Saving Money on Diapers: Should You Switch to Cloth?

So, you’ve got a baby on the way. Congratulations! Your life will never be the same again — soon it will be nothing short of amazing. Once you get used to the sleepless nights and seemingly endless feedings, you’ll be captivated by the tiny miracle snuggled up in your arms.

Right now you probably feel overwhelmed. There are so many decisions to make. Everything from binkies to bottles to bathing. While the internet is a great source of information, the wide range of opinions can be confusing.

One of the more common discussions is what kind of diapers to use on your precious bundle — cloth or disposable. You care about the environment and want to leave the best future for your baby. And, of course, saving money is important, too. After all, you have to think about college!

If you’re considering using cloth diapers, here are some things for you to think about.

Styles of Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers have come a long way since the days of rubber pants and diaper pins. Now there is a wide variety of choices. Here are descriptions of four of the more common types of cloth diapers:


These are basic rectangle cloth diapers, similar to what parents used before disposable diapers. A separate waterproof cover will be necessary. They are the most economical of the cloth diaper options. These can also be used for adding additional stuffing in pocket diapers (explained below). They withstand many washes and will likely get you through more than one child.


Fitted diapers are similar to prefolds, but they do not require any folding. As the name implies, they have elastic around the legs and waist, creating a trimmer fit. They fasten with Velcro or snaps. They do not have an outer waterproof layer, so you will want to have a separate cover.


These diapers have the inner absorbent layer and the outer waterproof layer sewn together in one piece. They fasten with Velcro or snaps. They are ready to use after being washed, since nothing comes apart and nothing needs to be put back together. All-in-one diapers are easy to use, which makes them a great choice when leaving your baby with a babysitter or relative.


Pocket diapers have a removable layer that runs front to back. You can use as much or as little stuffing in the pocket as you need. Some styles have openings at each end of the removable layer, which makes stuffing (and unstuffing!) much easier. Like all-in-one diapers, pocket diapers are easy to use, provided you have the diapers pre-assembled.

Cost of Cloth Diapers

There is a vast price range when it comes to shopping for cloth diapers. Some cloth diapers are size-specific, whereas others can be used throughout several sizes. Before investing in cloth diapers, you should consider several variables.


Do you plan to use these for more than one child? If so, invest in a more durable cloth diaper.


Is there one style you think you would prefer? Is all-in-one convenience most important to you, or are you searching for the absolute best price?


Will anyone besides you and your spouse be changing your baby’s diaper? If so, you may want to consider a style that is easy to use.


If your baby will go to daycare, check to see if the facility allows cloth diapers.


A newborn will require many more diaper changes in a day compared to a toddler. Buy more diapers in smaller sizes and fewer in larger sizes.


How often do you plan to do laundry? Most cloth diaper owners wash three times a week.

With so many variables, it’s difficult to put an exact price on the cost of cloth diapering. Diaper Decisions has created detailed spreadsheets comparing the cost of various cloth diapering options, including the expense to clean them. These costs are based on 2.5 years of cloth diapers being washed three times a week. Here is a brief summary.

Prefolds and covers cost roughly $381, or $0.06 per diaper change.

Fitted diapers and covers cost approximately $1263, or $0.18 per diaper change.

All-in-One diapers cost about $1413, or $0.20 per diaper change.

Pocket diapers cost around $1678, or $0.23 per diaper change.

Other Accessories Required

You’ll also need a wet bag for on-the-go diaper changes, and a diaper pail with a liner for home use. The three together should cost between $75 and $100.

Cost of Disposable Diapers

According to Consumer Reports, you can expect to spend around $2500 per child for disposable diapers. Disposable diapers are priced per box, so larger diaper sizes will have fewer per box, whereas smaller sizes will have more diapers per box.

If you have a petite child or if your child potty trains early, you can expect your total cost to be less. Likewise, if you have a husky child who potty trains late, your cost will likely be more.

Financial Impact on the Environment

Both cloth and disposable diapers have a negative impact on the environment. Disposable diapers use more raw materials in the manufacturing process — namely trees and petroleum. Plus, they end up in landfills, where they take many years to degrade.

But cloth diapers impact the environment as well, largely due to repeated laundering. They require electricity and water when washing and drying. The detergent and bleach used to clean the diapers can negatively affect the environment.


While cloth diapers are a great solution both to the environment and to your pocketbook, there are still some advantages to disposable diapers. When it comes to finding the perfect diapering solution for your family, the right choice is the one that works best for you.

Amy Kirkegaard is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including money-saving ideas and shopping on a budget. She previously worked in marketing and human resources for an oilfield equipment manufacturer. She is also very thankful her kids no longer wear diapers.

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