A Year With Cloth Diapers
Three Thrifty Guys would like to welcome new contributing writer, Ruser to the team. He will share his life experiences, money matters and joys of raising his son. Learn more about him.
There was very little discussion before my wife and I decided to cloth diaper our son. She wanted to use them and I didn’t feel strongly about it either way. I think I was so concerned about other aspects of fatherhood that diapers drew very little of my attention.
We have used cloth diapers for a year now, and it turned out to be an involved experience, one that I was not adequately prepared for (a running theme throughout my first year of fatherhood). I don’t regret our decision to use cloth diapers; just the opposite really. But I do wish that I had known a few things about cloth diapers before jumping in. Things like:
You need a lot of diapers…
My wife and I use Flip diapers which have polyester outer covers and a removable cloth insert. The covers come in a variety of colors and designs and snap close in the front. They are one size fits all, so our son will use the same fashionable diapers in year two and beyond as he did during his first year.
We have eight diaper covers and 24 cloth inserts. If we bought these on Amazon today, it would cost $240. Now that my son is over one (and needs diaper changes less frequently), we run out of diapers anywhere between 6 and 8 days; when he was much younger, we ran out of diapers every 3 to 5 days. I knew babies needed to be changed often, but I figured 24 diapers would regularly last at least a week. This turned out to be one of my dumber assumptions about babies, of which there were many.
…and it helps to have disposables for backup
We actually didn’t start using cloth diapers until our son was two months old. Prior to that, he had plenty of dirty diapers and needed to be changed anywhere from eight to 12 times a day. At that rate, we would have needed to wash the diapers every 10-14 hours!
Since we don’t have a washer or dryer in our apartment, we don’t wash the diapers as often as we need to. We keep a box of disposables on hand for when we run out of cloth diapers, and also use disposables at night since our son sleeps better in them (disposables tend to do better for longer periods of time between changes). We get a box of 200 disposables from Sam’s Club for about $35. This lasts us about three months.
Cleaning diapers requires effort
Regular detergent can affect cloth diapers’ absorbency. There are detergents specifically for cloth diapers, but my wife made some out of equal parts Borax, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, and OxiClean Baby. One batch cost about $15, and it has lasted more than a year.
There are special wet bags to hold diapers prior to washing: they don’t soak through and lock in the smell. We have a large one for everyday use and a small one for travel. Considering their importance (i.e., they keep our home from smelling like we have a cat but no litter box), they were relatively cheap: $18 for the large one, and $10 for the smaller one.
Even before putting the diapers in the wet bag, we sometimes have to clean them first. This wasn’t necessary when our son was on a 100% milk diet, but once he started eating solids, his dirty diapers had a thicker, more solid consistency. For reasons which I’ll leave up to your imagination to discover, you don’t want to put diapers like that in a washer machine.
We shake dirty diapers off in the toilet and rinse it with a couple of flushes. Admittedly, this took some time for my gag reflex to get used to. When my wife first asked me to clean a dirty diaper in the toilet, I thought she was joking. She swears she told me I would have to do this before we made the decision to cloth diaper, but I don’t remember having that conversation (and that seems to be the type of conversation I most likely would have remembered).
It was a good decision
Despite this miscommunication, I’m glad we’re using cloth diapers. Even though we regularly still use disposable diapers, we’re saving a lot of money in the long run: the above items cost about $425; according to What to Expect, disposable diapers can cost approximately $600 in the first year. The savings will increase in the following years since we likely won’t need to buy more cloth diapers.
If you’re thinking about using cloth diapers, I definitely recommend them: they can save you money, are better for the environment, and are healthier for your baby’s bottom. Just keep in mind they require some extra effort – and occasionally a gag reflex less sensitive than mine.