Diapers are expensive… come to think of it, babies are expensive. And that poses a problem to a cheapskate like myself. The potential savings were what initially grew me to cloth. The more I researched it, I was even more drawn in by the idea of doing something environmentally friendly.
When we bought our land, which was a foreclosure, the lot was ridden with garbage. Most of it was decayed household items inside torn trash bags. But I will never forget the diapers. Used diapers, still completely intact without a lot of visible wear, triple their original size and oozing some nasty green liquid. Let’s be honest for a moment, it immediately made me think back to an article I read as a child in Time for Kids on the decomposition of a corpse… you know, when it gets all bloated and oozy. Yeah, I don’t know why they decided that would be appropriate reading material for a 5th grader either. Nevertheless, it had an impact. I didn’t want to contribute to that kind of waste clogging up a landfill somewhere.
When I first started, I spent about $150-200 on my stash. Remember from above that I’m a cheapskate. I was okay with buying gently used items, so I scored some amazing deals from a local cloth diaper group and on Ebay. I had 50+ items, and it was all I needed to diaper my son until he was potty trained, just a little past his second birthday. Compare that with the $1,500 average cost of disposables from 0-2 years of age. Granted, you also have to factor in the price of detergent and any water and electric prices you’ll use on laundry, but I feel those numbers are pretty insignificant when it comes to overall savings. And of course, my stash still had resale value after I was done using them.
Fostering and Cloth
I’ve never see any rules against using cloth diapers on foster babies. I know some parents who use the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach when it comes to cloth, and others who have been up front about it to find their case worker totally on board. I’ve never come across someone who was told they couldn’t do it. I like to play it safe so my motto is “when in doubt, ask!” I would, however, be sure to use disposables on visits. You don’t need to force what you’re doing at home onto those poor parents who haven’t the fainest idea how cloth diapers work.
Recommendations on Brands and Types
Prefolds and Covers
Here’s the fun part: talking about brands and types of diapers. The cheapest, and my personal favorite, would be flats and prefolds (Click on images for links).
Flats are a giant, square piece of cloth. They’re like a very large dish towel (in fact, I’ve heard of people buying dish towels to save a buck). They’re probably the least expensive option out there, and they get the job done. Prefolds are the second least costly of the diapers. Prefolds have more than one ply, so they’re thicker. My favorites are the ones with a thicker padding in the middle. With both options, you fold them into the shape you want, typically secure it with a Snappi, and then put a cover over it.
Below is the Snappi. Back in your grandparents’ day, they had the safety pin to keep it all together. Someone came up with an idea on how to secure the diaper without sticking yourself or the baby in the process. That solution is the Snappi. It grips to the side of the prefold holding it in place. You don’t technically need it (the cover will keep the diaper in place), but it makes things easier.
Covers are the waterproof layer on your diaper. If you didn’t have a cover, it’d be the equivalent of wearing a t-shirt as a diaper and expecting that to contain the liquid. You need a cover. My requirements in a cover are snaps and leg gussets. Velcro on diapers gets worn out quickly, whereas snaps will last a lifetime. The snaps on the front of the diaper above allow you to adjust the size to make it smaller (that’s how the one size works). And leg gussets keep it from leaking. I tend to prefer liner, prefold, and cover with leg gussets overnight. Without the extra elastic around the legs, I usually have diapers leaking overnight.
I enjoy fitted diapers for the ease. They are the all in one diaper and come in one piece. You don’t have to mess with a liner, and they’re the most like disposables. There’s no prep in getting them ready, and they work well for a wiggly baby. When you use prefolds and covers, you gain experience maneuvering a baby on the changing table and could probably hold your weight wrestling alligators. The fitted diaper (or all in one diaper) comes in handy for those of us with alligator babies who can’t even with diaper changes.
Pocket Diapers have a removable liner. They’re also very easy and you can double up on liners or switch the liners out for daytime or nighttime use. BumGenius is the most well known brand, and I have to admit they do make a good diaper. My husband liked them best, so our BumGenius are well loved over here. The only drawback is the price, but I suppose this could be an example of “you get what you pay for.” As always though, I would stick to snaps instead of velcro.
Here are some other examples of tried and true pocket diapers we loved:
When I first built my stash, I wanted to go the economical route and buy only one size diapers. One size are great. They’re worth it. They also don’t fit newborns. If I had to do it all over again, I’d definitely invest in a dozen newborn diapers. The best I had were 10 Yucky Duck size small diapers that fit after a month or so. I’ve looked for the brand since and haven’t been able to find it, but in all honesty, the reason I probably loved them so much was because I got them for a dollar a piece (what a steal!). Babies go through a lot of diapers, so I would probably get something on the cheaper side like the brand Alva.
You can use disposable wipes, but I don’t like having to separate disposable wipes that go in the trash from cloth diapers that go in a separate bin, and if I’m already doing wash, I might as well use cloth wipes too! You can buy expensive cloth wipes specifically for cloth diapers, but I found baby wash cloths to be just as easy and just as absorbent. I either use baby wash cloths or cut and hemmed receiving blankets. Both options are very inexpensive as there’s always someone looking to unload a bunch of receiving blankets and wash cloths at garage sales.
I keep a spray bottle with water on my changing table. When I need to use a wipe, I’ll dampen it with the spray bottle and I’m set to go. Some people mix a solution and keep their cloth wipes in a wipe container. I’m all about the least amount of work possible, so the spray bottle with plain water is my go to. You also run a risk of the wipes getting gross and mildew-y sitting in solution if you don’t use them quickly enough.
Being a foster parent (or just a regular parent) gets expensive. If you can save yourself any money at all, do it! Cloth diapering has been so worth it, and let’s be honest. Cloth diapers nowadays are pretty darn adorable. I’d recommend trying a few different kinds to find what you like.
Check out Part 2 here!