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Need vs. Want? Choosing to use cloth nappies can make this philosophical struggle very hard! When I first started using cloth and was building up our stash, I really thought I’d be fine with 24 and no more (let’s all laugh together). I admire the strength of those who are able to resist the next nappy release, that feeling of ‘one more’, I NEED this one. It’s tough to resist!
In this article, I want to break it down and show you that technically, yes, you can get by on 24 nappies depending on a few different factors but having more than that, I have personally found, makes life a little bit easier.
Two of the first things to consider are:;
The answer to these questions will impact the size of your stash.
For one child you will most likely use an average of 5-6 nappies a day plus a night nappy, if you are using cloth nappies full time. With a stash size of 24 nappies, this means that you will need to wash every 2 days to give yourself time for them to dry. While they are drying, you use the other half of your stash, and repeat the cycle. In order to wash every 3 or 4 days, you will need to increase the amount of nappies you have for your baby.
You will also need to take into account the size of your washing machine, especially if you own a front loader because loading is super important. The science-backed whizzes at Clean Cloth Nappies (“CCN”) have worked out that your front loader needs to be loosely, but completely full, before the cycle starts, to be most effective. This is so that the agitation will be at its peak and your nappies will be washed well.
Top loaders are a little more forgiving and CCN recommends that they be around two-thirds full for best results. If you have a very large machine, a 10kg version for example, you may need to push out your wash routine to every three days or even four days so that you can fill it. This again, will mean that you will need more nappies to tide you over those extra days.
You can check out Monarch’s excellent Cloth Nappy Wash Routine infographic, and for more information on loading your washing machine properly, check out CCN’s front loader guide and the top loader guide.
The age of your child will also have an impact on the size of your stash. If you choose to use Modern Cloth Nappies (“MCNs”) on your newborn, you are going to need to factor in about 10-12 nappies per day. A newborn’s food source is purely liquid so their output is going to be much more frequent than an older bub, and as a result, their nappies will need changing more often. For a two-day wash routine, you may find that you will need 36-48 newborn nappies (don’t forget you need nappies while the dirty ones are being washed and dried).
A way to reduce that number, is to consider the type of nappy you use. A snap and wipe newborn nappy means that if the nappy is only wet, you can wipe out the shell and reuse it with a clean insert. By reusing the shell, you may only need 24 covers to get you through on a 2 day wash routine, as long as you have extra inserts to use. In fact, I would recommend having extra inserts anyway, because all it takes is one unexpected rain shower or cold snap to cause havoc in your carefully-planned routine as your inserts won’t be dry in time.
As your child gets older, they will use less nappies per day but you will find each output is bigger as their bladder grows. Therefore, you may also need to include night nappies in your stash.
For this stage of your child’s life, a minimum of 6 nappies per day is a good guide, but I find having 1-2 spare is always handy - one bout of illness was enough to convince me that a few extra nappies was not a bad idea after all!
In terms of night nappies, your wash routine will really dictate how many you need to get by. A night nappy is a nappy that has been used by your child for more than 5 hours at a time. You can create a night nappy by adding more absorbency to the cloth nappies you use during the day, buying a dedicated night nappy (usually one that comes with built-in absorbency in the shell, like the Monarch Pull Ups). It really depends on the output of your child, and what type of nappy fits them best.
The up-front cost of a full time stash can be prohibitive and confronting for a lot of people. But the best thing about using cloth nappies is you don’t have to buy them all at once. You can start by trying trial packs or part time packs and build your stash as you go. This also gives you a chance to try different styles of nappies and work out which one suits you and your child best. In fact, you will find that as your child grows and their body changes shapes, different nappies will fit better at different stages!
Sitting down to work out a rough starting budget can help too! I started with 6 nappies which was enough to get me through one day because I really wanted to use cloth nappies with my daughter, but I wasn’t sure if they would work for us. I started with a 6-pack of nappies and worked my way to a full time, 4 day wash routine stash from there.
When you can buy one pack of disposables at a time, it seems to be the more affordable option but when you crunch some numbers, things start to look a bit different. About 24 nappies that you can use over and over might set you back about $840 at roughly $35 a nappy. But these nappies can take you through from Day One (birth) to toilet training!
Contrast that with disposable nappies which may cost only 50 cents a nappy but over a child’s “in-nappies'' lifetime this will set you back about $3000! AND these savings become even greater if you choose to use your cloth nappies on subsequent children. Not to mention, buying high quality nappies and having a good wash routine for your cloth nappies will also mean that you can sell them at the end and recoup some of the initial outlay.
While it’s entirely possible to get through with a full time stash of 24 nappies, personally I prefer to bulk out my stash so that I can spend less time doing the laundry or looking up at the sky. Now, it doesn’t matter if my clean and dry nappies sit in the laundry basket for a day or two before I manage to find the time to stuff them and put them away. Sometimes there are just more fun things happening than keeping on top of your laundry!