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How to Cloth Diaper for Practically Free

If the cost of diapers is eating at your budget but the cost of investing in cloth diapers seems too expensive, you’ll definitely want to check out this post from Cotton Babies on How to Cloth Diaper for Practically Free:

Over the weekend, a customer shared with us this news report from Manhattan’s NY1: High Cost Of Diapers Forces Some Parents Into Risky Practices. It breaks my heart because I personally know what it feels like to have to choose food OR diapers. When my husband and I started Cotton Babies, we were living on $30 a week for groceries plus a WIC check. That certainly wasn’t enough to buy a cloth diaper stash and it didn’t buy very many disposable diapers either. Thankfully, we were given three months of diaper service at one of my baby showers and then a friend gave me her stash of prefolds and diaper covers. Without those gifts though, we would have been looking for information about how to diaper your baby when you can’t afford disposables OR cloth diapers.

Read the full post.

There are many ideas and links shared in the post including a link on How to Start Cloth Diapering for Only $20.

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  • cathy says:

    I love this! Great idea!

  • nicole says:

    This is GREAT! Thank you for helping to spread the word about cloth diapering. I’ve done it since my 6 month old was born, and wish I’d known about it with my first 2 children. We do use disposables at night (for now) but bought a box just after Christmas and they’re not quite gone yet, because we only use 1 per day! THANK YOU!! 🙂

    • Jill says:

      We have cloth diapered our two sons, and I have to say I have never really been able to use them at night either. I just couldn’t find a way to keep them dry and comfortable and not have them leak. But one disposable a day is really not that expensive.

      • What kind of cloth diapers do you use? We use FuzziBunz pocket diapers. At night time we just add an extra hemp liner. I don’t think my son has ever leaked out of his nighttime diaper. It does make the diaper bulky, but we figured it’s just for the night. Just a suggestion! 🙂

        I’m actually in the process of writing a series on cloth diapers, I just love them!

        • Jill says:

          We use Fuzzi Bunz and also pre-folds. I could try the Fuzzi Bunz again with lots of inserts, but my husband used to complain about how much they stunk in the morning. It really doesn’t bother me to use one (or right now two) sposies a day, especially with all these Amazon deals.

        • nicole says:

          We use BumGenius 4.0. I can use them overnight with 2 one size liners but it makes it so bulky! I’m getting ready to get some BabyKicks Joey-Bunz to try with the one size at night, to make it a little more absorbant and trim.

        • Beth says:

          We have used Fuzzibunz with 3 hemp liners (his butt was so huge) and he would still pee through them in 7 hours. Some kids just pee more then others! We tried like every diaper available and wool liners, and nothing worked but changing him or using a sposie 🙂

          • Beth says:

            PS–I’m just talking about at night! We used every type of cloth diaper and loved it!

          • Stephanie says:

            We do the same thing- cloth at home/daytime and disposables at night. #1 was able to use cloth at night until she was one then was constantly wet and no one slept well because she would need changing every few hours even with three inserts. #2 did the same thing starting at two months old. I guess my girls have large bladders or sensitive skin- the moment they are wet they need to be changed and let you know.

        • ksenia says:

          I use the BumGemius organics with a hemp insert for night time — it has never leaked (even after 13 hours). My daughter’s skin doesn’t mind, my son’s would be sensivite. So for him, I just put a strip of fleece (cheapest stuff I could buy by the yard and cut up) and leather him up with Desitin. He did great!

          The only issue I had with disposables at night (which we did do for a bit) is that they are sitting in those chemical-filled things for 12 hours — yucky.

          As for the smell (yes, the cloth diapers are smelly in the morning), I rinsed them well in cold water right after I changed their diaper. Then I put the in the diaper pail and couldn’t even smell them. I love my cloth diapers 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Thank you for sharing this post!

  • Dee says:

    Wonderful! My 3 “babies” are all grown men now. I used the same set of cloth diapers on them all and loved it. Nothing better than hanging them in the sunshine and taking them down all snowy white , soft and fresh. I have one diaper left and use it for dusting :o)

  • Jamie O'Hare says:

    We started cloth diapering our 3rd during grad school, and I wish we had used cloth on the first two. I’m excited to welcome #4 in October, and my cloth stash is still in great shape! My husband is happy to use them and even to wash them. Any amount you spend on disposables is lost, but while cloth has a start up cost, you end up ahead over time. Cottonbabies is really taking the needs of low income families seriously. They are currently running a program that matches the donation of $50 cloth diapering kits called Econobum.

  • Michelle says:

    If there are any stay at home moms who find themself in that situation (choosing food vs. diapers) then one thing you could look into is called “elimination communication” Do a search for it or search for something like “diaperless potty training”. At first it sounds extreme to some but in reality it is how a lot of the mothers in the world operate. I have never gone diaperless with my little ones because I didn’t have to but I have always used some of the ideas and when we did potty train it was no big deal because they were already used to being held over the pot. There was never any fear of the potty. I am absolutely no expert in this and please realize that an internet search could yield some “odd” stuff so proceed cautiously, but it might be an option for those who are at home with their little ones anyway. Even at four months old my daughter would pee when I held her over the potty. If our life hadn’t been interrupted by a state to state move she might even be fully trained now, but with the move it was too much. Just an idea for those who are looking for creative options. (But please don’t stress yourself or your babies out.)

    • misty says:

      We just started infant potty training 3 days ago and it is AWESOME! He is doing so well ~ I am amazed! I just put him on the potty and he grunts out a poo…lol. He really seems to enjoy it since he smiles and coo’s the whole time. I am so glad I tried it and that he likes it. I agree it may not be for everyone, but it certainly for us!

    • Laura says:

      I heard of this program after my children were out of this stage, but it seems worth looking into. I have wondered how mothers in other parts of the world handle diapering. We have such great communication with our babies; this idea just stems from that.

  • Michelle says:

    My husband’s grandmother said that when she had babies she only had four cloth diapers. Right after changing the baby she would wash the diaper and then lay it on the radiator to dry. With only four she would always have at least one ready for the next change. (Don’t ask me what she did if the baby got sick and had tummy troubles) She was also joking about how much stuff we have to pack up everytime we take a baby somewhere. She said when they would go to visit her parents her husband would stuff one extra diaper in his back pocket and off they went. Puts things in perspective of what we actually need vs what we think we need. =)

  • Barb says:

    I’m an “old” mom who used cloth diapers at home and disposables when we traveled only. Invest in cloth for your first child and then you’ll have them for future children. Can’t imagine what the cost of disposables would have been for our nine children. Cloth are more work but worth the savings.

    • Ginny says:

      And when your last child is out of diapers, you’ll have some great rags! My youngest will be 21 in a few months, and we still have a few old cloth diapers that we use as rags. They were a great investment.

  • I love cloth diapering! We did it for about a year with my son and off and on with my daughter.

  • Chrystal says:

    Love this post! We have cloth diapered since my son’s 1st day home. I don’t buy diapers, I don’t buy WIPES! We use cloth for both 🙂

  • Lisa V says:

    Love Cotton Babies and love cloth diapers!

  • Andrea says:

    I’m SO glad to see this post!
    I use cloth diapers, and love not having to spend $$ (or coupon time) on diapers or wipes. I hope this information gets into the hands of those who need it.

  • Anitra says:

    I was too intimidated to try “traditional” (prefolds/flats & covers) diapers with my first baby, so we very slowly built up a stash of pocket diapers. When she was a newborn, I was doing diaper laundry every 12 hours or so, since we had so few cloth diapers.

    These days, we have 2 kids in diapers, and I am more glad than ever that we use cloth diapers about 90% of the time.

  • I use a mix of cloth and disposable (thanks to the Amazon deals and swagbucks, and I currently work full time and send my kids to daycare).

    I’ve sewn my own prefolds and it’s not too hard.

    Also check craigslist and freecycle for not only the diapers, but the supplies to make them with.

  • Thanks for sharing! It breaks my heart to think of re-using disposable diapers. I will definitely be recommending this post to others. I love cottonbabies!

  • Crystal, thanks so much for linking to our post on how to start cloth diapering for only $20. We hope it is a blessing to someone!

    We also have a very inexpensive way to make stay-dry microfiber inserts/doublers. The tutorial is coming soon.

  • A long time ago they used to make diapers out of old clothing, just several layers. In the Philippines, the women my mom sent home, had no diapers. They often potty trained them as infants because they had to.

  • Kristy says:

    I made my own fitted diapers! There were always so many cute flannel receiving blankets at the thrift store, I bought them up, used either terrycloth(old towels) or microfiber(bought in the automotive area in your bigbox store) for the wetzone. The only other thing I bought was elastic and velcro. I did buy diaper covers online from someone on ebay. Loved them!

  • Also……when I had no money, I lived without electricity and running water, cloth diapers was not feasible. I used the cheapest diapers available and it was cheaper than paying to wash the cloth diapers or heating the water on the stove, unless I used wood I cut from the woods to heat the water, and then with our weather, things did not dry very well, and often took three days to dry, as it was very damp, even when warm out.
    I could get a bag of diapers from $3-$6 a package……

  • Lesley says:

    This breaks my heart. I love cloth diapering, but is there an organization to provide cloth diapers to families in need? If there isn’t, we need to start one.

  • tiffany says:

    I just wanted to let people know that we have used cotton babies bum genius line for my almost 2 year-old since she was 6 months old. She is potty training now just in time for the second baby’s arrival. The entire setup was under 300$ and we got 14 diapers, wet bags, cloth wipes, etc all pre-made. It can be done cheaper, but this was the easiest option for us.

    Those diapers will be used for baby #2 and they are still in great condition. We have an old washer and try to line dry them most of the time on our balcony (of our apartment). So the 300$ was well worth the investment.

    I did have some issues with my diapers around 7 months, but they have a warranty for the first year. They replaced those diapers no questions asked with brand new ones. Their customer service is excellent and I love using cloth diapers.

    A good way to try out cloth diapers is Jillian’s Drawers. They have a program that lets you try out cloth for just 10$ and shipping for 30$ days. They send you a wide variety of types of diapers and then you decide what you like, no commitment to buy anything from them.

  • Aly says:

    Recently my husband and I switched over to cloth. What are we doing wrong? I’m finding them to have a very strong odor (initially we were washing them incorrectly, but have since learned the correct way to launder them). I am onto another solution, stripping the diaper with vinegar and/or Dawn. I’m finding that it takes a ton of rinses to get the suds out! How is this saving me money? Help!

    • Haley says:

      I am not sure what kind of diapers you have, but i have pockets, prefolds, and covers. I rinse my diapers in a cold rinse, and then run them through a full cycle with an extra rinse at the end. Make sure you are using detergent that is safe for cloth diapers and you don’t need to use a lot. I have been cloth diapering for 15 months and have only strippped my diapers once, the dawn does take a lot of rinses to get out so you don’t want to do that too often. I hope this helps some.

    • Try calling the company or the brand’s company you bought the diapers from – they can usually help you troubleshoot. If you’re on FB, there are tons of cloth diapering stores on FB that you can post your question and you’ll get lots of help from other cloth users.

    • I’ll actually talk about washing cloth diapers next week on my cloth diapers series…

      But, the basics of washing them….

      First, do a rinse only cycle in cold water. Then, was them in hot water with detergent (my favorite is Charlie’s soap). Make sure you do a double rinse at the end of the was cycle.

      Then line dry them. It’s natural to have an odor once in a while. If I ever smell anything, I add a little bit of lemon juice to the rinse cycle. This really works, and it’s natural!

      Also, I would advice against using bleach since it is so bad for us and we don’t want it against our babies skin, but you can try natually bleaching them. The best way to do this is to just leave them out in the hot sun for a while.

    • Mandy says:

      You don’t have to strip every wash. Once they are clean, w/ no odor, you can use a cloth diaper safe soap. I LOVE Crunchy Clean, natural and they are great to work with. Also have your water checked for the hardness of it, that has an effect on how the soap washes out of the diapers. Let me know if you have any questions.

    • Becky in KY says:

      When we had a regular top-loading washing machine, I used powder Tide (original), and used about half of the amount Tide recommended for each load. That was the recommendation on one of the CD websites I read (Jillian’s Drawers, I think). Cold prewash with no Tide, hot wash with Tide, rinse and extra rinse. That was some extra water use, but it worked well for us. If the diapers didn’t look too bad (not too much messy poo and/or had sprayed them well beforehand), the prewash wasn’t necessary. Now that Little Man is almost 2, he puts out enough stink that adding vinegar to the rinse keeps the diapers from retaining an odor. I know Tide is not natural, but it really did work better than anything else we tried.

  • Alyssa says:

    This post could not have come at a more perfect time, I am currently converting my 7 month old to cloth and these are some great tips! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  • Valerie says:

    I love cloth diapers (we use Flips)! We’ve been using cloth on our son since he was 8 weeks (when all the disposables we were given ran out) and he’s now 15 months. They’re holding up well and should get us through potty training.

  • Rebekah says:

    With expecting baby #5 (ages 5 & under) in less than 9 weeks, I have a hard time even contemplating cloth diapers. 🙂 I’m doing great to keep up with the laundry as it is at a rate of 15-20 loads per week, and while I LOVE saving money, at this stage in life time is more valuable.

    BUT thankfully I am able to use coupons and score Walgreens diapers for $2.50/pack and also have had zero problems out of the Target/Wal-mart ones…although am happy to use Pampers or Huggies when I can get them for practically free.

    I guess, after watching the video, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Why is someone on welfare buying Pampers?” My husband is a doctor and I don’t buy Pampers for my kids! I get that some kids have sensitivities and there is always brand preference – and I’m not trying to be unkind – but if there were educational programs in place teaching those on government assistance how to use coupons to stretch that money farther it would help them not just now while on government assistance but hopefully help them after they are no longer in a position to need it.

    • It’s all about the financial mindset, I think. Even someone on welfare-if they don’t have a save and stretch mentality, they look at it as it’s not their money so they’re free to buy what they want.

    • jill says:

      I thought the same thing that you did. I have 18mth old twins and am due with #3 in 10wks-time is more valuable to me at this point and when I mentioned cloth diapering to my hubby he poo-pooed it HA! However, if it was between food and diapers I would buy a pkg of cloth diapers and deal w it rather than reusing disposables or not changing baby regularly. It is a mind set. If you are given something rather than earn it you expect someone to always take care of you. I’m an RN and work one day a wk (while hubby watches the kiddos) doing “ask-a-RN” and I have people call on a regular basis saying they dont have $ to buy formula, diapers, Tylenol etc for their babies. They call us expecting us to figure out how to get these items for them. It’s really unbelieveable and I’d have a hard time imagining that people live this way if I didnt encounter it on a regular basis.

      • kathryn says:

        I know exactly what you are talking about. When I work my one retail pharmacy shift per week while my husband stays home with our two babies, I deal with a high volume of people on government assisted programs who expect everything to automatically be of no cost (and never generic). It is very frustrating to see the junk food and name brand diapers they have in their cart to “purchase” and even more so…a medicaid card with one or more children listed and yet another on the way. One would assume if one had the inability to provide for a single child the last plan of action would be to increase the family size and financial responsibilities. I am a firm believer in pay your own way and the way of those you are responsible for. We use generic disposable diapers when we go out with the children and washable nappies while at home. Sometimes a job immerses you in observance that you never even had an opinion about prior to that place of employment.

    • Allison says:

      I agree that it can be frustrating to see people on food stamps buying expensive name-brand food or buying carts full of soda. However, not everyone has the same advantages as far as education, environment and access to resources. For example, if none of your friends or family members use coupons or shop sales, you might not even see this way of shopping as an option or as a way to save significant amounts of money. Secondly, a lack of internet access makes things like printing coupons or reading blogs, such as one, very difficult or impossible. So while it’s true some people may not spend carefully because of laziness or apathy, there are definitely other factors at play.

  • misty says:

    We use cloth pre-folds and diaper snappies 🙂 When I am traveling I use disposables but I travel VERY little so we hardly use any. Currently, we are infant potty training and it is going wonderfully!

  • Carrie says:

    To piggyback on the last comment, people who are so desperate that they would reuse a poopy disposable should learn about Elimination Communication! I’ve done it part time with my last 4 kids, and it reduces diaper usage both short and long term because the baby trains sooner.

  • Carrie says:

    Also, the cheapest cloth diaper option is almost always prefolds (you can get these used on eBay/Craigslist for less than $10 a dozen) with pull on pants.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was laid off when I was pregnant with my first child and to avoid paying $20 a week for diapers I started stockpiling cloth diapers. I have save soooo much money not having to buy disposables. I just don’t see how someone on a strict budget could do it, I know I couldn’t.
    I’m not a hippie momma or anything but not using cloth diapers just seems very wasteful to me now. Thanks for posting – I hope more moms learn how to do it.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I was afraid to use CD’s with my first child because I had watched my mom (24+ years ago) use CD’s with big scary pins and plastic pants. I didn’t want any part of that. Later I realized that I could find affordable covers with Velrco. There’s so much available! But the standby Chinese or Indian cotton pre-folds with a diaper wrap are great, too! They’ve worked for me.

    Using CD’s hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. We’ve had much less of an issue with rash (even when compared to pricey brand disposables), and we’ve been able to potty train more easily (the children have been more willing to be potty trained).

    I have used disposables off and on–it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The savings has been significant for our family. I started late with my first child–during the middle of potty training. I came to the point where I decided enough is enough–I couldn’t afford any more pull up pants, but I didn’t want a mess everywhere either. =) Getting ready for my fourth child in cloth diapers soon. =)

  • Abby says:

    I think it is awesome to use cloth diapers, I did consider doing it for my triplets, but then just got overwhelmed by the thought. It would have helped if I new someone who could show me the ropes. I shudder to think about the money I have spent on diapers!
    We did do diaper drive for out local womens shelter and collected almost 1500 diapers. Sadly, there are situations were disposable diapers are not the best option, ex. Women in temp housing. I commended all of the women using cloth diapers
    Here is my post about our diaper drive.

  • Megan says:

    Cotton Babies also frequently sells well used BumGenius on their website (and annually at their stores) for $1-$2 each. We have bumped up our diaper stash by buying these used diapers. On the Cotton Babies website you can buy a fix-it package for $1 which include the velcro and elastic strips needed to fix diapers that are worn out. If you have a sewing machine, they are easy to fix. There are also lots of free tutorials online about how to sew your own diapers or inserts. We love cloth diapering and plan on using our current stash (that our 2 yr old is hopefully almost done using!) for our second which will be here in October!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Cotton Babies is the best! I have had the best experiences with them… if you are thinking about CDing, they are great.

  • Williamsmommyof5 says:

    This is a great post. I have 3 kids in diapers right now (one is about to potty train), but I have at least another year of diapers for my twins and I was looking for a use for all of the receiving blankets I have. I am going to give this a try, I am so hopeful that this works well for our family. It would be amazing to never clip a diaper coupon again.

  • Karen says:

    We used disposable diapers with our first child. When she was 15 months old Ihad twins. My husband got laid off 2 weeks before i had them and I was a stay at home mom. We figured out the cloth diapers pretty fast. We kept our older one in disposables and used the cloth diapers on the twins. My mother and aunt bought them for us as a gift and my mother-in-law helped out a bunch with it. It was definitely a blessing to have so many in the know about them during our difficult financial time.

  • Susann says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I am blessed to be able to afford diapers for now, but you never know when you might need to beable to make due without what you’re used to using. A lady in my church gave me a huge stack of cloth diapers (home made and not pre-folded) for my baby shower. I used them as receiving blankets. I am so glad to now know how to use them as diapers if I ever needed to. I would have had no clue how to fold them. Thanks so much!

  • Laura says:

    This is a related question about cloth diapers, I use organic cotton prefolds for my 5 month old. He developed a yeast rash right about the time he started sleeping 8-10 hours over night at around 3 1/2 months (I know, I’m blessed!). I switched to disposables while I treated the rash with anti-fungal cream and continue to use a disposable at night while I wait for my order of hemp doublers to arrive. When I switched back to cloth the rash seemed to appear after just a few days even though I change him practically every hour and leave him without a diaper when possible during the day. Has anyone had any experience or advice about this?

  • Abigail says:

    I wanted to use cd with my son, recently turned 3 and completely potty trained!, but I could only remember my mom using them on my brother and pinning him through the hip once. I remembered her being so freaked she switched to sposies. I have repeatedly flirted with the idea of cd but I think now once God decides we are ready for baby number 2 cd is a def!

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