My husband and I cloth diaper our 10-month-old, Edith. That's right, we're those people. Before you judge, what if I told you that you could save THOUSANDS of dollars by switching to cloth?! Let me explain.
Why do we use cloth with our daughter? For a number of reasons...
1. Healthier for her bum (she never ever gets diaper rash in cloth!)
2. Better for the environment (imagine how many diapers Edith could add to the landfill...10+ per day, 70+ per week...etc)
3. CHEAPER. By far.
Cloth diapers are definitely much cheaper than disposables. For our family, living on an very tight Catholic school salary, the savings alone led us to this "adventure". I wish I could say the environment or Edith's bum were higher on the priority list, but the overwhelming cost savings is what really pushed this penny-pincher to use cloth.
Side Note: I will discuss the cost savings in this post. I will publish a couple later posts about how to get started (what to buy, how many to buy) and our particular diaper wash routine (with very hard water and an HE machine). Stay tuned!
First, let me start by saying I had to assume some things when doing these calculations. There are SO many options for diapers, and children grow out of sizes at different rates. For one, I assumed a baby will go through 10 diapers a day on average. Newborns will go through more than 10 (Edith probably had 12-14!), toddlers a little less. One baby might stay in newborn-size diapers for a while (which are cheaper on average), and another baby might be in size 3 by the time they are a month old.
Also, I made the assumption that all diaper packages come with the same number of diapers. I used an average here, too. There are more of the smaller-sized diapers in a package than there are size 4 or 5 diapers. That will change the cost per diaper if you were to try to do a more accurate calculation for your child. My child is smaller on the scale than most: at 10 months, size 2 diapers still fit her! Her 4-month old cousin is in size 3.
Enough explanation...let's do the math...
HOW MANY DIAPERS?
10 diapers / day (on average)
365 days / year
2.5 years in diapers (you may potty train earlier or later)
10 x 365 x 2.5 =
9125 diapers for ONE child in their "diaper lifetime"
COST OF DISPOSABLES?
Name-brand disposables :
I saw Pampers online for $49.99 / 162 diapers =
$0.31 each (let's use $0.30 as an average price per name brand diaper)
$0.30 per diaper x 9125 diapers =
$2,737.50 per child in diapers! (That's $5,475.00 if you have 2 children...imagine 4 or 5!)
I saw Target disposables for $28.99 / 128-172 diapers (depending on the size) =
$0.20 each (let's use $0.20 as an average price per generic diaper)
$0.20 per diaper x 9125 diapers =
$1,825.00 per child in diapers! (That's $3,650.00 if you have 2 children!)
Important Note: Not all diapers are created equal! You can buy generic, but they may not be nearly as durable as a Huggies or Pampers diaper. I know from experience (we travel on the airplane with disposables...). The velcro doesn't hold together as well and the fit isn't as snug in my opinion.
Another Important Note: You may be able to comfortably afford $1,825-$2737.50 in diapers per child, and that's fine. If we could, would I be so into cloth diapers? Hmm...I'd hope so! But if you are shocked by $2700 like I was, keep reading. We spend that amount on a good portion of our groceries in a single year, so that would be a big chunk of change for us. We choose to live on one income and this is one way we do it.
Yet Another Important Note: If you're like me, you find all of the great deals and coupons out there before you shop. I like to know what the price per unit is on different items before I buy, and I research the store rewards programs or sales before I buy. Oh, and I buy in bulk too. (Not always at the warehouse stores like Sam's Club though...they actually don't have the cheapest diapers!). You may be able to lower your cost per disposable if you shop sales. (Before you ask me how much time it takes to clean cloth diapers...remember that it takes just as much time to coupon and go to the store to actually buy the disposable diapers. Cost of the time spent in each case is negligible).
HOW MUCH DOES CLOTH COST?
First, there are lots of different types of cloth diapers. I will discuss the types of diapers in part 2 of this series. We use a combination of prefolds and all-in-ones, so this should give you an average cost. These quantities are a "comfortable" minimum, in my opinion. There may even be more diapers than you actually need, just enough so that you don't have to wash every day or dry quickly in the dryer for immediate use (we hang dry instead to save lots of $$$). We were very very blessed to receive most of our diaper stash from family and friends as shower gifts. I think we only spent $100 on our stash (and the cost of detergent and electricity). That saved us hundreds of dollars.
6 All-in-one diapers (nighttime diapers in our house) = $107.70
6 Extra all-in-one diaper inserts = $18.99
3 dozen newborn prefolds* = $75.00
3 dozen small prefolds = $87.00
2 dozen medium prefolds = $74.00
2 dozen large prefolds = $80.00
4 small waterproof diaper covers = $53.00
4 large waterproof diaper covers = $53.00
1 pack of Snappis = $14.98
2.5 Yrs of Detergent** = $120
2.5 Yrs of Utilities*** = $250
TOTAL = $933.67
*Prefolds (See Example) are like what your grandmother used...a flat cloth that you pin on the child and use with a waterproof cover. Only nowadays, they have "Snappis" (See Example) instead of pins! All-in-ones look like these (See Example).
**Detergent is also an estimate. We've found that Tide Powder works extremely well with our hard water and our HE machine. We haven't yet made our own detergent, but I know we could definitely save money here. You could also cut down on the cost of detergent if you are good with coupons and store sales!
***Utilities include water as well as the electricity to run washer and heat the water. This is also an estimate as utility costs vary. This number would increase if you use the dryer. It can be almost $0.75 each load to dry your diapers. (The dryer also can wear out diapers faster). We are on well water, so we don't have a water bill. Our diaper utilities probably cost a bit less than most, so I tried to give an average cost.
Important Note about WIPES: I left off the cost of wipes in both scenarios. If you choose to use cloth wipes (which is what we do for pee diapers...haven't yet braved the poopy ones!), you can save over $200! The only cost is a bit of flannel, thread, and some homemade solution (very cheap). Wipes (say Costco brand) cost $203 for the diaper lifetime of one child, assuming you're using 1 wipe per diaper change...and we know that's never the case! Let's say you can save another $200 here if you cloth diaper / cloth wipe!
Important Note about Diaper Pails, Liners & Diaper Rash Cream: I have no idea what it costs to buy those disposable diaper pail liners...and I have no idea if people actually use them. I'm just going to assume (hopefully that's a safe assumption) that the pail and liners for disposables cost roughly the same as the washable pail liners and wet bags for cloth. Same with rash creams. You may use less cream with cloth because you'll have fewer rashes, but the rash cream safe for cloth diapers may be more expensive. That's probably a wash as well.
(You can reuse your entire diaper stash for at least 2 children, so all you pay for are the consumables the second time - utilities/detergent/wipes if you use them)
Potential Savings of over $4,000 for 2 children!
(Now, imagine for a second that you have 4 children...if you repurchase another diaper stash, you'll be saving over $8,000!!! Have I convinced you yet?!)
Conclusion: I love cloth diapering. So does my husband. We miss them when we are on vacation. Cloth diapering does require an investment, not only cost-wise upfront, but mentally. There are some days I don't want to do the wash, some days I'd rather throw them in the dryer, but since it is a part of my everyday routine, it really doesn't take much longer or that much more effort than disposables. Hope this helps if you are trying to decide what to do with your child(ren), and don't forget, each child is different, each family is different, costs are different, budgets are different. Do what works for you! Let me know if you have questions, if you have comments (like if I did my math wrong, haha!), or have suggestions on how to improve my own cloth diapering routine! Stay tuned for posts about what to buy and how to wash! God bless!