I sat down to write out this information for a friend, and thought I’d turn it into a post! I have a few other posts in mind about cloth diapering, so I apologize for those of you who aren’t interested. :-) There is sooo much information out there, and it can get overwhelming when you start to research it!
So what do you do when you’d like to switch to cloth, but you don’t have much (or any) money to spend upfront? The good news is that it’s completely possible to switch to cloth diapers for less than $200. With the help of some fellow cloth-diapering moms, here is my advice for building your stash as inexpensively as possible!
First off, I highly recommend PinStripes and PolkaDots for all types of information. I am always using it to check out diaper creams and detergents.
Basically, the cheapest you can go is prefolds and covers. (Aside from, perhaps, making diapers yourself from material you already have.) Prefolds are just simple rectangles that you fold around the baby (here are directions of how to fold them), and then you use a cover over that. You can secure the prefold if you want by using diaper pins or what is called a Snappi diaper fastener. You can use one cover for several diaper changes before having to wash it. If the cover isn’t soiled, you just wipe it out and put a fresh prefold. I think in general, aim for a 3:1 ratio (prefolds:covers).
Covers are used to go over the prefold to contain all the wetness. You can get covers that are a specific size, and your baby will need different sizes as he/she grows. Or you can get what they call “one-size” covers. These covers have snaps that allow you to adjust the size of the covers, so that you can use the same one from birth until potty-training. One-size covers can be more expensive, but will ultimately save you money because you’ll have to buy fewer.
Also when it comes to covers you can choose between velcro (hook-and-loop) and snap fastening. I prefer the snap, because it doesn’t attach to everything in the washing machine. I know a lot of people prefer the more precise fit of the velcro closures.
I think cloth wipes are optional when cloth diapering. I personally only use them for wet diapers; I use commercial wipes for all poopy diapers. For wet diapers, I just spray a little wipes solution on her bottom and wipe with a piece of cloth. You can buy wipes solution or make your own. I’ve also heard a wipes warmer is useful, but I’ve never had one.
You’ll need a few other things when you start to cloth diaper. I already mentioned the Snappi or diaper pins, which is optional – I know people who love ’em and people who hate ’em. You’ll also want a pail liner to keep your dirty diapers. You can get by with one, but I do recommend having two (one for while the other is in the wash). A wet bag for the diaper bag is also useful, and I also highly recommend a diaper sprayer for the poopy diapers after the baby starts solids. Another optional thing is disposable liners – again, I know some who love them, but I’ve never used them. Lastly, cloth diapers require a bit more attention to the detergent and diaper rash cream you use. You’ll want to make sure that they are compatible with cloth. A great detailed list of which brands are safe and which ones aren’t is on PinStripes and PolkaDots. It’s not expensive to get these products, but you might have to order them online depending on what is available at stores locally. (Whole Foods, for example, carries Charlie’s Soap, which is a popular detergent.)
Where to Buy
Cloth diapers are hard to find in retail stores, so going online is probably your best bet. Here are the three retailers I’ve used and recommend:
If you are okay with secondhand diapers, then diaperswappers.com is a good resource. You can also look at sites like Craigslist – some parts of the country have a better selection than others, I’m sure.
So how much exactly does cost to buy cloth diapers? If your baby is a bit older, you could probably get away with 12 diapers. If you have a newborn who is eating/pooping a ton still, then they say 18 is a good number (I never had more than 16). I polled several friends to see what diaper cover brands were good, and here is what they said. You’ll have to decide for yourself how much you want to spend and weigh against the reviews. Check Diaper Pin for reviews, as well as the diaper retailers above.
- Econobum (one-size, very inexpensive, but also not as good quality)
- Thirsties Cover and Thirsties Duo (Duo comes in 2 sizes that each snap smaller & larger)
- Bummis Super Whisper Wrap (small-medium-large, adorable prints)
- Flip Diaper (one-size, hybrid diaper, which means you can use a disposable insert if you want)
Prefolds come in different sizes, because the size for a newborn baby is going to be smaller than a toddler. The best deal I found was at Cotton Babies, where prefolds ran from $1/each (preemie size) to $2/each (large size). I personally like the Indian prefolds, which are softer, but from what I’ve read Chinese prefolds last longer.
For the covers, I priced them from the three sites I mentioned above. The Flip Diapers have inserts that come with them, but can also be used with prefolds. You can get an Econobum for $9.95, which includes the cover and the insert. The best prices for the Thirsties Cover and Thirsties Duo Cover are at Diaper Junction, for $11.00 and $12.25 (respectively). You can pick up a pretty print of a Bummis Super Whisper Wrap for $12.50 at Diaper Junction or Kelly’s Closet. The Flip diaper can be found at all three retailers for $13.95 (cover only).
Snappis are $3.95 each, though if you are buying more than one I think they have packages that are cheaper. A wet bag will be about $8, and a pail liner about $16. The diaper sprayer is about $45. You can get a breakdown of cloth-diaper-safe detergents and their cost per load here, which should help you figure out the total detergent costs.
The numbers I gave earlier are for getting each diaper individually. You can also save money by getting a package, usually offered by the individual retailer. It doesn’t hurt to check them out. Some of the packages also include other accessories, like the pail liner. I know I got both wetbags that I have free by buying the packages.
Some deals to note… Cotton Babies has a “Try It” kit for people interested in prefolds but not sure if they want to commit. For $35, you get 2 Bummis Super Whisper Wraps, 6 prefolds, and one Snappi. Diaper Junction has a Cotton Prefold Package starting at $77.50 that includes 4 Bummis Super Whisper Wraps and 24 prefolds.
Hopefully this all makes sense! You could easily switch completely to cloth for under $200, in my opinion. There is a lot more to cloth than just prefolds, but that definitely is the cheapest. In the near future I’ll write a post about other types of diapers, including my favorites, the all-in-ones!