Whether you're preparing for your first child or your fifth, you may be asking, "Do cloth diapers save money?" The answer to this question has many perspectives.
The General Breakdown
According to leading pediatricans, a newborn who is getting enough milk will be wetting four-to-six disopsable diapers a day, or six-to-eight cloth diapers, which hold less. Meanwhile, older babies will go through about seven-to-nine diapers daily, on average, until they are potty-trained.
If you are planning to go the cloth diaper route, experts at the Real Diaper Association suggest stocking up on the following supplies:
- Approximately 50-60 diapers. Costs vary by product. Some prefolded cloth diapers, usually the most reliable for durability and absorption, can cost as little as a dollar a piece.
- About 10 diaper covers and maybe some simple nylon diaper pants. High-quality diaper covers, like the ones made by Bumkin, run about $12-$15 each, while nylon diaper pants can be found in multi-packs for under $10.
- Some type of closures, such as diaper pins or clips. A package of a basic design cost about $3 for six pins.
Although considerably more expensive, some cloth diapers have Velcro closures and a protective cover built-in. A popular brand is Kushie's All-in-One Diapers. Machine-washable, these flannel-covered cloth diapers average $40 for a pack of five.
You also need to have a sanitary diaper pail to store used cloth diapers until you're ready to wash them.
One way to answer the question of whether or not cloth diapers save money is to check out this comparison provided by Mint.com. Remember that as your baby grows, you'll need to reinvest in larger cloth diapers and covers. But, the pins can be reused, and infant cloth diapers can be reused as liners, burp cloths, or even dust rags.
The Cost of Convenience
Let's face it; disposable diapers that you use and toss have a great advantage. No extra time is needed for swishing out soiled diapers, washing, or folding.
Buying disposable diapers in bulk from online retailers such as Northshore Care Supply can really drive the price down, too, especially when combined with free shipping. Other comparison shopping sites list a number of different diaper dealers so you can quickly make a decision on brand, size, and price.
You'll also find greater opportunities to use online coupons for disposable diapers, and companion offers that result in free diapers. These types of deals aren't usually offered on cloth diapers.
However, cloth diapers save money in the long run. They also remain popular because of the evidence that disposable diapers use more of the earth's resources. The cost to manufacture disposable diapers, the overflowing landfill issues, the contamination of groundwater, and the resulting unsanitary conditions of soiled disposable diapers have compounding effects.
Baby's comfort is a factor as well. While disposable diapers have incredible absorbency, this often increases the chances for diaper rash, since the diaper may stay on longer. Proponents of cloth diapers say it's easier to avoid irritations using cloth, since you and baby both know quickly that it's time for a change.
Using a Diaper Service
Some parents opt to save time by using a cloth diaper laundering service. One primary drawback is that this service, while popular in metro areas, is not widely available elsewhere. In general, a diaper service will provide a set number of diapers per week for a weekly or monthly cost, though most require a four-week minimum commitment. According to the National Association of Diaper Services, the average weekly cost of cloth diapering laundering services is about $30, but there are a number of variables that may cause the price to increase, such as:
- Number of diapers provided
- Additional supplies provided
- Frequency of delivery and pickup
- Personalized diaper service (e.g. you always get your diapers back, instead of general stock)
- Accommodating detergent allergies and sensitivities
Do Cloth Diapers Save Money?
Do cloth diapers save money? Possibly, if you choose to launder the diapers instead of using a diaper service. You'll save an average of $30-$50 a month over the cost of disposables, even if you buy diapers in bulk. Many parents take the half-and-half route. During the day, cloth diapers are used, and at night or while traveling, disposables are a good option. It's also important to note that some day care centers do not use cloth diapers, so you'll need to sort out requirements ahead of time.
Remember, your primary reason for choosing one diaper over the other is comfort for your baby and ease of use for you. If using cloth diapers saves money in your overall budget and your baby is dry and happy, than you're making the right choice. However, if you find that your baby and cloth diapers don't mix, then you must adjust accordingly, regardless of whether you are a stalwart environmentalist. After all, you can't put a price tag on your baby's happiness or your peace of mind.