When looking into buying your first cloth nappies, one question quickly arises - how many nappies do I actually need?! The most common answer you'll get from other parents is 20-25 nappies, and we agree that most families can cloth a baby full time within this range. But remember that this is really just a good starter point and there is no set answer that we can give you, most parents buy 20 and build on their initial stash until they are happy.
In reality, where you fall in that range depends on a number of factors:
- How often you'll be washing them
- How quickly you can dry them
- How frequently you change your child (this will vary by age too)
- The type of nappy you will be using
We recommend a wash every 2-3 days, this should be sufficient time to build up a full washing machine load. Any longer (4+ days) and ammonia crystals can form and damage the nappies, shorter is also fine but there's really no need for all of the extra effort involved in washing daily! Recommended: Wash Guide For Cloth Nappies.
Drying time of nappies
Times will depend on the nappies/materials being used and whether you have access to a heated airer/tumble dryer. You can find more info on how to dry your nappies here. Typically most nappies are dried within a day either outdoors on the washing line or indoors near a heat source. But can take anywhere from an hour (for tumble dryable flats) to two days (for thicker AIO nappies with no heating in winter) in some circumstances.
Frequency of nappy changes
How many nappies per day being used will depend on a number of factors but it is mainly down to age. For example a newborn can need changing anywhere from 8-12 times a day due to the never ending poops, whilst a toddler may need just 4 to 6 changes as they are holding their wees and doing only one or two poops a day.
Nappy Type being used
Whilst this won't hugely affect the number of changes being done, it will affect how many of each nappy part you need. For example an All In One nappy will need fully changing each time, whereas if using two-part nappies (such as a preflod with a wrap) you can just change out the inner prefold and reuse the wrap for 2 to 4 nappy changes or until soiled. When using 2-part nappies (and some All In Two's) a good rule of thumb is to have one wrap for every 2-3 inner nappies/flats.
Recommended: Cloth Nappy Types.
Using this information you can get a good idea of how many you might need, by working out how many will likely be used in between washes (and drying). It's always good to start off with a basic stash which is affordable to you, whether that's 2 or 15 nappies, and then build on it slowly. There's a huge selection of reusable nappies to choose from nowadays so use the opportunity to try something new and test what you like before investing in more. There's no need to dive straight into full-time cloth, particularly if your budget doesn't allow, just start off part time and top those nappy washes up with clothes!
Which nappy is best?
There is no one best nappy, it's entirely dependant on what suits you and your family - you have to work out what is a priority to you and your baby. Do you need something fast drying, or would you prefer convenience? Are you on a tight budget or do you want to splash out more on a premium brand which should last 3 or 4 children? Once you know what's important to you then you can narrow down your search to a few types/brands.
How often to change a newborn nappy?
Newborns can be unpredictable - plan to change 8-10 times a day. Some newborns are poop machines and others not so much, so it's impossible to tell really. We would recommend having a few size 1 wraps, muslin cloths and nappy fasteners handy to fashion into nappies if you run short - these are highly effective both cost and containment-wise.
A size 1 wrap will last until 6-9 months so can be used over a night nappy as baby grows, the muslin cloths are great all-rounders for a long time with children, and can be repurposed as cleaning cloth later on, and the fasteners are great to have around when using reusables from birth until potty training.