Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Time For a Change

I mentioned in my last post that our son is approaching his first birthday.  Lately I've found myself reflecting on the last year and the changes we've seen in our life.  I've already talked about the adaptations we're making, but there are some things that we got used to right away.

One of those things is the use of cloth diapers.  Anybody who has spoken to my wife or visited her blog knows that we have been using cloth diapers exclusively since my son was six weeks old.  I can honestly say that this one of the best decisions we've made in the past year.  In the interest of full disclosure, it was my wife's decision, but since it turned out so well I've decided to take partial credit.  I figure I'm allowed since I've changed the majority of those diapers in the months since then.

My wife is the cloth diapering advocate in our family, I'm the guy who is just along for the ride.  But there might be some dads out there who haven't managed to weasel their way out of this decision, so I'll relate my experience with cloth diapers.  For what it's worth, after trying cloth, I can't imagine going back to disposables.

The one thing that turns most people off about using cloth diapers is the initial cost.  We ended up purchasing our initial set of 24 diapers for $320.  We purchased the necessary accessories for another $60.  That included a diaper pail (normal kitchen garbage pail with pedal activated lid), two washable waterproof diaper pail liners (buying just one makes laundry day tough), a set of 24 flannel baby wipes and an electric wipe warmer.

The diapers we purchased were Fuzzibunz one-size diapers.  "One-size" means that there are adjustable elastic straps around the legs and rear of the diaper.  By adjusting those straps as well as making use of the options for snapping the diaper closed, the single diaper can fit any baby from a newborn to a toddler.  The other option is "sized" which offers a more customized fit but will need to be replaced when the baby outgrows it.

Our diapers are called "pocket diapers".  This means that there are two layers in the diaper: the waterproof outer layer that blocks leaks and the soft absorbent layer that sits against the baby's skin.  Between these two layers is an insert made from some absorbent fabric to absorb the liquid waste (pee).  I could go into the other options for diaper style, but I don't want to fill up the internet.

We also purchased six hemp inserts.  These weren't completely necessary but they have been very useful, especially for overnight.  Hemp can absorb much more than the micro-terry cloth inserts that came with the diaper, but it takes longer to absorb the liquid.  We've eliminated overnight leaks by putting a hemp insert in behind the micro-terry, which allows the cloth to pull the liquid away from baby's skin immediately, allowing the hemp ample time to absorb all the liquid.  The 6 hemp inserts cost us an additional $25.

So the total bill for the diapers and accessories has come in under $500.  But there are upkeep costs as well.  Cloth diapers are made to be washed in any standard washing machine, but they require a special kind of detergent.  Using "normal" detergents on cloth diapers will significantly decrease their absorbency as well as increase the chance for a chemical rash on your baby.  The forerunner among cloth diaper specialty detergents is Rockin Green.  Comparatively speaking, it come to about $0.30 per load, half that for an HE washer.  A big bottle of Tide still runs about $0.25 per load, so the nickel difference takes a long time to add up.  Our cloth diapering accounts for an extra three loads of laundry per week, which we take care of overnight.  Our cloth diapering will cost us an additional $100 per year in extra laundry loads (water/gas) and extra detergent costs.  You're going to have to trust my numbers here, but know that I did an hour's worth of math to write the previous sentence.

The bottom line is that the total cost of cloth diapering our kid comes to somewhere between $700-800 depending on how long it takes him to potty train.  Disposables cost between $1600-$2300 over the same period of time.  For me, the money saved is the paramount pro-cloth diapering argument.  The environmental slant is great, but it's really just a side effect of responsible spending.  And another thing, when the Monkey is potty trained, I'll still have the diapers for baby #3 (coming this October).  And when I'm completely done producing offspring, I anticipate I'll be able to recoup about $100-200 by selling all our stuff.

The only other arguments against cloth I've ever heard are "not enough time" and "poo-phobia".  As far as time goes the fact is that laundry is a passive activity.  A person will spend more time on a single shower shower than all the active time it takes to bring a load of diapers from dirty and wet to clean and dry.

And if you can't deal with the fluids then you should have bought a plant.


  1. Love it! It's great seeing dads out there supporting cloth diapers! My guy even tells his buddies how "cool" they are! He tries to get everybody to use cloth now. I think it's really cute :)

  2. I just wanted to give you all an update. Chunky Monkey has potty trained and has been out of his diapers for more than 4 months. We sold his full stash of diapers for $240! So, our total cost of using cloth diapers on just him for almost 3 years (after the sale) was about $400....including utility and detergent costs. Peanut is still in diapers, but we bought all of her diapers second hand, so her cost after 2 years will be about $200. $600 total in 4 years worth of diapering 2 kids....you just can't beat that math! ;)

  3. Wow! I love this post and the above update! We cloth diaper as well and I honestly don't know how other people don't based on finances alone (though I think for a lot of people they aren't aware of the huge savings.) Loved this blog post and the family ownership you have taken in this!