Considering cloth diapers, but not sure where to start? We’re about to get real about catching the poop, without breaking the bank.
Why cloth diaper?
Since finances are kind of my thing, we’ll stick mostly to that line of thinking later on in this post, but there are many other reasons to cloth diaper. Here’s the short list:
Health and wellness. Did you ever read your package of disposables closely? It actually says your supposed to flush any baby biohazard before disposing of the diaper itself, but much of it goes straight to the dump inside the already chemical-laden diaper, which leads me to…
Cloth diapers can reduce diaper rash when used properly and changed often. Yes, cloth does require you change a bit more often than disposable, but really, you don’t want baby chilling in a wet diaper either way.
Cloth diapers are sometimes credited with helping children potty train earlier. This is not the case for everyone, but for us, it definitely helped. My kids hated being wet from the newborn stage. With a disposable, the wetness is pulled away from baby’s skin – cloth diapers allow baby to feel wetness, and as toddlers, my children were all about dry pants. Both were fully trained around age two.
Cloth diapers way cuter than disposables. I mean, have you seen them? You can get pretty much any design you want on a cloth diaper. Some mommas even have them customized.
What will you need?
Just like baby supplies, you can buy everything available for cloth diapering, or just the basics. Having diapered two babies, I suggest a basic “stash” of diapers. This could be covers and prefolds with Snappis or Boingos, pockets, all-in-ones, all-in-twos, or a combination of all of the above. Start with a few of each, and see what works best for your baby.
You’ll also need a large wet bag and a small wet bag. The first will be used to hold your dirty diapers until laundry day. The latter will be used to hold dirties while you’re on the go. It’s great to have two of each of these, but one of each is more than sufficient to start. Once baby starts solids, you may want to buy disposable or reusable liners to make getting the poo off a little easier. You can buy a roll of 100 disposable liners for around $8 or invest a bit more and go with the reusable version that will last all your diapering days.
If you really want to invest, you can purchase a diaper sprayer that attaches to your toilet for cleaning dirties, or diaper pails that can be used for cloth diapers, like the Ubbi. These are all extras, but totally not necessities.
Here’s what’s in our collection. Mind you, baby three is on the way, and we’ve diversified over the years though buy/sell/trade deals. I’d estimate that considering I’ve sold diapers that don’t work for us in order to buy something new (to me), we’ve still only spent around $300-400 for all of our diapers and supplies, for all of our kids.
Many parents choose to skip cloth diapers at the newborn stage, as most newborn-sized diapers only fit until 10-12lbs. If you’re looking for an affordable, budget-friendly way to start from birth, consider prefolds or flats and waterproof covers. These are easy to wash and care for, and are super inexpensive compared to other options, such as all-in-ones.
Here’s what’s in our newborn set:
11 all-in-one (AIO) diapers (these have a waterproof covering over the absorbent part and are the closest in ease, in comparison to using a disposable)
15 fitted diapers (these require a waterproof cover)
18 newborn/infant prefolds (these require a waterproof cover)
6 newborn/infant flats and 10 half-sized flats (these require a waterproof cover)
3 Snappis and 4 Boingos (for holding flat and prefold diapers on/shut)
8 waterproof covers
30 reusable cloth wipes (which we will continue to use when baby wears one-size diapers later on)
One-size (OS) diapers fit most babies from 8lbs through toddlerhood and are often where many parents choose to start their cloth diapering journey. This list is more of an approximation of our stash, since our one-size diapers are still mostly packed away until baby will be big enough to use them.
44 one-size, all-in-one style diapers
5 pocket style diapers (which we often use for nighttime because the absorbency can easily be adjusted for long periods of time)
Oodles of prefolds in various sizes, including toddler prefolds for closer to potty training time
10 larger flats (we often use these in the pocket diapers for nighttime because they are super absorbent)
5-10 waterproof covers
50+ fleece liners (these are homemade – I buy fleece remnant when I can get it cheap and cut it with a fabric roller. This wicks some moisture from baby’s bum, and makes it easier to get solids out of the diaper.)
How much will it cost?
Compare cloth diapering to buying a car. You can buy a brand new, fully-loaded Maserati or you can get a basic, used four-door coupe. Price depends on your choice. You can buy a brand name or you can buy functional diapers that fit in your budget. It’s all up to you.
When you look at the cost of traditional disposables, upwards of $750 a year, or a one-time purchase of $150 (used diapers, washed at home instead of using a diaper service), the savings are obvious, especially if you have more than one child and continue to use your cloth diaper collection with subsequent kids. Now on my third, I’ll be sending mine out for elastic repair to freshen them up a bit before baby three arrives. The price tag may seem a little hefty, at around $150 and shipping, but when they return, it will be like a whole new set of diapers. $750 a year vs. $150 forever – sold!
Caring for your diapers
Yes, the diapers will need washed, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. At our house, I wash two loads of cloth diapers a week. When I wash, I run a cold, short wash cycle with detergent suitable for my machine (nothing fancy, just good old Tide pods). Then, I run a second, long, hot wash, also with our regular detergent. Throw them in the dryer on low until dried, because line-drying – no one has time for that. No, my washing machine isn’t littered with poop (I know you’re thinking it) because I’ve already dumped the nasties down the toilet and said “good-bye” with a flush. Also important to note, exclusively breastfed baby poo does not need to be rinsed from diapers as it’s water soluble and washes away with the water. First-time cloth parents, this is an excellent reason to ease yourself in with the less-hassle, less-mess step of cloth diapering.
For those of you who are living paycheck to paycheck, diapers are a huge expense. Diaper need is a real problem that often goes unnoticed in this country. While traditional food programs like WIC and local food banks can make food more accessible, often-times diapers are not included in these services. 1 in 3 families in the US report experiencing diaper need. Curious about diaper need in the US? Check out this article Welcome to America, Where Parents Can’t Afford Diapers.
Need help affording cloth diapers? There are several amazing resources out there to help you get started at little or no cost to you:
Have a few extra dollars to spare this month? Consider making a donation to one of these organizations to cover the cost of shipping diapers to families in need. A little really does go a long way.
Don’t qualify for these services? Remember a diaper is really only a poop catcher. There are tons of inexpensive materials that can be used as cloth diapers. While not my personal favorite waterproof cover, Gerber waterproof pants can be picked up in 4 packs at your local Walmart for about $7. Old, soft cotton t-shirts can be folded and pinned, or used as pad-folded flat diaper right from your closet. Check out the flat fold chart here for folding ideas. Leftover swaddles and flannel receiving blankets, also fair game or visit your local thrift store to buy and try different fabrics without breaking the bank.
Cloth diapering can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow Pittsburgh Mom’s Blog on FB to get in on the cloth diapering conversation.