl have to rebuy, and spend what you would have in the first place, so it didn’t cost you anything extra.

Also, we tend to see customers with dozens of diapers washing every 3-4 days, which causes huge amounts of wear and tear, the longer a diaper sits in ammonia in a dark pail, the shorter the life span of the elastic will be. Even if you swear you will be disciplined and still wash frequently, it will creep up on you that if you don’t *have* to, it won’t get done daily or every other day. Our advice, start small, enough for daily or every other day. If they go, buy more and you would have spent the same, if not, you just saved half of your diapering budget.

As far as longevity, truly I feel safe stating the only diaper that I can really guarantee will last through 2 children is a prefold. When you get elastic, snaps, PUL, and other features in the mix, you will not see the life span of thousands and thousands of washes as you will with plain unbleached cotton. There will always be exceptions to this ( I have some bumgenius 1.0 pockets that still function, they aren’t pretty, but they work), but in general that is what to expect.

A one size diaper should not be expected to last through two children. If you start late with a first child, you can see some life in a second child, but usually not all the way through. Most one size diapers are within 1-2 dollars of a sized, but you are using it for 3 different sizes, so you essentially spend 1/3 of what you would with sized diapers. It will get washed, soiled, dried and worn 3 times as much, so do not expect the same lifespan as a sized diaper. Wait until your pockets, fitteds, AIOs and covers cool out of the dryer before stretching the, this is huge with elastic. Most sized diapers will last through two children, in between babies store them in a tempaerature controlled room, temperature swings will make your elastic brittle and snap. Even with having to buy a seperate one size stash for each child, you still come out financially well ahead of disposables
(check out this calculator: )

If you have any questions, please let me know. I want you to get the most bang for your buck, but if you can’t stand the thought of prefolds don’t buy them because they are cheap, you won’t use them and it won’t save you a dime. Do what works for your family, star on the smaller side with your stash and go from there. You can always add to it, better to be diapering and say “gosh, three more diapers will be exactly where I want to be with my wash routine” then “man, I never get to the last 6 diapers in my stash, I could have used that money for the next size up.”


September 24, 2010. cloth diapers, FAQ.


  1. Heidi K replied:

    You have a good point. Why get more than you need? It’s so hard not to buy more and more diapers. They’re are just so many different ones and they’re so cute! I have a hard time restraining myself from buying more.

  2. Cara replied:

    I agree Heidi! They are so cute. 🙂 One thing to also keep in mind with cloth diapers is that not all diapers work with all babies, so don’t buy a dozen of one kind before you have tried it first!

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