Note: This is a post from Courtney Baker, chief seller and long-time running wo-man of MvD.
I had heard about cloth diapers in a “back in the old days” kind of way.
I didn’t really understand how cloth diapers worked; and when I had Milli, cloth diapers weren’t even a thought.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Charlotte, my second daughter, that I realized cloth diapering was making a come back.
All of a sudden, I kept encountering people talking about cloth diapers, and it felt like too much of a hint not to look into it…
- First, I had a friend come back from living in India where the children in his community wore cloth diapers. Disposables weren’t really an option, and he talked about how it was surprisingly easy.
- Then, I met a cloth diapering mom at Milli’s preschool. She was on her second round of cloth diapering with the same diapers! She was more than happy to show me her system. Thankfully, she didn’t think I was a creep when I would inspect her baby’s underpants!
- The tumbling point came one afternoon when I discovered a free Cloth Diapering 101 class at a local baby boutique. I sat in on the class, learned about the many different types of cloth diapers, and chatted with other parents.
After those three back-to-back “signs,” I was finally sold on giving cloth diapering a try.
You know, with a real life screaming, messy, unpredictable baby…
I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I loved the idea of it.
As I tried to decide the next step, a million questions came to mind:
- Which kind of cloth diaper should I use? (There are at least three different methods.)
- Would it really save me money?
- Would it be too much extra work?
- Would my baby like them?
- Is it worth it?
It was all a bit overwhelming, but I decided the best way to learn was to get my hands on a handful of diapers and start slapping them on Charlotte to see.
Well… it only took a few weeks for me to be hooked.
I did track some interesting financial results, but what surprised me even more were the non-financial benefits I found.
Here’s what I found after nearly a year of testing out cloth diapers….
Does cloth diapering really save money?
According to DiaperDecisions, you’ll need 8,000 diapers to fully potty-train your child or in other words $2500!
With Milli, I was frustrated about putting thousands of diapers into the landfill, and I didn’t care much for shelling out $10-20/week on diapers. So naturally, cloth diapering piqued my interest.
My biggest barrier with taking the leap was the upfront investment. I was nervous to spend hundreds on diapers only to find out that I didn’t like it. So, starting with a few really helped me test the water.
The interesting thing about cloth diapering is that the cheaper methods aren’t necessarily worse, and the more expensive methods aren’t necessarily better. Instead, it’s all about which system works best for you.
Go figure, I discovered that the bumGenius one-size pocket diapers (which you use from newborn to fully-potty trained) seemed the most sustainable for our family and were also one of the more expensive versions. With this style, you tend to have less diapers and wash more often. But, they’re the easiest for on the go. They cost about $17 a diaper. You change new babies 6-7 times a day!
As I started to crunch numbers, my savings was not looking as dramatic as I had hoped. But there was some hope!
Milli (Child One) — The Disposable Diaper Child
We used Huggies diapers and pull-ups with her. Since each diaper size has a different quantity in its package, I assumed $9.99 for 30 diapers. These numbers are a bare minimum and don’t account for the diapers that were lost, malfunctioning, or put on her teddy bears!
Disposable diapering usage/costs:
- Year 1: 7 diapers/day average= 2,555 diapers
- Year 2: 4 diapers/day average= 1,460 diapers
- Year 3: 2 pull-ups/day= 730 diapers
- Year 4: 1 pull up/day for about 6 months= 182 diapers
- 4,927 diapers becomes 165 packages times $9.99= $1649.
Total Diapers: 4,927
Total Spent Disposable Diapering: $1,649
Charlotte (Child Two) — The Cloth Diapered Child
With Charlotte, we’ve found a system that allows us to use 2-3 diapers and 3 extra inserts a day. Check out these baby cloth diapers. If you would like additional inserts, check out these 10 bamboo cloth diaper inserts.
This is a fairly minimal stash of cloth diapers, but it works for us. I’ve seen lots of recommendations to have 15-20 diapers. You would definitely have more flexibility with when you wash. I used this calculator to get a rough estimate for how much I spend on a load of laundry. I run my diapers through two cycles, one cold and one hot.
Cloth diapers are made to grow with child, so I plan to use them until she’s fully potty-trained.
Cloth diapering usage/costs:
- 12 premium cloth pocket diapers @ $29.99 for 6 = $59.98
- 10 Bamboo Cloth Diaper Inserts = $29.99
- $1.25/load, 2 loads a week, 48*weeks= $120.00/year
- 4 weeks worth of disposables= 196 diapers, 7 packages, $69.93
- Year 1: $279.90 + $120 + $70= $469.90
- Year 2: $120 + $70= $190
- Year 3: $120 + $70= $190
- Year 4 (only 6 months): $60 + $35= 95
Total Diapers: 10 cloth diapers plus 9 inserts
Total Spent Cloth Diapering: $890
**Update: It was brought to my attention that my cloth diaper calculations were as if my child were wearing diapers full-time for 3.5 years. Let’s hope that’s not the case! We can expect to see a decrease in laundering and disposables at least by year 3. I’m saving even more money than I thought!
Recap: Cloth Diapers verses Disposables
It’s clear that we were able to save hundreds of dollars in the first year of using cloth diapers with Charlotte. But, I’m expecting the real savings to come in the following years. This next year, when we won’t have to actually pay anything for diapers. We’ll only pay for laundering.
Also, the cloth diapers are so durable, that we could use them again if we extend our family. Assuming that we’d have to replaced a few, I predict that it’ll cost $740 total to potty train any future children. That sure beats $1,639!
Disposable Diapers (Milli) – $1,639
Cloth Diapers (Charlie) – $890
Note: The cost to raise future children with cloth diapers would actually go down to around $740!
Imagine if you were just now starting your family, and you were deciding between cloth and disposables. You could be looking at a 48% savings to potty train three kids.
3 kids in disposables, would be $4917…
3 kids in cloth ciapers, would be $2370…
That’s a 48% savings for a family with 3 kids!
Other Benefits that Are Even Better Than the Savings
With that kind of saving, I’m sure you can understand why I’ve become an advocate for cloth diapering! Surprisingly though, I love cloth diapering more for reasons other than the savings. It has remedied several frustrations I had when using disposables.
Save the Environment
Being environmentally friendly is important to me. I take my recycling and composting seriously! I proud myself on only have 3-4 bags of trash a month. When I used disposable diapers, I’d have 3-4 bags of dirty diapers alone each month.
According to the EPA, the number of diapers thrown away each year is in the billions, 10s of billions! Diapers aren’t quick to disintegrate either and can last centuries in the landfill.
There’s no question that cloth diapering isn’t completely waste free and perfect for the environment. You are increasing your water use, using electricity, and buying manufactured goods. But, it still doesn’t compare to the waste produced from disposables.
Adios Diaper Genie
I can’t express enough how much it peeved me to empty the nasty, smelly diaper genie with multiple-day old diapers inside. Makes me cringe thinking about it!
Now I dump the solid waste in the toilet right away to never been seen (or smelled) again. That alone might make cloth diapering worth it.
Few (or No) Blowouts
You know that awful feeling when you realize the baby has pooed right up her back. Her outfit is beyond salvageable. Sometimes, it even seeps through onto whatever she was leaning against (the car seat, your clothes, or worse, a friend that was holding her).
With the bumGenius diapers, Charlotte has NEVER had a blowout.
I can’t vouch for all cloth diapers, but these ones have been 100%. It’s my little insurance policy that makes my day trips far less stressful!
We have rashes pop up every now and again, but nothing like we did with Milli. We’ve seen these statistics from one of my favorite health sites, Sparkpeople, come to life in our family.
“In 1955, 100% of American babies wore cloth diapers, and only seven percent experienced diaper rash. In 1991, 10% of American babies wore cloth diapers (with 90% wearing disposables), and 78% experienced diaper rash.”
Honestly, these things are cute as hell!
They were perfect in the summer when I could use them as bloomers. Dress, diaper, no pants- cute as a button. Check out this gorgeous stash of diapers that Moosh in Indy (feeling some hometown pride!) has collected.
Cloth Diapering is Totally Worth It!
Are we saving money by cloth diapering?
We’ve saved nearly $400 in Charlotte’s first year, and I’m expecting to save nearly $1000 by the time she’s potty trained. If we extend our family, I’m expecting our total savings to be in the thousands.
The saved money is great, but the real value has come in other ways.
Sure, there are days when washing diapers is on the bottom of my list. Sure, there have been times when a disposable diaper saved the day. But, overall it’s definitely been worth it.
No more stinky diapers in my trash can.
No more life-threatening smells from the diaper genie.
No more blowouts.
It’s great for the earth. It’s great for my baby.
And, well, it’s cute!
Have you tried cloth diapering? What type of diapers did your kids wear?
Let us know in the comments below!
123 thoughts on “Are Cloth Diapers Worth It?”
I have friends who do cloth diapers and they swear up and down that it’s the best thing ever! 🙂
I’ve become a huge advocate for them! I’m curious to know if she’s hooked because of the savings or for other reasons.
My sons are in their early 20’s now but I was given a great set of cloth diapers that closed with velcro when I was pregnant the first time. It saved me a lot of money. I did use disposable when we would be out for a very long time. I also started to use disposable diapers at night when they were about 15 months old because they would sleep longer if they felt dry and I love to sleep in.
Having put three kids through diapers, I wish we’d have realized the comeback these had made. Cloth diapers never even entered into our thought process.
The big question unanswered is cleanup. What is involved? and how much time? We have a 15 month old, and cleaning from blowouts is a chore in itself.
Clean-up has been easier than what I envisioned. I can almost always dump the solid waste into the toilet without much sticking.
Whatever mess is left over will come out in the cold wash cycle.
If not, they have sprayers you can attached to your toilet to help with serious messes.
I’m a fan of using disposables when my baby is sick and dealing with abnormal bowels.
The hardwork, for me, is keeping up with laundry. I literally dump the dirty diapers from the wet bag into the washer, wash two cycles, and dry. It’s not difficult, but you so it twice a week.
I appreciate the reply. Sounds reasonable. What do you expect the cost of annual 104 extra loads of laundry would be? I assume around $100-200 for water, electrical, detergent and dryer sheets.
I ask because with a 2nd child on the way, I want to evaluate the best option for us.
Nevermind, read your reply down below. Thank you.
Yep! The numbers I used for Charlotte were broken down like this:
Extra inserts: $45
$415/ first year, about $240 each year after
Grand total: $890 to potty train
Please never use dryer sheets with cloth diapers. The oils on the dryer sheets get on the diapers and prevent the cloth diaper from absorbing liquid. A cup or two of white vinegar in the rinse cycle will do the trick to soften your cloth diapers
My older baby recently had a week-long bout of very watery diarrhea (whole family was sick). At the time, I had gone back to using disposables. Every time she had a bowel movement it was a horrific blow-out, and this was happening several times a day. Finally, I just put the pocket diaper covers over her disposables. No more blowouts at all. Such a relief. We are back in cloth now.
We started cloth diapering our now-4-year-old when she was about 1 (and diapered until about 26 months I think). We cloth diapered our now-20-month-old from the get-go.
I haven’t run the numbers, but we’ve spent very little on diapers in the last 2-3 years – probably an average of $15/month between occasional replacements and supplemental disposables. Cleanup isn’t too terrible – we have a diaper sprayer (cost about $15 I think) that hooks up to the toilet water supply so diapers with “solid content” get a pre-rinse there. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite thing to do but it takes very little time. They only need 1 (long) cycle through our washer. Tough stains can be removed by laying/hanging them in the sun for a few hours. We probably do a load of diapers every 2 days on average.
The best part is that some close friends also have cloth diapered their 3 kids who are slightly staggered in age from ours, so we’ve traded different-sized diapers back and forth (replacing as necessary – they do wear out eventually!). For the ones we did buy, we rarely paid full price – deals come up fairly frequently. I know people also sell used ones pretty regularly. These diapers last quite a while so if someone has only used them for 1 kid, they’re generally still good for diapering at least one more kid.
Additional savings note: when your kid borrows a cloth diaper to go on the teddy bear/doll/flamingo (yes, all the stuffed animals get their turn!) it’s not a complete waste of a diaper!
Thanks for the look into cloth diapering at your house! I’m always tweaking our system.
Which brand of cloth diapers do you like? Are there any differences in cloth diapering toddlers?
Fuzzibunz and Smartipants have been the best ones for us. We use a mix of both.
Not too much difference in diapering toddlers vs. babies that I can think of. Nice thing w/ cloth for toddlers is that you get some extra padding!
I am a big fan of your blog, and huge cloth diaper advocate! I have a business designed to make it even more affordable to cloth diaper! With Green Bees you can get 24 super cute diapers with 2 inserts each for only $180, this would help you save even more! I have loved my personal experience with cloth diapers and advocate the use of them whenever possible!
We always used cloth diapers on all our five babies because we were missionaries in Africa and had no choice. We also hand-washed the cloth diapers since that is how we washed our clothes (till the last two babies when we had an automatic washer.) We used to call the white diapers hanging on the line our white flags! Great post. blessings, Amy
Our travels have definitely showed me the satisfaction of going back to the basics! I can’t wait for warm weather when we can air/sun dry our diapers, it magically erased any diaper stains.
We have 5 children, and I can certainly understand the benefits for the environment etc.,
but you seem to missing some of the costs, water, energy from the washer/dryer and of course laundry soap.
Also, the whole point of disposables is the convenience, what do you do with that wonderful used cloth diaper while on a road trip, spending a day at grandma’s or doing an entire day of shopping?
Then there is the time and energy factors, especially for brand new moms, is this really the time to be doing extra loads of laundry when you could be spending that time bonding or better yet, sleeping?
p.s. I agree re the diaper genies and have never used one myself.
Glad to hear from a non- cloth diaperer!
I factored the costs of water, energy, and detergent into my numbers. We spend roughly $1.25/load, twice a week. That’s about $120/year.
I’ve taken one road trip on disposables and one on cloth diapers, and I agree that disposables were far better! I budget for about 4 weeks worth of disposables for road trips, dysentery, or sheer laziness.
Keeping up with the baby is tough as it is, I hear you! I’ve found the bumGenius diapers allow me to go out for the day with less messes. They’re more absorbent that my disposables, and I never have blowouts.
Carrying dirty diapers around can be inconvenient, but they make these zipper bags that seal away the moisture and smell. To me, it’s just like having a soiled outfit.
On the time factor – clothes for us take way more time than diapers. Diapers go in a washable bag in the pail, then the whole things goes in the laundry. A minute to transfer, then maybe 5 minutes at the end to match everything back up. With 2 kids we’re doing 1-2 loads per day anyway, diaper laundry is really the least of our issues.
For travel – we often use disposables if we’re going to be gone a long time – but the small washable zip bags work pretty well for keeping everything contained if we’re using cloth. There’s no reason you have to be all one way or all the other though. If you use cloth at least 1/2 the time you’re still saving money.
Thera, you seem to not have read the article at all. I won’t explain what has been written twice to you, I’ll just tell you my out of the house experience.
Ever since the switch, I forgot that I have a diaper bag. I toss a couple of diapers ready to use inside my ring sling’s pocket. I don’t need a separate change of clothes any longer. Just change, put inside wet bag and back to the sling pocket.
For Christmas vacation, I chose disposables. I ended up borrowing a bar soap and handwashing all his brand new clothes in the hotel – not fun. He even leaked in my uncle’s hand and the room was stinky all the time. So much for the convenience. There are situations for disposables and traveling 2000 miles for 5 days is one of them, but boy did I miss the fluff.
So put those factors into consideration as well. Laundry is mandatory with every kind of diapers, it’s up to you to have the washer doing all the job or having to scrub nice and expensive baby clothes by hand to take stains out.
To add to Thera’s comment, the math for disposables is off in the article above. You can get a box of 180-220 disposable diapers (econosize) from Amazon.ca for around $32 CDN (that’s about half the price you used in your calculations above, even less if you used USD which at the time of this comment is about 1.31 CDN). Oh and that price is delivered to your door!
Yes, there’s the waste/landfill argument….which is the downside…but that’s about it. Proper care with disposables and the baby won’t get a rash.
Thank you! I was looking through the comments to see if anyone else thought the estimate here was really high. I spend an average of $25-30 on diapers a month, thanks to Amazon prime. That adds up to $300-$350 a year, much less than the cost of the cloth diapers, water, soap, etc. Also, everyone I know who has cloth diapered has had worse problems with diaper rash, since today’s disposables are designed to keep moisture off baby’s skin. I do hate that it’s bad for the environment, but the time and money disposables save me are something I can’t afford to give up at the moment.
Great article! So glad to see modern technology applied to this age-old issue. One cost saving factor you didn’t mention is how disposable diapers prolong diaper use. They are so comfortable, we tend to keep our little ones in them far too long. If a child can pull up their own diaper, they are beyond ready to take on heading to the bathroom when the urge hits. My ’50’s mom always maintained that a side benefit of cloth diapers was the uncomfortable consequence of being in them after an incident. It tended to reinforce the benefits of moving onto the next stage of life very effectively well before the age of 3.
I’ve heard this before!
Milli always liked the comfort of peeing in her diaper verses the toilet which made night time potty training very difficult!
So far, Charlie doesn’t seem uncomfortable when she has on a wet diaper, but I’m hoping that will change once she’s a toddler. I’d love to transition to the toilet quicker than we did with Milli!
Not all cloth diapers are “uncomfortable” and in fact, are probably MORE comfortable to wear than disposables. Personally, I would rather wear cotton underwear than paper, plastic and chemical based underwear!!
I think what you refer to is the fact that disposables wick the moisture away from the baby’s skin, therefore resulting in them being able to sit in the diaper longer. This isn’t really a “comfort” for the child, it’s a comfort for the parent because they can leave the child in the diaper longer, being exposed to the chemicals longer.
With the modern cloth diaper, there are MANY different options. You can buy diapers that wick moisture away from the baby’s skin, just as a disposable would, without the chemicals. And as the baby ages, you can decide to use a diaper that allows them to feel the moisture after they have peed, which begins to make them aware of their bodily functions, and thus aids in the process of potty training.
In addition to financial savings and being more eco conscious, cloth diapers aren’t exposing your baby to harmful chemicals. Look up the chemicals used in disposable diapers… some cause staph infections, cause babies to get 2nd and 3rd degree burns and general diaper rash. That can be avoided by not exposing your child to harmful chemicals for the benefit of “ease” or a perception of a more modern choice. The laundering factor is minimal. One or two extra loads of laundry a week is nothing, even with a new baby. In fact, I had 2 children 14 months apart, both in cloth diapers and the laundry was 3 floors down and it was still easier than using disposable diapers. I NEVER ran out of diapers. And when the bottom fell out on me and I was laid off of my job and had no money coming in, I was more than thankful that I was already cloth diapering because that was one less thing I needed to worry about trying to find the money for.
Thanks for the post… very informative. Especially since #1 (and #2) were disposable babies… I’m in the same boat right now, wondering if number 3 is worth the investment. Also, DD #3 attends daycare. Anyone have experience with cloth diapering at daycare? They change diapers usually every 2-3 hours or as needed, of course. 🙂
I don’t have any personal experience with using cloth diapers at day care.
But, I do have a friend that does it. I know she has a larger stash of diapers, and I think her daycare is completely on board with it. She does live in a community where cloth diapering is fairly commonplace.
Anyone else have any insight?
We have used me at 3 different daycares with no problems. You will want to have pockets and all in ones though. If you are working full time I recommend having 40 in your stash to make it easier to keep up with the laundry
PS – Charlotte is a cutie!
Thanks all for the insight and info!
My wife and I have cloth diapered our three kids, and they are still in diapers, all three of them (we have a 2.5 year old, and 18 month old twins)…. the one thing to be weary about is your state laws. I have heard that some states do not allow cloth diapers in daycare. I have no official experience, as I watch all my kids at home, but it would be worth a phone call or two before you make the investment.
My daughter–who is now in college–was a cloth diaper baby. Every thing you discovered was true for us–so easy to use, very cute, almost no diaper rash, and a great feeling of aiding the environment.
When a friend held a baby shower for me before her birth, I requested that diaper service be put on the gift list–lucky for us several people loved the idea, and our first year of diapering was free! It was the best baby shower gift ever!
That’s interesting Clara, because your daughter’s generation was primarily in disposable diapers! What compelled you to use cloth diapers at the time?
I lived in Northern California at the time, near San Francisco, and there was a strong movement towards healthier, natural living. Maybe we were in the minority in the country then, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. I was surrounded by a like-minded population who read Mothering Magazine, did natural childbirth (mine was with a midwife at a birthing center –nearly a water birth but I opted for a bed at the last minute!); who joined La Leche League and were dedicated to breastfeeding, used cloth diapers with these adorable organic covers (that lasted forever!) and opted out of most of the childhood vaccinations. My daughter was breast fed for two years (talk about saving money!–she never had formula), and I’m convinced that’s is a huge reason why she was rarely sick as a child: never had an ear infection, had a cold maybe once a year, and remains (at 20) a very healthy, bright adult. We sought out homeopathy and alternative medicine, and looking back, spent very little on medical bills. These wonderful women became my go-to moms and remain–to this day– dear friends. We still–as families–get together once a year and marvel at our grown tribe of kids! I always thought we were the norm, and that what we were doing would become typical for everyone! 20 years later, but so much remains the same. I am curious how it is for all you new moms!?
,,oh and I should of course say–and for all you new dads!!
My mom used cloth diapers for me and some of my siblings, then switched to disposables with the youngest two or three kids (in a family of 7). I’ve always preferred cloth and plan, without a doubt, to use them when I have kids.
A similar way to save money, help the environment, and be more comfortable is to use Lunapads and/or the Divacup rather than disposable menstrual products. I love my organic cotton pads, and hate it when I misplace one or they’re all in the wash and I have to use a disposable pad or tampon. I’d already switched to non-applicator OB tampons, and I still keep those on hand for emergencies, but Lunapads are ten times better.
I’ve recently learned about the Divacup while at Whole Foods actually. I haven’t researched it much, but it sounds interesting. The one person I know that uses it says that it’s nice, because you are never caught without supplies.
I too used cloth diapers and I used the “cheap” tri fold diapers. I did have more laundry to do but, it was very much worth it because by using those my daughter was basically potty trained by around 2 years old and “studies” have shown that people who use cloth diapers then their child is more likely to potty train faster and sometimes earlier. It also makes it easier to potty train as well.
I know several families that use the less expensive tri-fold system. Like I said in the post, cheaper doesn’t mean it’s not as good. It’s all about which method works best for your family.
You guys have me crossing my fingers on the early potty-training! hehe! 🙂
I love my prefolds. I use those primarily (and I got them at an extremely discounted price) with Flip covers and I have 4 pocket diapers. We’ve spent approximately $175 (including laundry costs) in the past year and a half because we had gifted disposables. I nearly cried when I plunked down $40 on disposables this week for a trip we’re taking where we can’t wash our cloth.
I’m currently 9 months pregnant with my 3rd. This will be my first time cloth diapering. I was actually able to find the ones we got on craigslist for only $50. We’re going to be using pre-folds and diaper covers. We have enough to get through at least the first year for that $50, (not including laundering costs)!
It’s something I’m really excited to be able to try this time around. Thanks for the encouragement!!!!
I was surprised to learn that cloth diapers are resellable! I think that’s a testament to how durable they are and also how well they clean up after being used.
I could not agree more! We started with cloth diapers with our first baby. We spent about $450 on a stash of 24 FuzziBunz diapers which included plenty of extra inserts (this includes a few extra hemp inserts which are super absorbent and we use for nighttime). Since then we’ve purchased disposables maybe 4-5 times. She has had diaper rash only once in 16 months and I love that I am not dumping disposables in a landfill.
We have enough so that we only have to do laundry every 3 days. We do splurge on detergent specifically made for cloth diapers.
We knew we wanted to use them with any future children so we bought mostly neutral colors, there are only about 5 pinks/purples in the bunch. So now that we’re expecting a little boy we will be using the same stash for him (we may purchase 4-5 extra for him).
I will say that they do very easily go up in size from newborn to 2-3 years old. The only issue is that during the first month of life, they don’t fit so good. So we did use disposables (which were mostly free from the hospital) during her first month. I imagine we’ll have to do the same with our little guy. But otherwise, its been cloth diapers all the way.
And the cuteness factor is through the roof! A cloth diaper and a t-shirt with a pair of leg warmers was a typical outfit for our little girl when she was smaller. So cute!
Thanks for sharing the message. For environmental reasons alone, I’d love to see more parents using cloth.
We also used disposables the first month. The consistency of newborn waste and frequency would have been difficult with cloth diapers. The pocket diapers like we have aren’t a great fit for babies under 8-10lbs, but I think prefolds are better.
Thanks for sharing Rachel!
Thanks for the insights. I’ve been o disposables for my first two but am considering cloth for my third. I have a tip re disposables. If you’re facing blow outs it’s a sure sign your kid is ready to go up a size or you need to switch brands. Peace and love to all those cloth and disposable clad bubs out there!
Great post, Courtney! I just heard some similar reports from friends using cloth diapers with their first daughter. I don’t have kids but am keeping this on file in case that changes one day! I wonder how well cloth diapering would work out for a nomadic family. Sounds like the upside is you’re changing less frequently, but the laundry could be an issue (as well as getting refills, etc. if you’re on the road).
I cloth diaper most of the time, and have found it has ups and downs. We have EXTREMELY hard water, which has been a challenge. Because of that, we have had some rash issues. So I have to be very careful to do extra washes and strip the diapers more often than most. So we still use disposables at night (I have found this helps keep her from getting a rash) and when she’s sick. All in all, I think it’s worth it. We have already saved money (and I have a TON of cloth diapers since I work full time and don’t want to do laundry constantly) and I will definitely use them on my next child, saving us even more.
I strongly encourage people to try it. And there are programs through various websites (I did the one from jillians drawers) so you can try cloth diapering for a few weeks and then send all the diapers back if you don’t like it. That really helped us figure out what worked for us (I didn’t like pockets at all, but love All in 2s).
I’ve never heard of these programs before! That would have been a great resource for me, because I wanted to learn about all the different methods. I bought two different kinds (one of each), because I didn’t want to spend a fortune on “trialing”.
After using disposables for a year and having rashes that I could not get rid of. I switched to cloth diapers and love it. I love that he no longer has unexplainable rashes and I am saving so much money.
As a dad with a 17 month old, I would say they are not worth it even if you are saving a little bit of money. As long as they are causing any rashes or physical problems, I think it is worth the money to go with the disposable diapers.
My bub is 8 months old & has only had a very slight rash on one occasion – I think it was when I changed diaper ointment. Some people experience more rashes with cloth diapers, but most people I’ve spoken to (a LOT, I did HUGE amounts of research before investing in cloth) say they experience far less rashes & other issues while their kids are in cloth.
Also, you can experience blowouts in whatever type of diaper you’re using, but I too have found them to be far less in cloth. We took a couple of disposables on a weekend trip recently & had two blowouts, ugh, don’t miss those at all.
From our perspective – investing before bub #1 in a OSFM (one size fits most) set was great, we used the disposables from the hospital for the first few weeks & then some smalls (I bought them second hand & then sold them on once she outgrew them) and then straight into the OSFM & haven’t looked back.
We use tank water, have solar panels & dry our nappies on the line so we save even more money, but it’s the environmental savings that I really love. Yes, there is a cost to produce & time to breakdown no matter which product you use – but any product that you can use more than once is a definite saving for this planet where we are using materials faster than they can be replenished.
I’m in Australia, and there are several fantastic buy & sell groups on facebook – even better than throwing your cloth diapers out when done, you can sell them on to someone else & they keep being used. Or, there is a movement called 1000 Nappies, where they are collecting cloth diapers to send to Laos. Once I’m done with having kids I plan to donate my nappies to something (or someone) like that.
If you think of each disposable diaper having a life span of 3-4 hours (or 8, for a night nappy) compared to a cloth diaper which could have a lifespan of up to 10 years, I think it’s pretty clear which one is better for the environment.
When my cousin was born, cloth diapering was the “it” thing to do; but they main diapers were the plain white pieces of cloth that you had to fold and pin. Now – 18 years later, the face of cloth diapering has changed dramatically and I see a LOT of moms using 100% cloth diapering or a combination of both (maybe some disposables on the go).
It all depends on your needs and your goals (simplicity, cost savings, eco-matters, etc).
I love that you tracked so many statistics. Very helpful for new moms and those considering.
Besides, the affordability and benefits – they’re just plain cute, too!
Thank you so much for your thorough and thoughtful report! We don’t have kids yet but are planning on it, and I was wondering what kind of savings (and other benefits) we’d be looking at. Again, thanks, Courtney! This is great stuff. Will be bookmarking. 🙂
Back in the day when I was having babies, we were dirt poor. I could get flannel in cute prints for hardly anything and sewed my own. I could make a batch of larger ones as they grew. Disposables in these days were awful and caused terrible diaper rash. Since they were just on the market, and the fiber filling was cellulose, it was easy to get raw bottoms, so I only used them on special occasions. I had fun with different patterns on them (real cuteness factor here)l. They fitted better and I only had to fold them in half, and they fit right into the diaper carrier that hung by the changing table.
Laundry was generally one load of baby clothes (diapers, bedding and clothing) every other day and I just got used to it.
Between that, breast feeding and making my own baby food, I saved thousands of dollars and raised four kids. No one seems worse for wear from it. I vote cloth any day.
I used pre-folded cloth diapers on all four of my kids & it never bothered me to use them. I washed them Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and it worked out well for us. I would buy disposables when I could get them for less than $.10 each & used those when we went on trips only. I used the old-fashioned plastic pants and bleached everything. Very few diaper rashes and usually due to antibiotic use. I don’t know how we could have afforded buying disposables all the time, especially when we lived on one income & we had twins!
Hey Courtney, I’ve shared this post with so many people already, thanks for running the numbers!
We use gDiapers on Lily. They are a more expensive system because you have to purchase a new set of 6 or more covers for xs, s, m/l/xlg which means $17 a piece plus stuffers and plastic pouches. Also, the pouches last about 6 months and are $20 for 6.
I love them because, as far as I know, they are the only brand that offers fleece/hemp AND biodegradable disposable stuffers. This way, when we travel or know we’ll have a long day away from home, I use the biodegradable ones which are about 4 hours absorbent as opposed to 2 for the hemp. We also use the biodegradable ones doubled up at night time.
I use a diaper bucket for the dirty/wet stuffers and pouches and do a load of laundry every 4 days. I also use hemp reusable wipes from Kissaluv and have about 60 of them…you might get by with fewer doing laundry more often. I keep a small stack wet in an old wipes container…works great!
I’ve heard many parents of boys say that gDiapers leak. We experienced this for about 6 months with Lily as she approached 2 years old and was not using the potty at all but wetting a lot more. We dealt with it by changing her more often. I think the anatomical difference may be what they were experiencing in much younger babies.
Now that I’m thinking about, you may have introduced me to cloth diapers on the RV trip! I’ve been having a hard time placing when I was first introduced to cloth diapers.
It’s interesting to hear that the diapers fit Lily better at different ages. I’m only in my first year, and I’m curious what it’s going to be like with a toddler.
We haven’t had a great luck with cloth. They were fine fire the first 18 months, but our very chunky boy had rash and comfort problems. We have a number of different styles and brands, but they all had issues. We sadly had to switch back to disposable.
Sister in law had a rash problem that they couldn’t keep away in cloth once he hit 2. The designs don’t seem to be as helpful to older boys.
They did pay for themselves at least.
We love cloth diapers. We used a diaper service for a couple months with dd and that was super great b/c we didn’t have to wash them, but it wasn’t a cost savings. A couple months in, we stopped the diaper service and we bought a batch of fuzzibunz and inserts and we’ve loved them. We used them with our ds too. We got a minishower to spray the solid waste off of the diapers and did a couple diaper washes a week and it was easy peasy 🙂 Totally worth it. And since dd was a baby, I made the switch to cloth mamapads too. That is a huge savings on top of the cloth diapers, no pads/tampons every month for 8 years so far! I haven’t calculated it, but I imagine it has added up. And I just rinse those and throw them in with the regular wash, unlike the diapers. (which we are thankfully grown out of!)
We LOVE our cloth! When the boy was born, we used Kissaluvs fitteds size 0 with Thirsties covers. When he outgrew those, we started using Thirsties AIOs, and BumGenius Freestyles for overnight. We’re hoping to potty train him sooner rather than later and be done with the dipes once and for all, but using cloth has been easier than the naysayers would have you believe.
Thanks for such a well researched post. I’m so happy to see cloth diapering in the spotlight outside of our little world! There are a lot of blogs dedicated to cloth diapering, mine included, and we are a tight knit community. There are a lot of us on Twitter and if anyone has questions they can use the #clothdiapers hashtag and an expert will help.
I’ll be sharing this with my readers!
Not too mention cloth babies train sooner! I love Cloth! 🙂
I have found lots of cloth diapers on free cycle and Craigslist for free and cheap. It never occurred to me to CD my first child. I am very excited to CD my second (on the way) I have been looking into all the different types and have even made a few (VERY EASY and VERY CHEAP) with online instructions and my very old sewing machine and discount fabrics from the craft store. I have frequently noticed that no one ever sights the manufacturing impact of millions of babies using thousands of disposable diapers each. The thought of all my son’s excrement wrapped in plastic at the landfill fills me with regret and disgusts me. I couldn’t believe it never occurred to me, even my husband said “Why doesn’t everyone realize this, it isnt like disposable diapers have existed forever???” I guess when something falls out of fashion it is hard to revive it!
So I might be being a bit nit-picky, but the cloth diapering costs numbers aren’t adding up for me. What am I missing? I totally agree that cloth diapering is a great thing for helping protect the environment and for saving moderate amounts of money and I love seeing what other families spend on cloth diapering because I tend to be fairly precise when looking at our costs…so, yeah, I added up the numbers several different ways trying to make them come out to $890 and it’s not working. Help?
there are a lot of different systems and a lot of different products out there. think of it like preparing/planning a wedding or party. you can scour your local resources and find the absolute best deals that aren’t necessarily found at a wedding or party supply store…just because they don’t have the label on it that tells you, hey, this is bridal! hey, this is for birthdays! the same theory applies to diapering on a budget.
if you ordered a big brand pocket or all in one cloth diaper, you would be spending hundreds, not including special “cloth diaper detergent” or special “cloth diaper ointment”, diaper sprayer, etc etc. all you REALLY need is to use your common sense.
it is possible to only pay for the cost of running a couple of loads of laundry a week, and even with a non-HE machine, is like a few dollars. find a detergent that is cloth diaper SAFE and cheap, and then use that on the other laundry as well so you don’t have to order anything special or expensive. diaper pail? it’s called a garbage can and a laundry bag. diaper sprayer? go to home depot and look at mini-showers for sinks. diaper ointment? coconut or olive oil. baby wipes? pre-moistened wash cloths. i have even gotten quite a few prefolds and covers, even wetbags and a diaper sprayer, for FREE off of freecycle. post lots of ISO ads, older mothers often like to gift their supplies to new moms : ) craigslist is another great resource if you know exactly what to look for. some secondhand baby and childrens stores carry used diapers of all sorts that sell them for a fraction of what they are new.
basically, you could get away with only having to pay for detergent…which would be around $50-80 for a couple years of diapering depending on if you have an HE washer or not (HE uses half the amount that traditional washers use). this is because some rentals include the cost of utilities in the rent- so no worries about paying a few dollars more in the water bill and electric bill! to find out the exact cost impact if you do pay for water/electricity/gas, figure out how much it costs to wash and dry a load. chances are you will barely notice a dent when the bill rolls around.
i guess this could apply to disposables as well…you could go to diaper banks, or just buy the store brand to keep costs. but there are hidden costs- diaper rash is extremely common with disposables, so you have to buy strong medicinal diaper ointment constantly. or get the “pure and natural”, “eco-friendly” kind that are an arm and a leg.
find a deal where you can acquire a small amount, enough to last for 2 or 3 days, of cloth diapers. then go on a normal trip to the store to buy your disposables, and all of a sudden, it all just seems ridiculously expensive once you realize how OFTEN you are buying this stuff that you can’t wash and re-use…it gets thrown away, and then bam, you need more already!!!
here are some great resources to help you with the breakdown of costs:
also take into consideration that if cloth diapers are cared for properly- no bleach, frequent laundering to prevent fabric quick breakdown- diapers like prefolds can last through more than one child (even 3!!). that means that you might be replacing some covers, but would be frolicking with joy at not having to re-purchase the actual diapers! it’s worth it to be nice to the cloth : ) there are also many uses for them once they become too worn for your liking to use as a diaper. rags to clean up the windows, mirrors, kitchen counters, or washing the car.
It’s not entirely clear- sorry!
For Milli’s disposables calculation, I factored in three full years of diapers plus six months. That’s how long it took her to potty train.
So I plugged in the cloth diaper numbers to reflect 3.5 years of use:
$180.00 + $45.00= $224 original investment
$70.00 disposable diapers/year
Year 1: $224 + $120 + $70= $415
Year 2: $120 + $70= $190
Year 3: $120 + $70= $190
Year 4 (only 6 months): $60 + $35= 95
What just dawned on me, is that my cloth diaper calculation was for full time diapers all 3.5 years when in reality there would be a significant drop in the later years. So my cloth diaper savings is actually greater than I listed in the post.
Thank you! That makes sense. I realized that you were doing 3-4 years of cloth diapering for the calculation, but I didn’t think to try 3.5 years. 🙂
Question: what do you do with the dirty diapers in between washes? During my son’s newborn days we were washing daily but lately it’s about 3 days in between, and we’re putting them in a large plastic bag, but they get stinky. Any suggestions?
don’t use a plastic bag, or even an expensive wetbag that claims to keep odors in (which really just creates a terrible stench because the diapers can’t breath so bacteria goes crazy!). get a 54 quart garbage can and some cheap poly mesh laundry bags ($3.50/each at Raleys in the laundry care isle). the bags even have a convenient drawstring. you don’t even have to dump it out, just loosen the drawstring and throw the whole thing in the washer. i use that system but wash my covers separately so that they stay in really good condition since they are washed on the handwash/gentle cycle on warm and then hung dry.
I wash every 2-3 days and to avoid with the stink I keep the dirty nappies in a large pedal bin with a bucket liner (you know the type – they’re sold as kitchen rubbish bins) – so that keeps the smell down. Then when you wash them, do a cold wash using baking soda instead of laundry powder/liquid first, then your regular wash – that’s all that we’ve needed to do to nix the smells. You can also try putting a couple of drops of Eucalyptus essential oil on a cotton ball in the same room as the nappies – this is a pretty awesomely effective odour neutralizer – refresh when the scent dissipates.
I went the super cheap route (prefolds and flats with covers) and I love them. I started out with prefolds from birth until he grew out of the infant size… then moved to flats until potty training. Even though I had to buy some new flats (son #1 wasn’t fully potty trained until nearly 4) and a few new covers with son #2, it’s still way cheaper than disposibles and I still use the old flats for cleaning rags.
I wash all the diapers about every other day and only put them away about twice a week. i find this works best for us & for time. I dont like dirty diapers sitting around but I can handle clean ones. Personally I do not find the laundry situation to be overwhelming from diapers but more from all the misc, socks, onsies, leggings, hats, bibs, wash cloths etc. We use what is called a pail liner that is washable with a covered kitchen trashcan. As far as being on the go. In the beginning we use sposies while out but then I realized that I still had to bag up the diaper in something and take it with me until we had somewhere to throw it away. So either way I am carrying around a dirty diaper. My mom taught me it is bad etiquette to throw a soiled diaper in someone else’s trash that does not have a currently diapered baby in the house. So I carry a zippered wetbag with me to put her cloth in while on the go. Turn the whole thing inside out in the washer when I return.
i LOVE cloth. we have tried basically every system out there shy of wool.
unbleached prefolds paired with a good quality cover is pretty much bulletproof if you change frequently (which any caretaker should do anyways regardless of the type of diaper). out of all the all in ones, pockets, and disposables, i have yet to have ONE leaky diaper in a prefold/cover combo. only twice has my 3 month old had a “blow out” up the back in cloth, and about 30 times so far in a disposable, which we use for laundry day and overnight.
i’ve been cloth diapering for almost 3 years straight, and i can tell you that the basics will save the most money, cost the least, and be the most reliable. with pockets and all in ones, it’s anyone’s guess as to why there might be a leak…the constant troubleshooting wears on my patience and my wallet. i’ve also noticed that microfleece “stay dry” frequently used in more complicated systems seems to cause skin irritation…either from getting build-up easily or just skin sensitivity is anyones guess.
laundering prefolds and covers is extremely easy. the detergent is cheap (country save), water and electricity aren’t effected by much – especially if you have HE appliances and hang dry either the diapers or covers…or both. if you have velcro closures, wash covers separately from the diapers so they don’t get worn out. no fabric softener, no dryer sheets- those cause build-up and are a no no! keep it simple and stick to what works.
when i go to buy disposables for overnight and laundry day usage, it feels like a kick in the stomach to see those prices. YIKES.
Cloth nappies are awesome – especially here in NZ where (reliable) disposables are 50c per nappy – on sale! I’m on our second child in the same set of cloth nappies (Baby First Reuseable Nappies, that come with an outer, and 2 shaped inners made up of 1 layer of micofleece and 3 layers super-absorbent microfibre – cost $19.99 each or $15.99 each on sale – have 2 sizes: birth to 4-6 months and 4-6 months to potty). I do use 1 disposable each night, but only because it seems to help baby sleep longer. I used to use cloth nappies while out too, and also while on holiday, but this time round tend to use disposables in those situations. I’ve got about 20 in each size, and I’m pretty sure my outlay was less than $400 because I bought all the bigger size ones second hand but unused from someone online who’d decided to use a different system, so they cost a lot less than $19.99 each. I also bought some fabric online and made my own inners (20 extra in each size, giving me 10 extra inners without needing to change covers, as I use them 2 at a time for better fit and absorbency).
A great tip I got for washing savings is to do the cold wash using baking soda – this helps with odour control and solvent lock – also helps with our hard water, and saves lots of $$ on detergent. Not that detergent should be costing lots anyway, because you use so little when washing nappies (to avoid solvent lock). I use flushable nappy liners (torn in half lengthways so one liner does 2 nappies – otherwise they’re too wide) and if they only got peed on I just wash them and reuse them – they wash and wash so well I wonder how well they break down when flushed, so I tend to bin mine). I wash every 2 days because this baby isn’t a very pooh-y baby (the first one was, and I washed EVERY day) and I dry bucket, do a cold wash with baking soda then a warm wash with a very small amount of eco-friendly, sensitive-skin washing liquid. They dry on the line in no time, or I dry the lot on a rack inside, or the covers on the rack and the inners in the dryer (if desperate).
They are easier to use than disposables, don’t come unfastened (like disposables do), the fasteners don’t stick to baby’s clothing, they don’t have hard edges that cut into baby’s sensitive skin (like the fasteners on disposables do). There are just so many pluses for them. It’s seriously not even an issue to deal with the washing – I never rinse them or anything, just upend the whole bucket into the washing machine and press “go” – any stains bleach right out in the sun, or in subsequent washes. And they’re no issue when out and about and you have to change them – they make a neat wee parcel and you stick it in a plastic bag and stick it in the changebag/carry bag. When you get home and sort all your stuff out you just empty the plastic bag into the nappy bucket – job done.
Seriously, I’m the laziest ever, if disposables were easier, I’d be using them. They SO aren’t. The only tricky bit about cloth nappies is finding a system that fits your baby, coz they’re all a bit different. But then, you only have to buy one nappy to find that out, and you can soon resell it online if it doesn’t work, whereas if you buy a disposable nappy that doesn’t fit/ routinelyleaks (hello Treasures Nappy Pants, I’m looking at YOU!) you’ve got a WHOLE DAMN PACKET to get rid of, and it’s actually harder to sell an open pack of disposables than it is to sell a used cloth nappy – go figure.
Sorry for the rant – I’m thoroughly sold on cloth nappies.
This is such a terrific, thorough article. We are now cloth diapering a second round (used disposables on our first) and I think there is significant costs savings. When I had two in diapers, I felt like we were filling up our own landfill. Plus, I have not noticed any significant increase in water bills. I read that it can be compared to flushing your toilet 5 more times a day.
Glad to see you cover cloth diapers here. bumGenius diapers have worked well for many, many of my customers over the last 7 years – although there are many great diapers on the market. I cloth diapered my baby from day old all the way to potty training at 3. Not all babies will train earlier with cloth diapers, but she was definitely aware enough to ask me if she could go potty at 15 months. We used prefolds and covers as well as pretty much every other possible diapering configuration. With exceptions for only a handful of brands, she was always leak-free.
For those who have had rash issues with cloth diapers, I have found that this is almost always a detergent issue or a buildup issue. With the right detergent and properly clean diapers, most parents find that their babies have far, far fewer rashes and leaks with cloth.
Ive been using cloth diapers for about 18 months, I’ve spent maybe $200 on my entire stash. I use pockets, and have found some from china (sunbabies) that work great and cost only $5 per diaper and insert. I’ve bought some bum genius on sale for like $11 and also have bought some used. I got enough for the rest of my babies life and if I have another one, I totally don’t have to buy a thing!
I have found them to be easier than disposables, no more “it’s 11 at night and Im totally out of diapers and everywhere around us is closed” and very rarely a blowout. Just 2 loads a week of laundry, super easy.
We’re on our second daughter with cloth diapers. Occasionally we use disposables when we travel by plane.
Our second daughter is using the same diapers our first did. They are 22 months apart.
And we just sold the smallest size through craigslist. Cloth is an investment you can even resell 🙂
I was cloth diapered as a baby because of the whole diaper rash thing. My mom says that anything that she put me in other than cloth would give me immediate irritation. Now I am pregnant with my first child and I plan on cloth diapering too! We are doing it for several reasons but our top two would have to be that it’s better for the environment, and that it supposedly helps with potty training. I am a bit overwhelmed with all of the options out there though! And I’m not really sure where to go to check out the different options in person. You can only learn so much from a website!
For what it’s worth, we like the Flip cloth diaper covers. We tried several.
Sometimes Birth Centers and midwifery practices have gatherings where they demo the different cloth diapering options.
Best of luck on your journey!
Wifey saved a lot of money thanks to cloth diapers. That’s all I can say about that. lol
I found a site that offers a great selection: unbleached diapers, organic diapers, you name it! Go to cloth diapers
I love cloth diapers.
That said, a few notes: my original, BumGenius 1.0 one sizes have THRASHED velcro after my 1st. Snaps hand down better. New one size pocket brands like Omni and Charlie Banana that have adjustable elastic in the legs holes are better for newborns. My 3 month old blows out our other one sizes all the time.
Cloth diapers are the absolute best thing to ask for as baby gifts. They are often cute and you can get super cheap used clothes yourself. Many people I know diaper practically for free due to that.
PS Prefolds with covers were AOK for my first whom I was doing some EC with, and home all the time. The pockets we used for night and special outings. My second needs more longer term pockets as he is getting dragged all over town homeschooling. Often we are outside and it is a bit cold to change him frequently too.
Cloth diapering is not all its cut out to be. I think most people describe it as “awesome” and how it “saves money” but truth be told, you probably only, honestly, save $11 a month over disposables. There are major learning curves with cloth. Some work on your child, some dont. Then you are hoping and praying to sell the ones that dont work to recoup some of the money spent, so you can then apply it to the system that does work. Then you have to hope and pray that your diapers hold up. I know many moms whos diapers fell apart after 6 months to a year, and they had to invest in all new diapers.. And please lets not even say there are less rashes! Thats nonsense. Cloth diapered children get yeast rashes more so than disposable diapered babies. And yeast rashes are horrible.
Other downsides to cloth:
A) if you have hard water like 90% of the US, good luck finding a wash system that works, and continues to work.
B) remember to calculate in water, electricity, cloth diaper safe detergents etc (which most have to be ordered online)
C) the hours, yes, HOURS you spend cleaning the cloth diapers
D) if you are doing it from an ECO stand point, you fail. Yes, less diapers are put into landfills, but look at how many gallons of water you use. Thats not eco friendly at all.
E) finding a night time solution…. Pain in the bum!!
I think most moms are not completely honest about the downside to cloth diapering because it is such an investment, they dont want to think they failed, or are failing. And because its somewhat addictive. The diapers are so damn cute, you dont want to throw in the towel and go back to disposables.
You seem to be very resentful of the whole experience. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you, but to say that we’re not being honest is plain false.
Cloth diapering is not perfect. It is just a viable option and for a lot of us a much better one. I have saved a lot, about $600 and counting, and that is comparing to disposables bought in bulk with discounts and using cheap brands.
If you prefer poop explosions, be my guest and go back to disposables, I have not missed them a bit, still have some in the closet that are just not being used.
As for the “hours” washing, it takes 4 trips to the basement for 3 minutes a trip, so 12 minutes of my time, I don’t tend to stare at the washer while it agitates. I also have several ways of saving water so that I can wash the diapers with it and even if I did not, water can get reused and cleaned after a treatment plant, resources for disposables don’t (specialy oil ones).
My son was having horrible unexplainable rashes while I was using disposables after switching to cloth diapers 9 months ago he has not had 1 rash. I’m sorry you feel so negative about cloth diapering. I guess I have also be lucky and any cloth diaper I have used for him has worked and all of them are in perfect condition. I also have no issues at night. I do not spend anywhere close to hours doing my laundry maybe 5 minutes.
Dont be presumptious. I still cloth diaper. My point is. Its not easy, its not cheaper, and frankly I just dont believe anyone who says it is. I have many friends who cloth diaper and they all agree with me. We actually discuss it quite often because its somewhat funny.
The only way people probably truly save money is if they buy used diapers. Which to me, is disgusting. How many people do you know buy used underwear? And no one, well hopefully no one, goes to the bathroom in their underwear. Yet people buy and sell used, urinated it, deficated in, diapers for their children. Disgusting.
I guess you could also save money by only using prefolds. BUT again, you’re not factoring in resources. Water, electricity, detergents, diaper pails and liners, doublers, soakers, etc.
And dont fool yourself. Everyone spends hours washing. i just spent an hour washing, and over 3 hours drying. Sometimes its two hours drying, and then leaving my AIOs to hang dry through the evening. Even if if only takes me a few minutes to switch over laundry, Im still here doing it. I cant up and leave the house with diapers washing. And then guess what? You’re doing this wash routine every day, to every other day.
And again, lets not lie about cloth diapers. There are leaks and blow outs even with cloth. To say otherwise would be nonsense.
People that want to sit and act like its the best thing ever, are probably the same women pulling their hair out in frustration behind the computer. You have a point to prove, to yourself, to your husband or partner, to family who thought you were nuts. You’re gonna make it work ieven if you die trying. Women get defensive and obsessive over this topic.
Its absolutely crazy.
I agree it does sound gross to use second hand! I won’t even save my older daughters underwear for my younger daughter.
Thanks for showing “the other side” from someone who actually uses them. A lot of moms praise it so much that I think they must be smoking something.
I frankly did not even consider cloth diapering because of stories from people who hated it. I hate laundry too. I don’t want to do laundry every other day (who has time for that???) or worry about running out of diapers and having to do rush loads.
And yes I have plenty of friends who cloth and plenty who use disposable and as far as rashes / blowouts / etc, there doesn’t seem to be much difference. Honestly my older daughter a leak maybe 2 times in her whole life and my baby hasn’t had it happen yet. Seeing that argument over and over made me wonder if people just don’t put the disposables on right.
Well for me, the extra money is worth the convenience and worry free time. Especially for a working mom. I can tell you one thing, my mom would not want to be changing cloth while she’s watching my baby every day… she was one of the people telling me the horrible experiences she had with it when we were babies.
Haha, this is exactly what I am talking about, in regards to Cloth Diapering Moms being so defensive. Someone, me for example, gives an opinion, and the response is “sorry cloth diapering isnt for you” or “sorry you feel negative.”
I have personally, thank goodness, never experienced rashes with cloth diapers. But that doesnt mean they dont exist. One of my best friends, her poor little girl kept getting yeast rashes over and over, and another friends son kept getting ammonia burns. Its aggravating hearing parents talk negatively about disposables, how they cause rashes etc, when Cloth Diapering does the same thing… But the majority of the time, its way worse than a typical rash! All you have to do is browse online and you will read about hundreds of parents experiencing ammonia burns and yeast infections with cloth. Its not just me making something up.
And seriously… 5 minutes to do laundry? Please. We do pre washes, normal washes, extra rinses, and if you have AIO or even pockets… Heck, even prefolds, will take more than one dry cycle. Obviously thats way more than 5 minutes.
Cloth diapering has worked for me. But its not easy. It takes some trial and error. And sometimes what works for a few months stops working, and you have to do something else. Like I said anove, all you have to do is a simple google search and you will find hundreds plus, parents mentioning exactly what I have.
I do leave my house while diapers are being washed, just open the lid so that the washer doesn’t drain.
I have had 5 explosions in 8 months, before switching I had at least 1 a day.
I have had 3 night leaks in 8 months, before switching I had at least 1 a week.
I have never had a leak due to malfunction, only due to leaving the diaper too long and it is rare.
Yeast rashes are due to diet mostly, and are preventable if you change the diaper as soon as it’s pooped, they occur in disposable just as much.
The only rashes that can happen with cloth and not with disposables are ammonia burns, which can be preventable with a liner.
Great article! I agree that cloth diapers are a lot better and cheaper. The only con I can see is changing them when you are away from home. Any suggestions on how to store it till you get home?
I switched to cloth with my first daughter, who was a walking allergy. There was not a single brand of disposable she could wear. She’s now 3, and I still have all but 4 of the original diapers I bought for her. We use pockets and prefolds, and for laundry we use PC Ultra Free, which is a store brand. A $6 box lasts us about 2 months, since we only need about a tbsp per load. We have extremely hard water too, and while it did take a bit to get a good wash routine down, we nailed it quickly and don’t have issues with it. 1 cold rinse, hot wash with extra rinse, 1 dry cycle. The whole thing takes about an hour and a half twice a week… our diapers I ordered for $6 each off of ebay, my prefolds were less than $20 a dozen, and my covers I bought used for less than $5 each. I will be cloth diapering my third baby in these same diapers when he’s born in a month. The initial investment was less than $200, and diapered 2 babies so far, soon to be 3. I think I’ve spent less than $20 a year replacing or updating things. We have cloth diapered 2 babies at the same time, on vacation to other countries, on planes, at daycare, camping, road trips… It’s no different than disposables 🙂
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We used cloth diapers on our 3rd child, and even though I wasn’t convinced when we started I think doing it any other way now is choosing to throw money away. There are times that disposables are good to have around, but never having to run to the store at 3AM because we are out of diapers is another great benefit! We have saved a ton of money and love the cloth diaper savings calculator that eLeMeNO-Pee has on their website at http://www.elemeno-pee.com/calculator – it is really eye-opening!
Did you re-use your pocket diaper covers after the diaper was peed on? I can’t imagine only having 10 diapers on rotation and doing laundry only twice a week. I change my baby 5-8 times a day. I would think you’d have to do laundry at least every two days with only ten covers and 9 inserts, unless you re-used the wet pocket cover.
I see cloth diaper mommies and daddies doing new school diapering all the time, which makes me happy. I actually go completely old school with trifolds and a fleece handmade no sew cover that is made from a recycled blanket. I use diaper pins, exactly the way my grandparents did. I don’t do anything special for washing, just throw them in with the rest of the laundry and dry without a dryer sheet. In a pinch, I sometimes use baby towels or receiving blankets folded in a rectangle shape because I’ve been too lazy to do laundry at all. Cloth diapering has been extremely simple and cheap for me.
I am curious about your system with BG and Fuzzibuns, and how you can get by using 2-3 diapers and 3 extra inserts per day. Do you just re-stuff the diapers with a new insert? Do you rinse them out in between and let them dry and alternate? How does it work?
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when my daughter was a baby,i used disposables on her and they cost us alot of money by the time she was potty trained.she is now 15 and a bedwetter and has been for over a year now and she wears cloth diapers and rubberpants to bed every night.I think they are great! i dont mind washing them and they last a long time.the biggest cost was the rubberpants,which i got in adult sizes for her,but so far i havent had to replace any since she started wearing them.the diapers are the gerber cloth in the 24×27 inch size and i have only had to buy two packages in the last year.So the cloth diapers and rubberpants do save us money versus the disposables! we have a well also so a large water bill is not an issue.
I’m a mom of a 2 1/2 yr old and 11 month old. I am in no way against cloth diapering. If it works for you, great. If not, great. I actually bought one out with my first to try. It was okay but I know myself and that I cannot keep up with laundry and I’m a procrastinator. So that’s why I stuck with disposable. But my thing with pro cloth diapering opinions is that they claim that disposables cost $2500. And that is just not true! I didn’t buy diapers until my first child was 8 months old because people bought me diapers at my shower. And no, it wasnt a raffle and I didn’t have a ton of people there. I now spend 20 bucks every 2 weeks on a box of size 3 diapers, 144 count, generic walmart brand for my two sons. I have no issues with leaks or rashes (obviously not everyone experiences this) I’ve probably spent less than $650-$700 on diapers since my first was born. And I’m not trying to advocate for disposables I am just saying that the $2500 is a bit exaggerated.
You said there were three methods of cloth diapers. Where can I find out more about them? Im pregnant with my second child and im interested in cloth diapers but dont know where to start and I dont want to buy some and it not be what I need.
I just want to point out that most people can’t use Bumgenius for multiple kids. They just don’t last. There ARE cloth diapers I have seen go through multiple kids- prefolds and flats, sturdy covers like Bummis, Proraps, and others, and anything made by Motherease. If cost is your biggest motivation to use cloth, trifolding prefolds (or padfolding flats) in snug-fitting covers is about as easy as stuffing pockets. You pay MUCH less up front, and they last MUCH longer. A birth-to-potty stash of this type costs under $200. Since I would use “green” disposables and wipes, I estimate I would spend $2,400 for 2.5 years of disposables. Also, when looking at washing costs, as you pointed out, disposables cause lots of blowouts. I estimate cloth diapers save almost a load of laundry per week. SO- since I wash cloth diapers 2 times per week, only 1 load should ‘count’ into my costs, since using disposables I’d be doing 1 extra load of laundry from disposable leaks!!!
Your estimates for how much cloth costs is a bit high, IMO. You can buy used or seconds. But whatever got you to use them! 🙂 I don’t have tons of diapers but I can’t imagine only having that few!
I have one question… How did you get away with 2 loads of laundry a week with only 9 inserts? If it were a newborn, you change them 8 times a day or more. That would require you to do a load of laundry every day.
Love this! Thanks so much for sharing.
I was wondering how you are making the 2-3 diapers/day work with the extra inserts. Do you use the diapers as pockets? I have been using a different system but would love to cut down the number of diapers we go through in a day. Thanks!
I cloth diapered mine for around $400! You just have to look for sales. I also sold my stash for $200 when he was potty trained! So I really only spent around 200 total! Love flips for day and bum genius for night.
Great article…I’m sure it will help lots of new mommies take the cloth-diaper plunge! Here’s our even much more cost-effective method: Purchased 8 diaper covers (the kind that have the cotton lining vs. pure plastic inside work better) and SNAPS (velcro’s awesome, but won’t last through more than one kiddo). Buy a variety of prefolds. They’re inexpensive. You’ll like different ones for different uses (daytime/nighttime/newborn/big baby, etc, but you’ll use them all, all the time). Get about 20-25 total. You could probably get by with less than that. You’ll need a few inserts to use as doublers for nighttime or longer times between changes. You don’t need special laundry soap. They’re diapers! I used cheap detergent through 2 of my children before I realized that I could make healthier, even more cost-effective soap myself– a little Castile soap, baking soda, washing soda, vinegar, boiling water mixture. We cloth diapered all 3 of our kiddos…it was super easy and super cute! Our cloth diapers have stood the test of time. Don’t over-think it….they’re diapers!! Good luck fellow mommies!!
We did cloth pretty much solely to complement EC. (I should care more about the environment, but that was just a nice bonus.)
Even though I went way, way, WAY overboard in buying cute cloth diapers, I did buy almost all used or seconds, and resold more than half (not sure we’re going to have another kid). In the end, we spent about $300-400 net including all potty supplies, wipes, wet bags, books, creams, etc. (our electric and water bills seemed unchanged)… and we still do have more than enough left if we do have a second child (assuming they don’t fall apart in storage). This is not including detergent and fabric softener, but since she was out of diapers before 14 months, that wasn’t a ton of $$.
Yes, there are pros and cons, but I’m glad to see you mention the blowout issue, to mention just one. So many of my friends– all of them, basically– have regaled me with stories of “nose to toes” blowouts, usually in inconvenient locations. We had exactly one blowout, at 4 days old, and it was due to a really spectacularly horrible fit (our only diaper by that manufacturer) and user error at 3 in the morning. That was it. Never again. Yeah, the time savings not dealing with blowouts may not completely make up for the time spent on laundry, but there are also a few other unspoken benefits (like not having to take the trash out as frequently) that, in aggregate, do make up some of the difference!
My fiend uses organic cotton cloth diaper for her second child. Now we started to develop a line of collection on organic cotton inserts and diapers. We also banked the future for Rosie( the great organic diaper baby!
So I’m doing some research into cloth diapers..and one big question about them that I have is well, I know that they (compared to disposable are cheaper) but what about running the washer (electricity) how do the numbers crunch with the amount of electricity and possibly city water that you’d go through? I guess it depends on your circumstances but any info would be great! 🙂
Good friends were cloth diaper users for the first 6 months for their child but have switched to disposable. We recently discussed the change. They were timing themselves and found that cloth diapering took an extra 3 minutes per diaper (cleaning it out and prepping it for wash). Using the 5000 diaper estimate in the post, that is approximately 15000 minutes or 250 hours. So if cloth is saving you about $800 (from post) that values your 250 hours at $3.20 per hour (this doesn’t include the price of electricity, gas and water to wash and dry the diapers).
If you do it for the cost savings, I would keep that in mind. If it’s for other benefits then good luck!
If it takes you 3 more minutes to change a diaper in average, you have more serious problems. I actually change the poop ones way faster than disposables, and get desperate with my disposable using friends and their slowness. Plus it usually implies cleaning the whole baby outfit and changing him or showering him due to the mess. It could take me 15 minutes with an explosion on the back. Right now, with a cloth wipe, in half a minute I have a clean but. And since I don’t prep them for washing, I’m done considerably faster.
Plus, if I was doing a job that paid me 100/hr and had to interrupt it for a diaper change, those hipothetic 3 minutes would be a problem. Truth is, nobody is paying me that much and nobody discounts me money from my payment or stops the clock on me to change a diaper, so unless you have such a situation, this argument is totally useless.
Want to change back to disposables? be my guess, cloth is not for anyone and can be a nightmare if you don’t get the hang of it. But use a solid argument (as simple as “I don’t like cloth” is enough)
First of all Irina, I think your comment to Anon was totally disrespectful. That said, I’m going to agree with Anon on the longer changing factor. I have run a daycare for over 10 years and it does take me longer to change a cloth diaper when it’s poopy. First off, I have to go grab a small trash bag to put the dirty wipes in then I have to make a trip to the bathroom to clean out the mess into the toilet. That does take extra time no matter how you cut it. I have experience both ways and I much prefer disposable diapers.
Thank you so much for this! I have used this as major ammo against my husband’s “I just don’t like the thought of poop sitting around the house” argument. We typically don’t fully agree on environmental issues as he was raised in a household that was not concerned and I was raised in one that was. LUCKILY, all of my hard work is paying off and he actually feels badly when he doesn’t recycle something, so I think with this hard evidence, it might be a sell! I have 5 1/2 more months to convince him.
Great saving guidelines… Specially for new moms! Thanks for sharing. 🙂 I use cloth diaper most of the time. I only use disposable at night.
The thought of cloth diapering didn’t cross my mind until I quickly realized just how much money and how much wasted diapers we had with our first child. We want to cloth diaper our little girl who is on the way in late May or early April. However, I am a breastfeeding mom. I LOVE your post and wasn’t sure if you were or not. Are cloth diapers convenient when it comes to breastfed babies? (Honestly, speaking of the awful poopy diapers! Lol) I always assumed it wouldn’t make a difference until someone brought it up today! Would love your opinion!
I just wanted to tell you, yes, it certainly is. The poop doesn’t sink in like it does in a disposable. You tap it into the toilet. Most women I know who cloth diapers are breastfeeding. Join a group on fb like fluff love (called fluff because the diapers cannot like of bulky, or fluffy if you will) or a cloth diaperinf and baby wearing group. Great help.they have tons of files that recommend how to wash with your washing macho and so forth.
Hi! I know you wrote this way long ago – but I’ve been using cloth diapers for a year now, and have a question. How do you only use 3 per day, with extra inserts? I guess I’m confused, b/c when they pee, the diaper portion gets wet – so do you not change that out with every time they go to the bathroom? I always rinse and start fresh with a whole new diaper (plus 1 insert) when he goes. During naps I put an extra insert in, b/c he pees so much!
I don’t use bum genius, but it’s basically the same diaper just a different brand. Just curious! Thanks!
Love this post! Sent it to the hubby in my long process of convincing him to fork over the cash to switch to cloth!
I have to do some more research on maybe putting a sprayer in the bathroom and making up a laundry schedule so he’ll be convinced!
I have an 8 month old and am enjoying cloth diapering.
We have about $250-$300 in diapering. There are other brands you can buy that cost less! Most of my pocket/covers are from Kawaii. They work great. 👶
Who waits 4 years to potty train a kid. 18 months and you should be able to shit in the toilet. I guess we grew up old school.