Cloth diapers hanging on a clothesline

Cloth diapers: saving money one butt at a time

They’re cute and colorful. They’re trendy. But best of all, they’re cheap.

And boy, did we ever need them to be cheap. Jason was going to school full-time and working part-time while I tried to eke out a living for us at a design firm when we discovered we were pregnant. By the time our daughter came on the scene, I had quit work to stay home with her and Jason had a full-time job — but school bills and home renovation projects made money pretty tight.

bumgenius diapers

So, after about three months using disposables while we recuperated and got our bearings as parents, we took the plunge into the world of cloth diapers. And we’re glad we did. We’ve used primarily bumGenius 3.0 pocket diapers, although we’ve also used the organic AIO style as well. Why did we go for bumGenius?

They didn’t seem as gross.

This is funny to me now, because as a veteran mom I accept that kids are gross, no matter how much awesome gear you have to mitigate their messes. But when our daughter was a baby, I wanted to have nothing to do with swishing diapers in the toilet, touching soaked diapers, or diaper pins. I wanted the experience of a disposable diaper — clean on the outside, with easy closure flaps — without throwing it in the trash. 

So bumGenius fit the bill. And although the elastic and Velcro are approaching the end of their lifespans, these diapers are still going strong. Our son is, perhaps, harder on them than our daughter was.

A lot of moms say they admire me for cloth diapering; others make that face that says, “I can’t believe you wash your cute tops in the same machine where your kid’s poop has been.”

Which is understandable. It takes some getting used to.

But cloth diapers have been worth it for us. They’ve saved us a lot of money, even factoring in the cost of laundry detergent, water, and electricity. A detailed cost comparison suggests that, just in the first year of a baby’s life, you can expect a savings of 27 percent. This comparison is made even more dramatic by our family’s preferences; we bought bumGenius, while the author of this post used gDiapers, which require the extra ongoing expense of disposable liners. And our family has never had much luck with Huggies; when we buy disposables, we spring for Pampers — one of the most expensive brands out there. So for us, it’s an even bigger savings, which doesn’t even take into account the fact that, after the first year, the diapers we invested in were in great shape and have continued to be in use for several more years.

Cloth diapers make you feel good about what’s next to your baby’s skin, too. That papery, plasticky stuff filled with gel just doesn’t feel quite right. For some parents, it’s really important to use only natural (cotton, linen, hemp) fibers against their babies’ skin, and organic is the only safe choice. We’re not that selective, but we understand where they’re coming from. Babies are sensitive and wrapping them up in chemicals — which diaper manufacturers are not required to disclose — could be risky.

Which is not to say we don’t use disposables. We actually use one every night, to help our babies sleep through the night. While cloth diapers have come a long way from the prefolds and vinyl covers my mom used for me and my siblings in the 80s, they’re still not as absorbent as space-age Pampers, which keep our kids dry all night. We also use disposables when we travel — it is just not fun to do diaper laundry on the road.

So what’s not to like about cloth diapers?

The poop. Definitely the poop.

You can’t just close up the diaper and be done with it. You have to dump it in the toilet or into a plastic bag to throw in the trash before putting the soiled diaper in the diaper pail. There are things you can do to minimize contact, and believe me, I have sought them out. For instance, I store dirty diapers in a waterproof “wet bag.” To wash diapers, I just position the bag over the washer and turn it inside out, dumping the diapers in the machine without my having to touch them.

The only other complaint I have is that using washable wipes hasn’t worked well for us (yet) and we always have to find some way to throw away wipes. When you use a disposable diaper, you just wrap up the wipes and toss. With cloth diapers, you have to be a little more creative.

But I’d say we’re okay that. If it means a bit of extra work, some careful thought, and saving money, you can usually count us in.

Besides, they make our kids’ butts look good.


8 thoughts on “Cloth diapers: saving money one butt at a time

  1. all the colors of the rainbow but brown and yellow, i hope. thanks for the follow on Purposeful Pruning. brandy and I hope you enjoy the articles and we have a chance to exchange ideas.

  2. Ha! I love this. We have been using cloth diapers with our first baby who is now almost a year and the down side is definitely the poop. But then again I figure I am just developing an iron stomach for her future illnesses and adventures!

  3. Great post! When my now 12-year old was born, we used cloth diapers when we were home. Not these cute ones – but the prefold w/ safety pins & rubber pants! I had a plastic trash can that had a capful of bleach and water in it. After swishing, they went in there to soak til I washed. If ever I have a need for diapers again – your way looks *much* better!

    1. Hey, the pins and rubber pants worked fine for my parents, and were definitely cheaper than BumGenius. But I was willing and able to spend a bit more for modern diapers — they have been worth it for us. I think it takes a lot more commitment to use the kind you used — hats off to you!

  4. Congratulations for using cloth diapers – who knows what kind of chemicals are in those disposable diapers that go right next to our babies most important assets!
    I cloth diapered all 7 of my babies (’70s, ’80s, and ’90s) too – the old fashioned way with square flannelette diapers (folded to size of baby), metal diaper pins, and rubber pants….. at night we just double diapered! I figured that I saved enough cloth diapering and breastfeeding to make a down payment on a house!

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