Cloth diapers

Now that we’ve been using our cloth diapers for 5 1/2 months, I wanted to write about how it’s been working for us. We are actually really happy with our decision to switch from disposables to cloth once Harper was big enough to fit into her diapers (about 6 weeks, I think), and here’s why:

Cost

We calculated that we were spending about $80 a month on diapers and wipes before we switched to cloth. That’s also what we would pay if we would have done the Honest Company bundle, which is a great alternative. That comes out to $960 a year. So let’s just call it $1,000. We got 21 bumGenius 4.0 cloth diapers, some of which were gifted to us from our baby registry. So we spent around $200 for the rest, plus one set of flannel wipes. We also received the diaper sprayer and an extra set of inserts as gifts.

If we’re lucky and Harper wears the diapers even two years, we are looking at saving close to $2,000. We have to buy the occasional pack of disposables and wipes for traveling (love Honest. Co. travel packs of wipes), but that’s maybe $100 a year. If she wears them longer or we are able to use them for a second child, we can save even more.

Looking at our utility bills, I have not noticed much of an increase for the extra loads of washing and drying. Perhaps $10 a month more, but it’s hard to determine that exactly. In this climate they were not super high to begin with.

One other thing you need with cloth diapers is a wet bag to store them in before you do laundry. We have a large Planet Wise wet bag, which is just big enough to hold 2 days worth of dirty diapers. Then we got a small one for our diaper bag. I think we also got both of those as gifts. They work great at keeping out smells. If I had to do it over I would have gone with a medium-size for the diaper bag. The small is tiny!

Waste

Without question we are producing much less waste now. Mike used to empty the Diaper Dekor multiple times a week, but I can’t remember the last time I even used it. Living in the bay area, we are very aware of environmental issues, so it feels good to be able to say that we are not producing all that trash. (Fun fact: even though the trash cans are about 1/3 the size of the recycling cans, you can actually request an even smaller trash bin.)


Diapers stuffed and ready to go. 

Time

This was our main concern, because it sounded like washing those diapers all the time would be a lot of work. And the one thing you can’t spare when you have a newborn is time. But it turns out that we actually spend very little of our time on diapers. I am home all week, so that helps, and Mike is home on Fridays. But I think even if we were working more it would not be so bad.

We usually wash diapers every two days. It takes about 10 minutes to pull out the inserts and load everything into the washer. (I don’t wash off the poop. When she starts solids I probably will, but that is done after each diaper change). When they’re done it takes another 5-10 minutes to put the inserts in the dryer and hang the diapers on a drying rack. I usually put the rack outside and let the diapers dry in the sun, but the material will also dry if they have to be inside. When everything is dry, it takes about 10 minutes to stuff the diapers. If we split these jobs between me and Mike, you can see that we’re only devoting 15 minutes or so to each load.

The more important consideration is timing. You have to make sure that your diapers will be dry by the time you run out completely. We’ve gotten pretty good at that.

I have been using a $15 bottle of Babyganics detergent since we started with the cloth diapers and it’s still going. You do have to buy special detergent that is free of dyes and fragrances, but that’s pretty easy to find these days. Once a month you can wash the diapers with bleach to get a deep cleaning, but we find that putting them out in the sun keeps them from getting mildewy and it bleaches out the stains.

Here are some stained inserts before,

and after a few hours in the sun. Amazing!

Effectiveness

Our diapers have worked really well with very few blowouts. Every time I use disposables we have more blowouts. She almost never has a poop blowout with the cloth diapers. Sometimes she gets a pee leak around the leg holes, but that is less of a big deal. We’ll see if they remain that effective over time.

Other things to consider

• We got mostly diapers that adjust in size with snaps, but I like the Velcro ones too. The problem with the Velcro ones is that they fall apart sooner and the Velcro sometimes sticks to other diapers in the wash.

• I really like the pocket-style diapers because we have been able to adjust the inserts for day versus night, and with her growth. The larger inserts even snap to different sizes.

• One thing I wish I would have done differently is to get more white or cream colored diapers. We got a mix of colors. And while they are adorable, they sometimes clash with her outfits. Since you go through 7 or 8 diapers a day, you will end up with a rainbow of diaper colors unless most of them are the same.

• I tried making my own cloth wipes, but I ended up liking the bumGenius ones better. Some of them are starting to fray, but they still work fine. If I have to buy another pack once a year, I think that’s still a big savings over disposable.

I blogged at Goodsmiths about how you can make your own disposable wipes. I use the same formula for diaper spray to wet the cloth wipes. It costs almost nothing to make.

• Cloth diapers are much bigger than disposables on your baby. Harper rarely wears pants, so this isn’t usually an issue. But sometimes she has to go up a size for the clothes to fit over her diapers.

That’s all the considerations I can think of. Like I said, we are really happy we went the cloth route, but I know this won’t work for everyone. I got a lot of encouragement from this post when we were thinking about what to do. I know diaper services are also a huge help if you can find one you like in your area.