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Cloth Diapering & the Older Baby

Sep03

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Hi Amy,
I read with great interest all your posts on cloth diapering. I ponder the benefits of FuzziBunz vs. BumGenius. I wonder at the mysteries of “rice-paper liners” and “prefolds” and “sprayers that attach to the toilet.” I stare in complete envy at the cuteness that is coordinating diaper covers, sans irritating commercial characters. Yet … we’re still using disposables. Which bugs the (ha-ha) crap out of me, because, hi! Horrible for the environment! So why have I not switched? Well, a combination of several factors, including hearing many, many times from my mother how laborious and icky cloth diapers are. Also, my son will be 2 in September, so how much longer will I actually be using diapers? Will there be a cost savings, given the initial investment in cloth diapers? And how does one convince one’s husband that it won’t be Beyond Disgusting Oh My Sweet Lord Why Are You Even Suggesting This Pod Person Who Has Taken Over My Wife?

Of course, there’s an extra for the equation of investment vs. savings: How much longer our son will be in diapers = Total Unknown. He has Down syndrome, and because kids with Down syndrome are like kids without Down syndrome in that no two of them are alike nor do any two of them do the same thing at the same time, we have no benchmark on when he might be potty trained. I know parents whose sons have been completely potty trained by 2.5 or 3, and I know parents whose child is still wearing diapers at 6 or 7. So, I might not be using diapers of any kind a year from now, or I might be facing diapers for the next (nonononononononononoooooooo) three or four years.
Advice, Oh Wise One? Thoughts? Secret insights?
In Eternal Gratitude,
Laura

smackdown_clothdiaper.jpgHmm. This is indeed a tough one. You can go ahead and disregard pretty much every terrifying word out of your mother’s mouth, because today’s cloth diapers are NOTHING like yesterday’s cloth diapers. These ain’t your mother’s diapers, at all. My mother was astounded when she saw our cloth diapers. So was my mother-in-law, my aunt-in-law — pretty much everyone who used old-skool cloth diapers is shocked at how much better they are now. Easy, cute, non-disgusting, etc. I don’t know how else to articulate that cloth diapers are just not that big of a deal, labor-wise or grossness-wise. Here, I’ll say it one last time and be done: I am LAZY. I hate LAUNDRY. I am not ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. And I cloth diaper and IT’S JUST NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL.
My husband, on the other hand, was sold on cloth primarily for the cost-savings. Now he’s genuinely sold on them as a general concept. (He’s so anti-disposable now that he was annoyed that I bought the Huggies swim diapers instead of ordering cloth ones. I was like, duuuuude, givemeabreak.) But the money thing probably remains his biggest check in the “pro” column.
So…would they still be worth the up-front investment for you, at a later stage in the diaper game? That is indeed debatable. If you think you’re going to have another child, then giddy up, for sure. If not, let’s wiggle through some numbers.
smackdown_fuzzibunz.jpgMost cloth diaper sites recommend 12 to 16 diapers for a toddler, assuming you wash them every other day. Your cost would depend completely on your style of diaper. A package of 12 all-in-one pocket-style Fuzzi Bunz diapers will cost you around $200. A dozen fitted Kissaluvs is $143 (but you’ll need to purchase covers). A complete prefold system like Bummis will cost you less — $136 for 18 diapers (though I’m guessing you’d want additional and/or cuter covers). (Since your son is older and bigger, I’d opt for sized or fitted diapers rather than the one-size-fits-all kind, unless you plan to have another baby. They’re a bit cheaper and will likely fit him better.) (Though that’s potentially another con for cloth — they tend to max out around 35 pounds. If your son is a late trainer, you might end up BACK in disposables at some point anyway.) And then there’s the cost of all that laundry, which really varies, depending on the energy ratings and efficiency of your washer and the cost of water and electricity in your area.
So…you can buy a super-sized case (160 diapers) of Pampers Cruisers for around $42 online, plus shipping. The Fuzzi Bunz will pay for themselves after four boxes, the prefolds after three. So…it would depend on how quickly you go through 160 disposables and whether you actually buy economy-sized boxes of diapers or smaller, more-expensive-per-diaper packages (this was our problem — we were generally grabbing them at Target or the grocery store in smaller quantities, and not at a place like Costco.) Now, while 160 diapers SOUNDS like a lot, but I was always kind of shocked at Diaper Math. At five or six diapers a day, those 160 diapers will last about a month, tops.
The potty-training question…well, you know. You could poll every parent in the world and still have absolutely no idea how and when that will happen for your son. Noah was mostly out of daytime diapers by two and a half, but we still needed some kind of diaper for another year. Naps, nighttime, pooping…these were all additional legs in our potty training process. Disposable training pants are stupidly expensive, and we found that cloth diapers worked just fine for training. Some kids, of course, skip training pants altogether, or fully train in a week. And some kids need nighttime diapers until five or six. I HAVE NO WISDOM FOR YOU HERE.
So. I’d sit down and do some math — how many diapers, on average, you actually go through. How long a package of diapers lasts, how much it costs, and how many packages you’ll go through in a year. (I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you will be using diapers for another year, at least, though perhaps not full-time.) Then divide that price by the cost of a cloth diaper package, or individual diapers that you plan to try, or even a weekly diapering service. If the price difference isn’t clear cut enough, visualize that years’ worth of disposables sitting in a nearby landfill and gauge your gut feeling about it — horrified? Or just kind of…meh?
(Intrepid Commenters: Any other late converts to cloth out there care to chime in with some tips or advice? Anybody have experience with the used diaper market? Buying or selling? Would you recommend that option to someone looking to save money and/or get some of her initial investment back? And just how…uh…used are we talking about here? Heh.)
More Cloth Diaper Articles:
1) Cloth Diapering 101, Part One (aka Lazy Mom’s Guide to Cloth Diapering)
2) Cloth Diapering 101, Part Two
3) Cloth Diapering 101, Part Three
4) The Straight Poop on Cloth Diapers (aka dealing with poop)
* Photo of cloth diapers on clothing line by mhofstrand


smackdown_fuzzibunz.jpg

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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17 Responses to “Cloth Diapering & the Older Baby”

  1. Heather Sep 03 at 2:29 pm Reply Reply

    I bought used diapers for my son from a couple different sites but mostly from the ‘for sale or trade’ section at diaperswappers.com: http://www.diaperswappers.com/forum/
    I used mostly Fuzzibunz and was able to get diapers in great condition for 1/2 to 2/3 of the price of new. The petite toddler size lasted my son from just-turned-two until he potty trained at three-and-a-half, when he was 31 pounds and 37 inches tall. He still had a couple snaps left.
    Buying used was no big deal to me, I just ran them through the wash a couple times when I got them. And in general, I didn’t find using cloth diapers to be gross. We have a diaper sprayer for getting poop off the diaper into the toilet and it worked really really well.

  2. Marianne Sep 03 at 2:54 pm Reply Reply

    I recommend the Diaper Swappers website, or look and see if you have any local moms forums with a CD selling/swapping network. Here in Knoxville we also have a great store (cutietooties.com) that offers consignment. She also puts together Cloth Diaper test packages, you can “rent” several different styles and brands to try them out.

  3. Joceline Sep 03 at 2:59 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve been cloth diapering both of my kids since they were born, but now that I have an almost two year old, I’d say you should go for it. Since you probably don’t need that many diapers (of course, ever kid is different, but I’m assuming your son doesn’t use nearly as many diapers as a newborn), and there’s a chance you’ll only have to buy him one size before he potty trains, the cash outlay isn’t that much. Like Amy said, many diapers cap off at 35 pounds, but there are brands that make XL diapers, or you could even have them custom made at that point, if necessary.
    Even if you don’t have a second child, you can resell the diapers for a decent amount of money. You won’t be getting back what you paid for them, but maybe 50% depending on how worn they are. If you line dry out in the sun, you’ll naturally bleach out stains and save wear and tear on the elastic and closures.
    If I were just starting to cloth diaper my son right now, I’d probably start with buying a dozen sized pocket diapers, a couple dozen cloth wipes, a pail, liner, a travel wetbag, and a diaper sprayer. You can always add more diapers if necessary. Good luck if you decide to do it!

  4. camille Sep 03 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    The nice thing about cloth diapers like fuzzibunz is that they are quickly snapped up on the used market (sounds gross, but not). I’ve been looking on craigslist to augment the 18 fuzzibunz diapers we have for our 6 month old (I’m lazy and hate laundry too…need more diapers!), and the rare fuzzibunz posting that comes up is gone almost immediately (sadly, I’ve been too slow so far). If you found that your little one trains soon (fingers crossed!) and you’re not planning on any more children you can just sell them on craigslist…from what I’ve seen for at least half of what a new diaper is. Also good news if your son is in diapers longer and you need to go up a size (large and extralarge fuzzibunz fit children 45lbs+).

  5. krista Sep 03 at 3:20 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t want to discourage cloth diaper use, because I loved them while I used them, BUT — I had to stop using them when my daughter was about 2.5, right about the time she started to be kind of interested in potty-training (although she wasn’t fully trained until 3.5, and wore a pull-up to bed until she was 6.). The reason — toddler pee (or at least my toddler’s pee) is just way more pungent than infant pee, and my daughter was only wetting maybe 2 diapers a day (including her nighttime diaper), which meant my choices were either wash a tiny load of diapers every day (not worth it), or let the diapers sit around and get horribly horribly stinky until there was a load worth washing. I guess you could get around this if you tend to do a load of laundry every day anyway, by just adding the wet dipe to whatever you’re washing, but that wouldn’t work, either, if you have a special diaper-washing routine or if, like me, you WOH and tend to do all your laundry on the weekends anyway.

  6. camille Sep 03 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    I’m a lameass and didn’t read to the end…we actually bought our daughter’s first diapers on craigslist. We started with prefolds, and then switched to fuzzibunz when she got to the MOVING! ALWAYS! phase and we needed to diaper FAST. They were in great shape…seemingly not even used as there were no stains or anything. I’m sure like everything on craigslist you’re likely to find diapers that have already been through three kids and look it. However, like I said, if you bought new and didn’t need them very long there is a market for used.

  7. HereWeGoAJen Sep 03 at 4:32 pm Reply Reply

    I started with cloth at about six weeks old, but I can tell you that we’ve already paid off our stash by using them for these eight months. We’ve got the one size BumGenius diapers, but I’ve seen some that are intended for larger children. (And since my nine month old is already 23 pounds, I’ve looked at bigger ones!) I also know that there are a lot of cloth diapers for sale on Etsy and many of them will make to order, should you later need larger sizes than are commercially available.

  8. eva Sep 03 at 5:18 pm Reply Reply

    We started out cloth diapering with a stash of assorted cloth diapers that I bought from craigslist. They were not stained, and I bought from 3 different people, one of whom had received a bunch of fuzzi bunz and never used them, so those were actually brand new, but I only had to pay $12 a diaper for them. The prefolds and bummi covers were all in perfect condition, just that the prefolds and some of the fitteds I got were a bit pilled. My newborn didn’t care!
    And if I were to sell my 18 month old bum genius stash of 20 diapers now? They are in fantastic condition, just that the velcro laundry tabs don’t really work any more, so I have to un-velcro them when they come out of the dryer. I’d buy them used though! No stains at all!

  9. Dana Sep 03 at 11:55 pm Reply Reply

    My cautionary tale: used mostly Fuzzi Bunz with first kid and really loved them until he got older, maybe 18-24 months or so, when a single pee would swamp the diaper and cause leaking. Putting extra absorbancy in diaper made it too bulky to fit under his clothes. I tried hemp, prefolds, various combinations of things and gave up around age 2.
    I put twins in Fuzzi Bunz until they were about 1 year old. At that point, I had 3 kids in diapers, all of whom fought back during diaper changes, and the twins only needed half as many changes if they were in disposables. I just couldn’t take it any more. Now the oldest is potty trained and the twins are in disposables.
    For me, never about the icky or the laundry (even with twins, I mean there’s so much laundry anyway what’s an extra load every other day?), but as they got older, I just couldn’t stand to change so many diapers so often, or that many wet clothes if I didn’t quite change often enough.
    So if you’re considering for a two year old, I’d just buy one or two diapers and see if they can withstand your kid’s output before you get a whole stash.

  10. EdenSky Sep 05 at 8:30 pm Reply Reply

    I’m currently cloth diapering a 30lb, 26 month old and I would recommend buying used from diaper swappers or kijiji. Also keep in mind that if you choose to buy new you can probably get a good portion of your money back by selling your daipers when you’re done with them, especially if your child does potty train soon and the diapers are still in great shape.
    I’d also check out discount sites like http://www.clothdiaperclearance.com for some great deals on new diapers (discontinued colours or styles or tiny flaws that don’t affect the function of the dipes)
    Most of the one-size diapers do start to fall short around this point, but there are plenty of sized diapers that go up to 45+lbs and you really don’t need a one size at this point anyway since the fast growth infant stage is over.
    You’ll need something super heavy duty for overnights. I recommend MotherEase, they have awesome products that go right up to bedwetter pants for school age children.

  11. Emily Sep 06 at 10:07 am Reply Reply

    I’ve got two kids in cloth, my daughter (5 months old) from birth and my son (just turned 3) we converted about 4 1/2 months ago (I decided quickly that one kid in cloth and one in disposables was teh suck). I have bought exactly no diapers new–I got my toddler a stash of pockets from diaperswappers.com, in really like-new condition (no stains, velcro/elastic in great shape, etc.) for about $90. He’s mostly potty trained now, but the cloth has been more than worth it. MORE THAN WORTH IT OMG.
    Used diapers aren’t scary. I’ve bought and sold a ton of them and it’s a great way to try things out/save even more money/recoup some of your investment when you’re done. :)

  12. Erin Sep 07 at 9:32 am Reply Reply

    I just started to cloth diaper my one year old son. I made a spreadsheet of my yearly diaper costs- and with the cloth diapers that I wanted to buy it actually came out only about $200 south of even. So we’ll save maybe two-hundred dollars this year, if I can stop buying covers.
    But it’s still worth it to me for these reasons: I can and will use them for another child. I am helping the whole gross dirty landfill situation. MY KID’S ROOM SMELLS SO MUCH BETTER.
    I bought Dream eze AOI’s and BumGenius Fitted (bamboo) with Thirsties Duo Wrap covers. I got them all from http://www.momsmilkboutique.com/ which offers bulk pricing and FREE SHIPPING!!!!
    The thing to remember with an older kid is to just CHOOSE something. Do a little research (Diaperpin.com has really good reviews, although I swear to Bob that everyone’s child is a “heavy wetter”) and then buy like…6 of them. If you like them, buy more. Commit. You will waste money and time trying out different systems. I got really lucky just spending a couple of days reading reviews and talking to people that I know who cloth diaper. I prefer fitted diapers, and have a few AIO’s because they are easier on the go.
    Also, unless your kid ALWAYS lays perfectly still for diapering, skip the prefolds altogether. I bought a few, and now only use them as my EMERGENCY I’M OUT OF DIAPERS diapers and even then, they don’t even fit around him and I have to just stuff a cover with them and then cross my fingers. I will definitely use prefolds on my next baby, but by then I’ll have a little one who will be a little more compliant while I learn the ins and outs.
    So yes, it’ll be worth it. Especially if you plan to have another baby. If not, read up and take really good care of them and you can resell them online. It’s true.

  13. Laura Sep 08 at 12:23 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone! I’ve not actually done the whole spreadsheet o’ costs (as Amalah says, meh – lazy) but you’ve convinced me to do so. (We currently buy the 200-size box at Sam’s for $40 per; that much I do know.)
    I never realized there were so many variables to this. For what it’s worth, my son is on the smaller side (23 pounds or so at one week shy of 2 years), which is to be expected. He’s walking and never, ever lies still for a change. One hand must be on his abdomen at all times or he’s flipping over.
    Also, I work outside the home, so he’s in daycare during the day. So would need plenty to keep them stocked, too. Good thing I don’t fear laundry – it’s remembering to go downstairs and move it from washer to dryer that gets me…
    Off to Craigslist now. ;) Again, THANK YOU EVERYONE!
    Laura

  14. kakaty Sep 08 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    I did cloth up until about 2 years when I gave up and went to all disposables since in my state, there are laws AGANIST daycares using cloth. When she wasn’t in them during the day and only used 1-2 cloths a day I started getting really lazy on the laundry and it became too much of a hassle. That said – I’m a huge advocate of cloth and will cloth diaper another child. I used Fuzzi Bunz and got all my smalls new then the med size I got used – no issues with that, you just have to be quick because they sell fast. I saved about 35% by going used. I have also loaned out my smalls to other parents looking into the cloth game.

  15. Jesse Sep 08 at 9:17 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks so much for all this info Amalah & commenters & for all the cloth diapering articles, but… I am still so confused!
    After looking at tons of different systems, brands, liners, stuffies, etc etc argggggghh!! I just don’t know what to go with, although I’m leaning at this point towards pre-folds with covers.
    What is the difference between ‘fitted’ and ‘prefold’ – that the former have built-in-fasteners?? Anything else? How are prefolds with covers different from ‘my mother’s diapers’? It seems people are still using pins and/or snappis (why does everything to do w/ cloth diapering have such a silly name??), or just laying out the prefold and using a fitted cover to keep it in place. Does this work? I am drawn to the prefolds because they seems simplest, and the least like a giant consumer product (i.e. more versatile, easy to mix-n-match, etc). Any thoughts?

  16. Anonymous Sep 10 at 12:14 pm Reply Reply

    I use one-size Fuzzi Bunz, which are VERY adjustable (they use a system of multiple snaps instead of Velcro, which is a bit fussy to work but makes sizing really eazy). I bought mine new from the Main Cloth Diaper company (www.mainclothdiapercompany.com), which does package deals ranging from as few as 3 diapers up to more than a dozen. So far (a couple months in; before that we were using prefolds and Prowrap covers), mine haven’t stained at all. The fleece lining does show wear, which would reduce their resale price, but as long as they’re not badly stained, I’d imagine you’d be able to sell them secondhand.

  17. Ms. Krieger Nov 06 at 11:55 am Reply Reply

    Sorry about being late to the party.
    I agree that prefolds are a good way to go. We use Indian pre-folds with Thirsty covers. Why? Because they’re simple, and cheap (one prefold costs $1.50). Easy to use, easy to wash, cheap, no problems! As for diaper covers, we’ve found we need at least 4. We wash no more than every three days.
    Snappis are better than diaper pins. My daughter is 10 months old and recently has become very wiggly. Diaper pins would be tough to use. Snappis are easy and fast and no risk of accidentally sticking your baby. Or your finger.
    And at 10 months her pee has also become more copious at night – but we just add a second prefold for extra absorbency. No big problem there. We have 45 prefolds, used since she was a newborn. Eventually we’ll need toddler-sized prefolds. I think we won’t get as many, maybe just 20.
    At any rate, I highly recommend going with the prefolds – cheap, easy and straightforward. Just add a second prefold to the diapering process at night if your little one has a tendency to wake up in a pee puddle.

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