Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The 'New' Cloth Diaper Wave

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Prior to having little man, I was in the likely 90% of the general population who thought that cloth diapers were something our parents or even grandparents only used, including a washcloth with big diaper pins wrapped around a baby.  And wow, was I wrong.

I first read about cloth diapers on the internet (and blindly ordered a few of a cute print), but it was during a visit with our awesome doula Gay (@ Sacred Path Midwifery) that I was actually able to see a few different diapers and look at some options.  While she showed me some of what I had typically thought of (a prefold cloth with a snappi closure, topped with a diaper cover), she also showed me several other styles of diapers that were much more modern, which may be why cloth diapers are really on the upswing recently.

Cloth diapers are becoming more and more popular, with celebrities using cloth on their babes (such as: Dave Matthews, Tori Spelling, Brad Paisley, Matthew McConaughey, Sheryl Crow, as well as P Diddy to name only a few!) as well as tons of normal mamas as well.  I was surprised to find out when I was pregnant with little man that at least 4-5 of the ladies I went to high school with were already using cloth.  It is much more common than I thought it would be.

Since there are a lot of ladies (and gents!) out there who haven't heard of the more modern cloth diapers, I thought I'd go though a few of the types of diapers available.

Prefolds- As I mentioned before, a prefold is a long piece of fabric (can be cotton, flannel, hemp, or other fabrics) fastened with a snappi or diaper pin.  This will require a cover, which can be made out of several fabrics with snaps/hook&loop/aplix (a type of velcro that lasts longer) to go on top.

All-in-ones or All-in-twos- These diapers function very much like a disposable, only you obviously don't throw them away.  These diapers have built in (typically either sewn or snapped in) inner layers that are the absorbent part of the diaper connected to the outer layer that functions as your cover.  It is one piece, easy on, easy off.  In an all-in-two, a separate layer lays inside, again that typically snaps or fastens in, which is somewhat more work because you have to keep them together or snap them in after washing.

Pocket Diapers- These diapers have a built in cover with the same idea as an AIO or AI2 in that it is one piece you put on/take off the baby, but these are made to have a 'pocket' inside where you stuff a layer of material in prior to use or after washing.  We currently use KaWaii Baby pocket diapers.

Fitted Diapers- Fitted's are essentially a step up from Prefolds.  These diapers typically snap around baby and then require a cover to keep them water/leak proof.  An example of a fitted diaper is here.

There are a TON of different brands and types of diapers, but these are the main types used today, especially for the beginner to cloth diapering.  

As with anything you use for your baby, it is REALLY important that you try to find the diaper that fits your child and works the best for you.  We initially bought a whole stash of AI2's that have really high ratings and a high price tag, only to find that their fit was not the best on little man, and we were having leak problems.  Once we found the right brand for our baby, based on his body size and trying out different diapers that might work better, cloth diapering has been smooth sailing.

Now, you didn't think I was going to make a post about cloth diapers, and not talk about cost, right?  

We currently buy disposable diapers for daycare, as our provider will not do cloth at her home, no matter how I tried to twist her arm ;)  We currently purchase Seventh Generation disposables, which trend on the higher end of costs, but I'll compare a cheaper store brand diaper to both full-time cloth and 7th generation.

In the beginning, we changed about an average of 12 diapers per day and now at 15 months, we change little man about 6 times per day.  So, I'll take an average of 9 diapers per day for a total of 2 and a half years, the average amount of time a baby is in diapers.

The initial cost of our KaWaii brand diapers was $9.95 per diaper, plus one overnight diaper at 10.95 per day (we purchased all of these from Jack Be Natural, so that is where I'm getting my pricing from, it can vary higher and lower from this).  To have a two-day stash, we need 18 day time diapers and 2 overnight diapers, which brings our total to $201.  These diapers will last two and a half years, so for our diaper stash, washing every two days, we spent $201 total.

Seventh Generation Diapers cost (I'll use a size 3, a size in the middle to even out the number of diapers per pack) $10.99 per pack of 35 diapers.  If we use an average of 9 diapers per day, for two and a half years, we'd need 8,212 and a half diapers.  If we used Seventh Generation disposables, this would cost us a total of $2,578 and 72 cents for two years.

Our local store brand charges $25 and 99 cents for a value pack of 180 size three diapers.  So, for those same 8,212 and a half diapers, it would cost us a total of $1,185 and 79 cents if we used our local store brand for two and a half years.

Let's compare.  For a two and a half year supply of diapers:
KaWaii cloth diapers= $201
Seventh Generation disposables= $2,578 and 72 cents
Store brand disposables= $1,185 and 79 cents

Your next question probably is, but what about the electricity and water that you use to wash the diapers?  Well, I thought about that too.  I figured out that with the high efficiency washer and dryer we have, if I washed diapers even three times per week, with our cost of electricity and water locally, we'd spend about $150 over a year's time.  So, even if you add $450 onto my $201 total, I'm still at least $500 less than the store brand and almost $2,000 less than the Seventh Generation disposables.

And, of course, I've mentioned nothing about how horrible it is for the environment to use disposable diapers.  Even if you only have one child, you are still going to average dumping possibly over EIGHT THOUSAND diapers into a landfill over the course of your child's early life.  Now if that isn't a personal environmental impact, I don't know what is.

The best part about your cloth diapers, however, is that you can sell them when you are finished using them. I know many of you are now gasping in horror that someone would want to buy a used diaper, but I will tell you what, they sell.  I've seen several listings recently on used diaper swapper boards selling KaWaii diapers for $6-7 each.  So, if I decide to sell our diapers after little man is finished using them, out of the $201 I spent on them, I could make $120 of that back.  Leaving my total to be $531 total for diapers and washing over two and a half years.

Honestly, other than breastfeeding, cloth diapering has been the number one cost reduction in having a baby.   It has worked REALLY well for our family, despite DH's initial concerns about me being nuts.  I would highly recommend trying it out for yourself!

If you are a mama/parent who already cloth diapers, what is your favorite diaper/brand?


  1. We use Fuzzibunz. I have sizes small and medium, since I currently have two baby bottoms to fill them with. What detergent do you use? We use Rockin Green.

    My husband thought I was nuts too, when I suggested cloth diapering. Thankfully, he came around quickly and now he loves it too. We also use 7th Generation when disposables are absolutely necessary. They're the best ones I've found!

  2. Our current favorite situation is a prefold folded in thirds laid into a cover. No snappi or pins. We also do the same thing with pockets as covers. I just like the cotton next to his body.

    For nighttime, we love a fitted with a doubler and wool shorties!

  3. Liz- I have some information on that in an upcoming post, but I have used Tiny Bubbles, Sun & Earth, and Crunchy Clean on our diapers!

  4. I cloth diapered full time until I went back to work when my son was 1. He now uses disposables at daycare but we still use cloth at home.

    We love pockets, Blueberry are by far my favorites, for daytime use and fitteds with wool for overnight.

    My husband was also apprehensive at first but he loves it as much as me. I would say the biggest learning curve came with the wash routine, once I got that system down it was smooth sailing!

    You can save a lot of money by buying "seconds" of your favorite brand, they are products with a minor defect that they sell for reduced prices!


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