Cloth Diapering: What Not To Buy

 If you have a baby, you simply can’t claim that you’re serious about frugality unless you cloth diaper. On the other hand, plenty of people get into cloth diapering thinking that they will save money, but instead turning it into one more thing to shovel money at. They allow to not only suck up their money, but their time as well, spending hours and hours doing research on different kinds of diapers, troubleshooting problems with their diapers, looking for cute new diapers on Etsy…

Don’t let that happen to you! The key to maximizing your savings is to buy nothing, and I mean nothing, more than you need. For every single diaper or accessory you purchase, ask if it will save its value in disposable diapers. If the answer is no, don’t buy it. It’s better to need an emergency disposable now and then than to have dropped too much money on diapers that don’t get worn. For a newborn, try starting with eighteen diapers of various kinds, and make sure that you register for cloth diapers for your shower. If you are switching over an older baby to cloth diapering, try just twelve or fourteen, again of various kinds, then start adding in more if you keep coming up short. Look for deals, sales, and secondhand options–I got a lot of mine on the BabyCenter swap, and they were all fine. Anything I bought that didn’t work for us went right back on the swap.

For a point of reference, here’s a typical day in cloth for Little Brother, who is now twenty months:

1 prefold for the breakfast hour

1 pocket for going out and about in the morning

1 pocket for naptime

2 diapers for the afternoon; whatever I have left

1 pocket with 2 inserts (1 full-size BumGenius insert, 1 Thirsties hemp) for nighttime

Total: 6 diapers per day, maybe 7 in case of an unusually timed poop. At this age, I rarely have to wash the covers; three is plenty.

Unless you are routinely running out of diapers and having to use a disposable, don’t buy more. No matter how cute it is. And besides resisting the urge to buy more adorable diapers, you can probably avoid these purchases as well:

1. Cloth wipes. Either buy some of those four-for-a-dollar baby washcloths, or, better yet, make your own. Ask your friend and relatives for their old, gross receiving blankets–the ones that they weren’t going to give you because they’re not cute enough anymore. Cut these up into 8×8 squares; either use a double layer of flannel or one layer of flannel against one layer of old t-shirts. If you have a friend with a Serger, borrow it; otherwise, just zigzag around the edges. The legs of old pajama pants work nicely, too.

2. A diaper sprayer. Surprisingly hard to install, doesn’t do the job as well as you think, and will cause you to accidentally spray bits of poop into undesirable locations. Instead, try keeping a pair of dishwashing gloves on the back of your toilet so you can rinse diapers without getting your hands nasty.

3. A fancy diaper pail. If you have room for a pail, use a regular trash can–not even necessarily one with a lid. You can use a cheap nylon laundry bag as a liner if you want to be fastidious about it. If you absolutely have no room for a pail at all, you have the Frugal Paragon’s permission to buy a FuzziBunz Hanging Laundry Bag. But you may buy two only if you have two kids in cloth diapers. If you’re just getting started, keep the dirties in a trash bag or something until you have a better idea what will work for you.

4. Flushable liners. Don’t be a wimp. Put on your big girl panties (and gloves, see above) and rinse the damn diapers.

5. Special odor control substances. If your diapers smell that bad, they need bleaching or some other special washing.

6. Special cleansers for your cloth wipes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with plain water, but if that really, really offends you, you can make your own solution. I have sometimes used 1 1/4 cups of boiled water and one tablespoon each of Dr. Bronner’s and olive oil.

7. A wet bag. I’m not saying you can’t have one–I have this one myself and I love it–just that you don’t need one. An old bread bag works just as well. My fancy wet bag? I never actually want to put dirty diapers in it. I generally wind up using an old grocery bag or something anyway, and “saving” my nice wet bag for keeping the boys’ change of clean clothes.

8. Cloth training pants. We went straight from diapers to Gerber pants. You know how kids know that Pull-Ups are really just diapers? They know the same thing about snap-side cloth training pants.

If you have a child in disposable diapers, or have a baby on the way, stop making excuses. Just get some diapers and some special laundry detergent and work out the details as you go.


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

3 responses to “Cloth Diapering: What Not To Buy”

  1. Amy K says :

    “You know how kids know that Pull-Ups are really just diapers?” That didn’t really click with me until my daughter stopped using pull-ups. She knew she could pull them up and down, yet she never did; she always peed in the danged things and insisted on being changed using the side velcro like a diaper. I was frustrated, and asked the teachers at daycare one day “So how do we take this to the next level, how do we get her potty trained?” They suggested just sending her in to school in underwear, which seemed like a lot of work for them. I turned to my daughter and asked what she thought. She LOVED the idea. And POOF, she was potty trained – one accident at school that first morning, and maybe 4 or 5 overnight in the year since, but apparently she was ready.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Wow! That must have been a big relief. Yeah, they’re a myth. They are great for long car trips or bouts or diarrhea, but otherwise they’re useless. I know lots of kids who go around pooping in them for months! Big Brother actually would ask me to disassemble them at the side and then close the side Velcro back up like a diaper–putting them on like a diaper. That said, Little Brother’s new daycare provider has asked me to use them and I will probably comply. Apparently he asks to go potty with the big kids and Pull-Ups will be a more convenient kind of diaper for her–that’s how I’ll think of it.

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