Cloth diapering is a great option for parents looking for frugal ways to care for their baby. I used cloth diapers for my first three babies, and have used paper for my last three. Overall, while paper has an edge on convenience, I prefer cloth. I love the simple and the natural, and I hate feeling like I am wasting anything!
The world of cloth diapering is, however, less simple than it used to be. There are many, many options available! To start, cloth diapers can be broken down into two main categories: diaper services and home washing.
A diaper service is a laundry facility that will, on a weekly basis, come to your home and deliver the desired number of clean, prefold diapers. They pick up the week’s soiled diapers, which do not require any rinsing or special care. (You do, however, need to purchase and wash your own covers. They typically run between $8.00 – $15.00, and four or five will serve. They are not difficult to wash and only occasionally become very messy.) A monthly fee is charged, which varies considerably by region, but is generally comparable to paper diapering in cost for a single child in diapers. There are two major savings involved with a diaper service: 1) cloth diapered babies tend to diaper train significantly earlier than babies who wear paper, because the child can feel the wetness and develops self-awareness about the whole process more quickly. 2) I loved this one: if you have two (or more if you are so blessed!) children in diapers at the same time, you save a ton of money. Diaper services usually charge a flat fee which covers delivery and washing, plus a few cents on each diaper that you order. So, if you add a new baby to your account, your monthly diaper bill will only go up by literally a few dollars. A good place to start for more info on diaper services is http://www.diapernet.org/.
Then there is home washing – this is where it can get complicated. There are a lot of options out there; you can go with a good quality flat prefold diaper, used with a hook-and-loop closure cover like you would use for diaper service diapers, or there are dozens of newer systems out there that might be a little more expensive to get started with, but are more convenient. Some of these, like bumGenius, are one-size deals that will fit your baby from 7-35 lbs, so while the initial layout is a little higher with these, you do not have to buy progressively larger sizes like you do with the flat diapers and covers. Your toddler can wear the same size diapers as your newborn.
Regardless of which style you choose, you’ll have to wash them. While baby is exclusively breastfed, there is no rinsing needed, but once solids or formula are introduced, the diapers need to be rinsed before being tossed in the diaper pail. This job can be made easier with some convenience items such as a diaper sprayer, but can also be accomplished with a dedicated spatula and a swish in the toilet. Most people wash their diapers several times a week, investing an hour or so of their time. Washed properly, your diapers will not smell bad and they will not usually cause a rash. The extra work pays off – even considering the initial outlay and the ongoing expense of washing, this is by far the least expensive way to diaper a baby. The savings over the years one child spends in diapers can easily hit four figures – and then, you can reuse the diapers for your next child, and often resell them when you are done.
One of the best places to get started washing your own diapers is Cotton Babies. I have also had good experiences with Green Mountain Diapers. For even more information, including very detailed cost breakdowns, visit Green Baby Guide.
Some of you may be now wondering, “Why, if she loves cloth diapers so much, doesn’t she currently use them??” Ahhh…long story. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding which diaper system to use: cost, convenience, time, environmental concerns, personal preference, spouse’s preference, baby’s preference (in terms of rash issues – some babies rash with paper and not with cloth, some vice versa). Hopefully I have helped you consider which might be the best fit for you!
Desiree is a homeschooling mom of 6, wife to Mark, and blogs about homemaking and homeschooling in faith at Diligence Without Fear.
A note from The Thrifty Couple: Please be watching our site as we have shared some amazing deals on cloth diapering products in the past and will continue to do so as we find them to help you save more. Be watching our Baby Deals!
Photo Credit: Thank you to Green Parenthood for the use of the photo.