The Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapers

The Background

(You can also find the following post on, a great site with tons of insight on how to save money and where the money goes that we do spend.)

I was really interested in using cloth diapers on our baby on the way. I bought small prefolds, covers, snappis, 6 bumGenius 3.0s, and cloth wipes. I was gung ho about it. Then I gave birth to Goliath.

I decided because of the excessive amount of poop, I wouldn’t try the cloth right away and stuck to our pile of diapers we had received as gifts. I mean, changing 10 diapers a day didn’t appeal to me anyway, let alone all the laundry that would be required with using cloth. People do it though, and they are dedicated and courageous. After giant baby was 4 months old, I put a prefold on him. By this time, he was 18lbs and too big for the diapers!! So, they made really great burp cloths. The bumGenius one size diapers, however, were great! I could adjust the size with the snaps and fasten it closed with velcro on a band of velcro, so the fit was perfect. I haven’t had the resources to try out another kind of all-in-one or pocket cloth diaper, but I figured, if these worked, why switch? I soon realized having only 6 would not cut it. So I bought 2 more. I know, big spender.My main thought on the whole cloth process is that you need to be realistic. If you are a person who cringes at the thought of more laundry, cloth diapering may not be your thing. Or, if you are a working mom, travel a lot, etc., it could be a challenge, but you can do it! I am a stay at home mom, which is a perk with cloth, but I also have 3 casual or part time jobs in addition to taking care of my little one. We also get out of the house quite a bit and visit friends, family, and take trips. Cloth can be tricky on the go. Who wants to have a car full of smelly diapers in a bag? Not me. So, we have done the trial and error thing with disposables and cloth and realized that what works best for us is to use both! Most people are usually all in or all out, but I believe we still save money by using cloth when we can, and then looking for the sales and clipping coupons on the disposables.

So, these days, I have a 15 month old. He’s pretty predictable, using about 5 diapers a day, give or take. I usually have to do laundry every other day for the diapers. If at home, we have been using cloth during the day and then a good absorbent disposable at night. I have a kid that wets big time. So sometimes even using the 2 inserts for heavy wetters in the cloth diaper won’t hold over night. I use the 2 inserts during the day for him as well, and they do fine for a 2-3 hour span of time.

He is 26 lbs now, and I’m still using the same diapers I did when he was 17 lbs. I could have used those sooner as well, right down to his birth weight of 8lbs. but like I said earlier, I wasn’t ready! I hope to buy a new cloth diaper here and there, so by the time I have a 2nd child, I would be able to use all cloth if I wanted to. I will get to the numbers and saving money in a minute.

The Smelly Reality

The reality of laundry: I bought a couple of “odor hiding” bags to store dirty diapers in until laundry time. I open those up when it’s laundry time and stick the velcro tabs down, pull out the inserts and through them in the washer! If my kid was smaller, I would have the snaps fastened to make the diaper fit him, and you have to unsnap them before washing. I only wash 6 or 7 of them at a time so I only use 1/2 tsp. of Planet detergent. Planet is one of many you can use on bumGenius diapers, but it’s one of the more reasonably priced ones. Since you use such a small amount, it lasts forever. I still have much of the 1st bottle I ever bought left! (Granted I haven’t done cloth every day since the day he was born, but I have used them a good amount of times!) They go through a cold rinse with detergent, then a hot rinse with another small amount of detergent, then another rinse ( any temperature- I use cold). Then I throw the covers on the line and the inserts in the dryer on low for an hour. When they’re done, I take the time to stuff all the inserts into the covers and they are all ready for monster baby’s next poop or pee. I am usually anti-chores around the house, just ask my husband, but I genuinely do not mind doing the cloth laundry. I actually just ordered 3 new 4.0 bumGenius diapers with snap closures (instead of velcro tabs) to try them out and add to my stash. I’m excited for them to arrive! The reality of money and saving money:To buy cloth diapers, it means shelling out a lot of money at one time. But, it could save you in the long run. So, it depends how your mind works. Spend $300 right now and possibly never again, OR spend $8.99 every 5 days or so for a pack of disposables. For 2-1/2 years. I’ll try to break it down. (Every situation is different, and there are many varied prices out there on cloth and disposables, but you’ll get the idea)

The Cost of Cloth Diapers

We have 8 bumGenius diapers, with another 3 on the way. We paid $17.95 for ea. That means for 11 diapers we spent $197.45. 11 diapers will last us 2 full days before having to wash. While baby is in bed, I run the load while he still has one on or one to spare, and voila! I have another 2 days worth. Not too shabby. Now, you may not be able to get by when they are newborns with only 11 diapers. I think 20 is the recommended number so you’re not doing laundry EVERY day. Even with 20, let’s do the math. That’s $359. I’m not sure when you add in the water/electric that is involved to do extra laundry what it costs, but I’ll tell you that our bill has never been oodles more than normal before we even had a kid. You could potentially use the one-size pocket diapers until your baby is potty trained, and they say cloth diaper babies potty train faster- so there ya go!

The Cost of Disposable Diapers

For a few months you are probably using 8-12 diapers a day. Then it slows down and could go down to only 5 or 6 a day. Let’s just do an average of what you may potentially spend from birth until your kid is 2-1/2 (the average age of the potty trained kid):

You could spend a good $0.19- $.30 per diaper, depending on the brand.

Let’s say the first 3 months you change diapers an average of 9 times a day. The low end would be $154 and the high end would be $243 for the 1st 3 months.
Then about 7 day for the next 3… You’re looking at: $119.70 – $189

And from about 6 months till your child is potty trained, we’ll say 30 months (2-1/2 years old): $684 – $1080

Add it all up and you could be looking at anywhere from $958 – $1,512- let’s face it, your kid may not be totally potty trained until 3 and you’ll be looking at costs from training pants and overnight diapers too!

Final Analysis

So, if your cloth lasts you the 2-1/2 years (which it should, if taken care of properly), then there is a substantial pro to using them if you’re up for the little bit of extra work. Even if you add in the few bucks it may cost to do a few extra laundry loads a month, and, if you’re like me, buy disposables occasionally when you’re traveling, or need a cloth break:), you will still saveHUNDREDS of dollars. PLUS, if you have more kids, guess what you already have to use on them? That’s right. More money saved. You may have to replace a couple or repair wear and tear over the years, but seriously, we’re talking about spending about $500-$600 over the course of at least 2-1/2 years, if not another 2-1/2 on the next child, or spend $1000-$1500 per child; maybe even up to $3000 if you are still potty training at 3 years old.

I think the numbers, as well as the whole green factor does it for me! You’re saving trees and your not adding to the landfill problem. An added bonus to saving lots of money!! So, it comes down to what will work best for your baby and for you. Just be realistic and get ready to either spend the money, or have a couple more steps in the diapering/laundry process. No one will judge you either way! Well, they might, but who cares, do what works for your family.

Questions? I’m no expert, but I can try. I do have a handful of expert friends though, who have used cloth (and varied kinds) longer than I have, so I can try to get you in touch with them if you need some advice on this subject!

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