If you’re new here, we’re taking a quick retreat from home topics to answer a question I get often. We’ll get back to the norm straightaway.
Back when I showed you guys my laundry room makeover, I also inadvertently put a shot of my sweet baby girl’s undergarments all over the information superhighway.
Those are her cloth diapers. (She hasn’t complained yet about her skivvies’ grand debut, but there are plenty of teenage years ahead for her to discover this and hold it against me.)
I got a few questions and emails asking for the details on our cloth diaper situation, so I thought I’d do a quick post on cloth diapering for those who are curious or horrified. Then, I promise, we’ll stop talking poop. (I can’t actually promise that.)
We have always used cloth diapers, from Weston’s tiniest newborn days, and we wouldn’t do it any other way.
We initially decided to go with cloth because we’re
cheap thrifty and couldn’t bear the thought of actually flushing $80 a month down the drain, but the more I researched it, the more non-monetary reasons I found to love it.
Benefits of Cloth Diapering
- Avoiding chemicals in disposable dipes: There’s some debate about whether the chemicals in disposable diapers cause in any harm, but a couple years ago when certain disposable diapers were blamed for causing chemical burns on some babies, I was happy to be using cloth! Here’s more on that.
- Reduced waste/fewer diapers in landfills
- Softer on a brand new baby bum. I’m just sayin’, if I had to choose between wearing soft fleece on my nethers and a giant Depends, I’d go for the soft fabric any day.
- Fewer blowouts, less diaper rash: We almost never, ever have blowouts. Diaper rashes are few and far between.
- Cuteness. You can’t tell me there’s anything cuter than a pink gingham diaper on a tiny baby girl.
How do cloth diapers compare in cost?
SOOO much cheaper.
Best Guess for Cost of Disposable Dipes: My friends who use disposable diapers tell me they pay about $60-80 a month in throwaway poo containers.
If I were to use disposable, you know I’d be couponing the heck out of that, so I’d estimate I’d be on the low end of that, maybe $60. Say each kid potty trains around 30 months. (Although Weston was daytime potty trained at 2 years.)
30 months x $10 (for wipes): $300
Total: $2,460 per child
Cost of Cloth Dipes: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I can actually tell you that I spent exactly $492 to buy cloth diapers, cloth wipes and all necessary accessories for Weston. I used this calculator to estimate the water and energy costs to wash cloth diapers, and it’s about another $500 in water and power.
The point at which cloth diapering gets crazy cheap is when you can use the same diapers on multiple kids. Mila now uses most of the same diapers Weston used, which cuts those initial costs in half. Now I’m spending about $750 per kid ($500 to wash and $250 for diapers), which is about a quarter of the cost of disposables.
It’s actually even cheaper than that, because I can wash both their diapers in the same load, so at this point Weston’s nighttime diapers are virtually free.
UPDATE: YES, you can buy disposable diapers for less than the price I quoted. You can also do cloth diapers for less than I spend. I used mid-range quotes for both cloth and disposable.
Saving Money on Cloth Diapers
Okay, don’t freak out, and promise you won’t judge: we buy used cloth diapers to save money. Because they last more than one kid, and mamas who cloth diaper usually take great care of their dipes, you can pick them up used for a significant discount. I’m careful to buy only used diapers that are not stained and are still in excellent condition, then when I buy them, I strip them before we use them, which is basically a method of heavy-duty washing.
I can usually pick up Fuzzibunz, which are the diapers we use, for between $5 and $10 each in great condition on diaperswappers.com, then, when I’m done with them, I can resell them there. (Mila is growing out of the small diapers right now; soon, I’ll throw them up for sale and send them off to another babe.) Of course, this hugely offsets the price of cloth diapering.
This is craziness: I had a set of newborn diapers for Weston that I bought in excellent condition online, used. We sold them after he got a little bigger, and I was out a total of $7. It cost me $7 to diaper him for his whole first six weeks.
But isn’t cloth diapering gross and/or horrible? Nope, read on.
Our Cloth Diapering Wash System
This is how we wash and maintain our dipes.
- Garbage can with a lid (a good one, don’t skimp!)
- Cloth diapering pail liner (we have these and love them)
- Cloth diaper-approved detergent (You can’t use just any detergent for cloth dipes. We’ve used this kind for years.)
- Update: I forgot to mention wetbags! These are our favorites. They hold dirty dipes for us when we’re out running errands.
- Cloth diapers & wipes (Obviously. More on this in a sec.)
Our Method: Birth to six months
- Remove diaper from baby.
- Place directly in garbage can. (The diaper, not the baby.) Do not rinse. Do not dump. Do not pass go.
- When it’s time to wash, take pail liner out of garbage can and carry directly to washing machine. Dump contents of pail liner and actual pail liner into machine.
- Wash on cold, then on hot with an extra rinse. Hang dry.
I’m not gonna get super technical about poo, but suffice it to say that if your kiddo is breastfed and not eating any solids, everything is super duper easy. No dumping necessary, no touching of the poo or thinking about the poo or looking at the poo.
Six Months and up (or after you start solid foods)
- Remove diaper from baby.
- If it’s just wet, put it right in the pail.
- If it’s *ahem*… NOT just wet, take it to the toilet, empty into toilet, and put diaper into pail. As long as baby’s digestion is healthy and good, there’s no touching the poo, no diaper sprayers, no scraping, nothing. It just falls right out of the diaper into the toilet. It’s clean and easy.
- In case of… erg… “indigestion,” you can use flushable diaper liners like this. They look and feel like dryer sheets, but you lay them on top of the diaper before you put them on the kiddo, then when “the time comes,” you flush the diaper liner, which holds the diaper’s “contents,” right into the potty.
- Wash in cold water, then another hot wash with an extra rinse. Hang dry.
So, we never soak the diapers. We never make direct contact with poop (well, not more than you would if you were using disposables), and the whole washing process is easy and straightforward.
We wash our dipes about every two to three days, when we get down to about four or five clean ones left.
But aren’t cloth diapers hard to use?
Definitely not. They’ve come a long way since the days of folding flat pieces of cloth and securing with safety pins. Nowadays most of them secure with velcro or snaps and they’re just as easy to put on or take off as ‘sposies. We use a snap-on kind called Fuzzibunz:
Probably the other most popular kind is BumGenius 4.0, which also snaps on.
Both Fuzzibunz and Bumgenius are pocket diapers, which means that they have a slit in the back where you can slide in an insert. The insert does all the absorbing. Pop in an extra insert at night for double absorption and you’re good to go.
I won’t go into every possible cloth diaper option because there are probably only two of you still reading at this point anyway, but if you want more info on what’s what in the cloth diaper world, here’s a little comparison I just found by quickly googling.
We’ve used all kinds, but we always go back to pocket diapers. They’re the perfect combination of quick-drying and easy to use. We’ve owned a few all-in-ones, which are basically just one piece and don’t have the insert feature, but we find they take too long to dry, so we like pockets instead.
We’ve tried both velcro diapers and snap-on diapers and we are snap-on fans. The velcro gets pilly, doesn’t last as long, and sticks to all the other diapers in the wash.
Finally, you can choose between diapers that are one-size-fits-all, or diapers that come in different sizes. The one-size kind is the most cost-effective, because you buy one set that lasts until potty-training. We actually prefer the sized diapers because they’re a little more snug-fitting and a little less bulky.
On Cloth Wipes
I’ll admit, when I first heard about cloth wipes, I thought: “That is an extreme hippy thing. I am not that crunchy. Disposable wipes for me, please.” But after I had Weston, I realized that cloth wipes are actually easier. When you’re already running a wash for cloth diapers and you already have the pail ready, it’s easier to throw diapers and wipes in together. When I was using disposable wipes, I had to keep an extra trash bag so they stayed separate from the diapers, and that was a hassle.
We take our cloth wipes right out of the wash, fold them while they’re still wet, and put them in this wipe warmer. We don’t use any kind of wipe solution: just water. (I used to use a DIY baby wipe solution made of tea tree oil and baby shampoo, but I found that to be unnecessary.)
Also, in my opinion, you don’t need “official” cloth wipes. Baby washcloths are perfect for this.
And that’s the most I’ll ever talk about poop in one post.
This is the system we’ve found that works for us, and we’re kind of in love with cloth diapers around here. There’s just nothing like a sweet baby bum in a fun patterned diaper. But there’s no shame in using disposables: this is just what works for us.
Would you cloth diaper your kids, or have you? Any tips or tricks? Favorite products?
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