You want how much for that diaper???

We've been operating for about a year now. Over that time, the most common statements/questions I hear at local markets or trade fairs are "You want that much for one diaper! How is that saving me money?"

I get it. When I first started investigating cloth diapers for my first babe, I was initially blown away. $20?? For one?? After lot's of reading though, I came to understand how it is cheaper. I also had to do a cost analysis to prove it to my engineer husband. Once doing that, it was a no-brainer for us.

The main cost difference between cloth and disposable diapers is similar to buying furniture. You can buy good quality, timeless furniture that will last your lifetime or continually buy cheaply made, trendy furniture consistently every 2 to 3 years. You make a larger investment initially, but over time, you have spent less than the people who are always buying new furniture. Another way to think of it is layover plans. You could pay upfront or pay over time. If you pay over time, you tend to pay up to 1.5X or 2X as much as the original cost due to interest. Cloth diapers have a larger up front cost, but over time, you pay way less. And if you have more than one child, your savings double for each additional child.

Here is a little table I use in my Cloth Diapering 101 workshop/consultation. It's the average number of diaper changes by age (key term is average) and how many diapers you typically need based on how often you do laundry (another way to save money but lose sanity is doing a load every day; my personal opinion).

Table 1: Typical number of diaper changes by age to determine the number of diapers needed.

Based on this table and the cost of a brand name disposable diaper not on sale, I also calculated the cost of 3 years of disposable diapers (no pull-ups) to be about $3300. Keep this number in's shocking.

There are also different ways to save money with cloth diapers. There is a huge variance in price between different styles and materials. Choosing a prefold and cover system is dramatically cheaper than all-in-ones. Typically, the fancier the diaper the more money. Also, the fibres tend to differ in cost. Overall, micro-fleece polyester and cotton are cheapest while organic cotton, hemp and bamboo are higher. This is not true in every case though.

The kind of diapers you do want typically are based on three things: cost, values and lifestyle. Some people make organic fibres or Canadian/US-made the priority. Some people make cost the highest priority. For others, it's the ease of use. I like a variety of diapers personally. Our lifestyle makes me want to save money but I need the ease of use sometimes. As for the fibres, my babes bums' can handle the works. I have a balance of two piece systems (prefolds/inserts/covers) and pocket/all-in-ones. All-in-ones go to daycare and mainly twp piece systems are used at home.

Back to money, I made a quick comparison of the cheapest and most expensive cloth diapers. It is another excerpt from my Cloth Diapering 101 workshop/consultation.

    Inexpensive (~2.5 days use):
  • —    Prefolds and covers (Based on Bummis)
  • —    21 (7 small, 7 medium, 7 large) SB covers and 24 infant prefolds = $374
    Convenient (~2.5 days use):
  • —    All AIOs (Based on AMP Stay Dry)
  • —    66 (26 small, 22 medium, 18 large) = $1320
  •     Add wipes (2 dozen), pail, pail liner (2), wet bags (2), detergent to both totals
  • —    Approximately $122 plus detergent (detergent amount varies depending on washer type; HE uses ¼ to ½ less detergent than top                loaders)

Big difference. Especially comparing prefolds and covers plus accessories to disposables. Even adding in extra water and power used for extra washing, you are NOWHERE near the cost of disposables. And if you want to take water and power into consideration, the cost of water/sewage/power of manufacturing cloth diapers and then cleaning your own is much less than the production of disposable diapers. Then there is the whole poop going into the landfill and the plastic remaining there for 1000s of years. Alas, those are for a future post.

Ultimately, it's up to you. No judgement from me I promise. If you on the fence or tired of hearing untruths from others, please feel free to share this post. My hope is to spark interesting discussions and discover more questions. I wish you a fabulous week!


March 25, 2012 by Laurie McGowan
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