How Many Do I Need?

How many diapers do I really need? 

Fair question, and often one of the first asked when someone comes to the store. Before quantifying the amount, I like to start with the following analogy - blue jeans.

Forever In Blue Jeans
Yup. An item of clothing that occupies nearly every closet of every home. They can be expensive designer jeans. They can be 'home' jeans, reserved for weekend gardening, or 'nice' jeans saved for errands and mom's night out. You name it. But they all serve the same purpose, to cover one's bottom half. And most folks have at least a couple of pairs, if not more.

Enter diaper comparison. 

Just like very few people have five pairs of the same jeans (unless you are my father, God love him and his Lees), most people find they like to have a variety of diapers in their stash. These favorites usually fall into a few categories: 

  • Home diapers - diapers that may be a bit bulkier, or a bit more hands-on - but they do the job just fine, and for the price it is nice to get a lot of mileage
  • Diaper-Bag and/or Daycare diapers - these are the convenient/trim-fitting/easy/what-have-you - easy to use when on the go, and fit well under those adorable yet quite skinny bottoms you had to buy at Target the other day
  • Nighttime/Naptime diapers - these are the diapers that can go the distance for longer sleep stretches
Wait, I use the same diaper for all of these categories? Yes, some people find they will end up with three (or more, hello fellow addicts!) kinds of diapers to cover these three metrics. For example, when we first started it was prefolds+covers around the house, All-in-Twos and Pockets for out of the house, and Pockets for Overnight. Some families will find one diaper that does all of these jobs, and they'll invest in a full stash of that option.

Back to the Blue Jeans
Think back to how often you wear and wash your jeans. If you wear jeans almost daily and rotate between two pairs, after a couple of years these jeans might be showing their wear. Yes, they still work fine, but maybe there is a fray or two that needs repairing, or maybe the knees have faded or maybe they developed super-thin fabric in places not mean to be seen by public eyes. But you only had to buy two pairs of jeans up front - low out-of-pocket and completely functional - can't beat that.  

Or if you have six pairs of jeans, chances are they cost you more up-front. But, after a couple of years most of them are probably still in good shape and have a few years of life left in them. 

The same thinking can again be applied to diapers. You can get a smaller stash of diapers, planning on washing more frequently and likely have tired diapers after a couple of years, or a larger stash that is likely to last past the first child. 

So now let's talk numbers

  • Newborns - plan on 12-15 diaper changes per day
  • Infants - 8-10 diapers per day (the switch from 'Newborn' to 'Infants' doesn't correlate as much to age as to frequency of pooping - a 6mo still pooping 4+ times a day will require more diapers than one who only has 1-2 dirty diapers)
  • Older Infants/Toddlers - 6-8 diapers per day (this assumes they are holding their bladder for longer stretches, so there are spans of time with a completely dry diaper)
Math Time
Take the number of diapers planned per day and extrapolate out to consider the number of days you go between washing - ie - an Infant in diapers, washing every 2 days, would come out to somewhere around 16-20 diapers. 

Wiggle Room? 
Would you prefer to invest in a lower quantity of diapers, with the expectation that some of them may need to be replaced between children? Or would you prefer to have a larger stash, allowing for greater rotation? There isn't a right answer to this question, rather, it is about figuring out what works best for you and your family. 

If you'd like to allow for greater rotation, plan on adding at least another day's worth of diapers to the stash. For an infant, this would mean around 24-30 diapers. For a toddler, likely 18-24 diapers. 

Resale Time
Time to apply our jeans analogy again. You walk into the consignment shop with your blue jeans. If you had many pairs of jeans in your closest, chances are the shop is going to take the jeans eagerly into their store. Diapers that see less wear and tear will retain a higher value, thus fetching you more on the resale forums. 

More Tips For Extending Diapers' Life
  • Use an optimal detergent in your wash routine - using a less-than-ideal detergent usually necessitates more frequent stripping, which means more wear and tear on fibers, elastics, velcro and PUL (aka 'bells and whistles')
  • Hang any diapers with 'bells and whistles' to dry - if you must use the dryer, use a low heat setting and throw in a towel
  • Avoid extra additives - vinegar, chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach, etc - unless absolutely necessary - extra additives = extra wear on diapers 
  • Use a dry pail - constant exposure to the contents of a wet pail will again cause premature wear

Now the real question of the hour - children of the eighties - anyone remember rolled jeans+slouch socks?