Cloth Diapering: The Economical Choice

So going in to parenthood, I made a sweeping declaration I would do things as naturally and eco-friendly as possible.

Cloth diapers just seemed like the natural choice and outflow from a lifestyle moving toward homesteading. First, my definition of a functioning homestead is one in which the land can sustain my family’s dietary, shelter, and recreational needs in an environmentally sustainable way with limited outside purchases or need for consumerism, as well as potentially be a source of income, and charitable contributions (fresh veggies to sell at a farmer’s market and donate to food banks/soup kitchens)

So with that end goal in mind, I did the numbers. (The following are moderate estimates)

Average of 12 dirty diapers per day x 7 days a week= 84 diapers a week x 4 weeks in a month = 336 diapers per month.

So, using those estimates for a new born and factoring in my son’s sensitive tushy skin, if he were to use disposable diapers, he would use Pampers Swaddlers size 1. Now their economy pack plus for size 1 is only 234 count, so that leaves me needing 102 diapers per month. So for the sake of simplicity, let’s say I just buy two economy plus boxes of diapers per month as cheaply as possible on Amazon.com.

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2 boxes x $49.99 per box = $99.98 + $29.98 shipping and handling = $129.96 for one month of diapers.

$129.96 x 12 months = $1,559.52 on diapers per year, not including fluctuations in size/count (as size increases, count per box decreases, but price per box increases) so you can see how a person on a budget concerned about the environment would have issues throwing roughly $1600.00 into a landfill every year until her kid is potty trained.

For cloth diapers, you have several different options. I went the cotton prefold route with Thirsties covers and Snappi fasteners.

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Gerber cotton prefold diaper, Thirsties hemp insert, Snappi fastener

Rule of thumb for cloth diapers is to have 2 days worth clean at a time. If average number of diapers used in a day is 12, two days worth would be 24. Incidentally, I keep 48 clean so I do laundry less often.

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So, modest estimate using prices I found online, I can get 50 diapers for $180.70. Add the cost of covers (4-6 as they can be used multiple times per day unless they are soiled via blowout)
Again using the numbers I found online, I could get 6 leak-proof covers for $76.50. Then you factor in the cost of the rubber Snappi closures, 6 for $8.74 (these are also reusable). That brings my cloth diapering total to a one time cost of $265.94 Already, without accounting for water and laundry detergent usage, you save on average $1,293.58 in the first year. This is a modest estimate strictly on diaper needs, not including wipes.

Now there ARE factors that can add to that cost such as size increase* needing more absorbency (I use the Thirsties hemp inserts), snappis breaking, lots of poopy diapers, sick baby = more poops…etc. But again, you’re looking at a one time cost as opposed to monthly/annually recurring cost. There are also ways to buy disposable diapers in bulk, but assuming you want cloth for the sake of the environment, bulk disposables are irrelevant. And, assuming parents place these diapering items on a baby registry, there’s the potential to get your cloth diapering needs at no cost to yourself.

I think total, my husband and I spent about $100 on my son’s cloth diaper system and I do laundry 4 times a week (every other day) We do use disposables if we are traveling, simply because I really loathe the thought of carrying a poopy soiled diaper in the diaper bag and then coming home to a solidified mess. So sometimes, disposables are more convenient. But in terms of daily use, my son wears cloth.

Another benefit of cotton diapers is the breathable nature of the material. My son has had diaper rash 2 times total in the 9 months he has been alive, both during stints of wearing disposable diapers. Also, cotton is absorbent, but not moisture wicking, which means my son can feel when he is wet and let me know, which is a good thing for getting ready for potty training because he is alert to the sensation and in the practice of communicating his bathroom needs to me.

All in all, it’s proven a worthwhile and economical investment for my family and I. Feel free to share your experience or ask any questions in the comments below. 🙂

*Thirsties diaper covers have snaps that adjust in size so a size one cover is good for up to 3 sizes, depending on the level of absorbancy needed for baby- I had a hard time fitting the hemp inserts into the size 1 covers, so we moved up to size 2, and he’s still able to use them at 9 months old, where as he is in size 3 disposables.

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