Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cloth Diaper School: Finances And How to Choose Diapers

Whew.  Now that you've heard my voice FAR too much for your lifetime, you get to live through a post without my voice.  And no pictures.
Sigh.  Weep.  Gnash your teeth.
You'll survive, I guarantee you. 
(And I am looking forward to much less verbose posts...)

This post is probably the hardest of the three to write, because there is no "scientific" way to write it. In other words, I have no way to prevent my natural biases from becoming involved.

How to choose a cloth diaper
People choose cloth diapering for different reasons.  What kind of diaper is best for them depends on a few variables. 

  • Finances.  Obviously AIO cloth diapers are more expensive than prefolds.  
  • How much work you want to do to "prepare" each diaper.  Are you willing to fold prefolds and put covers around them?  Are you willing to stuff pocket diapers?  Or would you rather have your diaper all in one piece?
  • How supportive is your spouse/partner/daycare provider about cloth diapering?  This is something that requires consideration, although I know many women who "solo" diaper with no help from their husbands.  
  • Would you ever have two children of different ages in diapers at once?  If so, a one-size-fits-all diaper might be a good option.
  • If you want the convenience of throwing all of your diapers in the dryer, prefolds might be the best option.  
  • You don't have to be solely cloth diapered. One of my good friends uses cloth diaper during the day and disposable at night.
  • Do you like snaps or velcro (we chose snaps, because we heard they last longer/are harder for babies to take off themselves.)
Things to consider if you're going to be un-biased about finances.

As far as financing diapers, there are a kazillion calculations.  Some will tell you that cloth diapers save you thousands per child.  Others will say that they don't really save you that much in the long run.  I think that each person who does calculations adds in certain things and leaves out certain things.  

Basically some things to consider when determining the financial difference between cloth and disposables are:

Trash service (disposables).
Water (cloth).
Electricity for dryer (cloth).
Cost of diapers. (both)
Laundry detergent. (Cloth)
Wipes (disposable).
Convenience fees (how easy you want either diaper experience to be...i.e. do you have a diaper sprayer, how many days of cloth diapers you would want to have in your stash.)
If you're a coupon addict or not.  (I'm not.)
The "second child" factor. (Reuse with later children or resale on craigslist.)

Here's how I do my non-scientific calculations: 
For our family---we used disposables for the first two months, due to a parasite that Million had.  We purchased the more expensive "name-brand" diapers, as we found that the store-brand cheap diapers could not hold in the stools as well.  Were we to continue using disposables, we likely would have continued using the more expensive brands even after the parasite issue resolved.  I am not a couponer by nature.  The diapers we used averaged about 23 cents per diaper. 

Moment of honesty, I was a little cloth-diaper happy in my shopping.  I have a very large diaper stash for one child (about 42 diapers).  15 of them were gifts.  For the other 27 diapers, a diaper sprayer, 2 diaper pail liners, a diaper pail, 50 cloth wipes that I also use as inserts, 3 wet bags, 2 swimming diapers, a wipe warmer, a spray bottle for his diaper bag, and lanolin for my wipe solution, I paid $235.  

Keep in mind, I had three years to watch sales, stalk craigslist, and pick up the wipes on a free rebate program at our local home improvement store, etc.  I do bargains.  

Since we were "out" $235, and the disposable diapers we used cost 23 cents a diaper, we knew that we had to use at least 1000 diapers to make up for the finances we had expended in our diaper purchasing.  This number does not account for the water that we use.  

Speaking of water and electricity costs, we have a high efficiency washer which can ration water used by weight of the load.  Our washer broke in January of 2010, and we already knew that we would be cloth diapering, so we chose one that would be the most cost-effective for diapering.  I don't have a water meter on our washer, so I can't divide up our water cost well.  However, it is running about the same amount that we're saving on using a much smaller garbage service (which we wouldn't be able to do if we were to use disposable diapers.)  We only use our dryer for the liners and wipes in the winter months.  We haven't seen a large increase in our electricity since we started drying them two months ago.

So according to my calculations, we have nearly paid for our "stash."  We will be able to reuse all of these diapers with a second child or sell some of them on craigslist.  (I made sure to get gender-neutral diapers with the exception of two "army" ones, not that any baby will care what color his diaper is.)

Craigslist & Cloth Diapering
One of the things that attracted me to cloth diapering was the ability to reuse them for second, third, fourth children, etc. (while knowing that some would need replacement over time.)  However, I was also attracted to the possibility of resale of diapers.  If you treat your cloth diapers correctly (washing with the right detergent, and sun-bleaching the stains, etc. like I talked about in my maintenance post today), you can resell your diapers on craigslist for almost purchase value, especially for brands like Bumgenius and Fuzzibunz.  

That being said, sometimes you can get really good deals on craigslist from really tired and stressed out first time moms who chose to use a different brand of diapers or to use disposables for various reasons.  I mentioned in my video that Bumgenius Elementals run about $25 brand new.  I got ten of them on craigslist for $10 a piece (after some bartering...) from a mom who just wanted to cloth diaper while her daughter was breastfeeding, and not afterwards.   

I'm sure I'll remember some more details later on, but this was a good deal of what I could get down in one evening about diapers.  Please please PLEASE leave questions in the comments if you can think of any.  I'll try to do a followup post next week with any answers to questions I have.

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