Anyone who has driven to the store in the middle of the night to spend their last $20 on disposable diapers knows disposable diapers take a toll in your weekly grocery bill. But have you ever calculated how much?
I have four children, used disposable diapers exclusively with my first three and switched my fourth child to cloth when she was three months old. I know about disposable diapering and I know about cloth diapering. So let's be honest about what it's really like to diaper a baby.
The newborn stage
Anyone who has had a newborn knows that you can go through five or six of those expensive newborn diapers per change. You just barely get the diaper off, the baby cleaned off (with 6-10 of the "good" disposable wipes, and that's you being judicious), put a new paper diaper under your baby and they go again. And again. And again! The next thing you know, you've used up six diapers (at about $0.33/each, and that's if you planned ahead and not if you sent someone else to the grocery store for them to buy the smaller pack, not on sale for $0.55 each) and almost an entire box of wipes (50 at $0.04 each).
So far, that diaper change cost you 6 diapers x .33 = $1.98, plus 50 wipes x .04 = $2 = $3.98.
Don't forget the laundry of the 1-3 outfits/changing pads/receiving blankets your baby just pooped on in this fiasco. We'll add that in later.
Hey, that's only $4 for the bedlam diaper change, not a big deal. Right?
Except here's the thing about newborns. If you are LUCKY you will only need to change your newborn 10-12 times a day. 12 times a day is only once every 2 hours, and I'm here to tell you that newborn poop is super liquid, moves super fast, and with a disposable diaper goes everywhere, and with all of my newborns, especially that first week, I was changing them more like 15 times a day.
12 times a day x $0.33 each per disposable newborn diaper + 3 wipes per change x $0.04 per wipe = $3.96 per day in diapers + $1.44 in wipes per day = $5.40 per day to diaper your newborn with no fiascos and the bare minimum of changing them.
We all know that's not going to happen, so let's say you are lucky and only have to change your newborn 14 times every 24 hours, 12 of those times are easy sailing (ha, ha) and 2 of those times are the mayhem times.
12 easy diaper changes per day = $5.40
2 mayhem diaper changes per day = $3.98 x 2 = $7.96
Diapering your newborn will cost you $13.36 per day.
The serious bedlam mostly only lasts the first month, with the first week or two being the worst, so let's say your first week you have 12 easy, 2 bedlam and your second week you have 11 easy and 1 bedlam (and I am really being optimistic here), per week. Maybe your HOLY WHAT THE??? diapering times aren't concentrated to 1-2 times but are kind of spread out over all the changes. It all averages out.
Week 1 = $13.36 x 7 = $93.52
Week 2 = $9.38 x 7 = $65.66
And the diapers still leaked around the edges of their onesie and almost always up their back. So with each change, came more baby laundry. Hey, a baby outfit is small, so you know, every day you had an extra load or two of laundry. No big deal, right? Your baby is totally worth it.
Just from diapering mishaps, you're going to be doing a minimum of 5 extra loads of laundry a week. This is on top of all the new laundry your little one is going to make in your life and it is SHOCKING how much laundry a baby can generate. You won't believe this until you've lived it.
More diapering: Week 3 = $9.38 x 7 = $65.66
Let's say your baby is growing at a good clip. (Go baby!) Yay, you get to switch to Stage 1 diapers. They are about $0.20 each. (If you use the so-called "natural" ones (*cough*) they will run you a whopping $0.50 each. And apparently they don't work as well. Hooray!
So, diapers are cheaper. You're still going to have some serious mayhem at the changing table and in your life. Blowouts up the back, all over the clothes, leaks out the side, all over the carseat to the point you have to unscrew the entire thing to get it clean. Oh, and on your clothes too. You thought using disposable diapers meant you wouldn't be handing poop! No fair! But, the diapers at least are not as expensive.
Week 4 = 10 diaper changes per day x $0.20 each for diapers = $2.00 + $1.20 in wipes = $3.20 per day x 7 = $22.40.
In four weeks you will have spent:
$93.52 + $65.66 + $65.66 + 22.40 = $247.24
In another four weeks, you'll spend a minimum of $22.40 x 4 = $89.60.
So, for the first eight weeks, it will cost you $336.84 to disposable diaper your baby.
Plus you'll be doing 5 extra loads of laundry a week, just to keep up on the baby clothes that get leaked on from the disposable diapers. You'll need more baby clothes too, just to keep changing them. Trust me, this is true.
Let's imagine if you bought a stash of 12 goodmama newborn diapers at $20 each, plus 12 preemie (newborn) prefolds at $1.20 each = $14.40, plus two sets of a dozen wipes at $17 each. goodmama fitted diapers are premium, organic, non-scented, cloud soft, and do not leak like disposables. These will fit up to about 2-3 months, or 12 pounds. We're just going to talk about the first 8 weeks in this article.
12 x 20 = $240 + 12 x $1.20 = $14.40 + 2 x 17 = $34 = $288.40 for a stash of newborn fitteds, prefolds and wipes.
These diapers need covers, and you can get top-quality newborn bummis covers for $11 each new. You can get cute ones for about a dollar more, but already just by virtue of being not-paper they are cuter than your disposable diapers we all cover with a onesie because they are so weird and feel gross.
Go crazy and buy 6 covers. 6 x $11 = $66
$288 + $66 = $354.
But what about the laundry? Here's the thing. Cloth diapering a newborn DRASTICALLY cuts down on all the baby clothes laundry you need to do, so you're clothes laundry will drop as your diaper laundry goes up. So the laundry will stay about the same.
And you don't have to do anything special with newborn diaper laundry. Everything is water soluble, so just toss the diapers in the pail, and tote to your washing machine every day or two. It's JUST LAUNDRY, nothing special. And no, you don't use bleach or crazy chemicals or any of that horrible stuff.
And you can use as many wipes per change as you want. I think that is everyone's favorite part about changing cloth diapers. Want to use 24 wipes in one diaper change? Go for it! We're not wasting anything!
So, then you want to know, but if it will cost me $337 to use disposables and $354 to use reusables, why bother with reusables?Because, when your baby outgrows these newborn diapers, you'll have a barely-used stash of diapers to resell for 50-80% of their new price value, to put toward the goodmama one-size diaper. And keep the prefolds to boost absorbency in larger diapers and the wipes, you're going to keep using those. If you used disposables, you'll have NOTHING.
Except more landfill.
Disposables investment: $337, Disposables return: $0
Reusables investment: $354, Reusables return: $34 in wipes + $14 in prefolds you'll keep using + 150 - $240 value for used diapers and covers you can sell toward one-size diapers to last the rest of your baby's diapering career.
End of 8 weeks value: Disposables $0. Reusables $150 - $288.So you've really spent $337 to use disposables and $66-156 to use reusables. See the difference?
And you aren't finished with diapers. Every week with disposables you are back at square one, re-investing and throwing away every penny. This is not true with reusable cloth.
(And we haven't even talked about how much better your house will smell if you use cloth. Or how much cuter they are. Or how much happier your baby will be. Or how much FUN they are to change!)
Next: the rest of the story! Here's where the real savings comes in, with one-size diapering!
(Edited the math a little here. Your feedback matters! :-)