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!