I won’t lie. When I was researching cloth diapers before I had my first child, I was taken aback by the cost. I knew it would cost more than a box of diapers, and after I figured out the costs of diapering over a lifetime, I accepted that though the initial outlay was higher than I wanted, I would save money in the long run compared to using disposable diapers.
I ended up using cloth diapers on four children and even after factoring my need to buy an additional 2 dozen prefolds, more diaper covers, and a new wet bag, it was STILL cheaper than had I just used disposable diapers the entire time.
If you want to try out cloth diapering, here are some ways you can lower your costs and still have a good cloth diapering experience.
1) Try prefolds and the Econobum line.
The Econobum full kit is very reasonable and as long as you don’t mind washing the diapers a little more often. It includes enough diapers for at least a day or two between washes (or until you can buy another 12 pack of prefolds or flats).
If you’re unsure about trying cloth diaper covers, check out Elemental Joy. It’s an economical line made by Cotton Babies, who also manufactures bumGenius, Flip and Econobum. Elemental Joy cloth diapers are pocket diapers and flats.
2) Don’t buy everything all at once.
Cotton Babies has a subscription club where you get a new cloth diaper once a month. If you’re starting with your newborn, you don’t need to get a diaper sprayer or liners until they start solids if you are breastfeeding. If you’re getting cloth diapers in different sizes, you can wait until your baby hits those sizes before purchasing.
Additionally, some things, you don’t necessarily need two of. For example, the pail liners and wet bags, you can get by just fine with only one of each. Two is convenient, but you can either build up to it, or learn to live with just one.
3) You don’t need everything.
This point builds on the previous one. For instance, you don’t necessarily need a special diaper pail. Any large garbage can will do. Bonus if it has a cover. All you have to do is line it with a pail liner and it works.
You also don’t need to buy the diaper pail disks. They’re handy – but you can always wait to see if your diaper pail really needs it. I have never used any and the smell never bothered me as long as our garbage can was covered (and my 3rd baby had pee that smelled like cat pee).
There’s no need for specific diaper bags (although they’re super cute and pretty). I had friends who used a sturdy backpack and it sufficed. It didn’t have an adorable pattern, but it held everything she needed to cloth diaper.
4) Buy used/second hand or borrow.
Cotton Babies has a fantastic program where you can buy used cloth diapers. There are several categories of used diapers available so you can choose the condition you prefer.
Also, you can borrow cloth diapers from friends or family who have babies at different life stages. I have lent out my cloth diapers when I was between babies and my friends have lent me their supplies to try out when I was just checking out cloth diapering.
If buying prefolds is a bit beyond your budget, check out this video produced by Cotton Babies on how to make a cloth diaper out of a t-shirt. You can also make your own cloth wipes and liners out of old t-shirts and blankets.
6) Choose items that will grow with your child.
There are cloth diapers and covers that can fit from newborns to larger toddlers. If you choose these types of diapers or covers, then they can usually last you through potty training.
These are just some of the ways I’ve been able cloth diaper for less. They lasted through 4 of my children in cloth diapers for two years each. I even lent them out to friends so we tried to get as much value out of our diapers as possible. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments.