Updated on 08.26.14

Experiments in Disposable Diapering

Trent Hamm

A few weeks ago, I posted an article written by Carrie, a close friend of my wife who has been using cloth diapers for her daughter, Elizabeth, since the baby was born. The analysis of cost that Carrie provided was a huge hit (67 comments as of my writing) and convincing enough that it got my wife and I to attempt cloth diapering on a small scale with our daughter, who is about six months old. Here are the notes on our real world experience as parents used to disposable diapers trying out cloth diapering for the first time in an effort to save money.

Our Current Diapering Costs, Financial and Otherwise

Since our son was born, my wife and I have used high-end disposable diapers (namely, Pampers Swaddlers/Cruisers) largely because of their convenience: they’re very easy and quick to put on, almost never leak, and have no maintenance cost or effort whatsoever. Here’s more information about our disposable diaper buying process if you’re interested.

Over the long period of raising our son and our daughter (our son is just over two and our daughter is six months), our total cost average for disposable diapers comes out to 26 cents a diaper.

However, for us there’s another cost. Disposable diapers are one of the worst things you can put into a landfill – and we certainly do produce a lot of them. To us, the environmental damage caused by disposables is a real cost, one that bothers us and we’re committed to changing.

Selecting a Cloth Diaper

The biggest factor that drew us to using Swaddlers/Cruisers is their convenience and quality – they’re easy to put on, easy to dispose of, and rarely leak. It minimizes our time with every single diaper change, and that saved time gradually adds up like interest in a savings account.

When we decided to dip our toes into cloth diapers, we looked at several different options and eventually went with bumGenius. These diapers are designed to effectively replace disposables – and they’re amazing. They’re constructed so that anyone who can handle putting on a disposable can immediately pick up a bumGenius and know exactly what to do. There’s no “plastic pants,” no confusing process to put the diaper on, and our daughter seems to be quite happy with them on (except at first she would sit funny while wearing them because they’re proportioned differently than disposables). So far, we’ve seen no leakage at all.

However, these diapers are expensive. They’re available for $17.95 a pop at Amazon – if you dig around, you can shave maybe a dollar more off of the price. That’s a significant investment, and so we bought only three for our test run.


Just to make things clear, if we’ve previously spent $0.26 per disposable diaper in the past and are now using bumGenius at $17.95 a pop, it would take 69 uses of the bumGenius just to get down to the cost of the disposable – and that’s not including laundry cost. If you go this route, realize that the number of washings you have to do to recoup your cost versus disposables is very high – but what you get for that price is much greater convenience per diaper change.

Putting them on and taking them off is easy, but what about the washing process? Following the directions led us to using a separate load for just those three diapers so far – basically, we just rinsed them quickly to get rid of any solid waste, then ran them as a normal load of laundry except with additive-free laundry soap and a second rinse cycle. We then dried them normally, and we calculate that this complete process costs about $0.08 all told. That extends the “break even” point out to approximately 80 uses of the bumGenius diapers to get them down to the price point of the disposables we normally use. My estimate is that we could wash about 25 of the bumGenius diapers in a single load if we were to scale up, which would help.

Are We Going To Scale Up?

After using these three diapers several times, I think we’re both happy enough with the process that we’d be willing to scale up to a much larger number of these diapers – with one caveat. It entirely depends on whether we are going to have a third child. With just the two children we have, we’re not fully confident that each diaper would get the 75 or so uses that it would require to reach the break-even point. With a third child, our scale changes – we would definitely reach the break-even point with a lot of room to spare.

Recommendations for New Parents

If you’re an expectant parent out there wondering if cloth diapering is worth the added hassle, my conclusion (having used disposables for years and now trying bumGenius) is that it’s definitely worth it, but that with more cumbersome cloth diapers, it would probably not be worth the effort. My suggestion, if you’re on the fence, is to request a few bumGenius diapers as a baby shower gift, then mix them in with the disposables. If you find the cloth ones work just fine for you – something we just now discovered is true for us – then scale up and go to primarily cloth diapering.

Over the long haul, the financial savings is real, even with expensive cloth diapers, and the environmental savings is quite real, too. It’s a frugal choice that I think my wife and I are both happy with.

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  1. Lauren says:

    Another added benefit is that you’re putting a natural material on your baby’s bottom, as opposed to the plastic and synthetic fibers treated with absorbent chemicals that are found in disposables.

  2. !wanda says:

    Are regular cloth diapers really that much more cumbersome that it wouldn’t be worth learning how to use them? Especially with you being home more, there’s less of an issue with expecting random people like daycare providers to change them correctly. I mean, I don’t have kids so I don’t know anything about diapers, but I do know that even complicated skills become routine if you do them enough. (By now, I can do mouse eyelid surgeries while half-asleep.) It seems that diapering a child would be one of those skills that would rapidly become routine because you do it so often.

  3. I applaud all families who try cloth diapering with their children. It is a great way to conserve natural resources, and save money at the same time.

    The irnony is, several groups of parents in my town (moms clubs, etc.)criticize those who do not use cloth diapers.

  4. Danielle says:

    To make a true analysis, you also should include:

    multi-child use… my boys are now using some of the diapers my daughter used.

    resale value… Bumgenius as well as many other cloth diaper brands have excellent resale value. Even after shipping them out if well taken care of you can get at least half back of what you paid.


  5. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    !wanda: it’s more a matter of time investment. The big ding against cloth diapering is that there’s an additional time investment for each diaper change. With normal cloth diapers, there’s a pretty big time investment added for each diaper change – a few minutes a pop (we tried them fleetingly when my son was a newborn – never again!). With bumGenius, the change time is basically identical to disposables, with the only time-add coming in with the washing.

  6. Awesome Mom says:

    You can get used diapers at Diaper Swappers (http://www.diaperswappers.com/) and that can help cut down on your initial costs. I have bought a lot of used diapers through there and it has allowed me to try cloth diapers that may have been out of my price range when new. Plus you have access to a community of helpful clothdiaperes that are happy to help you get the most out of any cloth diaper that you try. They have rigorous moderation to help make sure that you can feel safe using them.

  7. Stacy says:

    I currently use (and love) flushable diapers from gdiapers. It’s a cloth outer diaper, polyester waterproof liner, and flushable inner diaper, so I don’t have to rinse and wash poopy diapers, and I do way less laundry than with regular cloth diapers. They are pretty expensive (at least 40 cents for each inner diaper), but I feel like the environmental savings make it worth it.

  8. silver says:

    I use cloth diapers exclusively. I wash diapers every other day and the more expensive diapers (like the bumgenius) get used between each wash. So it only takes about 6 months before they pay for themselves. If you switched to all bumgenius and no disposables, they would pay for themselves before she’s potty trained. Plus, if your son isn’t potty trained yet, you can use them on him, since they’re a one size diaper.

    As for the “normal” cloth diapers you’ve tried, I’m guessing you’re talking about prefolds that you have to put a cover on. I use those, too. With a snappi (rather than pins) and practice, it doesn’t take too long to change the diaper.

    And it’s not like the time changing the diaper is wasted time–it’s time spent with your child. I sing to him, talk to him, tickle him, etc when I change his diaper.

  9. Empress Juju says:

    Thanks for sharing this… I don’t have children, and so posts like these help me determine what to give as gifts to new parents.

    I do my best to give clutter-free gifts that help save the recipients money, and help protect the environment, as well, and this one fits the bill perfectly!

  10. smurfett says:

    actually, i think yo need to do more research on the matter. From all I’ve read, it’s really a matter of what you want to pollute, the water or the land. When you wash clothes diaper, the waste gets flushed down and eventually processed, and the [clean] water gets put back into whereever your wastewater plant dumps water. If you use regular detergent, those things are full of terrible additives that are bad for human. Your wastewater treatment plant doesn’t necessarily filter out all the bad stuff before it dumps the water out.

    I’m not trying to advocate for either one actually. To me, the effects are either are bad, it’s just which “bad” you want to go with. I vote for landfill because to me, water sustains a lot more life, some of which I eventually eat.

  11. Rob in Madrid says:

    Don’t forget the environment impact you mentioned, disposables might be cheaper but they carry a huge cost. if the difference isn’t that great I’d make the switch.

  12. Cheryl says:

    One things to keep in mind is although the number of washes mentioned here sounds high to match against the per/diaper cost of disposables, compare that to how many disposables you use in a month. Most average 6-8/day, that averages to 180-240 disposables a month so cost recuperation is fairly quick when you compare how much is shelled out every month on disposables.

    As previously mentioned by another poster, the resale value is very good (when’s the last time someone offered $ for your used disposable?)so it can ultimately costs even less than the up front investment.

    Also, there are many brands out there besides bumGenius that work the same way and vary in price, so that is not the only “like disposable, but cloth” design out there. There are some great sites like diaperpin.com that give better product analysis, where to buy & pricing info than Amazon does and it helps support the small businesses out there by buying from them instead of a super giant like Amazon. If interested in cloth diapering, look into other brands like Happy Heinys, ecoBumz, FuzziBunz and the dozens of others so you can see there’s more than just bumGenius. It’s the biggest name, but not the only one.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I have to say this post has me laughing… I have been using cloth diapers for 4.5 years between my two girls, and I think I have an investment of about $500 total. I spent more than that, but sold some of my diapers, lowering the cost.

    I personally like Bum Genius and received 6 as a gift for my youngest. (BTW, I didn’t buy ANY new diapers for her myself, just replaced a couple of covers and hemp inserts that we wore out.) The only caveat is that now at 2 yo she can take this diaper off, whereas she can’t take off ones with snaps or covers.

    I think probably 70% of the diapers in use will make it to child #3… unless it’s a boy, then we’re in trouble.

    My brother & SIL recently shocked me by telling me they’ve decided to use CDs with the baby they are expecting. My brother ragged on me for years for being a “crunchy hippy” for using CD, and he just realized how much $$ they’d be saving, and their budget is tight, so they decided to do it since my SIL will be at home and can do the laundry etc.

    If anyone is interested in cloth diapers who lives in Southeast Michigan, please go check out the store Tree City Diapers in Ann Arbor. The owner is very knowledgeable and runs cloth diapering workshops for those unfamiliar with it. As matter of fact, with a little research you might find a similar thing near you, a local retailer who does demonstrations.

  14. Kate says:

    Cloth diapers aren’t that bad to use–I used them with three children and, once you get into the swing of laundering them it becomes routine. It really doesn’t take any longer to change a cloth diaper, and I, like silver, used that time to talk, tickle, sing, etc.
    I used disposables when they were newborns–I was very lucky that I got enough disposables to carry me through those very messy first weeks.
    I used disposables when we went on trips, even for overnight. I realized then that cloth diapers are a savings because, except for the extra laundry and initial cost, I never had to shell out money to buy diapers.

  15. anon says:

    Looks like I might have the only [slightly ] negative view.
    – watch out for more problems with diaper rash. Having worked at a Pediatrics office, there is a real difference/problem.
    – many, many daycare facilities will not accept kids in cloth diapers. Too unsanitary for a site with multiple babes in diapers. Very rude to browbeat a caregiver into allowing your kid to be the exception (I’ve seen it happen).
    BTW, If you go with cloth, and foresee a problem with rash, consider using disposables at night…..

  16. Juliska says:

    Washing three cloth diapers alone IS wasteful – if you had more diapers you could go the old-fashioned route and store them in a diaper pail until you have a full machine load. Question – does anyone else use a diaper pail?

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve used cloth diapers with my 4 kids (ages: infant-4 years old) since my oldest was born. We used all the brands that were suggested and still went back to the old fashioned cotton/ pins/ plastic pants (C/P/P) style. The others seemed just too much $ to lay out compared to the C/P/Ps. As the diapers became unusable on the baby’s bum they became great rags for washing the car, dusting, washing windows….. (One of my friends is even exploring using some “not-so-badly-beat-up” cloth diapers for quilt batting!) Plus, changing a cloth diaper has become as routine as anything else I do. (I also work part time as a nurse so my time is precious). I guess it just depends on what you get used to.
    BTW, I love this site. I turn here when I’m especially needing some uplifting ideas on how to save money or just a good financial read. Thanks Trent.

  18. momof4 says:

    To Answer Juliska

    we used an old home depot homer paint bucket to hold the diapers instead of a diaper pail from the baby store. We used higher end cloth diapers ( fuzzy bunz) and thy’ve heldup well through 3 kids . (#1 got disposables)

  19. Charity says:

    I’m expecting my 4th child, and I have used, and plan to continue to use, a combination of cloth and disposables. I like to use disposables at night, and if we’re going on a trip, or going to be away from home for a significant part of the day. That’s just the convenience factor, though. Even with this, I find huge cost savings, and I found each of my kids had less diaper rashes, etc. when they were in the cloth.

    Along with the cloth diapers, it seemed just as easy to use cloths for wipes, rather than disposable wipes. This again provids a cost savings, plus a positive environmental factor.

  20. Sandy says:

    I used regular cloth diapers when my girls were babies…starting about 15 years ago. Believe it or not, one can do the old fashioned diaper (cost, as I recall, about $ 10 per dozen). I also got a few of the kinds you are using, but it took so long in the dryer, that any cost savings, or environmental savings went out the window). I was able to air dry the regular cloth diapers in a sunny room in less than a few hours. I did use some sort of velcro wrap, and that helped with any wetness. I did use disposables at night, and when we were on vacations, etc..
    One thing to remember is not to use any fabric softener on your diapers. They have the effect of reducing absorbancy.
    BTW, we still are using those same diapers as dust rags and other cleaning uses. Such a deal! 15 years later!
    I also loved those diaper moments (well, most of them anyway ;))as fun…some of our best giggle times came on the changing table!

  21. anna says:

    I like the Happy Heinys and Green Acre Design diapers much better than BumGenius, but there are tons of used diapers of all kinds available on http://www.diaperswappers.com. That’s a good way to get some diapers to try at a reasonable cost, and then you can resell the ones you don’t like as much.

  22. Stu says:

    I think your thinking it too much and over analysing.

    You either want to help the environment or not. that doesn’t mean you quibble over cents. To then go the extreme with super expensive ‘cloth diapers’ over the good old square chunk of terry cloth because you want to quibble over an extra few seconds changing them…

  23. Wendy says:

    First a comment about water- I live in the desert, and we have had to weigh the extra water used against the landfill issues. Cloth still won.

    Also, well fitting velcro diaper covers ($10-$14, new) with the inexpensive prefolds allow you to avoid pins and snappis, and a cover can be used a few times during the day if no mess gets on them. From the articles, I feel like Trent has only explored the absolute cheap and expensive ends of the cloth diapering spectrum.

  24. Adam says:

    I’m blown away about doing all this work for a mere $200. I was waiting to read (https://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/03/17/cloth-diapering-a-real-world-analysis/)that “I saved thousands doing this”, but for $200…


    Environmentally, as I do agree with most of it – what about the amount of water (and energy it takes to sanitize, transport, maintain, etc. at the municipal level) you have to use vs. landfill costs of disposables?

    For the greenies – a better option could be disposable diaper recycling. All that extra work for $200 – just not worth it.

  25. Andy says:

    I heard somewhere along the line that they are starting to make some diapers that are biodegradable out of agricultural biproducts like old corn husks and stuff. If this is true, being the environmentalist that I consider myself to be, I think this would be the best solution (biodegradable disposable diapers, that is). Using cloth diapers requires SO…MUCH…WATER USAGE. Regular diapers fill up our landfills and will still be sitting there in 2000 years. It is kind of a 2 to 1, half dozen the other type of deal. I liked Stacy’s comment above that talked about diapers with the disposable inserts. I only wish they could develop those inserts to be biodegradable someday.

  26. 3bean says:

    Just another consideration.. esp for future parents thinking about CDs: Not all daycares will “allow” your kid to be in CD while in their care, so you may only be able to CD while Junior is at home.

  27. Susan in CA says:

    Just a funny story from years ago. We used a cloth diaper service: Cotton diapers with pins and plastic pants. The dirties would go into a bag to be picked up by the diaper delivery man who would drop off the clean diapers. Our large chow/mix dog thought I was handing the diaper delivery man the baby when I handed over the bag of dirties (since they smelled like baby) and he put his mouth around the man’s arm and wouldn’t let go. It was a tense moment but thankfully no skin was broken. We discontinued the service shortly thereafter…

  28. Stephanie says:

    Part of the reason cloth diapers are considered better/greener is not because they are cloth and not taking up landfill space, it’s because of the raw sewage that goes into the landfill from a disposable, and then when it rains…gets into the water table. I know it takes a while for that to happen, with plastic taking time to break down, but it still happens. When you dispose of the soil in the toilet, it gets treated with the rest of the waste.

  29. George says:

    Disposable Diapers are much more convenient although you make some very good arguments for cloth diapers. I just think when you are running around, its a hassle to keep the diaper with you rather than dispose of them.

  30. jay says:

    We are out here in Japan where the older people swear by cloth diapers. After a little research, our family decided that the cleanliness factor, and the time saved using disposable diapers were enough to convince us. We also noticed that we had to change our son’s diaper a lot more with cloth because it didn’t have the absorbancy of the disposable ones. (Not that we make him run around wet, but he would cry for a change with even a tiny bit of wetness.) Lastly, there’s also an aesthetic reason. The disposable ones are less bulky once kids start toddling.

  31. Shevy says:

    “it’s definitely worth it, but that with more cumbersome cloth diapers, it would probably not be worth the effort”

    I couldn’t help laughing when I read that. So, only expensive prefitted cloth diapers that cost $17.95 EACH are worth using, but rectangular cotton flannelette ones that cost that or less for a whole DOZEN diapers aren’t?

    You don’t need more than 2 dozen diapers if you have laundry equipment at home, so you’ve already spent more on those 3 pricey diapers than you needed to spend, total, even including 3 pairs of plastic pants for a couple of dollars each and a pack of diaper pins, ditto.

    As I said previously (in the Real World Analysis comments) I used to fold them while watching TV, so the time it took didn’t impact on me at all. I folded them in 1/3’s lengthwise and then folded the end over to fit the child (from about 1/2 way for an infant to 1/3 for an older child). Then I folded the resulting rectangle *like a Pamper* and stuck them in a diaper stacker.

    Come change time it took me no longer to diaper the baby than if I were using a disposable.

    The benefits? You can use the same diapers from infant to 30 pound toddler (with most fitted diapers you need at least 3 different sizes as the child grows). Plus the flat diapers dry faster than fitted ones (saves energy).

    It all comes down to your personal preference Trent, because you’re not going for the most economical choice.

  32. Michelle says:

    Hmm. I have to say I’ve never considered the time it takes to put on a cloth diaper an issue. I was already interacting with her, might as well be putting on a diaper.

    I did consider — can I put it on when my child is crawling, standing, on her back or front, sitting on my lap. I used both prefolds trifolded in velcro bummis super whisper wraps (which go on exactly like a disposable) and sidesnap diapers with sidesnap covers (which can work like a pullup diaper–go on like shorts, open the sides to take off–or just snap them on. Also go up and down for potty training).

    All in one diapers just seemed too impractical to me. I prefered more flexibility. Also, the expense of the all-in-ones was an issue.

    I am replying because you make cloth diapering with out using all-in-ones sound complicated and difficult. I appreciate that may have been the case for you, but that was not my experience. I agree with the poster who said that mid-range priced diapers can be very satisfactory.

    As was mentioned before, the savings of using cloth diapers depends a lot on individual circumstances. For me cloth was economical because I changed my baby frequently — I’ve noticed a lot of other parents don’t. I also found cloth leaked less with my child, which meant less clothing and bedding laundry (I could not find a disposable that would keep her dry at night. Motherease covers did). And my front loading washer helped bring the cost down too (less water, detergent, and electricity).

    I have some unused prefolds and my daughter needs a new quilt — thank you for that idea.

  33. Michelle says:

    Just wanted to add, in case anyone was picturing a quilt made just out of diapers — the suggestion was to use them as batting, so they’ll be covered in pretty fabric. And they’ve never been used. I’ve been trying to figure out something useful to do with them, that didn’t involve having another baby. :)

    On another possibly related topic — to the person considering cloth diapers as gifts… ask the parents first if they’re interested. Unused cloth diapers are just clutter. The presents for my baby that I particularly appreciated were books and classic toys, like wooden blocks.

  34. L says:

    I just wanted to say that the other cloth diaper that I loved were the Motherease brand called “all in ones”—-the Airflow covers are the best and never leaked. These dipes were the only ones I liked……

    Also, the shipping was 3 dollars no matter how many dipes were being mailed to you! Gotta love that!

  35. Lauren says:

    Getting used to traditional cloth diapers isn’t that difficult. My parents used them (with velcro covers) for my younger sisters, and I had no problem learning to change CDs as a 10-year-old; I just had no frame of reference with disposables, so it was just learning to change a diaper. My husband changed his first diaper ever with our nephew recently, and struggled a bit, even though it was a disposable. Since he didn’t know how to do it at all, it won’t make much difference to learn on cloth or disposable.

    We plan on using cloth ourselves because the environmental costs of disposable are just too great for us. I can see why it could be difficult to switch to something less convenient once you get used to disposables, so we’re not even going to let ourselves be tempted. It’s the solid-waste toilet swooshing I’m not a fan of, but I expect I’ll get used to that

  36. J.E. says:

    For !wanda – As others have mentioned, using regular cloth diapers is not nearly as difficult and time consuming as Trent makes it out to be. We’ve used cloth diapers of the ordinary prefold variety on all three of our kids, and it does become one of those things you can do in your sleep (and with admirable skill and speed to boot). If I sat down and timed it, using a prefold diaper with a velcro cover might add two seconds to the whole process. Maybe. Are those two seconds per diaper change worth the $17+ for EACH diaper? Not for me.

  37. Christine says:

    I love all the ideas and opinions on cloth diapering. I agree with the poster that said people who cloth diaper usually love it. I LOVE cloth diapering my 11 month old! I never felt that way with disposables. I know I am doing my part to protect our planet for the next generations and I am ssaving money. Right this minute I have a whole line of bumGenius diapers, cloth wipes,and a few pefold diapers hung out to dry. Love it!

  38. Brandon says:

    This is what I love about TSD. I love seeing the added pennies for laundry in there. Good post and great suggestions.

  39. Sue M. says:

    I used cloth diapers on my babies a long time ago, and I still have one pre-folded diaper left. The “baby” is 25 years old. I cannot imagine the cost of disposables today…I used to order from the Sears catalogs and they were about $40 per case. The preschool/day care required disposables. But, at home, I used a 13 gallon garbage pail with a tight-fitting lid (I still have it, too) and had a great washing machine that did a pre-soak cycle, then with new water did a wash cycle, then had a double rinse built in. I live in Michigan, so water was never a problem. Both of my babies had one episode each of incredible diaper rash, which I chalked up to teething (lots of things get out of whack when they are teething). I had about 6 dozen prefolded diapers and two dozen flat diapers. I washed them about every 3-4 days with the above listed washing machine. Dried in an electric dryer. I knew about landfills even back then, and chose not to contribute (I recycle as much as I can now, and usually have half of a 13-gallon bag of trash per week, and HUGE piles of recycleable stuff). I gave up folding the diapers with the second kid…just pulled what I needed from the laundry basket and smoothed it out…worked fine. I also padded the babies well at bedtime by folding extra diapers and securing all with the flat diaper and “rubber pants”. Some mornings there was overflow…oh well! The cost to me of the cloth diapers well outweighed the cost of disposables. Diaper training required a different set of skills, but got done anyway. I cringe when I see the “super soakers” that can be used in a pool…I will NOT get into that water!

    You are soooo way over-thinking this, Trent!

  40. Laura says:

    Andy (#25)- the ‘disposable’ inserts Stacy mentioned are biodegradable – the inserts that only have urine can be composted (the manufacturer claims a 50-150 day composting time in the backyard compost pile), while the ones with feces are flushed. But, like she mentioned, they sure are expensive. http://www.gdiapers.com

  41. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “If I sat down and timed it, using a prefold diaper with a velcro cover might add two seconds to the whole process.”

    With BumGenius, you don’t have the prefolding. You put in a liner and that’s it – maybe two seconds from the machine to being put on my daughter.

    We attempted using prefolds – the time investment was way too high for two working parents. BumGenius solved that issue.

    Note that I don’t think they’re probably worth buying if you’ve never cloth diapered before – instead, ask for some at your shower and see how they work for you before diving in.

  42. Rob says:

    I’m not convinced about the environmental damage of disposables. It’s not quite that clear. Check this out: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4559665.stm

  43. Stacy says:

    Andy – I forgot to mention in my post that the flushable diaper inserts I use are biodegradable…! And if they don’t have poop on them, they’re fine for backyard composting.

  44. From another Carrie – who cloth diapers.

    All four of my kids have been cloth diapered and once you start you’ll never go back. You will save far more than you realize, especially when you factor in that you’ll use them for another kid down the line (or resell them on a diaper swap site).

    You can also get lazy about washing. Extra washes and rinses are almost never needed. Depending on the age of the kid in question… just plop solid stuff in the toilet. Do a quick cold rinse first then wash in cold, and you’re good to go.

    And take the study that says cloth and sposies are equal with a grain of salt – it’s been called into question by many people. http://naturalmomstalkradio.com/blog/parents-magazine-cloth-diapering-article/

  45. Elizabeth says:

    Washing cloth diapers does not use that much water. I think that it truly is the most “green” thing to do. Not to mention that kids who are in cloth diapers tend to potty train earlier because they are more aware of being “wet” than kids in disposables… anyone ever notice how disposables have introduced that “feel wet” feature b/c some kids had no idea they were sitting in wet diapers?

    I really think that chosing CDs was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made, financially and otherwise. I also think it has been good for my girls, I am not crazy about the stuff they use in disposables to absorb all the pee.

    My 2 yo is occassionally in sposies when we travel (huggies or luvs) and she is always complaining and pulling at her diaper. CD’s are more comfortable too.

  46. anon. says:

    For anybody using disposables, I highly recommend Costco’s store brand. Every bit as dependable as name brands, fraction of the cost (since you’re not paying $ for them to license a picture of Elmo or Mickey Mouse).

  47. Sylvia says:

    Perhaps there is a slight learning curve for prefolds, but it speeds up very quickly, like with any new skill, even a simple one. Plus there are other methods you can use, like covers that just let you fold the prefold in thirds and shove them on in. Since with trifolding you can use the infant size for any age child, you will save lots over BGs. I use a disposable at night and cloth during the day, and as the working mom of a very active 10 month old who despises diapering in any form, it takes just as long for me to wrestle him into the sposie as the cloth! I think your decision is totally right for you, but wish you hadn’t seemed to lay it out as the be-all-end-all best way. I imagine most readers will shy away from trying due to the $ factor and your perception of how hard it is to do it any other way. So many of your posts point out the way to change mental perceptions/learn new skills… Nothing wrong w/BGs, but really, YMMV.

  48. Rob says:

    Carrie – thanks for pointing out that other article.

  49. cmdqueue says:

    If babies are eating only non-meat products, can’t their poopie diapers be thrown in the composter too?

    Technically, milk doesn’t contain the same bug inducing by-products that meat does, and young children don’t need meat. Protein is easier to break down in foods that have better forms, like broccoli. (I guess that could be another few posts, cooking blog too).

    Long-time reader, 1st post.

  50. Aaron says:

    How bad is rinse of the solids in the toilet? My wife is concerned with the “gross” factor of the transit time from changing table to toilet and the rinsing needed before entry into the washing machine. Sorry to be so blunt about this aspect but I think knowing this process may help convince her to go cloth.

  51. Marilyn says:

    An alternative to washing the diapers in the toilet would be to have a bucket (with a cover) of water with a small amount of bleach near the changing table. (Obviously, you need to readdress this when the child starts crawling/walking.) Anyway, you toss from table into bucket, and then when the bucket is ready to wash, you dump the entire thing into the washing machine. Or, if you are up to the extra step, you can strain the water out in a utility tub before tossing into washer.

    One thing which has not been mentioned: for any parents exclusively breastfeeding, the poop doesn’t stink. (I swear, that is not parental bragging, ie: “My darling Johnny has rose-smelling doo-doo.”) Really, until a child starts food or formula, there is little smell, so the bleach water is a great option.

    If this option is really anathema to you, you can pile up the diapers in the washing machine itself, half-filled with water and a bit of detergent.

  52. Kate says:

    Aaron: the rinsing isn’t bad at all. A quick dump and swish and most everything goes down with a flush.
    Marilyn is right that breastfed babies don’t have stinky poop.

  53. JE says:

    “We attempted using prefolds – the time investment was way too high for two working parents. BumGenius solved that issue.”

    I’m going to be picky, because I think your post inadvertantly discourages using a less expensive option because of what you perceive to be convenience (and because you made a rather jumpy assumption about my situation – what on earth made you think that I wasn’t one half of “two working parents”?).

    Both my huband and I work full-time outside of the house; we ARE two working parents, just like you and your wife, and we’ve got TWINS in cloth diapers. Once you get the hang of it, folding a diaper doesn’t take any longer than putting an insert into an all-in-one (I’ve used all-in-ones as well, so I have a point of reference). BUT – it does take practice. I just don’t want your readers to automatically assume that prefolds are a huge time vacuum (because they’re not), so they should automatically shun them and go for the pricier option.

  54. NtJS says:

    Great post. Glad to see more people doing and talking about cloth diapering.

    One thing to note: Your break even analysis has a flaw – you haven’t taken into account the cloth diapers’ resale value. That bumGenius diaper may retail at $17.95, but you can recoup a lot of that once finished with the diapers. Buying them used to begin with will save a few bucks too. A used disposable diaper has no value.



  55. Bitsy Pieces says:

    For those who think the environmental water “costs” are too high for cloth diapers… It’s less eco-damaging to wash a load of cloth diapers than to flush the toilet for every diaper you changed. But does that mean you’re not going to potty train your kids? (As for the diaper wash water being treated and put back into your drinking water… what do you think happens to your toilet water?)

    The benefits of cloth diapers are numerous, and reach much farther than economics and environment. Do a little research into the ingredients found in a standard disposable diaper. Personally, I prefer to avoid all the chemicals found in the “gels” that will be against my baby’s skin.

    As for cloth causing more rashes than disposables… that’s simply untrue. Not sure where “anon” is getting their information, but the exact opposite has been found to be true. (Although, in truth, diaper rashes are most closely correlated with the frequency of diaper changes, regardless of diaper type. It’s simply that cloth diaper users tend to change their babies more, because the kids can “feel” the wetness and are more likely to complain.)

  56. constantlearning says:

    Trent, a friend just pointed me to another cloth diaper – http://www.diaperaps.com – these cost less but seem to do the same thing as bumGenius. Although my exposure to cloth diapers has been limited, diaperaps did a great job at clearing up a bad case of diaper rash.

  57. Wendy says:

    I used pampers baby dry on my daughter who is 2 (we are trying to potty train her, but she is still in diapers). Now that we have a 10 week old son I am realizing how much money we are spending on diapers, wipes, rings for the diaper pail, kleenex and nursing pads. Not to mention the huge waste that is going to pile up in the landfill. We have to pay for each bag of garbage and most of our garbage is the above mentioned baby products. I just wasn’t comfortable with the amount of disposable products we were using and knew we needed to make a change.
    I just put in an order for 12 bum genious, 24 flanel wipes to use for diaper changes, 6 coloured flanel wipes to use in replace of kleenex for spits ups, and disposable nursing pads. This will be a big savings on our monthly expenses and a huge environmental saving. I am going to see how it goes with having 12 Bum Genious, I may buy 12 more if needed.

  58. Wendy Hathaway says:

    What a great conversation!

    I just wanted to say that when I was pregnant with Olive (who is now almost 10 months) I was so overwhelmed with the cloth diaper choices out there. So, I did what all expectant mothers do…I bought one of every kind! We have the pricey All-in-Ones, a little less expensive pocket diapers, and the workhorse prefolds with organic covers.

    After 10 months our family (mom, dad, two pre-teens, and grandparents) have all come to prefer the prefolds and covers. I guess you can say it is like learning to ride a bike or tying your shoe laces. We can all do the folds in the dark, at 3 am, in the back of the car, anywhere! Cloth diapering should be viewed as a system that has a very steep learning curve! (To be honest the first few weeks of diapering–which included one use disposables–was the steepest!) Like all good things, a little work and practice upfront and you’ll be rewarded. Our children and our communities deserve the effort!

  59. Gretchen says:

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned the other benefit of cloth diapering: often a cloth diaper wearer will potty train earlier than a disposable diaper wearer. My daughter potty trained herself between 18 months and 24 months old (by 24 months old she was in underwear during the day) and my son was in underwear by 24 months as well – except at night. Definitely stick with disposables for the first few weeks after baby is born though. It is just too messy when they are that small – practically nothing fits except the disposables – and you are just too tired to care.

  60. Gretchen says:

    Oh – and I forgot to answer the previous poster’s question about diaper pails. We used a dry pail, which just means a very large, heavy-duty rubbermade bin with a snap-on lid. All the “dirties” were thrown in there (no rinsing in the toilet or anything), it contained all smells perfectly, and every two or three days I’d dump it in the washing machine and let them soak in water overnight. You can’t do this if you have a side-load washing machine from what I have heard.

  61. Neda says:

    I used cloth diapers through a diaper service for both of my sons. It was easy. I can change a cloth diaper about as fast as a disposable. The only time I used dsiposables was on vacation and the boys hated them plus one son always broke out badly with them as the diaper service rinsed his diapers in a special solution to neutralize his urine. When they got to using very few I used my own diapers with no problem. The bonus after potty training? some great cleaning cloths. I did use hundreds of Pampers working in a hospital newborn nursery and I did not miss them with my own babies.

  62. Schwamie says:


    I would have to know what the lifecycle is on one of these diapers. If the size doesn’t need to change, then if you have three of them needing 80 uses to hit the break even point would then require 240 uses total for the three. If these can be used as she grows, then you will likely use these more than the 240 uses. This would assume that she only needs one a day for 240 days (which is far less than a year). I would have to say that these are well worth the investment (assuming that the “other” part of the process doesn’t become to time consuming).

  63. Barb says:

    I was a stay at home mom and chose to cloth diaper my children. I home laundered and used the old timely method of cotton diapers that required safety pins and rubber pants.
    I just couldn’t see past the expense of disposable diapers when cloth diapers work every bit as well, yet cost next to nothing.

  64. K says:

    For someone wanting to try but is skeptical because they think it’s too expensive or too much work or they work full time, here’s what we did:

    We bought 3 bumgenius and got 3 as a shower gift. I started with just using one early on, figuring that if they didn’t work I could sell the others unused. I first tried when my baby was 2 weeks old and found that it was very bulky and leaked onto his clothes. Found out later that it was just wicking because they didn’t fit him right yet. I tried again at 1 month (he was about 10 lbs) and they fit much better and did not leak, so I put all 6 into my rotation. I liked them so much that I bought 3 more. Yes, that is only 9, but we use them nearly full time (not at night or during long outings). We use 4-5 per day and then a disposable overnight for 12 hours. I spent a total of $88 on these 9 diapers (3 were a gift and I used a coupon code at diapers.com) and I figure they will pay for themselves in about 6 months.

    We wash every other day. I throw them in the washer after dinner. I do a cold rinse and then one hot “heavy soil” cycle in my front loader. I use Country Save detergent for HE washers. I got a box for about $10 that I think will last me 2 years and I use it for all the diapers and baby clothes. I put them on a rack to dry and then stuff them in the morning before work (it takes about 5-10 minutes). I use a dry pail with a liner I got for about $10 (Planet Wise) that is the same material as the diapers. The bag makes it nice cause I just dump into the washer without touching the diapers.

    I don’t know if many day cares accept them but I have in-home care (grandma and dad) so it works well for us. I haven’t tried them overnight… I suspect they would work ok but don’t feel that adventurous yet. We will use them if we are going out for just a couple hours but not for a whole day trip because they would take up too much room in our diaper bag. We use Viva paper towels as diaper liners. I got a roll for $1 and cut each sheet in half.

    They are slightly bulkier, but it seems like I move up a size in clothes maybe 1-2 weeks sooner than I would have otherwise, not a big deal. And we have not had a single blowout using these. Using disposables (Pampers Swaddlers, which Trent says never leak), we would have a blowout almost every day. (Which is an area where I disagree with Trent. Although I haven’t tried any low-end diapers, I have had a lot of leaking trouble with the “premium” disposables I’ve bought so I wouldn’t think cheap ones could be any worse.)

    So, we have been very happy with the BumGenius. The new colors are really cute (I only wish we had a girl so we could get the pink ones too) and even my husband loves them. I suggest that you get a few and try them out if you are even on the fence.

  65. K says:

    Also want to add:

    I rarely get stains but if I do, they come out very well in the sun in just an hour or 2.

    I have never had a diaper rash but I could just have a baby with less sensitive skin.

    I don’t need to change him more often than every 2-3 hours – I don’t find that the cloth “soaks through” quicker than disposables at least with the microfiber inserts.

  66. Elaine Spitz says:

    It has been years since I’ve needed to diaper a kid and I love that you have new options. We had Pampers, Luvs, store brand (they made a loud crinkly sound!) or plain old cloth diapers. We mostly used disposables. When our 2nd son was 2.5, we switched to cloth diapers (with a diaper service – I know, I know) and the child potty trained super fast. As some of you have said, the child train faster because he/she feels the wetness.

  67. Elizabeth says:

    BumGenius are great…and the same company recently introduced the Flip system. Flip is much cheaper, and I haven’t had any leak problems.

  68. bogart says:

    I haven’t read all the comments in detail but saw a couple of points that I wanted to counter.

    We’ve CD’d continuously except that DS gets a disposable on at night and the 2 days/week he’s in paid childcare.

    For a household of 2 adults & the one kid, we do 2-3 (full) loads of laundry/week. The diapers just don’t add that much to our need to do laundry, so I don’t find the water-use concerns convincing. I do wash the diapers in with everything else, in the same detergent. We line dry as much as practical (most of the time, weather permitting).

    My experience has been exactly the opposite of what at least one commenter mentioned up above my comment: we’ve had virtually no problems/issues with diaper rash. My guess is this may be a function of the type of diapers used; we use Fuzzibunz outers with Nurtured Family Contours 100% cotton inners. Fuzzibunz were specifically designed by a mom struggling with a rash prone baby and they really are wonderful (wicking fleece, very soft), and easy to put on/get off. I don’t know which category Bum Genius falls in, but I don’t like velcro closures because I find they get full of fluff in the laundry and become unusable (unless I pick the fluff out; tedious); FuzziBunz use snaps.

  69. Emily says:

    We use prefolds and covers (and cloth wipes!!) with our almost-5-month-old daughter and spent under $200 on our entire stash that should last us ’til potty training. Most of the covers we bought used, and I also sewed some fleece and wool covers of our own (I’m a newbie at sewing, too).

    At first I was very excited at the cost savings, but then we received our first water & sewage bill. Yikes. $50 / month increase! I was doing diaper laundry every other day without filling up the washing machine since we’re also doing “elimination communication” part-time; I was washing often because I didn’t want the diapers to stink. But now I’m letting the dirty diapers pile up for an extra couple of days… when the diaper pail starts to smell, I just dump in some baking soda :-) Waiting for our next water bill…

    Am interested in knowing what you and your readers think of their water bill increase with cloth diapering use.

  70. Laundry Lady says:

    I have a 13 month old and we have been cloth diapering since we brought her home from the hospital. We have saved quite a bit of money, and probably could have saved more if I hadn’t had quite so much fun trying different styles and colors. Our washer broke right after our daughter was born so we upgraded to a budget friendly priced front-loader. Our overall water usage is actually lower than it was before our daughter was born, that includes washing diapers twice a week and the added water usage of me being home during the day. I have a multi-part series on my blog about cloth diapering. For us it was a great financial and environmental decision, though we made it primarily for financial reasons. Cloth diapering and breastfeeding have significantly contributed to allowing me to stay home with our daughter. I will also note that we use cloth wipes. This is another huge savings. Cloth wipes are really inexpensive, I even got some for free a few times when I placed an order for cloth diapers. Plus, many of the cloth diaper companies are small or WAHM businesses. There are so many different options to make cloth diapering more convenient or more affordable depending on your situation.

  71. Mike says:

    Unless I missed it in skimming through some of the comments, I’m disappointed that nobody has mentioned the third option — not using diapers at all. Babies are only incontinent because we train them to be during the first few weeks and months of life. There is certainly an initial time investment in teaching infants to use a potty or toilet, but in the long term the time it takes to deal with elimination is much less, and the cleanup is minimal, even for bowel movements. It’s also much healthier for the babies, because they never have disposable diaper chemicals or their own waste pressed against sensitive tissue.

    Even if both parents work, it is possible to do this part-time and succeed. The really big payoff comes at the end of the process — many diaper-free babies are toilet-independent (with a small potty seat) as soon as they can walk. Many toddlers in North America continue using diapers two years after diaper-free babies have stopped having “accidents”, and the incidence of nighttime bed-wetting in later years is also much lower.

    A decision between disposable diapers and cloth diapers (though the latter handily wins in just about every category, if you’re willing to try) is a false choice. Most babies in the world today do not use diapers, and successfully communicate their elimination needs to avoid accidents. It’s more difficult to do so in North America than in other places, but it is not impossible, and can take substantially less time (not to mention less money) than either of the other two options, in the long term.

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