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Cloth Diapering & the Older Baby

By Amalah

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‚ prefolds‚ and sprayers that attach to the toiletI stare in complete envy at the cuteness that is coordinating diaper covers, sans irritating commercial characters. Yet‚ we are 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.

Hmm. 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.

Most 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 (180 diapers) of Huggies Little Movers for around $43 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 180 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 180 diapers SOUNDS like a lot, but I was always kind of shocked at Diaper Math. At five or six diapers a day, those 180 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


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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