So, yes, the cost can knock the wind out of you. But there are several ways to make it more cost effective, as well as different ways to cloth diaper.
A Diaper Service
I’ll start with the different methods of cloth diapering. The first way is one that I would not recommend, it won't save you money, and I've personally tried it and really disliked it; was a diaper service. My local diaper service cost me about $70 a month (for 50 diapers a week, I used the service when my daughter was 21 months old.) Once a week a man in a truck would come, take my yucky diapers and replace them with clean ones. I had to provide the covers, and wash those myself, the cheapest I have found are called Econobums, they are a PUL (waterproof material) one-sized cover so you have to snap them down to make them a size small or medium, so it’s nice not to have to keep buying the different sizes of covers, and these covers are $8.95. It was nice because I didn't have to wash the diapers. It was terrible because the diapers were only washed once a week. I had a pail of gross diapers sitting in my tiny apartment for 7 days, odor-eaters didn't work. I also didn't have the flexibility to choose what type of diapers I wanted; I had to use prefolds, the old-school cloth diapers.
Service Per Month: $70 (840 per year)
7 Econobum Covers: $62.65 (You need one cover per day)
I’ve heard many women say that they don’t cloth diaper simply because the diaper service is not eco-friendly, which it’s not. But I was shocked to find out that they thought that that was the only way of cloth diapering! Washing the diapers yourself cuts down costs exponentially. Prefolds
24 Gerber Prefolds $21.98
4 Econobum Cover: $35.80
Prefold Total: $57.78
PrefoldsIf you want to do the work yourself, buying prefolds and covers, this is a truly inexpensive way to go! On Amazon you can buy a package of 12 for $10.99! Buy two packs and you'd have more than enough diapers to wash them once every other day You'd also need a cover to go over the diaper, and you don't need as many covers as you do diapers, because unless they get poo on them, you just replace the prefold, so I'd recommend buying 4 if you plan on washing every other day.
Fitted diapers are like the prefolds, except that they are in the shape of a diaper. They usually
Velcro or snap together, and also require a cover. I know some people who let their kids walk around in just the fitted diaper. They are more reliable than fitted or flats (they don't move around and get poo on the cover.) These are great, because the diaper allows the bum to breathe a lot more than some of the options listed below. Fitted diapers start at $8, these also are mostly sized, same as the cover.
The least expensive route that I have found are Mother-Ease One Size, which cost $11.95 each. These are great fitted diapers, and the fact that they are one-sized helps cut costs, as you don’t have to keep re-buying your stash.
18 diapers Mother-Ease One Size: $215.10
4 Econobum: $35.80
Fitted Total: $250.90
Pocket diapers are diapers that you have to put flats in between the PUL cover and another fabric. This requires you to stuff all the diapers prior to use. While they are very nice to have, because you don't have to wrestle a wiggly baby for nearly as long, they do get very pricey. These can also be sized, or one sized. The least expensive that I have found is called Kawaii diapers. These run about $6.99 per diaper (if you can get them from the main website, which can prove challenging at times) or $7.75 if you buy them elsewhere (I've only found this price at Jack Be Natural.)
18 Kawaii's: $125.82 (or $130.50)
I must say it though, Kawaii's are the least expensive by a long shot. You might have some that are even cheaper, but Kawaii's are good quality diapers for very inexpensive (I tried one that was $5.50 for a diaper and it was horrible quality.) The next closest price is $15 per diaper.
18 diapers for $15 each- $270
These diapers are super easy to use! There is no stuffing, no covers, it's a diaper that has everything you need in one diaper. It's like a pocket diaper, except that instead of having a pocket, it's sewn right across. These are the most expensive way of cloth diapering. They typically cost about $25 each. But they are what I call “daddy-friendly,” they are easy for people who don’t cloth diaper to use, as they (like the pocket diapers) are single use diapers, many day-cares require AIO diapers if you plan on cloth diapering while your child is in daycare.
18 AIO diapers: $450
Now that I've laid out the different types of diapers, and how much they cost for a 2 day supply, let’s compare them to disposables. Let’s say that you still use 18 diapers in 2 days, and that you get a box of 80 diapers for $26.99 (Size 3 Huggies, obviously this number is slightly skewed as when your baby is younger you will go through more diapers and the box has more diapers, and when they get older the box has less diapers.)
If you use diapers for 3 years:
Diaper Service: $2,582.65
Pocket: $125.82 / $270
Disposables: $3,324.83 (9 diapers per day * 365 days * 3 years / 80 diapers per box * $26.99 per box)
This is solely the price of diapers that you will pay. Let’s look at the other things you will need when diapering a baby for three years.
Things you need for disposables:
Diaper genie $40.39
Diaper genie refills $7.49 per month ($269.64 for 3 years)
Wipes $11.99 per month ($431.64 for 3 years)
Things you need for cloth diapering:
Spray bottle for wipe solution: $0.99
Baby wash (for homemade wipe solution): $4.79 for 15oz (this lasts me 3 months, so $57.48 for 3 years)
Baby oil (for homemade wipe solution): $5.99 for 20oz (this lasts me 4 months, so $53.91 for 3 years)
Large Wet Bag: $29.95
Travel Wet Bag: $21.00
Diaper Soap: $14.95 for 80 loads (15 loads per month, this will last 5 months, so $107.64 for 3 years)
Cloth Wipes: I made mine, I bought 1 yard of fleece from JoAnn Fabric for $6.99 (I used a coupon) and it made 50 wipes for me.
Total for Disposables for 3 Years: $4,066.50
Most Expensive Cloth Diaper System For 3 Years: $727.96
Least Expensive Cloth Diaper System For 3 Years: $335.74
Did I mention the best part? You can use cloth diapers for more than one child! I know some people who have used the same diapers for 4 children! Let’s do the math!
4 children in disposables for 3 years each: $16,144.83 (diaper genie was only added once.)
4 children in cloth diapers for 3 years each, expensive system: $1,385.05 (baby wash, baby oil, and diaper soap added for each child, all the other things only added once.)
4 children in cloth diapers for 3 years each, cheap system: $992.83
$16,144.83 vs. $1,385.05?!
(Let me tell you, even I was shocked when I got this number!)
What about the cost of washing the diapers? This is a question that depends on where you live. I live in the Pacific NW, and it only costs me about $2 more per month to wash cloth diapers every other day. But I do know others in different states whose bill doubled or tripled, it all just depends on where you live.
There are several ways to cut some of these costs down as well. For disposables you can follow couponing blogs, clip coupons and get the diapers for a fraction of the cost. The same goes with cloth diapers, stores are always having sales, discounts, and there are several work-from-home moms who sell these items for very inexpensive (Nana's Bottoms is a great route to go!) Or if you're handy with a sewing machine you can just make them for yourself, Very Baby has several PDF patterns for sale that are very easy to follow.
All calculations were done by me, all disposable diaper information was taken from diapers.com, the cloth diaper information was the least expensive that I was able to find online.