Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cloth Diapering for $30- It Really CAN Be Done!

There's been a lot of talk lately about parents who are struggling financially re-using disposable diapers.  It's a sad reality for more moms and dads than anyone probably even realizes, and it's got to be something that leaves these moms feeling a little hopeless.

Food or diapers.

That's a decision I'm glad I've never had to make, especially if I didn't know that there were options out there other than disposable diapers.  So let me preface what I am about to say with this- you can diaper your baby for little to no money.  It may require sacrifices of time and convenience, but it can be done.  I'm not going to hit on all the nitty-gritty here because it is just too complex and it would take more than one blog post to do it.  I'm just going to give you some options, some real, useable options.  Because maybe you find yourself struggling to pay for diapers sometimes.  Maybe you don't see a way out, and maybe you don't think cloth is an affordable option.

It can be both a way out, and an cheap, doable option.

Ok, let's break it down.  You have one baby.  You want to wash diapers every two days, because really, every day is just not always doable.  You need enough supplies to get you through 48 hours plus some wiggle room.

Let's set a budget for ourselves.  We've got $30 to diaper our baby with.  30 hard-saved, fought for dollars.  I'm going to say $30 because it's about what you'd pay for a big case of name brand diapers when you factor in taxes.  We've got to come up with two days worth of diapers for $30.  Whew.  Here we go.

1.  Raid your closet.  I know most people have those t-shirts that they just can't wear anymore.  They've got holes in them, stains all over, and they just don't fit.  Those old t-shirts?  Use 'em as diapers.  Really.  They will function just like Flat Diapers, will be easy to wash, and quick to dry.  You can find instructions on different folds just about anywhere online.  cost- free

2.  Go to resale shops!  Search around and I bet you can find some old flour-sack dish-towels.  Do you know what those are?  Basically the same exact thing as flat diapers.  Don't have enough old t-shirts at your house to use as flats?  Pick some up here too!  My guess is that if you hit your resale shops on days where they had a sale, you could pick these items up for as cheap as $.25 each.  We'll guess a little more conservatively though to make sure we're being realistic just in case.  You pick up about 15 tees and towels for $.50 each.  cost- $7.50

So far we've spent $7.50 and found ourselves anywhere from 15 to 20 diapers (depending on how many old t-shirts you had around your house) for just $7.50.  $7.50!!!!

3. Use those flannel receiving blankets that you have sitting around.  Traditionally sized flannel receiving blankets are the perfect size to use as flat diapers.  Really.  I'm sure you can find some at a resale shop as well if you don't have any lying around.  My guess is you could get a pack of four for about $1.    Cost- free to $1

Ok!  So that puts us at a count of anywhere from 19 to 25 diapers depending on your resale scores, all for a cost of about $9.00.  woo!  That's enough to get one baby through about two days of diaper changes.  Now we need to figure out a waterproof barrier.

4.  Diaper Pins.  Gotta fasten those diapers!  Cost- $1.29

5.  Diaper Covers-  You have a lot of options here.  Some are obviously not going to fit into our budget.  Others will be perfect.  Bummis Pull On Diaper Covers are breathable PUL pull-on covers that cost only $6.50 each.  Pick up 3 and you can totally get through 2 days if you wipe down any messes in between changes.  You can also pick up a two pack of Gerber plastic pants to cover those diapers for about $5.00 a pair, they won't be breathable like the Bummis PUL option, but they are cheaper, so theoretically you could cloth diaper for even less than $30!  For this illustration lets go with the Bummis.  Cost- $19.50

Total cost for 2 days worth of cloth diapers- $29.79!!!

You really can diaper your baby for $30, and instead of buying disposable wipes, just cut up some t-shirts or receiving blankets, wet them, and use those instead!  These diapers could be hand-washed, or done in a washer and dryer at home or in the laundry mat.  It may not be the glamourous option, but it is a heck of a lot better for baby, and you won't have to decide between food and diapers again.

Spread the word cloth addicts, because this could save a lot of mommies a lot of heart-ache.

Oh, and if you're one of those mommies who struggles to buy diapers for your baby- you are a super-hero.  You are doing the best you can for your baby.  You are a great mom, and I know it is hard.  But I applaud you, because I know you must make a million sacrifices for your baby.


  1. You've forgotten one major thing: the cost of *washing* those diapers. Water isn't free, laundromats aren't free, electricity isn't free. Yes, they can be washed in the tub and hung to dry on a line, but don't forget that time and energy, like money, are important resources too. When my daughter was born, I was generously gifted 2 dozen newborn sized prefolds, 2 dozen premium sized, and a few covers, which was a tremendous blessing; but some weeks we could barely find enough money in the budget for the laundromat. My high-needs, chronically ill baby couldn't be set down for more than a minute at a time during the first few months, so there was no way I could find the time or energy to hand-wash. (I tried.) It was a struggle just to get her all bundled up, heave the laundry over my shoulder, and walk to the laundromat several blocks away. To save money, I would only use the washers, and then hang the diapers to dry in my apartment, but in the winter, it could take a whole day or more for them to dry, so I had to splurge on the electric dryers when I was pressed for time. Machine washing and LINE-drying my diapers every 2-3 days cost me 6-8 cents per diaper, depending on how many were in a load.

    It always drove me nuts to hear people talk about how cloth diapers were practically "free" after the initial investment, while I was struggling to afford the laundromat. And don't forget that many many low-income mothers work, often multiple part-time jobs adding up to 50+ hours a week (only without benefits and overtime pay because none of their jobs are full-time). Where are they supposed to find the time to go to the laundromat several times a week and wait a couple of hours for diapers to wash and dry? Or should she, after a solid day spent working a manual job and busing to and from work, come home and scrub diapers? Who will be cooking dinner during that time? If that mother has to spend precious hours doing laundry instead of cooking a meal, she'd have to spend more money on a less-wholesome meal that's pre-made, thus losing out on the savings, and possibly sacrificing nutrition in the process. And all that is assuming that the local laundromat won't kick her out for washing diapers in their machines -- as some have. Your article has some good, cost-saving ideas, but it's probably not a workable solution for the inner-city women in the CNN editorial you referenced.

    1. You sound very negative.i used osocozy flats and washed them wirh my high needs baby on my back with a mei tai.also, in the winter you could put the flats on the radiator.wash every two days in the tub w a plunger if your broke.or use your income taxes to get 24 sunbaby isnt that hard and i only spent $100 so far and shes already one.