If you're using fitteds, flats, or prefolds as your primary diaper of choice, you're going to need covers to go with them. These diapers are not water proof, so you'll need to choose a cover that will be. Whether it's fleece, as we discussed yesterday, wool, or PUL, you have to have something! But how many is too many? What's the right number of covers?
Assuming you're starting out from the newborn stage, you'll want a good number of covers so that you can wash diapers and covers every few days, you'll have back-ups if there are any leaks onto the covers (easy in the newborn stage), and so you can go between a few at each change to give the others a chance to air out between changes. Another thought on this is that newborns go through an average of 10-12 diapers a day. Because of all of this, I would recommend at least 6-8 covers in the newborn stage.
When choosing covers, I would try to get a variety. Get different brands so you can see which ones you really love and the ones that work/fit well on your little one. Get different types of closures so you can decide if you prefer hook and loop or snaps. Also try one-size versus sized covers. You just never know if you're going to prefer the fit and ease of a one-size (since you don't have to get anymore covers with the one-size, at least not for a long time!) or if you'd rather have the cover be more of a perfect fit like you get with the sized covers.
As your baby gets older, you'll find that you'll need to change a little less. They begin sleeping through the nights more often and taking longer naps, cutting out a few of the diaper changes. If you begin your cloth diapering journey now, you may be able to get away with a few less covers. By around 6-8 months, you can, in my opinion only, get away with just 4-6 covers. I found that by this age changes were reduced to 8-10 with the addition of more sleep to our schedule.
In the toddler stage, it has been my experience that my babies begin holding it more often and so need even fewer diaper changes in the day. My toddlers often slept/sleep for 3 hours at naptime and 12 hours at night. At this point, we still change fairly often but are down to 6-8 changes in a 24 hour period. My "baby" is 2 years old now and goes to bed at 8:30pm, wakes up at 7:30am, and takes a nap from 1-4pm every afternoon. He gets changed twice in the morning, once at lunch, once just before his nap, once after his nap, once around the dinner hour (we often eat between 6-7pm), and finally one more time before bed. Knowing this, I'm still comfortable with 4-6 covers for a toddler.
Another easy way to figure out about how many covers you'll need is to divide the number of diapers you'll be covering between washes by 3. So if, for example, you have 24 diapers, you'd need around 8 covers. The idea is that a cover will stay fairly fresh for about 3 diaper changes.
I hope this helps you all make a decision on the number of covers you'll need throughout your babies' diapering days. Have a great Wednesday!