(This is part 1 of a five-part series on cloth diapering.)
One question I remember being asked a lot when I was pregnant with Ezra was what diapers we would be using – disposable or cloth?
My answer was always that we would use disposables when Ezra was a newborn, then change to cloth. It satisfied both parties and if I’m anything, it’s a people pleaser.
Truthfully, I didn’t want to use cloth. The thought of additional work in the form of extra loads of laundry made me feel tired and plus um ew poop?
But then …. our stash of diapers we’d received as gifts from showers slowly dwindled and the real cost of diapers became a factor. Our parents helped us out sometimes with diapers and we really appreciated that but the nature of the beast with disposables is that, well, they’re disposable. You’re always running out of them. And diapers are not cheap. We switched from Pampers to Huggies to save a few bucks but we were still spending a lot of money on diapers and it was kind of painful. Especially considering it wasn’t a cost that would be disappearing any time soon.
If you consider the fact that you’re potentially using diapers until your child is 3 years old (and possibly a little longer depending on how night potty training goes) that’s a lot of diapers. Not to mention, every child is different in terms of how wet they can stand to be so that may mean more diaper changes and more diapers you’re having to buy.
We watched our diaper budget slowly creep up. Ezra has typically used 5 diapers/day since he was around 3 months old or so which means we were going through about 155 diapers per month, give or take. Yikes!! Even with buying diapers on Amazon.com we still found ourselves spending around $60 or so a month on diapers, and that does not include the cost of nighttime diapers which are sold in smaller quantities at a higher price. Daytime diapers alone would be costing us close to $2,200 over a spread of 3 years, but likely that number is slightly higher since we went through a greater quantity of newborn diapers and we also used Pampers at the time which is a costlier brand.
Anyway, the point is if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s repeatedly paying for something over time instead of doing a one time payment and being done with it.
For example, say you’re paying $10/month for a software service. That seems like a great deal because the software is really expensive – $300 – and you need to use it on a daily basis. *BUT!* If you consider how long you’d be using the software, let’s say 5 years, and multiply that by the subscription fee it turns out you’d be paying $600 for something that really only costs $300. Now you’ve overpaid by half and have nothing to show for it because you don’t even own a license to the software to begin with.
And that is how I eventually came to look at cloth diapers. Disposables were like a constant monthly subscription I was paying. If I could keep the cost of cloth diapers under my estimated total cost for disposables, I would be saving myself thousands of dollars over time – money that I could put into something else, like buying fictional software. I love saving money more than I hate doing laundry so, that was my main motivation for making the switch.
The one advantage disposables have over cloth (at least in terms of money) is that you don’t think you’re spending that much…and really that isn’t much of an advantage. The cost is spread out over such a long period of time you probably don’t realize how much you’re truly spending. It’s a lot like buying a house – you think you’re only paying $150,000 for it but really you pay more than double when you factor in interest and everything else.
I had to figure out a way to make our monthly diaper budget work to build up our cloth stash over time while still keeping costs down as we transitioned from disposable to full time cloth. We budgeted $65/month for diapering needs but I still needed a portion of that for a couple months to buy disposables. The reason? I didn’t really want to waste the water and soap washing 2 or 3 diapers, and I really didn’t want to add 2 or 3 dirty diapers to a load of clothing.
We started this switch when Ezra was 6 months old and my goal was to be using cloth full time by his first birthday – and we did reach that goal, while staying on a budget.
Here’s how we did it:
I first had to figure out just how many diapers I needed, so I knew how much money I’d likely be spending.
There are two factors to consider when planning out your Magic Diaper Stash Number. They are -
A – How many diapers does your child go through per day? (Just consider the day time because nighttime needs are usually different)
B – How often can you realistically wash your diapers? This number shouldn’t be any higher than every 3 days, because anything beyond that you risk stains setting in (not to mention stink factor).
Take the number from A and multiply it by 7 to get your weekly diaper requirement. For example, in our case Ezra goes through roughly 5 diapers a day which means I need 35 diapers per week. That’s a lot of diapers! But wait…. we aren’t done yet.
Next, subtract 7 from B. I wash every three days, so 7 – 3 = 4. Take 4 and multiply it by your daily diaper need, 4 times 5 = 20.
That means 20 is the Magic Diaper Number; it’s how many diapers you need in your stash to cover for the whole week, including wash days. The number will be higher the more you’re washing because you’ll have more diapers in and out of your stash to cover for wash days and to make sure you don’t wear your stash out faster.
A real life example with your magic diaper number of 20 would be -
Sunday, little Johnny uses 4 diapers which means you’ve got 16 clean diapers remaining. On Monday, he uses 5 diapers, leaving 11 clean diapers in your stash. Tuesday, he goes through 5 again so now you have 6 clean diapers. Wednesday is wash day (the third day) – you have 14 dirty diapers to wash. On Wednesday, Johnny ends up feeling ambitious and uses all 6 clean diapers, but that’s okay because when Thursday rolls around your 14 diapers you had in the wash are now fresh and clean and ready to go. You won’t be washing again until Sunday.
In our case, 20 was our magic number. But with the average diaper costing around $17.95, that meant we would be spending around $360 for our stash, not including tax and shipping. That’s a lot of money. Or is it?
Let’s take the really popular diaper, bumGenius 4.0. New, one of these diapers is $17.95. Let’s do some math to figure out the true cost of this diaper, though.
Assuming you will use this diaper about 2 times a week (depending on how often you’re washing diapers and how big your stash is) that means you’d be using it 104 times a year. That means the first year you use this diaper, it costs you $0.17 per use.
Totally ignoring the fact that there’s no way you could stretch a 104 count of disposable diapers over one year, if you compare the cost per diaper of a 104-count box of disposables to the cost of the single bumGenius 4.0, the bumGenius still wins. Amazon.com has a 104-count of Pampers Cruisers Ultra Diapers (size 5) for $43.19 which means the cost per diaper is $0.42. My one bumGenius 4.0 has blown that out of the water and, again, I’m not even considering the fact that (A) I couldn’t stretch that box of disposables over 1 year and (B) the larger the diaper size, the smaller the count becomes per box which means your cost increases.
Looking at it another way, Ezra’s rate of 5 diapers per day means that he would go through that box of Pampers Cruisers in approximately 21 days, or three weeks. So if I compare the cost of the bumGenius diaper for three weeks of use to the box of Pampers, the cost/use of the bumGenius is $2.99 (6 uses over three weeks time). That’s a lot better than spending $43.19.
This doesn’t even take into account the fact that I’ll be using that one diaper for a longer period of time than three weeks, or even one year. Likely, I’ll be using it for two and a half years (since we started cloth diapering at 6 months). The true cost of this one diaper is actually $0.07. How did I come up with that number?
2 uses per week (at 52 weeks per year) = 104 uses per year.
2 and a half years (130 weeks) of two uses per week = 260 uses
The cost of the diaper – $17.95 – divided over each use = $0.07 (rounding up)
Were I to add in extra detergent or water costs to my total I am still saving money. In our particular case, we saw a $5-8 increase in our water bill and I use coupons to buy detergent (and since the detergent I use is only for cloth diapers, I don’t go through it quickly at all). These costs have added pennies to the total per diaper which means it’s still cheaper to do cloth versus disposable.
Pretty unbelievable, huh?
So, if we’re on a budget of $65/month for diapering how did I grow our stash from nothing to 20 diapers over 6 months time?
It was difficult at first, but as the cloth diaper stash grew it became easier because I needed disposables less and less.
The one cloth diaper I’ve paid full price for, and it was totally worth it, Best Bottom “Fox Trot”
So how much did I actually spend on our stash?
I spent about $264 total on our diaper stash. Not bad at all, considering I was initially thinking it would be in the ballpark of $360. Not to mention, I met our goal of cloth diapering full time two months sooner than I anticipated, which means we have been cloth diapering on a regular basis since Ezra was 10 months old. I think I’ll give myself a pat on the back, *pat pat pat*.
Coming up next in this series on cloth diapers, I’m going to talk about -
My hope is that this post can help if you’re considering switching to cloth (or even if you’re starting your stash before your baby is born) – please let me know in the comments if you’re a fellow cloth diapering mama, or if you’re more into disposables (I don’t judge! ). Thanks for reading!
From my drafts – I originally wrote this back in October 2012
Every parent’s bane. Or every parent’s joy (when they have a “good sleeper”).
I’m not going to talk about whether Ezra is a good or bad sleeper because I don’t want anyone comparing their child to mine. I feel like sleep becomes this huge competitive issue among parents – there will be one mom who says “Well, my baby was sleeping through the night at 7 weeks old” and she just might be saying that because she is proud or excited…but, inevitably, the mom whose baby was not sleeping through the night at 7 weeks old will feel like she is being judged, or will look at her child and think “Why the heck aren’t you sleeping through the night?? You are 8 weeks old and should be doing that by now!!” It’s a slippery slope.
I fell into that trap, of comparing and stressing and pressuring myself and, to some extent, Ezra, into fitting into this mold of what I thought sleep should look like.
Sleep stopped being a battle when I stopped worrying.
I have heard and said so many times about so many things “let go” but I think, with this sleep thing, I actually learned what that means. I simply let go of all expectations I had on it. And by expectations I mean things I thought Ezra should be doing, or things I thought I should be doing. I accepted the fact that my baby has never read “Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child” or “The Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep” or any other sleep book, so he simply didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing (;) ). I accepted that some nights he will sleep 12 hours, other nights he will sleep 8 hours, other nights he will wake once, and some nights he will wake not at all. I accepted that, like anyone else, he will have an overall sleep pattern that is unique to him. I accepted his body knows what it’s doing to help him figure things out.
And, wouldn’t you know it… when I accepted those things and let go of trying to fit this sleep stuff into a pre-determined package, we all became well rested, because the stress was gone.
With all that said, I’m going to share 3 mistakes we made and 3 things we did “right,” but keep in mind “right” is a subjective term here and what is right for us may not be right for you.
3 Things We Should Have Done Differently
3 Things We Did “Right”