This is part three in a series in which I discuss why my family uses cloth rather than disposable diapers. In part one I looked at the environmental impact of both diapering systems. I presented research on the health concerns of each system in part two. Today I will give you some information on the cost of each system.
Cost: A Comparison
If the decision between disposable and cloth diapers hinged solely on money, the choice would be easy: cloth diapers are more affordable than disposables. When comparing cost, the first thing to consider is the number of diaper changes the average child will need. Because urine, bacteria, and ammonia (released when urine breaks down) are all right next to baby’s skin in both cloth and disposable diapers, children should be changed immediately regardless of the diapering system.
There are many estimates available online for the cost of diapering your child. These estimates run anywhere from $1600 to $4,150 for only two years of diapers. (2) Realistically, many children will be in diapers for longer than two years. The estimates for cloth diapering are much lower. On the conservative end, estimates run as low as $300 – that figure, however, may not include the cost of laundering. (3) On the high end, cloth diapers can cost $1800 or more, but that will depend on the type of diapers you buy and whether you launder them at home or use a diaper service. (4)
Keeping the Cost of Cloth Down
With their rise in popularity, cloth diapers have gone designer. You could easily spend hundreds on a small supply, but that isn’t necessary.
The three most popular options for diapers on the cheap are:
1) Prefolds: You can buy prefold cloth diapers new for less than $20 a dozen. Prefolds are probably the diapers most people think about when they think of cloth: flat, white rectangles that need to be covered with a waterproof outer layer. (5)
2) “Seconds”: If the idea of flat diapers turns you off, but you still cannot afford to buy diapers at $15-$25 dollars a pop, look into “seconds.” Seconds are new diapers with slight defects that are offered at deeply discounted prices. The defects will be aesthetic, rather than functional. If you receive a second that does not work (the snap is broken, etc.), the manufacturer will exchange it for one that does work properly (of course you should verify this policy before purchasing seconds). We have gotten several Fuzzi Bunz Seconds, and I have never noticed the defects on a cursory inspection, nor have the defects affected functionality. (6)
3) Used Diapers: The idea of putting my son in a used cloth diaper was kind of repulsive at first, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds. There are entire online communities dedicated to buying, selling and trading used cloth diapers. What worked for me was to look for diapers in “new,” “like new,” or “excellent” condition. I get barely used (or brand new) diapers at significant discounts, wash them thoroughly several times and dry them in the sun, and no one notices a difference. There are ways to naturally disinfect and clean used diapers, see the linked articles in the footnote below for more details. (7)
Cloth diapers may seem like a bigger investment at the beginning, but the money needed to start cloth diapering is small compared to the thousands of disposables you could buy in the long run. Additionally, cloth diapers can be re-used with subsequent children or resold to recoup even more of the investment. The cost factor comes down solidly on the side of cloth.
Guest Blogger Bio: Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama to an amazing son. She and her hubby practice natural parenting (also known as attachment or responsive parenting) and try to live consciously. In other words, they believe in natural birth, exclusive/extended breastfeeding, delayed/selective vaccinations, cloth diapering, no circumcision, a family bed, healthy eating, and “going green” as much as possible.
On Code Name: Mama, Dionna shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler. Please take a moment to subscribe to her RSS feed for free updates.
(1) “Some may argue that single-use diapers don’t need to be changed as often as cloth, which justifies their higher cost per diaper. We strongly disagree. Leaving a baby in a soiled diaper, whether it is cloth or single-use, is an open invitation for diaper rash and other problems. A baby’s diaper is not meant to be used as a septic tank.” “Why Use Cloth,” http://www.diapernet.org/whycloth.htm (2) “Diaper Facts,” http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php; “Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers,” http://blogs.consumerreports.org/baby/2009/07/cloth-vs-disposable-diapers-getting-started.html; Why Use Cloth (3) The article does not specify what type of cloth they referred to in coming up with the $300 figure. I assume this calculation was made either using flat diapers and covers, “seconds,” or used diapers. “Diapers Go Green,” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1702357,00.html (4) Why Use Cloth (5) “Affordable Cloth Diapers,” http://directory.diaperjungle.com/blog/2008/01/01/affordable-cloth-diapers/ (6) “Seconds and Clearance,” http://www.fuzzibunzonline.com/Seconds-and-Clearance_c_8.html; see also “Sales & Seconds,” http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/seconds.htm. There are even sites that exclusively sell seconds and discontinued diapers. See “Dapa Discount Diapers,” http://shop.dapadiapers.com/ (I have not used this company, so I cannot vouch for their service or products.) (7) Information on cleaning diapers: “How to Disinfect Cloth Diapers Without Bleach,” http://allaboutclothdiapers.com/how-to-disinfect-cloth-diapers-without-bleach/; “How Should I Wash and Care for my New Diapers,” http://www.newtoclothdiapers.com/wash.htm; “Washing Cloth Diapers,” http://www.diaperjungle.com/washing-cloth-diapers.html; “Detergent Choices,” http://www.pinstripesandpolkadots.com/detergentchoices.htm
My favorite used cloth diaper site: “Diaper Swappers,” http://www.diaperswappers.com/