Nov 7, 2014

Cloth Diapering - the Logic and Math

I've always been curious (in a skeptical way) about the world of cloth diapering, but never had reason to really look into the matter.  Until now, that is.  Several weeks ago I plunged into the study, finding that I was quite confused at first by the multitude of terms and types.  Apparently cloth diapering peeps have their own language.

It didn't take me long to decide that if I was going to venture into these realms, I wanted the simplest, closest-to-disposable cloth diapers I could get.  Furthermore, for the sake of keeping the cost down I wanted them to last as long as possible, which meant I needed to get something with adjustable sizing so that they wouldn't have to be replaced every few months.

With this criteria in mind, I figured out that this meant I wanted a OS (One-Size) AIO (All-In-One) set of diapers.

Enter the shopping stage.

First observation: there are a LOT of options to choose from.  And they all seem to have multiple diaper choices.

I finally started sorting through the seemingly endless amount of choices by way of going with what had the best reviews.  And then I started adding diapers and products to my virtual cart - and cringing.  The types of diapers I was looking at were about $20/diaper, and the cheapest bundles - 24 packs - were between $400 and $500.  Since the recommended amount of diapers for a decent stash is generally about 25 diapers, this would create a good stash - but would cost more than I wanted to pay up front.

Now, one of the things that got me hooked onto the idea of cloth diapering was the savings.  Especially when I calculated them on this calculator and saw just how much I would otherwise be spending on disposables.  $400 - $500 would still definitely save a great chunk of money in the long run, but I didn't feel like shelling out that much money up front when I've never tried cloth diapering before.

Furthermore, since I plan to supplement with disposables (especially during the first several weeks, when I won't want to make any extra efforts, and then when going out and about) I decided that I wanted to find some way to cut that cost way down.

There are numerous posts online about how to save on cloth diapering, so I started reading those.  They offered several options, generally along the lines of:

  • Buy diapers secondhand. Um, sorry, no.  I'd have no qualms about passing down diapers from one child to another in the same family, but I'm not going to buy some stranger's used diapers, no matter how many times I could wash them.  I'm totally aware of the fact that this is probably a perfectly safe and viable option, but at the moment I feel too squeamish about the idea to be totally comfortable with it.
  •  Use simple prefolds and covers.  I don't want to deal with the confusion complicated-ness that prefolds involve, especially since I don't want to commit to being the only one to change baby's diaper.  Furthermore, the photos I've seen of prefolds with covers look far bulkier than I like. 
  •  Enter diaper giveaways and such.  Definitely going to do this, but I don't think I could build up a sufficient supply this way.
  • Sew your own.  Hmm... how complicated could a diaper be?

 *ahem*

Turns out there are just about as many diaper patterns out there as there are diaper manufacturers.  I eventually realized that my original idea of getting all OS AIO diapers might not be feasible, but started realizing that other diaper types really weren't all that complicated after all.

After some amount of searching, I found this pattern, which has good reviews and looks quite straightforward, along with this modification to make it into an AIO-style pocket diaper, since I didn't want to deal with adding a cover.  When I looked at amazon and figured out that I could get a decent supply of most of the more obscure diaper-making fabrics for under $50, I decided it was worth a try.

So far I have 10 diapers cut out, with enough fabric left for a couple more.

A little while after this I ran across this extremely helpful post, which finally enlightened me as to what exactly AI2 diapers were.  The revelation that only 4-8 covers + inserts would create a full diaper stash was very good to know, and I plan to get 3 covers, spending roughly another $50, to complete my stash.  (I have enough diaper fabrics left that I ought to be able to sew inserts myself.)  I really could just buy a bit more fabric and make enough diapers to complete my stash for less money, but I in the event that I don't love the one type I'd like to have more than one variety of diaper to choose from.

So, hopefully I'm going to be able to make myself a decent stash for roughly $100.

I'm quite sure I'll get *some* use out of them, even if I don't use them all of the time.  This means that I'm basically certain to at least break even, cost-wise.  Even if I don't use them much at all the up-front cost is far less than it would be with store-boughten cloth diapers, and I won't feel horribly guilty if I end up using mostly disposables.

If, on the other hand, this whole cloth diapering thing works... then according to my (very rough) calculations, the cloth diapers will pay for themselves in a matter of about 5 weeks and save us nearly $1,000 in a year and a half of use. 

So.  Seems like this whole thing is more than worth a try...

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