Did you know that the typical American baby will wear more than 5,400 disposable diapers from birth until potty training?
Did you know that the average disposable diaper costs $.21-$.25/diaper — which equals roughly $1,200 in diaper costs alone by the age of potty training?
Back in the 1970s, when my brother and I were babies, we were cloth diapered. I’m sure there were disposables waaaay back then, but they were expensive — and new-fangled.
Since I’m six years older than my brother, I have vivid – and frankly, not all that fond – memories of him being cloth diapered. I remember the soiled diapers soaking in the toilet and the unwieldy diaper pins sticking me every time I tried to change him.
Needless to say, it didn’t even occur to me to consider using cloth diapers when I was pregnant with my first.
And yet, after changing more than a thousand disposable diapers in the first six months of his life, I found myself looking for an alternative. Between the cost, the trash, and the icky rashes that DS1 kept getting, I had opened my mind to the possibility of cloth.
Since I didn’t actually know anyone in real life who used cloth diapers, I did what I always did with my new mom questions: I asked my message board friends. Fortunately, they had a wealth of information to share with me. They told me how easy, affordable and adorable cloth diapers are!
Cloth diapers have come a long way since the days of scratchy prefolds, sticky pins and rash-producing rubber pants.
Today, parents are buying high-tech diapers that wick away moisture from baby’s bottom, wash up easily, and dry quickly. They are paying a premium in upfront costs to save a fortune down the road.
And did I mention that these diapers are cute?
Here’s a brief rundown on your cloth diapering options today, with a few notes on cost as I go:
Prefolds, Fitteds & Covers
Today’s prefolds are made from luxurious cotton — you can even buy organic — from China or India. Cotton quilts up nicely and provides a soft and absorbant diaper. Plus, it’s by far the most economical choice, starting at as low as $1.50 per prefold. You can pin them (today’s pins are far easier to use), use a Snappi – like a clasp from an ace bandage, or just fold them in thirds and lay them inside a cover. If you want to learn more about prefolds, this article from the Diaper Pin is excellent!
Fitteds, as their name implies, are fitted to baby’s bottom. They usually attach with snaps or velcro, making them super easy to put on and take off a squirmy baby. Most fitteds start around $10/diaper and can range up to $20/diaper, depending on the material they are made out – which can be everything from terry cloth cotton to organic bamboo!
Covers today are nothing like those awful rubber pants of yore. Most are made from PUL (Polyurethane Laminate), which is thin and waterproof, preventing moisture from wicking outside the cover and from creating a sweaty, wet mess inside the cover. Another popular option is wool, which is naturally antimicrobial, waterproof, and… it never stinks! Covers typically start in the $10 range, although wool covers can be twice as much or more.
Pocket diapers are a truly wonderous invention. Their ease and functionality has led to a major resurgence in using cloth diapers – as I like to say, even dads like pockets! They are made up of an outer layer of waterproof material (usually PUL) and an inner layer of either microfleece or suedecloth – both of which wick moisture way from baby and help to prevent diaper rash.
In between those two layers is a “pocket”, which you can stuff with whatever insert you wish to customize the level of absorbency that your baby needs. My favorite insert is microfiber, because it’s trim and light weight, but you can use just about anything that will absorb liquid. The most popular pocket diapers today include Fuzzi Bunz and BumGenius, but there are dozens – if not hundreds – of options (some of which will be reviewed by KOAB readers in an upcoming post). Pocket diapers start from $18-20 each, plus the cost of the insert.
All In Ones
Like pockets, All in One (AIO) diapers have an inner wick-away layer and an outer waterproof layer. But instead of having to stuff an insert into the pocket, AIOs come with a snap-on (or sometimes sewn-on) absorbant layer, too. They are just like disposable diapers — except you have to wash them. AIOs tend to be the most expensive diapers, starting from about $25 each.
More Notes on Cost
There is no doubt that buying cloth diapers costs more at the outset than buying disposables does. But given that the average baby runs you over $1,000 in diapers alone, the investment in a cloth diaper stash suddenly doesn’t seem so costly.
Ultimately, your cost of cloth diapering will depend on a number of factors:
- Which diapers you want to use – prefolds are a fraction of the cost of AIOs
- How often you want to do laundry – and, therefore, how many diapers you need. 12-15 diapers is plenty if you’re willing to wash every other day. Washing twice a week probably requires 15+ diapers.
- Whether you want to buy different sizes or One-Size-Fits-All diapers
- How many children you can amoratize the initial cost of your diaper stash over – The medium-size Fuzzi Bunz I bought for DS1 are still in great shape, and believe it or not, cloth diapers hold their resale value!
I’m far from the be-all-end-all expert in the field of cloth diapering. That’s why I have brought in some expert reinforcement for more posts in this Cloth Diapering series.
Stay tuned for Cloth Diapers 201 on Friday, when you can read all about laundering your cloth diapers (Rivki from Life in the Married Lane promises it’s no big deal!) and fitting cloth diapers into a growing family.
Then next week, I’ve got two great guest posts lined up with personal reviews of different diaper systems from KOAB readers. If you would like to review your brand of cloth diapers on KOAB, please give me a shout!
Questions? Comments? What’d I miss? See you in the comments!