Cloth Diapering 101: How much does it cost?

Hi! My name is Erin and write a frugal lifestyle blog over at View From Our Terrace.  I have put together a series of posts on cloth diapering that includes information about types of cloth diapers and their accessories, how to clean cloth diapers, and finally the cost of cloth diapering.  I hope that this mini-series proves to be helpful and informative!

Newborn Diaper Change

Image courtesy Kevin Phillips @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

If you have not read the first two posts in the series, check them out – the first one is all about the different types of cloth diapers and accessories and the second is about cleaning cloth diapers.

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Image courtesy ZL @ Flicker Creative Commons, click image to view original.

As mentioned in the beginning, there is definitely an initial up-front investment cost when it comes to cloth diapering that does not exist for disposable diapers.  Especially in the early stages, if you had generous friends and family, you probably have a nice little stockpile of disposable diapers.

However, depending on the style and brand of diapers that you invest in, the initial cost can be managed.  Additionally, there are other options to reduce your cost such as buying used diapers (much more popular than you would think!) or applying for a program that offers assistance based on income.  More on both of those options in this post.

Warning: This post is a little more heavy on numbers, but I have tried to highlight the important numbers – the total spent cloth diapering and the comparison to disposables!

Cost of Cloth Diapering

First of all, take a look at the list of the different types of cloth diapers in my first post in this series.  I listed them in order from cheapest to most expensive type, but keep in mind that the brand you choose can make a big impact on the price, so that order is not set in stone.  I linked to an online cloth diapering retailer that offers multiple brands so that you could get an idea of the different price points.

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Image courtesy Audrey @flickr creative commons, click image for source.

My Personal Experience with the Cost of Cloth Diapering

Here is the breakdown of my experience with the cost of cloth diapering.  As a first time mom with a small budget to spend on diapers (since I was still working at the time) I went the route of buying new cloth diapers, but in a bundle to reduce the cost a bit.

Year #1 Diapering Costs

$425 – This is how much my bundle of cloth diapers cost me brand new.  It included 12 diaper covers, 24 organic cotton inserts, 4 boosters, and 50 disposable inserts.  I bought these hybrid diapers, which can be used with disposable inserts if you desire.  

$158 – Over the course of the first year I spent this amount on necessary accessories including a large wet bag, a small wet bag (for the diaper bag), cloth diaper safe diaper cream, two reusable swim diapers, a pack of disposable swim diapers, and refills for my diaper genie.  

$80 – This is how much I spent on wipes in the first year.  I buy the bulk package of Kirkland wipes at Costco.  Keep in mind that I had tons of wipes stocked up from baby showers and gifts, but these wipes still go the distance!

$265 – This was the additional amount I spent on other diapers and accessories that may or may not be necessary depending on your situation and preferences.  

This included laundry pods to deep clean the diapers, conversion of my velcro diapers into snap diapers, an additional pack of the disposable inserts, three packs of the diaper liners when my daughter started solids, two “extra” cloth diapers in the fitted style (these were just for fun), a pack of disposables, and a pack of overnight disposables (these were both for traveling).  I had other disposable diapers that I used but they were all given to me as gifts.

Overall, we spent about $930 diapering our daughter in her first year.

Image courtesy Ali Edwards @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Image courtesy Ali Edwards @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Year #2 Diapering Costs

$203 – This year I bought another pack of the laundry pods, two more diaper covers, a new overnight cloth diaper, two reusable training pants, another wet bag for my diaper bag, diaper genie refills, and some disposables for the new baby.  

$80 – This is how much I spent on wipes this year.

Image courtesy Brittany @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Image courtesy Brittany @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Overall, we spent about $280 diapering our daughter in the second year.  

Just in case you hate math, that is approximately $1210 to cloth diaper one child for two years.

This number is pretty accurate for exclusively cloth diapering but I will say that my mother-in-law did get a great deal on some Honest company disposables and gave me a bunch of packs.

I would not have bought that many disposables otherwise, but I might have spent a little money on some this year.  These bundles also included some wipes – so that expense would have been a little higher.

This low expense in the second year goes to show just how durable and long-lasting the cloth diapers can be!

As we enter our third year of cloth diapering, we are adding a second child to the mix.  The only things I have done to prepare for diapering a second child include buying two extra covers to add to our mix, registering and receiving another large wet bag and another cloth diaper safe diaper cream (one for each kid), and stockpiling on some newborn and size 1 disposables.  

All of these items except for the two new covers were gifts so that is why I have not accounted for them in my expense list.  

The diaper covers that I have do need some new elastics but I am replacing these myself and the elastic cost me about $5.  Otherwise, my diapers are in great condition and we will have no problem using them for the second child.

Cost Analysis: Disposables vs. Cloth Diapers

Now that I have shown you what someone who actually cloth diapers has spent, I thought I would compare this to some data that I have collected from friends of mine that exclusively use disposable diapers.  These numbers are not going to be accurate for ALL parents, but it will give you an idea of the cost differences.

When I polled some friends, the most common answer when I asked them where they bought their diapers and what kind was Huggies from Costco.  These are the diapers I am going to compare with my experience with cloth diapers.  

Image courtesy miguelb @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Image courtesy miguelb @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

A pack of Huggies from Costco costs $43 and gives you 198 diapers (I used size 3, which I feel is the size many babies are in the longest).  I was told this lasts most people about a month.  All of these moms were also buying a pack of overnight diapers every three months or so for $25.  

The average time spent in diapers for a child is 30 months.  

If you take $43 + $25/3, you will get an approximate cost of $51 per month on just diapers.  If you spend that amount on diapers alone for about 30 months, you will be spending about $1540 on diapers for one child.  

If you remember from above, I have spent about $1210 diapering one child in two years, which is a little less than 30 months, of course, BUT that amount included ALL the diapering accessories as well, including wipes!  

If you assume that no matter how you diaper, you will spend the same amount on diaper cream, diaper genie refills (unless you just use a trash can), and wipes, then I would estimate that you would spend a total of about $300-$400 more dollars on diapering in disposables.

Diapering One Child (avg 30 months)
Disposables Cloth
$1800-1900 $1200

Now here is where it gets really interesting…

What if you plan on having 2 or 3 kids?  For disposable diaper users, that total cost literally just doubles and triples in amount.

For cloth diaper users, you may have to spend some additional money on replacing or repairing some diapers, and of course you will always be buying wipes and other necessary accessories, but overall you have the majority of the items you will need.  I accounted for these extra purchases in my totals below.

Diapering Two Children (avg 30 months each)
Disposables Cloth
$3600-3800 $1535

 

Diapering Three Children (avg 30 months each)
Disposables Cloth
$4600 $2245*

*I added a couple hundred dollars to the total cost for cloth diapering three children, because while I know people who have made it through three children with the same set of diapers, it is more realistic to expect someone to purchase additional or replacement diapers.

Can you BELIEVE the difference??  I know I could not.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are a couple ways that you can save additional money on cloth diapers besides just buying them in a bundle or choosing a cheaper brand.

One way is to buy a set of used diapers.  Some cloth diaper retailers will sell gently used diapers, but many people will research the type of diaper they want and then go on Facebook and see if that company has a Buy/Sell/Trade (B/S/T) group.  These are groups where people will post used cloth diapers for sale.  As weird as it sounds, all you will need to do once you receive your used diapers is to deep clean or strip the diapers and then set them out in the sun to de-sanitize them.  I know multiple people who have done this with great success.

Image Courtesy Finish With Joy, click to visit.

Image Courtesy Finish With Joy, click to visit.

And in case you did not realize this yet, this also means that if you keep your diapers in decent condition, you can sell them and make back some of your investment once you are done with them!

Another option if you are truly strapped for cash is a program like Giving Diapers, Giving Hope.  They operate solely on donations of cloth diapers (new and used), accessories, and cash.  If you feel you are not financially able to diaper your child, you can apply to this program and if approved, you are loaned a set of cloth diapers for the price of shipping for as long as you may need them.    

I hope that I have opened your eyes to the money saving potential that cloth diapering can be – especially with multiple children.  

Final Considerations

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Image courtesy Donnie Ray Jones @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Now that I have given you some facts about cloth diapering, the different options, and a little analysis of cost based on my experience, I thought I would leave you with some final questions you should consider before making your final cloth diapering decision.

Remember, these are my experiences and my opinions, but in the end I believe they are all valid points to think about.

Do you want to have to buy more diapers as your baby grows?  

Many companies now offer one size diapers that grow with your baby.  Other companies offer different sized diapers – which may actually fit your baby better when they are smaller – but the cost savings is what got me in the end.  

When answering this question, take into consideration if you are planning on having multiple kids and if you would want to reuse the diapers with each kid.  If you are not planning on reusing the diapers then you could sell your sized diapers and use that money to buy the next size which would probably save you money in the end.  If you are planning on reusing them, then I would think about getting the one size.  

Do you want to use snaps or velcro/aplix?  

I personally bought half of my diapers in snaps and half in velcro because I had read that the velcro was easier when your baby is smaller.  Honestly, I wish I had just gone with all snaps from the beginning.  The velcro would get stuck on each other in the wash (even though there was a place to hook the velcro for washing purposes) and I just felt that it did not hold up as well in the long run.  We ended up using GroVia’s snap conversion program after about 8 months of use.

How much “diaper” do you want to drag around with you?  

Another reason I like the hybrid system is that I don’t have to pack 3 entire cloth diapers in my bag every time I go out.  I just pack an extra cover and 3 inserts and I am ready to go!  

There is definitely a learning curve to know how many covers you might need to pack depending on your baby, but any space savings in your diaper bag is a win in my book because babies have so. much. Stuff.

How much time do you want to spend on laundry?  

washing-machine-296058_1920I have not actually used an AIO or pocket style diaper to know the true difference in drying time, but I have heard that they can be considerably longer.  As for the hybrids, I everything on a cycle that runs a little over an hour and then run the inserts through the dryer once with two additional touch-up cycles – probably one more hour.  The covers hang to dry and are dry within an hour or so.  I barely notice the time since I usually wash the diapers at night.

One final point about laundry is that many people ask about the added cost of running the washing machine more often or using more detergent.  I really have not noticed much difference at all in our water bill – maybe $5-7 a month.  As for detergent, I definitely buy detergent more often than when we did not have kids, but babies produce more laundry no matter if you are cloth diapering or not, so I did not worry too much about this cost.

In the end, make sure you do your research and choose what you feel will be the best fit for you and your family.  If you have friends that cloth diaper, ask their opinion and ask if you can see their diapers – especially if you have never seen a cloth diaper in person!  They may have different insights or tips than I do which may be helpful to you in your decision.  

Happy diapering and I hope I have been able to help provide you with some good resources to get you started on your cloth diapering journey!

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me at erin@viewfromourterrace.com.

 

1 comment on Cloth Diapering 101: How much does it cost?

  1. Rita
    March 27, 2017 at 4:34 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi birth baby Fred readers.
    I am Erin’s mother in law who bought the Honest Co. diaper bundle for Emma and baby two. It was a great deal buy one bundle get one half price. The bundle came with diapers and wipes for a month. I bought the bundles so I would have diapers and wipes at my house and to gift Erin and Michael the others. The regular bundle price is $79.00. They are delivered on a schedule you set every 4-6 weeks. Using Erin’s 30 month average that would come to $2370 dollars per child per year.

    Reply

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