Monday, August 10, 2009

Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers

So before Nate made his appearance, we decided to look into cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers. We knew that diapers were going to be a major expense over first couple years and we wanted to spend our money wisely. As we started our research we found out that some of the new cloth diapers are not the simple prefolds that we were raised on. No more are trying to stick pins into a crying baby. That in itself would have probably meant lots of accidental draws of blood. The cloth diapers of today are about as easy to put on and take off as disposables. Doing a lot of reading it did become evident that there were pro and cons to both sides. The disposables are certainly convenient. However, the big item that caught my attention was even buying the high-end cloth diapers I can see a pretty significant potential cost savings over disposable diapers. And if we do indeed have a second child that can use the same diapers then the savings becomes even greater.

So we are almost six weeks from Nate's birth and the jury is still somewhat out. I do really like the cloth diapers, but Nate was pretty small being early and he just didn't fit into the cloth diapers initially. As he has grown he fits in them pretty well. We still use the disposables at night. More for convenience than anything else.

So why are cloth diapers interesting. One of the big arguments for cloth is they are better for the environment. Well, by the time you wash all those diapers I'm pretty sure there is still a positive environment impact, but I can see where the foreign made cloth diapers, water usage, and detergent start to negate that big advantage just a little bit. Another cloth diaper advantage is that babies are less likely to have diaper rash. Saving Nate this pain is a real positive in my book. I won't go into the argument behind this, but it does seem to make sense. Then there is the claim that babies wearing cloth diapers tend to potty train faster. We will see on this one, but the faster we can stop buying/washing diapers the better.

So why are disposables interesting. Convenience, convenience, convenience. Yes, all you have to do is throw them away. No trying to store to wash. No having to bring diapers back if you are out. No worrying about knocking solids off. Then there are day care providers that don't want to deal with cloth diapers. So that is a pretty compelling argument.

However, the #1 argument in my book was cost. I figured that 2.5 years of diapers was about average. Some children will go longer and some will get potty trained sooner. If you figured that you will spend about $1.80 per day on disposable diapers (estimate $0.18 each at 10 per day initially, $0.225 each at 8 per day as they grow, and $0.30 each at 6 per day before they are out of diapers). That means for one baby I estimated you'll spend about $1642 in diapers alone. You might be able to reduce that slightly buying in bulk or going with low end store brand. However, you can certainly spend more on the high end Pampers or Huggies. For a set of reasonably high-end cloth diapers (mix of sizes) that should last Nate until he is potty trained I will end up spending a little less than $500. If you add the extra water and detergent costs, lets say $5 / month you need to add $150. Then there will be times you use disposable diapers for what ever reason (traveling, came early and used newborn disposables, using disposables at night, etc.). Let's say that is another $200. So if you can handle washing diapers and dealing with the extra time needed to handle cloth diapers I estimate that you can reduce your diapering costs by about $800. Then the cloth diapers can be reused so for baby number two the cost savings become even more pronounced.

I won't say that cloth diapers are for everyone, but I've been impressed so far. We have a little liquid leaking problem with one of our diapers because Nate just isn't really big enough for the way they are sized. At this point there have been no blow outs (or even anything close) with the cloth diapers.

Soon I'll go over the brands of cloth diapers we chose and the pros and cons of each.

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