Posted in being a mom, cloth diapering, just me, the New Middle Child, the Youngest

Costly Diapering?

**** Warning: This post has potentially too much information for the non-cloth-diaper enjoying crowd. For those who would like to read and learn, I have included this post. For those who couldn’t care less, you will be bored and potentially overwhelmed so feel free to find another time filler for today. 😉

So since I’m a borderline dork when it comes to frugality and practicality, I decided to do some math today while my diapers dried. Now, I don’t claim to be a math major (HA!) but I can add and subtract with use of a calculator. 😉

Back in December we decided to give cloth diapers a try. Abi’s little bum had had enough of disposables and the diaper rash thereof so we decided to stop spending so much in diaper rash cremes and making poor Abi suffer and instead to try my sister in law’s, at the time, vacant stash of cloth diapers. Now we are well aware that the ability to try out and then decided what kind of cloth diapers fits your family best cuts the initial cloth diapering cost down HUGELY, but I also found in my research a few offers to try cloth diapering for a $25 deposit for a month to come to a similar family decision on likes/dislikes and practicality.

Let me take a break to define helpful vocabulary in the following posts: We use a pocket diaper for nighttime, nap time and Daddy’s favorite/babysitter needs. A pocket diaper has 1-2 inserts (depending on age of child/volume of pee) that slide into the pocket and do not require a separate cover to be worn in the diaper. A pocket diaper looks and functions like a disposable diaper and, thus, is most appreciated by the disposable-diaper-friendly world. A pocket diaper requires the insert to be removed prior to washing and the insert to be dried in the dryer whereas the shell can be line-dried. A pocket diaper is considered a “premium” diaper and usually ranges around $15-$20 new from in the U.S., $5 new from out of the U.S. and $5 used inside the U.S. for a quality pocket diaper that will last for multiple kids. A pocket diaper can come size-specific or one-size to snap down for newborn through toddler (potty training) size. We prefer the one-size method since it is the most economical. And we also prefer a pocket diaper with an additional hip snap (second single snap on the diaper flap) to adjust leg size and make for a better fit. Pocket diapers also come in snap or velcro for the top diaper attachment around the hips. We prefer snap closure on the pocket diapers since Abi has quickly figured out how to unvelcro (probably not a word, but whatever) pocket diapers at night/nap (eeek!). We have 14 one-size pocket diapers. This is a one-size pocket diaper:

A prefold is a classic cloth diaper which requires pins or a snappi (substitution for pins) to hold the diaper in it’s shape around the baby. You can reuse snappies with diaper changes. We have 2 snappies. 

 A prefold can be folded in many different ways to specialize the shape, fit and needs of the baby (ex. different folds can be used for boys vs. girls, heavy wetters vs. normal wetters, and pooping vs. non-pooping). A prefold requires a cover or else the baby will wet their clothing or your carpet. A prefold can come in different sizes (newborn, infant, toddler, large toddler), but can be as simple as just 2 sizes: infant (7-15lbs) and toddler (16-30lbs). We have 10 toddler-sized prefolds. This is a prefold:

A cover is only needed for a prefold and can come size-specific or in a one-size. We prefer the one-size. The top closure system comes in snap or velro. We prefer velcro due to a better fit in varying hip sizes and Abi being too busy in the daytime to unvelcro her cover. We have two one-sized covers and one large cover. This is a one-size cover that can be snapped down to baby’s size for newborn through toddler:

So our total diaper count for our stash is 24 diapers (pockets and prefolds/snappies/covers) which gets us 2 days worth of diapering and a few left overs while I wash diapers.


Okay…. now back to the one-sided conversation:

To me, cloth diapering is less an environmental issue (though it does have wonderful perks) and more of a cost-effective, practical and reality issue. If you cannot put forth money up front, cloth diapering may not be for you. If you cannot keep up with your current loads of laundry and have no desire to, cloth diapering may not be for you. If you hate handling poops and pees, cloth diapering may not be for you (because poops and pees that have sit for even 24 hours in wait for the laundry are smelly business – though you don’t have to stink balm the house).

So with the grace of Matt’s “we can try it” encouragement, we stepped into the unknown of cloth diapering. Abi’s rash immediately disappeared, though my sensitive skinned baby still has rash bouts when she passes a silent poop and does not inform us until we find it an hour later. Any kid sitting in poop with sensitive skin will rash. And Abi’s a unique skinned baby. Diaper rash for us disappears w/o creme in 24 hours with cloth diaper airing and more frequent changes [10-12 vs 8] until rash is gone. With disposable diapers Abi had a blistering rash for 1 to 2 weeks with continual diaper rash creme application.

It took us a month to get it together – wish I would have researched “things I would have loved to know then that I know now” topics about cloth diapering and I could have avoided our figuring out soap to diaper quantity, laundering guessing, and some general “how to”s. The reality of cloth diapering, though, is that you need to know what you want (ex. how frequently do I want to change a diaper and how realistic is my want?) and what you can tolerate (ex. how often do I want to wash my diapers and be tied to the whole laundering process?) and then look for the diapers and stash that best fits that need.

Some things are trial and error, especially if you have a heavy wetter. So it’s nice to have a starter kit or borrow some diapers from a friend who has different kinds. Or buy small amounts (1-2) of different kinds of second-hand diapers to figure out what works well for you. I would not suggest investing solely in one type of diaper, especially if you’ve never used that diaper before. I bought many second-hand diapers from a lady who did just that and have seen many posts from likewise sellers.

So I sat down to do the math today, like I was saying earlier, and came up with these numbers from buying off-brand disposable wipes and Huggies snug and dry (basic line of diaper) diapers (since that was the only diaper that was least rashy on Abi and produced the greatest bang-for-your-buck coupons).

*** Matt caught my math error in wipes calculations and I have adjusted the costs due to my error. ***

Wipes per month cost us approximately $18.00 (1 box of 556 count is $12.00 cheapest we have found). This doesn’t seem too bad and costs a total of $216.00 per year. That’s presuming you are wiping only one child, using a box (556+ count) and a half of wipes per month (which is what we were using when adding in boogey-nose wipes and restaurant-table wipes, etc).

Diapers per month cost us $51.38 presuming we could find some coupons and buy the largest sized box of 156 diapers (or buy the smaller boxes with more coupons = more money savings). That’s a total of $616.50 a year and I’m not adding in the up to $8/6 oz bottle of diaper rash creme that can be added on the top to the diapering cost.

Total wipes and diaper costs are $832.50 a year for one child (if you don’t have to buy diaper rash cremes at all).

Now, our initial diaper stash we have put at most to total $175 between diapers, inserts, laundry soap ($5 every 3 months – you only use a TBSP per load), homemade wipes solution (I just found it more practical and cost effective to cut up and sew together old receiving blankets and wipe Abi with that in a solution of baby oil, lotion and baby wash which I can throw into the wet/dry bag and wash with my diapers vs finding a separate trash can for just the wipe and not knowing if the wipe is causing a diaper rash or not for sensitive skinned baby), clothes line/clothespins (used previously owned white string-stuff and $1 for 50 clothespins), wet/dry bag (transports diapers home when out – you could use a plastic grocery bag, but we prefer an odor-shut-out bag that is washable), trashcan liner (for trash can when diapers are waiting for wash day), $2 trash can from thrift store, second-hand diapers/diaper covers, and I don’t think I forgot anything else in the equation. I can only count $150 that we’ve spent thus far, but I’ll add it all up to $175 to be generous and realistic (since my memory’s not 110%).

The ongoing cloth diapering cost is $5 per 3 months of Purex Free and Clear detergent (the cheapest cloth diaper safe detergent) so that equals $20 per year in detergent alone. Then there is the monthly cost of $4.92 ($1.64 per bottle for off-brand baby safe baby wash, baby oil and baby lotion to make wipes solution)  that we choose to make to use cloth wipes so that’s $59.04 per year for wipes. ***You could just use water instead of a cloth diaper solution with wipes, but we choose to spoil our little Abi (and future little ones) with a whopping &59.04 per year. I know, I know… we’re really luxurious over here. 😉
So that’s a total of $79.01 to cloth diaper a child per year.

So this year alone we will have saved $578.49 for diapering Abi.

Now, due to the age breakdown of our kids and the little one on the way, Abi could still be using her toddler diapers when peanut 3 comes to join our family. Since we bought all-in-one diapers to save on cost (even if peanut’s trousers are a little bulky initially) we can use many of the same diapers since our stash allows for 14 diapers a day with me washing diapers every 2 days and Abi only uses 8. Since a newbie uses at least 14/day and will not fit into Abi’s toddler-sized prefolds, we will be looking at adding an additional $50 to the total spent on the whole cloth diapering project. Since $50 is what we spent per month on disposable diapers, a one-time $50 investment is looking nice. Abi will also be out of her toddler prefolds when baby needs them so we’ll not need to double anything else in our stash. And my guess of $50 is a bit high since most entire stashes of newborn/infant prefolds are being sold for $20 secondhand. But I am also taking into consideration that the diaper covers Abi wears cannot also be worn at the same time as newborn so we’ll need to invest in a few more covers to get the job done. While a few more covers will not get us to $30 I am taking into consideration that I may need to add a few more wipes to our stash ($0.50 at the thrift store for a receiving blanket that makes 7-8 wipes) and making some potty training pants could be helpful for Abi in the future though not necessary.

Adding that $50 to the ongoing cost to cloth diaper a child (x 0.5 because it is cheaper to buy in bulk and Abi will not be diapered for the full year) would make $168.52 for the year.

So that’ll make our next year savings at $663.98 to diaper 2 children (one newborn to 1 year and one in late toddlerhood).

The following year (kid 3 age 1-2) we’ll save $753.49.

So that’ll put our total savings over 3 years to be $1,995.96.

Does time, labor and effort play into the cost? Certainly! I’m not going to pretend like the laundry is not an extra effort. I am doing one extra load of laundry every two days. It does take time – a cycle and a half in the washer and a full two-three cycles in the dryer for the inserts/wipes (the night inserts take the longest to dry) plus a half hour of drying outside on the line for the diaper covers/shells or over the night for the covers/shells or 40 minutes in the dryer on low heat. It does take me at least 4 hours from start to fold to wash/dry my diapers. It takes time. It takes effort and work.

And so does my other laundry. And the house chores. And investing in the kids. And homeschooling.

Cloth diapering is not for everyone. It is work. It costs up front. And it can be time consuming and frustrating until you figure out what works for everyone who’ll be diapering the child or children. Matt has preferences in the cloth diapering world, and I do my best to cater to them because I want him to change baby’s diapers too. 😉 And he has also been very gracious and flexible in learning what is best for our daughter. I am grateful because not only can I do the math of savings as a result of cloth diapering, but I can also provide the best for Abi, and lil apple-sized invader (we don’t know gender yet).

There is much to think about in the world of cloth diapering, but the numbers do add up nicely in your favor.  But for us, cloth diapering is a helpful, realistic, practical, and cost-effective method to provide the best diapering options for our family. Also has the unexpected added bonus of helping me keep up on the other laundry too. 😉


Have you ever thought that the all-sufficient Savior has promised those who walk in blind faith more than our minds can ever comprehend? That the only True Savior renews our minds, even when we feel most useless toward His Kingdom work? The Lord of all dares to touch our hearts, even as we stumble to find obedience. Oh how this soul wishes we Christians would embrace His Truth! And that the world would be different because of obedient hearts. Lord, change me. Lord, change us. All for Your glory. ---------- I am a Jesus-follower, a Homemaker, a Wife of the best man EVER, a Mom of 4 wonderful girls, a missionary in Africa, a Friend, an Encourager, a Seeker of integrity who is unsatisfied with a mediocre walk in Christ, and Blessed beyond any words that I could ever express. Thanks for being interested in my little slice of the world.

4 thoughts on “Costly Diapering?

  1. When we started to cloth diaper, it was ALL about the $$$ savings! The initial cost was minimal compared to what we saved in the long run – and it was so stinking adorable (no pun intended!) how could we not want to?!

    One thing we did… scratch that. One thing I did (because there was very little “we” in cloth diapering! I did most of the changes, and all of the washing) I would soak the soiled diapers in a wet pail, rather than have a dry pail. Have you read up on that? I'm not sure if Abi's sensitive bum could tolerate it, but I would add about a 1/4 cap of colorsafe bleach to my wet pail (pail full of water) to soak the soiled diapers in. It practically eliminated the smelly pail problem, and it also pretreated the diapers for washing. I would run them through a rinse cycle before the wash cycle, and then another rinse after they were washed.

    Love your clothes line pic, too! You probably already know this, but I'm going to tell you anyway. lol Drying the diapers on the line doesn't just cut your dryer cost, but the sun helps bleach any stains out! 🙂

  2. Yeah we use the clothes line when we want diapers dried quicker than indoors, using the perk of sun-drying stains, and it actually cuts out residual smell if you have really absorbent inserts (like bamboo) that trap a funky smell after months of use. I try to avoid anything that traps a funky smell after months of use if I can because to me if it's trapping a smell I'm not sure how I can justify that all the “smell causing” particles are washed out.

    Pretreating with a bucket could be a good call. My question is (and maybe this is dumb) what do you do with the water? Do you just poor it into the washer too? Or do you have to go wading for your diapers/straining into the back yard? Maybe just pretreating the poops would be a good call. =)

    Washing/Rinsing – we have the same wash style. =) We (really “I” too) rinse once, wash once through, and rinse again. Though Matt has participated in “could you restart the washer” aid occasionally.

    Prefolds by far are the cheapest way to cloth diaper a child, but due to Matt's comfort and the oddity of trying to explain a prefold to a teenager without being late to date-night dinner, I have found much joy in my pocket diapers too. The pocket diapers are slightly more difficult for a heavy wetter, like our dear Abi, but with figuring out the correct stuffing inserts (so as not to make her look like marshmallow explosion butt), and making sure the fit is good around the legs and waste, prefolds have become a good solution for heavy night wets and sitters.

    Matt has also learned the prefold/snappi/cover combo, and while he is most flexible, I know his preference is the pocket diaper so I try to cater to his preference as best I can. If all we have clean is a prefold, he'll use a prefold with no complaints. But i try to primarily use prefolds so he can have pocket diapers available. Afterall, I'm the one who is driving this whole project and he is graciously and happily (especially regarding finances) coming along.

    Also another thing I did not mention is that we do not use a diaper sprayer. If you wanted to use a diaper sprayer in the “removal of solid waste” part of cloth diapering, then you should add another $50 to the grand total that you put out that first round and then prepare to learn how to install one on your toilet. I haven't made up my mind on these yet since we're in the toddler waste stage where most stools are solid. Should you be in the transition between liquid and solid diet with a baby, a diaper sprayer may be more useful.

    Thanks for the comment, Jess!

  3. Actually, I just poured the entire pail into the washer. I always cleaned the diapers really good in the toilet before putting them in the pail, so the water wasn't *too* nasty. I didn't always spin that water out before rinse one, but sometimes I would. (That sounds more disgusting in type than it did in action. HAHA!)

    I think I forgot to mention how much I loved snappi's. I think I might have a couple tucked away. I don't know why, but I'm kind of attached to my stash of diapers. (Yes, I still have them. lol)

    I never invested in a sprayer. Actually… a trick of the trade that I learned from many cloth diapering moms, is that you don't have to rinse breastfed baby stool out of your cloth diapers. My mom was so disgusted by this concept! But because it's soooo loose, and practically water, it just isn't a necessity.

  4. Yeah breastfed babies definately make cloth diapering easier in terms of poop. I am curious if you put any pre-treatment soaking solution in your wet pail. I have looked around a bit and read a few things, but am reluctant to add more monthly or bi-monthly output cost into our cloth diapering cost just because at some point you've got to draw the line else it's easy to get lost in trends and then find cloth diapering to be much less cost-effective. Did you wash poopy's daily or did you spin them if you weren't washing laundry that day? I'm just curious because this whole wet pail is new to me and I love to learn.

    Our dry pail is not too stinky, though the initial opening of the pail once the diapers are ready for laundry is in no way a breath of fresh air. But the pail liner helps us not have to touch of really look at anything in there in the transfer to the washer. I haven't had too many issues with staining beyond sick poops or diahrea (sorry to be so blunt) but nothing the sun hasn't bleached out for me yet.

    But I am always interested in learning new ways that could be helpful in the practicality of cloth diapering.

    Thanks for your feedback. =)

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