Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cloth Diapering 101: Is it cheaper?

I wanted to put together what I've learned from friends, other Seattle area moms, the diaper pin and other websites, and a cloth diapering 101 workshop I took this past weekend at Birth and Beyond.

My mom, a pediatrician, encouraged me to try cloth diapering because she noticed that her patients who do it are less likely to develop diaper rash.  Since I'm taking the year off from work, I thought it was worth trying as I would have more time to devote to it and it would save us money - the workshop estimated it would save us approximately $2,000 compared to the cost of disposable diapers. 

I decided to do some math to verify this for myself.  According to what I found online, babies go through approximately 5-6 diapers per day for the first year.  That would be about 2,007 diapers in a year. 

Amazon has some of the lowest prices for diapers, and they cost approximately $0.20/diaper.  That's about $401.50 for a year of diapers - and of course, this is assuming you can get exactly 2,007 diapers in all the right sizes, which probably won't happen.  (And that you get free shipping.)  Since potty training doesn't usually happen until after the age of 2, let's make that $803.00 minimum for 2 years (some websites estimate the cost to be closer to $1200 for 2 years. 

Cloth diapers prices might vary even more than disposable.  It could be as cheap as $6/diaper (for pre-fold + cover bought used) or as much as $25/diaper (for pocket or all-in-ones bought new).  Since they are re-used, you only need roughly 24-36 total cloth diapers which could range in cost from $144 - $900 plus the cost of washing and drying them. 

Diaper Pin has a cost comparison calculator that estimated that it will take me over 7 months of cloth diapering to break even with the cost of disposable and I would save $356.00 after 1 1/2 years of cloth diapering.  Of course, this is if I used the cheapest alternative.  In addition, you can save even more money if you either re-use the diapers for multiple kids or sell them to other moms on Craig's list (which can re-coup you roughly 50% of what you invested if they're in good condition).  In the end, it looks like if you do it smartly, and/or you stick to it for long enough, you will save money cloth diapering.  They can also be really cute compared to disposables :-)


  1. You can buy cheapie one-size pocket diapers from places like for as little as $108 for 24 pockets with inserts. That is a full stash that will last from approximately 8lbs through potty-training and then on to future children as well. Once the baby is around 4 months old, you'll likely need to buy some hemp, cotton, or bamboo doublers to handle overnight and naptime saturation (or get some microfiber towels from places like biglots 12 for $6). However, places like have cheap bamboo inserts which will handle that need. A pail liner is around $10-$20 and you can get a plastic flip-top kitchen size trash can to use with it. Cloth wipes versus disposable is another place to save money. Just re-use your baby washcloths or buy 12 packs at Ross for around $4-$6. Those just get washed right along with your diaper laundry. Plus, your water bill will go up WAY more when your child potty trains due to the extra flushes than it ever will from twice weekly diaper laundry.

    You can ALWAYS do cloth on the cheap. Just like you make the choices on what disposables to buy. I actually PREFER the Kroger Comforts disposables to the big brands... They might be cheaper, but in some ways they are also superior for our needs. It is the same with the cheapie cloth diapers. Sometimes they actually work better than their expensive counter-parts. It really depends on the baby's shape and their parents' needs.

  2. Elissabeth (from Chicago)10:15 PM

    I know a bunch of people who got into cloth diapering to save money and ended up turning it into a hobby and spending tons of money on the cute diaper covers. Not a lot of cute disposable diapers! So if you want to do it because of the cost savings, just keep that in mind!
    PS. Love the blog!