A cloth diaper stash for the baby

So, I know that using cloth diapers is cheaper than disposables, but by how much? I thought I’d do a bit of calculating of how much setting up the newborn stash is going to cost us.

My plan is using hand-me-downs and flats. One of Hubby’s cousins has passed along quite a stash of diapers, but I don’t know what size they are (not seen them yet) or exactly how many, so my count will be about creating a stash from scratch. I will also need a slew of fitted diapers for Hubby and other non-folders to use, and I will try to account for that. I’m going simple and cheap.

I figure I’ll do laundry every other to every third day, so that makes for 24 to 36 diapers. We need soakers/covers (the outside layer) and I’ll be able to make some, but I’ll count purchasing 10 or so (they can be reused a certain number of times).  In all, I’m planning to purchase so that we have: (I plan to purchase cheap, and make cheap, but I’m using generous prices based on amazon searches)

36 flat diapers @ $2 each = $72
10 soakers/covers @ $10 each = $100
10 fitted diapers @ $15 each = $150

For a total of…. drum roll please!  $322

I acknowledge this is for the newborn stage only, though the flats will fit for a while. As baby grows, bigger covers and fitteds will need to purchased which will up the cost.

Compared to disposables: A quick amazon search gave me the price of 12 diapers for $13. To make it simple, lets call it $1/diaper. If the baby uses 12 diapers a day, it would take 27 days to reach 322 diapers used and thus $322 spent on disposable diapers (not counting sales tax, shipping, or travel to the store). I break even on cost of diapers at just short 1 month. Hmmmm…. A friend pointed out that $1/diaper is a bit much and she gets an off-brand at $6 for 42 diapers, or $0.14 a diaper. Doing the appropriate math, which Hubby did while we were chatting on this topic, it would take 184 days (just over 6 months) to “break even”. By then, however, baby most assuredly will have outgrown at least some covers (if using flats for diapers, as you can fold them to fit several sizes) and there is a good chance you will need some larger sized fitteds. All this adds to the cost, and extends the “break even” time — which is purely monetary at this point. I think Hubby is right that with baby #1, you don’t save all that much using cloth instead of disposables; its with baby #2 and #3 that you start to save the $$. If I’m not too overwhelmed by having a new  baby, I’d like to keep track of what we spend and compare the two methods.

In accounting for cost, one must also consider the cost to wash and dry the cloth diapers, the trash cost for diapers, and the gross-cost of cleaning poopy diapers. There is also the less-measurable cost of diapers in a landfill, but that is not one I pay out-of-pocket, so I will neglect that aspect for now. We are, after all, tightwads before environmentalists.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how much a load of laundry costs us, and no idea how to figure it out. I am planning on hanging laundry out in the summer and fall, we have no shortage of sun and warm weather 3/4 of the year. Come winter, though, I have nowhere to hang any thing to dry inside and no dry place outside. If you know how I can figure out the cost of a load of laundry (wash and dry), let me know. I suspect, though, the cost of  laundering the diapers will extend my break even time to just about a month or just over. With looking at about a 6 month “break even”, I don’t even have an intuitive idea of how laundry cost will affect the cost. I’d love to know, though!

The time-cost of doing the laundry is another aspect to consider. Laundry is one of those chores that can be done around other things and a chore that will increase whether I use cloth or not. So the time cost is minimal. Also, I’m a biologist, changing poopy diapers and washing them doesn’t seem to bother me too much. Can’t be worse than dissection, right? So the gross-cost is minimal for me. These aspects will most assuredly vary person to person.

As for trash cost, right now its a flat rate no matter the number of cans, so adding a can of merely disposables each week will make no difference for us.

Even with the long “break even” (which isn’t even all that valid), writing this post, and editing it, has made me even more confident that cloth is the way to go. I’d love to hear what others think. Am I off on my estimates? Am I being to stingy with how much we will spend to create a stash for a newborn? Will baby likely out grow the newborn size in less than a month, so the month to break even is just unrealistic? Is there some aspect of the cost that I’m overlooking?


  1. well, we pitched in once at work for a shower gift, and ended up getting them a whopping $600 gift card to… drum roll…. DIAPERS DOT COM. i was all, really? diapers?! after reading your post, i understand why all the parents at work were so into this gift… but now i'm even more over it! all that mula literally down the toilet. i'm interested to know how it goes for you!

  2. I used cloth .. curity prefolds and rubber/plastic type pants (back 30 years ago) .. washing them every other day .. and hanging on the line when possible. The new diaper pants seem the way to go but are very expensive. A combination might just be what you need. For church, I'd use disposable with nursery workers. Have you looked into making your own powdered laundry soap .. it leaves no soapy residue and is very inexpensive to make .. using white vinegar for the rinse instead of fabric softener is better too. I always added a little laundry soap to the pail to soak the diapers. You must be very excited to have your baby soon!

  3. Wow. I really have no idea… and am interested in how this works for you. Including how these diapers actually look/work, because back when I was a child… well, I am the youngest child, so I really don't know!

  4. Generally speaking, babies need 6 nappy (diaper) changes a day, if that helps you with your calculations. My kids are now almost 19 and 17, but I remember the stage you are at as if it was yesterday. We used cloth during the day and 1 disposable at night. Glodina squares folded in this really cool South African way (to fit all ages from newborn to age 2-3), snappis to secure them in front and plastic covers did the trick. Not the fancy fitted ones that Rhonda is marketing on her blog. I'm sure if I was having a baby these days, I'd buy a few of the fitted ones, though, as they seem so adorable and almost are an outfit in themselves! Sure, the savings comes with more children. We had a short period of time when we had "two age two and under" and that meant 12 nappies a day….until I said, 'right today we begin toilet training'….which with a boy could easily mean using the garden (backyard) as a place to 'wee'…. and with our mild Winters in Cape Town, it didn't matter that it was in the middle of Winter! It saved me the hassles of yet ANOTHER nappy change since my daughter was a newborn. With nappy liners, the clean-up was not a big issue, really. We're fortunate in that we line-dry most every day except when the Winter rains hit and then we simply pull a fold-up wooden drying rack from under the bed, set up anywhere near an open window eg bathroom or bedroom or by a fireplace with a firescreen and everything dries quick quick. I've hardly used my tumble dryer in 20 years. (And I'm an American who grew up with dryer sheets etc etc). Wishing you God's blessings in the weeks ahead–very special times to come.

  5. Julian is almost two but I'm still having a hard time remembering how many diapers we went through a day when he was a newborn…it was A LOT. Granted we were crazy about tracking every pee and poop because because of his jaundice (he stayed in the hospital an extra week and we HAD to write down every diaper change…) So my perspective is a little skewed! I floated the idea of cloth diapers for our second one (who is due in July) to my Hubby and he, I think, looked at me like I was insane, LOL! I am still thinking it over though…maybe after that initial infant stage. I'll definitely read what you write to see how you do though! 🙂 Katie

Please do comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.