How many cloth nappies do I need?

This is a very common question in the cloth nappy world. How many cloth nappies do I need? It is also a highly controversial question, believe it or not, for parents, retailers and brands!

How many cloth nappies you need depends upon many factors, and requires you to think a little bit about your circumstances.
The general advice is that you need 20 to 24 nappies to cloth your baby from newborn to toilet training in a OSFM cloth nappy. This assumes that you are washing every day at the newborn stage and maybe every second day over 6 months. Obviously this means the nappies are going to be well used and washed. Imagine your favourite shirt being washed every day for 2 years. It would not last. In this instance, your nappies will be getting a really good work out, and I mean bootcamp for one year at least.
how many cloth nappies
You cannot expect these nappies to last for another child. Maybe you can reuse some inserts and replace elastics in the shells, but I would expect most are quite exhausted by the bootcamp.
Most parents want their nappies to last more than one child. How can you improve your chances of this?
Honestly, you need to buy more nappies. More nappies in a higher rotation, means they are used less and will last longer. Think about your favourite shirt again. If you wore it once a week, instead of every day, it would last a lot longer and in nicer condition. More like a yoga session for your cloth nappies, than the bootcamp experience.
The advice here is to ensure you have at least 30 nappies in rotation, even 40, if you are going to have a tribe like me (3 or more kids). I had 36 in my stash from day one, plus a few odd bods along the way. Come my third boy, I bought some bigger nappies as he outgrew his OSFM, early. My nappies lasted as I bought quality, lots and washed them as required. Cloth nappies are an investment that will pay you back at least 2 fold.
Lets make a little sidetrack here about OSFM nappies. The OSFM nappy is the parents dream – it is economical, lasts from birth to toilet training (in most incidences) and so cute. But with the invention of the OSFM nappy, it means it is getting 3 times the workout of a sized nappy. These poor OSFM nappies are used from day one, to day end. Sized nappies have more potential to last more children, as they are used less, at different stages of your babys growth.
Of course the way you handle your nappies will also determine how many you will need or to replace. Do you use Dettol every wash? Do you use lots of detergent that’s not suitable for natural fabrics? Do you hang your nappies to dry the right way? Have you used the dryer?
So how many do you need? Lets break it into OSFM and sized for easy reference.
OSFM cloth nappies
For one child only to cloth nappy full-time from birth, you need at least 20 cloth nappies, washing everyday.
For 2 consecutive or possibly more children to cloth nappy full-time from birth you need at least 30 cloth nappies.
If you cloth nappy part time, half the number needed.
If you want to wash every second or third day, add on the number of nappies you use in one day. So for one child at newborn, you will need 30 nappies to wash every second day.
Sized cloth nappies
This is much easier, really. The table below tells you how many nappies you will need. Look at the small size is used for 3 months, medium for 3 months and large for 18 months (approx sizing and length of time in that size), but less changes and washes. At this stage I am feeling really sorry for the OSFM.
Age Changes
per day
every day
Washing every
2nd day
Newborn to 3 months 10-12 20-24 30-36
3 to 6 months 8-10 16-20 24-30
6 months plus 6-8 12-16 18-24


Where to from here?
I suggest starting with the number of nappies you need part time or full time to wash every day or every second day. Maybe that’s 10 nappies or 20.
Then when you have saved your money from using those nappies, buy some more to suit your needs. If you are having more children, increase your stash dramatically.
Or decide that your one set of 20 nappies will possibly last one child if OSFM.
Your cloth doc
PS At Apikali we are about brand independence. If a cloth nappy representative, either a brand or a retailer is telling you can get at least 2 children out of 20 nappies used full time, they are being misleading. For example Real Nappies in their Birth to Potty Pack provide you with 78 prefolds of varying sizes to actually last 2 consecutive children. That is their guarantee. Compare 20 OSFM nappies to 78 prefolds over the life time of one child.

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