I didn’t always cloth diaper my baby. When she was born, I used disposable diapers. I had, however, collected a somewhat decent collection of cloth diapers through hand-me-downs, registry gifts, and my own splurging over the course of my pregnancy, so I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to start at some point. I started cloth diapering around three weeks when I felt my baby was large enough to use cloth diapers, although they were still enormous on her compared to her newborn disposables. Cloth diapering isn’t for everyone, and certain situations (daycare, traveling, etc.) make it harder to carry out a smooth cloth diapering routine, but here are my takeaways and why I stuck with it, and why I would highly recommend it to anyone considering cloth diapering as an option.

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CLOTH DIAPERS SAVE THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS

Let’s do the math (and this is based on my experience, so yours might be slightly different).

Cost of Disposable Diapers (first year)

Disposable diapers used in a day: this is an average, but I would say 9. When my baby was young, she went through about 15, and now she is averaging about 7-10, and will average between 6-8 when she gets older, so I’m doing a conservative average and saying 9. Diapers cost around $0.21 per diaper (I just averaged the different brands and sizes on Amazon).

Disposable wipes I go through in a day: around 20-30. I would say for each diaper change, at least two wipes are used, sometimes three. Sometimes even four if it’s a messy diaper. So conservative estimate I would say 2 wipes per change. On average, wipes cost around $0.03 per wipe.

Now do the math:

  •  $0.21 x 9 diapers a day = $1.89 per day x 30 = $56.7 per month x 12 = $680.40 per year
  • $0.03 x 18 wipes a day = $0.54 per day x 30 = $16.20 per month x 12 = $194.40 per year
  • $680.40 + $194.40 = $874.80 within the first year for JUST disposable diapers and wipes.

This is a low estimate, as it was based off of cheaper diapers and wipes. If you are looking at the free and clear wipes, or chemical free diapers, multiply this number by two or three. Most estimates for disposable diaper costs average at least $1,000 for the first year, or more.

Cost of Cloth Diapers (first year)

I use ‘cheaper,’ all in one cloth diapers (Pocket Diapers – I get them on Amazon). You can invest in the really nice ones (Bum Genius), but I find the Amazon ones work just fine (Mama Koala, Alva Baby, etc.) So, the average cost of each diaper is a little under $6.00 per diaper. Most cloth diapering mamas recommend at least 20-24 as a starting set of cloth diapers.

I also use cloth wipes. This was a game changer for me and initially, I used disposable wipes, but felt like it was crazy having a trash can and a disposable diaper trash can in the same room. Why not cloth wipe as well? Genius. So, I have three sets of cloth wipes, each $10.00 a piece.

I have a wipe warmer. This makes things SO much easier, and baby loves it. The wipe warmer was around $30.00.

And, to complete my collection of diapers and wipes, I have wipe solution soap pieces to make a wipe solution. On Amazon, these run $30.00 for a three pack that will probably last a year.

Additionally, let’s add in the cost of laundry detergent, as this is a must for cloth diapering: $25.00 for every two months.

We have not noticed a difference in our water or power bills since we started cloth diapering, but some report a $5 increase in water per month. We do a load of laundry a night with our diapers, so just for comparison, I will factor in a $5 per month increase in utilities.

Now do the math:

  • $6.00 x 24 = $144 for life stash of cloth diapers
  • $10.00 x 3 = $30 for cloth wipes
  • $30 for wipe warmer
  • $30.00 for wipe solution
  • $25.00 x 6 = $150 for laundry detergent
  • $5 x 12 = $60 for utilities
  • 144 + 90 + 150 + 60 = $444 within the first year for cloth diapers and wipes.
  • You can save a LOT of money (even more than noted above) if you get your cloth diapers gently used. There are ways to strip the diapers so that you can feel confident they are completely clean. Many people start out with a recycled stash to save on upfront costs.
To compare: within the first year, you will most likely spend well over $1,000 on disposable diapers (+ / – $$ for types of diapers and wipes you buy, plus how often you change your baby), vs. $450 on cloth diapers (+ / – $$ depending on how cheap you get your diapers and wipes–if you buy used cloth diapers, this is a game changer). Multiply that difference by three (estimate of how many years you will be using diapers), and you’re looking at thousands of dollars saved. Within the first six months of using cloth diapers, you will have gotten your money’s worth in cloth diapering.
CLOTH DIAPERS ARE HEALTHY FOR YOUR BABY

  • My baby has had one diaper rash since starting cloth diapers, and that was my own fault (I put the insert against her skin instead of in the pocket). In fact, I bought three tubes of diaper rash ointment (at the recommendation of other moms) and haven’t used more than a quarter size portion of even one tube. So, little to no rashes
  • Cloth diapers are cloth; no harsh chemicals, they are breathable, and no chemical reactions are taking place to indicate when your baby has a wet diaper
  • Cloth wipes are free of harsh chemicals as well, at a fraction of the cost
  • Cloth diapering also speeds up the potty training experience as baby can feel moisture more readily as opposed to a disposable diaper.

CLOTH DIAPERS ARE HEALTHY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

  • I guess this is a double edged sword. You could debate that the amount of water you use to wash your diapers negatively impacts the environment. We have a decent washer and dryer that is eco friendly, so the amount of water used is very small
  • Or, you could argue the amount of micro-plastics being released as you wash your diapers negatively impacts the environment. If you wear any sort of polyester or synthetic fabric, micro plastics are being released anyway.
  • But all in all, I think one of the biggest negative impacts I saw when using disposable diapers was the trash bag full of disposable diapers that I was taking to the trash can PER DAY. I think that was probably what I felt the most guilt from, and vowed to actually start cloth diapering at three weeks.
IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING CLOTH DIAPERING, BE REALISTIC

  • Cloth diapers are bulkier. Your baby will typically need to wear the next size up in clothes, usually pants, to fit around the cloth diaper. This has been my experience.
  • Cloth diapers take up more space when packed. If you are going out for a long day, you may need to have a bag for your cloth diapers, or take disposables. I’m not against using disposable diapers for longer trips where I won’t have access to a washer, but for everyday use and hanging out around the house, cloth diapers are definitely my first choice; they make sense!
  • Cloth diapers do not absorb moisture as well as disposables. You will need to change your baby more often in a cloth diaper to keep them dry.
  • Cloth diapers do not have wetness indicators. You will need to check your baby’s diaper manually.
  • Cloth diapers do not smell like disposable diapers. It’s hard to tell if baby has pooped. This could be a good thing, as long as you are checking and changing your baby often.
  • Cloth diapers take a little bit of time to prep and stuff (stuff the inserts)- just be mindful of this.
  • If you hate laundry… just think about all the money saved when you cloth diaper 🙂
Every household is different. We do what works best for us. But, if you’re on the fence and considering cloth diapers, hopefully this will give you the confidence and reassurance that you need!

Do you cloth diaper your baby? Are you thinking about it? I’m curious and interested in your feedback – pros and cons, questions you may have. If you cloth diaper, what other benefits do you see on a day to day basis? Leave a comment below to open the discussion!