‘Greening’ your diaper budget–Kermit was wrong

Tick tick tick tick. Ding. Plus sign. Positive pregnancy test. Most people think of little knitted booties and soft cozy blankets. It’s not until they get to the check out lane that the sticker shock really gets to them–and they realize that they’ll be putting ‘diapers’ on the shopping list (and in the budget) every week for the next few years. For most Americans, that means that something else gets dropped out of the budget. The cost of everything is on the rise. Some parents are choosing between paying bills and providing diapers for their children. So they cook at home, clip coupons and turn the heat down, bundling up and snuggling instead of going out to dinner. Is this a good thing? I actually think so. It leads to more family time and a more deliberate lifestyle. As consumers, we’re buckling down, we’re making hard choices, and I think on the other side of this economic curve, we’re going to come out leaner, harder, and more financially savvy. So you’re asking yourself: What does this have to do with going green? In short, everything.

Disposable diapers are expensive. The average price is $0.25/diaper, with coupons. The older the baby gets, the more they cost.  Sure, the price on the package is the same, but you get fewer diapers per package. Most people don’t think about the ecological toll that coincides with the financial hit to their wallets. It doesn’t come up in everyday conversation in most areas, but there IS a way to save on diapers. No coupons, no going with the bargain brand. Fewer leaks, fewer chemicals, and less waste. Call your grandma, and ask her what kind of diapers she wore. Go ahead. Chances are, she’ll say she was diapered in cloth. Picture that. Go ahead. I know you are anyway. Squares of cloth with pins that can draw blood. They were used over and over again, on every kid in the family, and it was super cheap. Okay now picture TV when your grandma was little. Either it didn’t exist or it was black and white. We’ve come a long way, right? HD, full color, 3-D, LCD. You name it. About the diapers: here’s a hint–if you can Velcro a shoe or snap a button on your pants, you can cloth diaper-no pins attached! That’s right, there are MODERN cloth diapers. Guess what? It’s still inexpensive, but super easy on you and the environment.

Consider the two charts below, one for disposable diapers only for ONE year, one for cloth diapers with accessories/detergent for TWO years. Kermit was wrong, the numbers don’t lie. It’s easy AND affordable to be green!

Disposable Diaper Costs, 1 year

I based disposable diaper costs off of 30 days/month, 12 changes in the first month, 10 in the 2nd-4th month, and 8 changes thereafter. This in my opinion is a very low estimate. It does not include costs for trash bags, wipes, extra cost per bag for taking them to the landfill etc. Just the diapers themselves. The total for one year is almost $800. The next year would go on at approximately $60 x 12=$720, and assuming potty training somewhere between 2 and 3 (3 being the national average), the cost goes up from there. That’s more than $1500 for one child.

Cloth costs, 2 years

I based cloth diaper costs off of 24 *VERY EASY TO USE diapers from **Cotton Babies. They go on and off like disposables, using hard wearing snaps that are easy to launder. This is enough to wash every other day. You’ll notice I did not calculate the number of changes. It’s irrelevant, because you’re using the same 24!  I added 2 pail liners, a small and a large wetbag (for quick trips to the store, or longer trips to visit family, the dirties have to go somewhere!), 24 wipes, and 6 bottles of detergent (3/year for 2 years). Just as I did not add in the cost of trash bags, wipes, and extra trash costs for disposables, I did not add in laundry costs for cloth. We have rural water, which is fairly expensive, but washing 2-3 times a week does not raise our bill in a cost-prohibitive manner.  Same with our electric-the rural co-op costs more. Considering you’re saving approximately $267.55 the first year, and the second year being almost free, I consider the cost of water/electricity to run the machines to be negligible. Diapering beyond 2 years again costs only what detergent costs. Diapering a 2nd child with the same diapers is also possible (free, except detergent/water), as is selling your diapers if you are done with them. Yes, they are an up-front investment, but one that provides a return! You’re also money ahead on: protecting your child from chemicals, environmental friendliness (nothing in the landfill!) and cuteness.

Freetime in Zinnia on my current model, B

Okay, they’re adorable, they’re cost-effective, they’re environmentally friendly. How hard are they to use and take care of is the next logical question, right? Pictures say a 1,000 words. See for yourself. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section!

 To change a diaper

Use a wipe and water or wipes mixture to clean baby

Drop wipe and wet or breast milk poo'd diaper straight into pail liner or wetbag (solids go into toilet first!)

Fold the 'innies' or lay them flat

Put baby on diaper

Stretch each tab to get a tight fit, and snap it on!

Diaper on model, smallest rise

On largest rise, thumb and finger indicating snap-downs for using the lower rises to fit 8-35 lbs

On wash day

Add contents of bag(s) plus the bags! to washer--cold wash, hot wash, 2nd rinse! Then line dry / dryer on LOW. All done!

Now that you’ve seen a couple of diapers, what do you think? Is it different than you expected? Can you picture your baby, Nephew, Granddaughter in cloth diapers? At first, I really didn’t understand how easy it was. I was hooked on the cost savings and thought that being environmentally friendly was a side benefit. I had no idea how much simpler cloth diapers made my life. No running to the store, no worrying about running out, or that you JUST put a diaper on the baby and she pooped AGAIN. My response to this now is laughter. I don’t see quarters dropping in the trash can when I change a diaper (something I used to envision each time I changed a disposable). Now I envision: money in my pocket, less landfill usage, less smell in the house (washing every 2 days is better than taking trash out once a week!), fewer rashes, fewer chemicals, a tree saved! I also see great potential for outfit matching. Oh yes, I scoff at those that dress their dogs up in sweaters, but I can’t wait for summer and to dig out a bright pink striped dress and put the zinnia diaper on under it! So the next time you hear someone say ‘babies are SO expensive…they go through so many diapers’.. send them here. Let them know that there are choices that can make their lives easier, $greener$, and more environmentally friendly!


*This is actually one of the easiest to care for diapers, is a brand new model and probably on the higher side as far as cost goes. You can cloth diaper for MUCH less, but I wanted to use the most user-friendly diaper in my cost analysis, just to show that even if you go ‘top of the line’, you’re still saving money!
**Cotton Babies is a local-to-me cloth diaper store, that also has an internet presence. I’m writing this piece for a contest, but I have not received any form of compensation for the content. The winning blogger will receive a gift of 12 bumGenius One-Size Cloth Diapers for her own family. I wouldn’t know what to do with the diapers if I won. I’d probably sell off some of my least favorite current diapers, donate some, and give some away. What can I say? I love my cloth diapers! Mostly, I’m writing this because I’m hoping that in some way, I’m giving back to the person who wrote a blog post that got me interested in cloth diapers, saved us a lot of money, and made us very happy parents of 2 cuties that have used cloth diapers.

Okay want to know the best part?
The winning blogger gets to a choose a person who commented on their post to receive a gift of 12 bumGenius One-Size Cloth Diapers. So what are you waiting for? Comment, NOW! Tell me anything, but comment, comment, comment!


  1. Heather

    I love bumGenius. I did have to buy 24 replacement kits that include elastic for legs and new velcro tabs. Each pack was $1 and I sewed the tabs myself. I don’t need the elastic redone. I also had to buy a can of waterproofing agent because we used our sanitizing cycle on our washer too many times. After 2 years we forgot about what they said about water temp.

    I have two large, one medium and one small Planet Wise bag. If there is a yucky diaper, we flush then take it to the sink in our laundry room. I used rice liners for a while which were great.

    Just got the Element, Einstein design. Too cute. I hope to start using it more.

    When at the playground, I love to see my boy’s blue diaper peeking out of his pants when he bends down. It’s so cute and it looks more comfortable than the plastic.

  2. Mindy

    Jill, I think this is one of your best posts. It is an excellent introduction to cloth and one I will send friends too. You did an amazing job, my friend, and I think you have a great shot at winning! I’m so glad we connected because of cloth diapers!

  3. This is a great and informative post, Jill!

    I LOVE my cloth diapers, and I have very, very few in comparison to most cders. It has saved us in so many ways, because there is no way we could afford diapers at all right now. Out of the need I fell in love with the old fashionedness of cds. I started with 12 gerber prefolds and 2 rubber panties. I went from 3 mos or so through potty training my first with those. When my newest LO was born, I talked my mom into buying us the Econobum set. We caught a fabulous deal (from Cotton Babies, no less!) and got them BOGO for a total of 12 prefolds and covers. I am SO glad I did. The covers are spectacular after the hideous gerber panties. I still alter my prefolds with the gerber prefolds, though, some of her clothes fit better with a less bulky prefold. In my diaper bag, I keep my “special diapers”; which consist of two I did for a review, OsoCozy AIO and Glow Bugs pocket, and two FuzziBunz pockets I won. 😉 They have made leaving her in the church nursery a breeze, and giving daddy confidence he can change her (if/when) I am out for a minute. My little ones sensitive butt loves the feel dry liners, and I love the compactness.

    I don’t know why anyone would use disposables, when you realise how terrible the ingredients are. After seeing the most awful bleeding rash/chemical burns on my sweet baby, I would never go back, and I love the cost efficiency of CDs. I think that my case is extreme, but it does show you can cloth diaper on ANY budget!

    Good luck on the contest!

  4. Baby B sure is adorable! I love the tutorial of how to put the diaper on and your routine.

    I’m wondering, do you travel with wet cloth wipes, or dry and wet them as you go?

  5. nicole buffington

    I’ve always wanted to start to cloth diaper but was waiting to get into an apartment or home where I could have my own washer and dryer, who wants to bring your babies diapers to the laundrymat 🙁 and as of 2days before christmas we moved to our own house <3 my daughter is now 18months and im hoping by my second child we can be a fully cloth diapering family

  6. Great tutorial! As I type this, my diapers for 2 are in the wash cycle! I can’t wait for the weather to be reliably more warm so I get back to hanging them outside on the line! Thanks for stopping by my blog post!

  7. My nephew and wife and great niece are loving their cloth diapers – would love to be able to stock them up with some more, especially since rumor has it they are house hunting… which I hope means bigger house, more great nieces and nephews, and more wearers of the cloth diapers!!! Win all around!

  8. I want a Freetime! Are you just loving it? It looks like such a great diaper!
    And I have a boy whose diapers are typically covered up by pants but I still match diapers to his outfits 🙂

  9. Great job simplifying cloth! I wish people realized how easy they really are.

    We’re using cloth diapers already, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision. Our stash isn’t complete by any means, and it won’t be for awhile as we can’t afford to buy more at the moment, but that just makes me even happier that we aren’t using disposables.

  10. Rachel N

    Thanks for the great review on the new freetime! I have been wanting to see about this one, it seems so nice and easy to use. I use cloth diapers on my 2 boys, ages 7 months and 24 months. It is so nice! I love not having to pack up 2 babies and go to the store because we have run out of disposables. I also LOVE that both boys can wear the same diaper, now that `s something that you can`t do with disposables! There has been a few times where I have had one boy go through more diapers than usual and I have had to steal from the others stash:) Bumgenius are my favorite diaper (although I only have 2) because they fit both my boys so nice. I would love to win some more diapers, it would give mommy some more wiggle room with laundry because life is sure busy in this house with 2 little boys:)

  11. Abbie

    Love this! I came across your blog from a comment you made about disposable diapers (http://www.ourordinarylife.com/2012/01/10-reasons-why-i-love-pampers-dry-max/). I’ve been researching cloth diapers extensively over the last few months at this point I am pretty much 100% certain that we will be using cloth diapers on our future children. I love the breakdown you have provided and when you see the numbers in black and white, it makes the most logical sense to cloth diaper. There is also this awesome blog post by GoodMama which further breaks down the cost of cloth diapering vs. disposables (http://goodmama.typepad.com/goodmama/2010/03/diapering-a-newborn-disposable-vs-cloth.html). And in the spirit of the post where I discovered your site, here are 10 reasons why I WILL cloth diaper.

    1. It’s economical. Jill, I think you summed that up for us very nicely 😉
    2. It’s environmentally friendly. Where do disposables go when you throw them away? Right into a landfill.
    3. It’s healthy (e.g. fewer diaper rashes, not to mention the various chemicals and other bad stuff in disposables).
    4. It’s easy! Cloth diapers are so much easier to use than most people know.
    5. They are adorable! There are so many adorable prints & colors to choose from. I can’t wait to start my stash.
    6. There are so many choices! Now some people may see this as a negative, but I see it as a positive. Your cloth diapering routine can be tailor fit to your lifestyle and your baby.
    7. There’s a ton of information out there. There are blogs, facebook pages, twitter feeds, youtube videos…etc. And every retail website I’ve been on has a comprehensive instruction guide on how to prep & wash cloth diapers.
    8. There’s a community. I’m absolutely blown away by the support system that is in place for people who choose to go with cloth. If you have questions or need some help, there are numerous helpful mamas (or papas!) who have been there and can give you some great advice.
    9. It supports small business. The majority of cloth diaper companies are founded, owned and run by families who chose cloth for their families and wanted to spread the love to others. Not to mention that many of these companies were started by WOMEN! Go girl power!
    10. It’s all about sharing. It seems to me that people who cloth diaper want to share the experience, and while not everyone will be receptive, maybe a few will be and then the cycle will continue. Plus, used diapers in good condition can be passed on to the next family, donated, swapped, or sold. That seems like a pretty cool benefit to me!

  12. Excellent post! I am a newbie to cloth. I used disposables for both my older girls but with baby #3 due in a few weeks I decided I would try cloth. My main reason to switch and use cloth is the cost of disposables. I can still remember sending my husband out or reminding him to pick up diapers from the store on his way home from work and praying we don’t use up the rest of the diapers we had until Hubby brought home a new pack. With cloth I wont have to send Hubby out to the store to pick up a package which were something like 12 or 13 dollars and only lasted a few days.

    Now with cloth sure there is an initial investment, and on average depending on what kind of cloth you buy your going to spend around 400 dollars unless you have a billion cloth but to have enough to get the job done I’d say I am around 400. I don’t have to buy any more and the diapers we have will last until potty training. How many disposables would you get for 400 dollars?

    I have no experience with cloth yet, so I can’t comment on blowouts or smell, or diaper rashes but I have heard that with cloth a lot of those problems are very few. I can’t wait to CD!!

    plus the prints are so stinkin adorable!

  13. As someone who is starting out on her pregnancy planning, cloth diapering was something I didn’t even consider, but as I see that it’s gotten more convenient and easily the money one can save, it just seems like the natural choice! Thank you for sharing all the information!

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