Diaper Math

I know there were a few people curious about how I enjoyed using the cloth diapers. They are the most awesome things in the entire universe!!! Ok, in the end they are just receptacles for my baby’s bodily waste and all of the yuck that goes with it. But I did just receive my order for one dozen regular size Chinese pre-folds and 4 more medium diaper covers. The cloth diapers must be working out well enough for me to invest another $80 into them. That brings my total up to about $200 for 2 dozen small Chinese pre-folds, 1 dozen regular, and 10 diaper covers (which are the bulk of the expense), some cloth wipes, and a diaper pail. (I also received a starter of 1 dozen regular and two covers from my dear friend, Kelly.)

On days when we’re not really going anywhere I usually start the baby in cloth around 8:00 in the morning and switch her back to disposable about 8:00 at night. In that time we usually go through about six to eight diapers. I end up washing a load about every three to four days, unless I go through all my diaper covers faster. We haven’t really had any major leakage problems, no more than with disposables really.

It does take a little more forethought to use the cloth. For instance, I just keep the disposables in a little holder next to my changing table, but my cloth diapers and covers are hanging up in the kitchen on my laundry room door. So I have to get a diaper and cover and actually put the diaper in the cover. Then afterwards, I have to move the baby from the changing table to the bouncer so I can put the soiled diaper in the pail, hang up the cover to dry, and wash my hands, whereas with disposable you can fold them up and use your free hand to dump it in the appropriate garbage pail. But it’s not too bad once you get in a rhythm.

I did try my larger sized freebies on my DD#2 before the baby came (and just before she outgrew them), so I learned a few of the ins and outs of handling them. I’ve learned a few other things since then, like the importance of closing the velcro tabs before throwing the diaper covers in the diaper pail. And after washing a few of the Viva paper towels that I use as diaper wipes in the washing machine, I decided to start using cloth wipes with the cloth diapers. Apparently this is a common newbie mistake. I bought a few cheap baby wash cloths at Target, but I also just ordered some nicer ones with my diaper order.

So is it going to be worth the cost I’ve paid? Well, I decided to do a little diaper math. (But please excuse any errors because I still contend that high school Calculus class ruined my basic math skills and I didn’t even get an A to make up for the loss.)  Since you should change a baby at least every two hours during the first year whether they are in cloth or disposable that’s roughly 12 diapers a day (84 per week).  I estimate that I use a minimum of 30 cloth diapers instead of disposable in a week. Some weeks I may use more depending on our schedule. The approximate cost of disposables is 26 cents per diaper, so I figure that saves about $7.80 a week. I’ve been using cloth for about four weeks now, so I’ve saved a minimum of $31.20 so far.

Now let’s look at this more long term. If I use a minimum of 30 cloth diapers a week, instead of disposables, for the first year I should save $405.60. If you deduct the approximate $200.00 for supplies, that still leaves a savings of $205.60 for the first year. Usually, by the second year disposable diaper consumption goes down from about twelve to eight as baby switches from breastmilk to solid food and starts sleeping longer at night, but from what I understand it is still important to change cloth about every two hours. So I’m going to estimate that two cloth diaper changes equals one disposable diaper change. If I continue changing a minimum of 30 cloth diapers a week that should save about 15 disposable. That’s a savings of $3.90 per week or $202.80 for the year.

A savings of $200 per year may not seem like much, but every little bit helps. And if I use cloth for more than 30 diaper changes a week, it saves even more money. For instance, if I were willing to use cloth except at night every day of the week (42 diaper changes), I would save $367.84 in the first year and $283.92 in the second. And if I had another baby and used cloth for 30 changes a week, I would save the full $405.60.

For some people, the amount of savings wouldn’t seem worth the “hassle”. And I didn’t calculate the cost of an extra load of water, electricity, gas, and wear and tear on the washer and dryer, but something tells me that it is not very significant. I do like the idea that it is not taking any longer for my disposable diaper pail to fill up than it did before the new baby came, and as much waste isn’t going to a landfill. So I think I’ve hit a middle road between cloth and disposable that fits my budget, my conscience, and my lifestyle…just like I thought I might when I did my junior high science project. I just wish I hadn’t waited until my third and probably last baby to take the plunge.

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One Comment on “Diaper Math”

  1. Kelly Says:

    I wondered how that was working out, so I’m glad to hear a positive update. There is definitely a saving increase as you use them with more children. The diapers don’t last forever, but I’ve only bought an additional dozen diapers and two covers for each new child.

    I think I also felt obligated to use the cloth ALL the time with my first, to justify the start-up costs, while with my other two, I use paper more for flimsier reasons. You know, expecting a really messy diaper that I don’t want to clean up, not feeling well, behind on the laundry, that sort of thing. I even cloth diapered at night with my first, but my second was a heavy night wetter, so I switched to a paper diaper at night, and didn’t go back with my third.

    I always use mostly cloth, though, because I love how they feel on the baby (my toddlers have had a definite preference for the cloth), and I like the saving on the diaper bill.

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