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Is Cloth Diapering Worth It? – Deciding if Cloth Diapering is Right for You

Is cloth diapering is worth it, or is it just a weird trend?

Many people believe cloth diapering is old-fashioned, a lot of work, or just plain crazy. With disposables being the more mainstream way to diaper a child, most people do not even consider using cloth.

However, cloth diapering is starting to gain traction again in recent years, and most people know of at least one person who has tried it. This post will help shed some light on different areas related to cloth diapers to help you decide if this is a wise move for your family.

Does it Save Money?

Photo credit to 401kcalculator.org

Almost always. I’m not saying it’s not possible to go overboard, but you would have to go on a shopping spree to spend so much on cloth diapers that you do not come out ahead in the end.

If your main motivation for using cloth diapers is saving money, you should consider your shopping personality.

Are you the kind of person that loves all things cute, especially when it goes on such a cute baby bum? Would you feel the need to order everything because you just have to try it? Are you an impulse shopper?

If these questions describe you, well, you may spend more on cloth than disposables.

On the other hand, if you are a frugal & budget-friendly shopper, or even an average shopper, you should come out ahead using cloth. There are plenty of ways to cloth diaper on a budget and get a full diaper stash for a reasonable amount of money.

Young babies will average 8-10 diapers per day, while older babies and toddlers use 5-8. Disposable diaper prices vary dramatically based on brand but assuming you are budget conscious, I will use a conservative estimate of $0.20 per diaper. To make the math easy, I will do calculations for both 5 and 10 diapers per day for the first year of the baby’s life.

5 diapers x 365 days= 1825 diapers. At $0.20 per diaper, that would be $365.

10 diapers x 365 days= 3650 diapers. At $0.20 per diaper, that would be $730.

Your costs for one year of disposables could be between $365 and $730. The average child potty trains between 2 and 3 years old, so multiply those amounts by 2.5 and you have about $912 to $1825.

Not only can you definitely cloth diaper for less money than that, but your diapers will last until your child potty trains, and your purchase can be used with MULTIPLE kids as long as you treat them with care.

Families that use cloth diapers might end up using more water and electricity, but most families report that they do not notice much of a difference in their utility bills. Overall, it would be hard to argue against the fact that cloth diapering is more cost-effective.

Is it Healthier for My Baby?

Some babies have sensitivities to the chemicals used in disposable diapers. These chemicals can cause rashes and discomfort. You can buy natural brands to try to minimize some harsh chemicals used, but those come with a bigger price tag.

Most babies do not have sensitivities to disposable diapers, but cloth can still be a healthier choice. The best thing for a baby’s skin is to be clean and dry. Disposables can do a great job with this…in fact, they can do such a good job that parents tend to change less frequently than when they use cloth simply because the diaper isn’t leaking.

The more liquid the diaper is holding, however, the more potential there is for the diaper to start irritating the skin. The longer the diaper is on, the less airflow the baby’s bottom is getting.

A good deal of cloth diaper options also have moisture-wicking materials in them to keep the baby’s skin clean and dry. Many types of cloth diapers do not hold quite as much pee as disposables, so they need to be changed a little more frequently. While that may seem like a con, it is a good thing to keep baby’s skin dry and healthy.

Cloth allows for better airflow to the skin which is one of the many benefits pointed out in this 10 Benefits of Cloth Diapers guide from Mom Loves Best.

Is it Better for the Environment?

For every cloth diaper you use, that is one less disposable diaper that ends up in a landfill. Each cloth diaper saves MANY disposables from ending up in a landfill because you can use a cloth diaper over and over and over! From a waste prevention standpoint, there is no doubt that cloth diapers are better for the environment.

Some people have concerns about the amount of water, energy, and emissions used during cloth diapering. When it comes to emissions caused by cloth diaper service vehicles, a family can simply choose to maintain their cloth diapers and avoid using a service to eliminate this concern.

Cloth diapering adds about 10 loads of laundry per month for the average family, depending on how many diapers they own and how often they wash a load of diapers. There is no doubt that cloth diapering has the potential to use more water in the household, however, there are many things to consider besides just water use.

The manufacturing of disposable diapers also uses many resources, such as wood, petroleum feedstocks, and chlorine.

Both kinds of diapers end up using some resources; there is just no way around that.

If we are going to focus on water, many estimates out there say that as much as nine gallons of water are used to make just ONE disposable diaper!

You may run the washing machine a couple of extra times per week if you cloth diaper, and if this is a concern there are ways you can conserve water during other households uses to make up the difference. Some ideas are:

  • Use a high-efficiency washer that will help save water.
  • Forgo lawn watering.
  • Make sure you have a full load before running the washer instead of doing smaller loads.

As far as energy, the biggest use of energy in this process is the dryer. You can simply not use it if you choose. Not only will it save energy to forgo the dryer, but it will protect and prolong the lives of your diapers.

Is it Convenient?

The biggest myth surrounding cloth diapering by far is that it is difficult to do. It really, really is not. If you know how to do laundry, you can cloth diaper!

That’s not to say people never have issues. There are websites and Facebook groups dedicated to troubleshooting issues regarding washing, fit, leaks, etc.

There is a lot of support out there for families that are experiencing issues, and almost everyone with issues can work through them and have success.

However, you will likely find that you can cloth diaper with ease, and if you do have questions or concerns, you can find answers quickly online.

Cloth diapering on-the-go is as easy as using disposables on-the-go–just remember to bring your wet bag to put your soiled diapers in, and that’s it! Otherwise, there isn’t a difference.

It is convenient to never run out of diapers. No more will you go to change your baby’s diaper, find you’re out of diapers and have to muster up the energy to get to the store. If you run out of cloth diapers while at home, you just do a quick load of laundry and you’re good!

Lastly, if you have some concerns about using cloth diapers full-time, remember it doesn’t HAVE to be all or nothing–you can use cloth diapers as often as you like and use disposables when you feel it is necessary. Any cloth diaper you use is one less diaper in a landfill, one less diaper you spent money on…those are great things!

So Are Cloth Diapers Worth It?

Yes, I believe they are worth it. There are so many pros to cloth diapering. Any cons are relative to the individual family, and there is almost always a way to work through that concern and find a solution you can be happy with.

The environmental and health benefits, along with the cost savings are enough to make trying cloth a worthwhile endeavor for almost every family. If you decide to try cloth and do not enjoy it, there is quite the market for used cloth diapers. You may be able to sell and recoup a lot of the money. So if you are interested in giving it a try, what have you got to lose?

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is-cloth-diapering-worth-it

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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10 Comments

  1. I LOVE this article! I’m a big believer in sustainable practice and so wish I had thought to use cloth diapers when my bubs were littler. I work in child car and we do have lots of parents who bring in cloth diapers for their children.

    You are so right in saying that people worry they are difficult like the cloth diapers our parents used to use for us as babies, but the new ones are so simple to use and clean. Thank you for shedding some light on the much easier to use and environmentally friendly modern cloth diapers! I will definitely use them if we decide to go for a fourth bub!

    1. Thanks!! I’m glad the daycare you work at allows them, that’s so awesome! I’ve been fortunate that both of the daycares we have used for our kids allowed them, too, but I know sometimes families worry about that.

  2. Hi and thanks for creating this site. I had heard of cloth diapers before but didn’t know much about them before this. It does make me think they really are a viable alternative to regular disposable diapers. Thanks, Kenny

    1. You’re welcome, Kenny!

  3. Hendrik says:

    Hihi, this is a cute article. I am not a dad yet but I am an environmentalist, so my children will definitely poop in clothes. Makes so much more sense to me in all the ways. Sure it’s probably not always the nicest to clean them but, hey they are hot wearing them forever. At least I hope so. Now I am even more convinced, thanks I will forward this to my partner 🙂

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Hendrik! They aren’t so bad to clean once you’re in a routine. Sounds more overwhelming than it is!

  4. Lynn says:

    Holly, this is a great article.  Great information about cloth diapers.  I’m a grandmother now, but when my kids were babies, I used cloth diapers.  That was 38 years ago.  I used a diaper service and that was very convenient. I have seen the current diaper covers now a days.  They are just so cute!! I wish they would have been available back then.  We just had plastic pants to go over the diapers.  I think the cloth diapers would be a great choice for any mom now days given all the great pros. 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Lynn! They really are adorable now! 🙂

  5. Helen says:

    Well, I never wanted children so the nappy debate never affected me as an adult. However as children, we older ones helped mum with the nappy changing. In those days it meant initially rinsing them in a flushing toilet prior to using the washing machine. Fortunately only a few got pulled out of our hands and got flushed down the toilet!

    From comments here it appears that the actual fabric nappy has really evolved. Folding was a problem back then and often too bulky for the babe.

    Over the years, and due to my profession, I watched the disposable nappy industry  (ie the throw away brigade) grow and grow. Everything about disposable nappies is hard on the environment. From components to manufacturing; from packaging to disposal there is a negative impact on our world.

    Even though it is well publicised  NOT to dispose these items down the toilet, there must be a lot of illiterate people out there who can’t read these warnings. So not only is landfill increased enormously, the impact on the waste water treatment system is immense. For one town sewerage system I upgraded, the main pump station in town shut down. Why? An huge ball of nappy liners and disposable nappies had formed and totally plugged the pumping system. The result was a rather pungent overflow and a quite large repair bill. All from tax and rate payers pockets. 

    I am so glad you are presenting the cloth nappies in such a positive light and hopefully people will move over to using them. A win win situation for everybody.

    CiaoHelen

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Helen! I totally agree—it’s so easy to use disposables when you don’t think about the impact on our planet. In this day and age, it’s easy for some to put their heads in the sand over it. Other people don’t have that luxury! Anyway, cloth has gained more traction in recent years and I can only hope it will continue to grow.

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