Our Baby Class

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cloth Diapering Budgets

Did you know that a third of American families struggle to find room in their budget for diapers?  And it's no wonder--disposable diapers are expensive.  According to the National Diaper Bank Network, diapers can cost $936 annually per child.  A friend recently told me that her costs are a bit more conservative, closer to $500 per year.  She was interested in trying out cloth diapering, but wasn't sure if it would be economical to start now, with her nine-month old, if she didn't plan on having any more children.

Let's take a look and see, shall we? Maybe we can help her make a decision.

First, let's look at how many diapers babies use daily at each age. Newborns can use more than ten diapers per day.  By the time babies are a month old, they may only be using six diapers per day.  That use continues through toddlerhood.  My daughter used a dozen or more diapers per day as a newborn. At eleven months old, she uses six to eight diapers per day.

Second, we need to think about how often we want to do diaper laundry.  In our house, we have decreed Mondays and Thursdays diaper laundry days. If you do laundry every three days, you can make do with two dozen diapers with an older baby.  If you have a newborn, you'd want three dozen diapers with that laundry schedule.  If you have a smaller stash of diapers, you just need to do laundry more often.

Third, we need to decide what kind of diapers we want to use.  In this section, we will talk briefly about the different kinds of diapers and the set-up cost for an older baby with the above laundry schedule.

Best for Budget--Prefolds, Flats, and Covers
Wearing a diaper cover from the shop
Just about every family with a baby has a few prefolds around the house--usually pressed into service as burp cloths.  Often, people are intimidated by the idea of having to fold, twist, and pin these diapers.  Luckily, the Snappi has replaced pins for many parents.  With older babies, as bowel movements become less runny, prefolds become even easier.  I fold my prefolds into thirds and just lay them into a cover.  Flats are just squares or rectangles of cloth that are then twisted and folded into a more absorbent shape.  YouTube is great for learning how to use prefolds and flats.  Flats can be easily handwashed and line-dryed. Stephanie of Abby's Lane tells of using old washcloths as diapers.  For more on hard-core frugal diapering, read her blog article.

Prefolds and flats both require the use of a waterproof cover.  I'd recommend 5-6 covers for our laundry schedule.  You can alternate two covers throughout a day, letting one air out with the other on the bum unless poo gets on the cover.  They are also easily rinsed out.

How do they compare to our disposable diaper budget?
Prefolds cost around $25/dozen on Amazon.com.  Flats cost the same or slightly less.
Covers range in price from as low as five dollars to about eighteen dollars.  Let's say twelve dollars per cover.  We need two dozen diapers and six covers.

Total Cost:  $50 for diapers + $72 for covers= $122
Savings: $378

Best for Daycare and Babysitters--Pockets and All-in-Ones
Modeling BumGenius Freetime
All-in-one and pocket diapers are faster options on the changing table.  When convincing other caregivers to use cloth diapers, these modern cloth diapers are much more appealing.  Putting them on requires about the same amount of effort as putting on a disposable diaper.  They do cost more up front but they have great resale value.

Obviously, prices can vary depending on the brand, so I'll do this comparison based on my two favorites: Fuzzibunz One Size Elites for pockets and BumGenius Freetimes for All-in-Ones. Since both are one-size diapers, they may fit through potty-training. (No guarantees for the individual child). Fuzzibunz can be purchased in six-packs at $116.70 ($19.45 per diaper. Individual diapers cost $19.95 each).  BumGenius Freetimes can be purchased in a 24 pack for $399.95 ($16.67 per diaper. Individual diapers cost $19.95 each).

Total Cost for Pockets: $466.80
Savings: $33.20

Total Cost for All-in-Ones: $399.95
Savings: $100.05

Other Options
Fitteds, Hybrids, and All-in-Twos are other diaper options.  For more comparison, visit this site.

What Else Do You Need?
Don't be overwhelmed with all the diaper accessories: pails, wet bags/pail liners, fancy cloth wipes, and diaper sprayers.  You can make do without those things, although they do make life easier.

If funds are tight, hold off on wet bags until you have a little extra.  They can be used in many ways and totally are worth it.  DH loves our diaper sprayer, but I can do without it.  Rags and baby wash cloths make fine baby wipes. So do flannel receiving blankets.

The Final Word
All of these cloth diaper methods save money over disposable diapers even without keeping the following in mind:

  • Cloth diapers can be sold.  I sold two of my all-in-one diapers, used, for only a few dollars less than what I paid. If you can afford the up-front investment, you can probably make back more than half of what you paid.  Don't try that with disposables!
  • They can be used for subsequent children.  At this point, any children we have after Abby will be cloth diapered for free.  
  • Cloth diapers can be purchased second-hand for lower prices. 
We have a luxurious diaper stash, and we still have not hit that $936 estimate.  

Some argue that you may see a higher electricity and/or water bill.  That depends on your area.  We haven't seen an increase in either bill during our time of cloth diapering.  

What do you do to cloth diaper on a budget?