Are Cloth Diapers Really A Savings?

Early in my first pregnancy, I never really considered cloth diapers seriously.  I pictured the lumpy, dumpy prefolds with pins and plastic pants.  They seemed messy and a lot of work, and well, frankly, I didn’t know sh… er, um, BEANS, about cloth diapers.

Thankfully, my friend, who had moved to Texas with her military husband (and was thus meeting new people with new ideas) sent me a list she had one of her new friends make for me of baby essentials.  On the list was Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers.  Cloth diapers?  On the ‘essentials’ list?  I had to check them out.

Today’s cloth diapers are really cool.  Like no cloth diapers I had ever seen before.

I stared doing research and found there are tons of alternatives to the traditional pin ’em on, plastic pants cloth diapers out there: Rump-A-Roos, Bumkins, Fuzzi Bunz, Bummis… there’s a long list actually.  Some are called All In Ones (AIO), some are pocket diapers like the Fuzzi Bunz, and there are still some traditional pre-folds and plastic (or wool in some circles) covers.  There really aren’t pins any more though.

Fuzzi Bunz are pocket diapers.  Like all the pocket diapers today, they have a soft, waterproof cloth exterior with snaps or velcro, a fleece lining to wick moisture away from baby’s bum, and a pocket in between where you stuff an absorbent micro-terry (or hemp or whatever else you choose) insert to absorb the pee.  The idea of cloth diapering with these appealed to me.  I mean it is greener and they say kids potty train earlier.  You put them on like a disposable, except with snaps instead of tape, and you just wash both the diaper and the insert in the washer.  Seemed easy. And, they come in fun colors (I’m a sucker for colorful things).

Cloth diapers are an investment.  The cost is upfront, but the saving over the lifetime is HUGE.  When we bought our first set of Fuzzi Bunz, they were about $14 per diaper.  We did a lot of research to figure out what kind of cloth diaper we wanted to use, and where we could get them for the least amount of money.  The cheapest we’ve found them new was online.

So we registered for a package called the “Everything You Need to Cloth Diaper Special” for about $385.  This included cloth wipes, detergent, two diaper pail liners, a wet bag (travel tote for dirty cloth diapers), and 18 Fuzzi Bunz with inserts.  There were a few other accessories in there too.

We got a couple gift certificates at baby showers towards this, and Rick and I ponied up the rest.  We ordered 15 of our 18 diapers in size small, and three in size medium.  Then, when our bouncing baby boy moved up to mediums at 5 months old, we bought 18 more, used, on ebay for $10 each.  When he needed the larges at his first birthday, my mom bought half for us, and we bought the other half, all new.

In all, we spent $736.49 on diapering our son from birth until potty training at 22 months old.  But wait… we sold the size mediums.  I bought them for $10 each on ebay, and sold them for $10 each on Craigslist when our boy out grew them (I didn’t love the colors and decided if we had another baby, I’d get new mediums then). So I can deduct $180 from that.  So the total for diapering our first-born is $556.49.

Now, I know that doesn’t factor in water usage in washing them and flushing the toilet a few extra times for the poopiest of diapers.  Yes, I’m sure our water bill is slightly higher due to running the machine a few more times a week.  But I can’t give an exact picture of what that cost is, since the diaper washing started at the same time as all the newborn-spit-up-on-clothes-and-sheets-and-blankets washing did too.

But, for only $556.49 (which does include detergent, since I bought special detergent from the same online store for the diapers only) I diapered not only our first baby for nearly two years, but I saved the size smalls and the larges to carry over to the new baby.

How many disposable diapers could you get for $560?  How long would they last you?
On diapers.com (the site I understand to be the money saver in disposable diapers??) you can get a case of 4 Seventh Generation diapers for $43.99.  So if you bought them all at once, you’d get 12 cases.  Depending on the size of diaper, that’s 176 newborn diapers per case, or 104 size 5.  The price difference for Huggies and Pampers is within a dollar or two.  A newborn goes through about 8-12 diapers per day.  For easy math, I will say 10.  So one case will get you through 17.5 days. This does not include buying any wipes.

I’ll leave the exact math to you, but Mary McCarthy of NaturalFamilyOnline.com estimates that a child goes through 8,000 – 10,000 diaper changes before potty training. Based on an average cost of .35 per diaper (since no baby stays either a newborn or 20lbs forever), that comes to $2,800-$3,500 per child, not including wipes and trips to the store or sales tax if not bought online.  I’ve seen other averages as low as $1850 and as high as $4500 as well.  For one baby.

Don’t even get me started on the environmental impacts of all of this.

So what about the second baby?  Well, I needed new wipes and a new wet bag (the cloth wipes were so dead by the end of potty training, you don’t even want to know).  And we needed to buy the size mediums.  The price is a bit higher now than it was in 2006.  But I expect to sell all of my diapers for about $10/each after our second is potty trained.  I’ve already sold the size smalls, since our second baby is in the mediums already.  I should have around 45 or 50 total diapers by then.  That will bring a big chunk of the investment back.

All in all, cloth diapering is a very affordable choice.  And there are lots of options.  We chose Fuzzi Bunz because despite their higher initial investment cost , they had a high resale value as well.  I’ve seen Rump-a-Roos and Bummis (which adjust in size from small to large) reselling at good prices as well.  But if you are less worried about resale value, there are even more affordable cloth diapering options.  Even the old-fashioned prefolds use a cool system called Snappis and better covers than the old plastic pants now a days.  Check them out.  You might find a brand that is the perfect fit.

Here are a few more sites that talk about the differences between all the different diapers out there, as well as other tips and tricks with cloth diapering.

Be Fresh Be Simple (where I swiped the above picture from)

Green Mom Happy Mom

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4 responses to “Are Cloth Diapers Really A Savings?

  1. Hi,

    Fuzzi Bunz are by far one of the best cloth diapers out there. I used them myself. Now, they have made them one size so you don’t need to buy multiple sizes. They are a little more pricey but I think you still save in the end.

    Great blog. The more of us natural moms out there helping to spread the word the better! And kudos on getting your certification. It is something I have considered doing myself.

    We used to live in CO (Longmont area) and miss it very much.

    Thank you so much for the back link. I will take a look at your posts and see if there is one my readers would appreciate and link back to you as well.

    Also, if you would like…I posted my homebirth story and would be more than happy to share that with your readers as well. My CNM was fantastic and my doula was a life saver as well.

    Again, thanks for the link and I look forward to building a blogging relationship with you!

  2. Thanks for the feedback Jessica. I’ll be checking out your blog more as well. I just got this one going, but have been blogging for a while now at my personal site: http://anisaschell.wordpress.com if you want to check that out too. This post is actually a repost from there.

    I’d love to have you share your birth story here. I can post a link if you want, or if you want to do it as a guest, that’d be great too. I love that you had a natural 10 pound baby at home!

    So many mom’s get caught up in the my baby is 8 pounds and getting “too big” to be a vaginal birth drama (especially afer things like what’s been shown recently on the Today show).

  3. Hahaha Danielle! While Fuzzi Bunz are great – I never wish Henry still wore them! I will be so happy when he finally wipes his own bum!

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