Having a Baby Without Breaking the Bank: Cloth-Diapering (Guest Post)

Having a Baby Without Breaking the Bank

Guest post by Crystal from The Thrifty Mama

Cloth diapers have come a long way from what our grandmothers used to use. In fact, there are so many great options these days when it comes to cloth diapering, that it can be a bit overwhelming for beginners.

To get started, let’s talk about the five basic kinds of cloth diapers which are currently on the market:

All-In-One Diaper (see an example here)This is a tapered fabric diaper that has an outer layer of Polyurethane Laminate (PUL). This is a water-proof material that works very well at preventing leaks. This type of cloth diaper is the most similar to disposables. It doesn’t require a cover, and it usually has velcro or snaps. The only draw-back with this type of cloth diaper is that it can sometimes be harder to clean, and take longer to dry.

Fitted Diaper (see examples here)–This diaper fits snuggly on the baby, is all cloth and it requires a waterproof cover. It usually has velcro or snaps so that it can be easily secured on the baby. This diaper cleans and dries easier than an All-In-One, but it can still take a while for it to dry.

Pocket Diaper (see examples here)A pocket diaper usually has two layers of fabric and has a pocket for inserts. You can place fabric inserts or prefolds in the pocket for absorbency. Pockets can either have an outer waterproof layer so that they are more like an All-In-One when stuffed, or they can just have two absorbent fabric layers so that they are more like a fitted when stuffed. Pockets are very easy to clean and dry, because you remove the inserts when washing.

Prefolds (see examples here)–These are like what your grandmothers used to use. They work by folding the diaper onto the baby, and attaching it with either pins or a snappi (more on snappis later). These can be more work to fit on the baby, but they are so easy to clean and dry. Prefolds require a cover.

Flats (see examples here)Flats are a flat piece of fabric that is folded into the shape of a diaper. It is placed on the baby and then secured with a snappi or pins. Flats are nice because they clean and dry the easiest, and they also give a very trim look, even though they do require a cover.

Flats are one of the least-expensive cloth diapering options. Even if you aren’t good with a sewing machine, you can make some flats out of old shirts, towels and other materials. Receiving blankets are great to use as flats. They are flannel, and flannel is very absorbent.

Depending upon which cloth diaper type you choose, you’ll also likely need a few accessories:

CoversIf you plan on using fitteds, prefolds or flats, then you will want to have covers. There are many types of covers. You can buy covers online or you can make your own.

Fabrics that make great covers are PUL, Fleece, Wool and of course there are the original plastic pants that our mothers and grandmothers used to use. I like using fleece and wool because they allow for breathing of the skin, and they are so cute!

You can easily make your own wool or fleece pants for babies out of your old sweaters and hoodies. Here is a quick tutorial on how to make some recycled wool/fleece pants.

Diaper SprayerYou are definitely going to want one of these. Also known as a bidet, it hooks up to your toilet and is used to spray soiled diapers. [Note from Crystal: I cloth-diapered exclusively with my first child and never had one of these. I used Fuzzi Bunz diapers and got along fine without this. Just wanted to share an alternate opinion.]

Inserts–If you use pockets or want added layers of absorbency, you will want to buy or make some inserts. Usually I just use prefolds or fold up some receiving blankets. Receiving blankets are flannel, thus making them great for absorbency.

Snappi/Pins–A snappi is a little rubber fastener that has hooks. It is used to hold the diaper on the baby instead of pins. You can of course use pins if you prefer to not use a snappi. Here is a picture of a snappi holding together a prefold:

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Wetbag–This is a waterproof bag used to hold soiled diapers. There are many places online that you can buy these, or you can make your own. PUL is a great fabric to make wetbags out of. You can also find the 3 packs of waterproof bags in the camping section at major retail stores. Those are fairly inexpensive, and I’ve found that they work very well for this purpose.

Cloth diapering is a way our family saves a lot of money each year. However, building up a stash of cloth diapers in the beginning can be costly. To build a good stash, if you do it wisely, you can expect to spend somewhere between $200-$400.

The average person will spend $1,800-$2,000 a year on disposables for one child. Now, if you use coupons combined with sales to purchase disposable diapers, you’ll not spend that much, but you still will probably spend at least a few hundred dollars, if not more, on diapers per child. So while the initial investment in purchasing cloth diapers might seem steep, if you plan on using them for more than one child, you will likely recoup your investment–and maybe even many times over!

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(My daughter wearing one of the pocket diapers I made for her.)

If you have a knack for sewing, you can sew your own diapers and accessories which will make them much more affordable than purchasing them! I’ve written a post on a quick and easy way to sew a prefold diaper here. I’ve also made my own pocket diapers and show you how you can do that here.

Crystal blogs at The Thrifty Mama, where she posts deals, coupon help, and tips for living a more natural and thrifty life. She’s a stay-at-home Mom to two small children, and does her best to live more green and natural without breaking the bank.

Note from Crystal: Have you used cloth diapers? If so, which kinds did you use and what did you find worked best for you? How did you build your cloth diaper stash on a budget? I’d love to hear your ideas and input!

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Comments

  1. Jill says

    @Lauren
    I have a few Kushies and they are All-in-One diapers. The disposable liners that Walmart and other places sell for Kushies are so that you can more easily throw away solids and not have them stain the diaper as much. I have never used liners, but I have heard they are convenient. But you still have to wash the diaper after one use. The only thing that is multi-use is a diaper cover (the new version of plastic pants). They are entirely waterproof, and you can use them until they are soiled or stinky (whichever comes first!).

    Regarding Kushies, I would only sort of recommend them. The fit is awkward, but they are the cheapest all in ones you can find. I personally prefer pockets over all in ones.

  2. Audrey Borkholder says

    We used a diaper service with our first child and the price was really reasonable. It made cloth diapering much, much easier. With our second child, we had moved and there were no services in the area. I was able, though, to purchase diapers from the previous service and that was a real help. The whole cloth-diapering is not as bad as some might think!

  3. says

    I have eight children. I have used disposable diapers on all but my last child. I decided to use cloth diapers (pocket diapers from Cotton Babies) because they were healthier for her and also because it would save money. Oh, how I wished I would have used cloth diapers on all of my children. They really are not any more work than disposables. Yes, you do have to rinse out the b.m.’s but compared to having to run the poopy disposables out to the trash can or put them in another bag (increasing costs) to avoid having the house smell it’s no big deal. When it comes time to stuff the diaper pockets I remind myself how much money I am saving our family and it really becomes a joyful act of work.

  4. tammy fulcher says

    I used cloth diapers and just loved them. My mother had a neighbor that sold me hers–about 10–for a fraction of the cost. It saved us so much money. The liners made all the difference for the “stinkies,” and the one piece with velcro was wonderful (not sure they even make those anymore–my son is now 14). Since I only had 10, it did require me to wash and dry everyday, but it was so easy. Even when I went back to work, I still used those for many months. when I was done, I sold them at a consignment shop.
    Tammy from NC

  5. says

    Prudent Homemaker:

    White PUL can be bought at KidsintheGarden (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kidsinthegarden/), also PULPurchasePower (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PULPurchasePower/) is another choice. :)

    Also, to the person who said that her Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius stopped absorbing – I’ve heard that detergent and/or hard water buildup is the main culprit for that, and can be easily solved in many cases by “stripping” the diapers.

    For myself, I have no children, am not married OR anywhere near being so, and I love the idea of using cloth diapers! I’m in the middle of sewing myself a stash to put in my hope chest. :)

  6. Nell says

    We use Bum Genius 3.0 onesize. We have 35 of them and didn’t buy one ourselves. We registered for them and got a bunch from mom and grandma and then smaller bunches from friends. I wash about half of them every other day, so there are always extras if they sit in the machine for a bit. For the most part they don’t stain, but an occasional poop does it…then the clean diaper just takes a sunbath and looks pretty again.

  7. says

    I used cloth diapers almost exclusively while I was on maternity leave, and now use disposables for daycare and nights, and cloth in the early evening and weekend days. I actually like having the choice of either, so it’s definitely not a one or the other thing. The cost of disposables doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the hassle of having to run out every week to pick more up.

  8. Emily Mitchell says

    Hello -
    About the care of the diapers
    I get by on a very basic rinse cycle, then I add the rest of my laundry and then a regular wash cycle. The diapers only take up 1/4 to 1/3 of my laundry. So, if I need to wash the diapers once every two days or so, I am only doing one resultant load and 3 rinse cycles. Not too much more laundry.
    I think a lot of people have different ideas on how much rinsing is necessary and also whether or not they are comfortable adding in the rest of their clothes.
    As a sidenote, we should all be concerned with minimizing what is contributed to a landfill no matter what it is that goes into our trash – I think it’s important to realize that landfills are built to be as dry as possible and contained. Since items are not exposed to the elements, it is not a place where things biodegrade as intended. Every effort is made to contain the leachate that drips from a landfill and to treat it, however there is of course the possiblility that it can contaminate groundwater.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landfill
    http://www.howstuffworks.com/landfill.htm

  9. says

    We used cloth for our second child and will (to some degree anyway) for our third — who will be older because she will have been adopted. We used regular old flat fold diapers to line diaper covers that closed with velcro snaps. The diapers cost almost nothing because I asked for them as baby shower gifts. The covers were purchased along with the few extra diapers we got at thrift and consignment stores. I doubt we spent more than $100 all total for everything.

    I also just rinsed solid waste in the toilet water. I didn’t have any kind of sprayer.

    I would never EVER use exclusively disposables again. I LOVED cloth diapers and so did our son!

  10. Dawn says

    We use cloth on our 14 month old, and we love it! My husband was a little hesitant initially, but now he is glad to tell people how easy it is and how much money we save.

    We’ve spent about $400 on cloth diapers/cloth wipes/2 wet bags. Most of our stash is FuzziBunz or BumGenius. Some of this money is what I’ve earned through ebates, Inbox Dollars, and (now) You Data.

    We’ll soon have 2 babies in diapers, so whenever I reach about $30 in my paypal account, I’ll buy a few diapers on sale or at DiaperSwappers.com. It doesn’t cost me anything out of pocket at this point, thanks to earning $$ online!

    We don’t have a diaper sprayer. Most messes are easy to shake into the toilet, and if they are a little messier than normal, we keep a spatula under the bathroom sink to do a quick scrape. I rinse it with hot water & spray it with Lysol after use. (I could only imagine that flooded bathroom if my curious 14 month old got hold of that sprayer, yikes!)

    We store the diapers in a 13 gallon trash can with a PUL liner, and we wash 2 – 3 times per week (aim for 2, but if they’re stinky, we’ll wash a little sooner). We do a cold rinse, hot wash, and another cold rinse. Every once in a while, I’ll do a cold wash with bleach before doing a hot wash with detergent. Setting the diapers in the sun is another way to remove stink/stains.

    As far as detergent, there are a few websites that offer good suggestions for detergents. It’s okay to use one detergent with your clothing, reserving your “special” detergent for washing diapers. Right now, though, we’re using Arm & Hammer detergent for all of our washing. It’s reasonably priced, and seems to work well with the diapers.

    http://www.pinstripesandpolkadots.com/detergentchoices.htm is a good website for finding a good detergent for cloth diapers.

    We keep a few disposables in the diaper bag for church nursery, but they rarely get used.

  11. says

    Thanks for all the information! I am actually pregnant with my second right now and just did a post on whether or not I should do cloth! I think I’m going to go for it!

  12. Joy says

    What a great post on cloth diapers! I’ve never used them and don’t intend to now, but I’m sure this is extremely helpful to those who are perhaps interested, but afraid or unsure where to start. I’m not sure where the figure for disposable diapers comes from though. I find that I typically spend between$30-$40/month per child on disposables and that is without coupons. It is generally one jumbo pack per week with a cost of around $10/pack. This is even for brand name diapers. With sales and coupons, I am usually able to get that down to around $5-6/pack. So, for my two in diapers, I’m spending less than $600 per year, not the thousands listed. And while as a newborn they use more diapers, there are also more in a pack for the smaller sizes, so I’ve found that no matter what age they are, they still use around one jumbo pack per week each.

  13. Julie says

    we’ve used cloth & diposables interchangeably with our 2 kids, and i like them both. we got started with cloth when our oldest was a newborn. i knew $ was going to be really tight, so i was intending to try cloth from the beginning. my mom bought us a gift of a whole start up set of prefolds and covers from a friend who had used them very briefly and then decided not to use cloth, so everything was in new/nearly new shape. doing all the extra laundry is an expense, especially when energy costs are high, but it still has saved us a lot of money.

  14. says

    We are cloth diaper users and I love them! My son is almost 11 months old and we’ve been using them since he was about 1 month old. It took us a month to figure out what kind we liked enough to get a good supply of them. We choose pocket diapers because they adjust in size so we would only have to invest in one set of diapers. We tried a one size pocket diaper of 4 different kinds: Happy Heiney, Mommy’s Touch, Bum Genius and Haute Pockets. I did not like the Mommy’s touch- it leaked around the legs a lot (it may work better with a bigger baby but not my 10 lb new born). The Happy Heiney leaked a few times but the velcro sticks to everything in the wash. My favorite are the Haute Pockets. The snap closures last longer and they aren’t peeling and sticking to everything. My second choice are the Bum Genius. We use those only at night. The HP’s are more breathable so we use those during the day. We don’t have any rash problems or anything. You can get HP’s for about $14/piece so you can get a couple of days worth for under $300.

  15. Jill says

    Sunshinesaving – Most prices of the pocket diapers and all in ones are standardized – i.e. I imagine the stores have a contractual agreement to carry them at a certain price. Therefore, you will be hard pressed to find Fuzzi Bunz for cheaper than $17.95. You might be able to find them on clearance somewhere, but they go fast. I would try ebay. You might get them cheaper than then standard price. I like nickisdiapers.com because they have free shipping on pockets and covers. You could also do what someone suggested and buy from diapers.com and get $10 off. You could also try to find seconds. Also, if you buy in bulk the price goes down, but not much.

    Be glad that they are $17.95 – Fuzzi Bunz raised the price to $19.95 last year and then lowered them back (I guess people stopped buying them). Personally I think cloth diapers are WAY overpriced, but it is still a niche market. I’m encouraged that stores like Walmart (online at least) and diapers.com are starting to carry cloth diapers. This will eventually lead the price to go down.

  16. says

    Hey everyone! I agree that the disposable diaper estimate is high. I checked three sites and they all said roughly the same amount. One even said higher. So I went with it. But we all know as couponers that disposables don’t cost that much. the average must take into account people who just spend whatever, and don’t really watch the cost.

    I am so happy you all enjoyed the post! Feel free to stop by those tutorials and I’d be happy to answer your questions there.

  17. says

    Yes, but having an HE machine with cloth diapers is not the way to go. I’ve been using my BG 3.0 with my son and he’s being breast-fed and it’s just not a pretty picture. I end up having to bleach every load in the sun to get out stains. Just sharing!