You’re going to change your baby at every poop, and that’s as many as 60 diapers a week in the first few months, or somewhere between 5,000-8,000 diaper changes by the time she’s potty-trained. At about 20 – 30 cents per disposables diaper that’s $1,000-$2,500! It’s enough to make any parent seriously consider cloth.
The simplest cloth diapers, used with pins and a cover, cost about $1.50 each plus about $10 or so for a cover. Combined diapers and covers with absorbent inserts go for about $7– $15 per diaper. So even with the highest-end re-useable nappies you could still save hundreds. Cloth diapering is better for the environment, too, as your baby’s thousands of diapers will someday take up space in a landfill somewhere for thousands of years.
But there’s a catch, of course. Cloth diapering has another cost, and it’s big one: your time. Unless you’re in a city with a diapering service, washing and drying those diapers could take as much as an extra hour or so out of your day all told. And not just any hour, but one when you’ll be postpartum and juggling feeding the baby, holding the baby, feeding yourself, sleeping and tending to your own hygiene, too.
And cloth diapers come with other complications: most babysitters and day cares won’t accept them. And if your baby soils a diaper while you’re out, that means carrying the dirty diaper until you get home.
So while we do recommend you get one or two cloth diapers to have on hand for emergencies– every parent runs out of diapers in the middle of the night at least one time per baby– we don’t suggest you spring for an expensive cloth diapering system while you’re pregnant.
If you do wind up with dirty cloth diapers in your life, here’s how to wash them:
- If soiled, use cold water and a spray-attachment on your utility sink to remove solids.
- Store in a dry pail with a garbage bag and tight-fitting lid until you’re ready to wash; wash every day or every other day.
- Launder no more than 12 – 18 diapers at a time.
- Use any unscented detergent. Some manufacturers, like bumGenius!, recommend using 1/4 cup bleach with your regular wash once a month. Don’t use fabric softeners, which coat fabrics and make them less absorbent. This includes “baby” detergents such as Dreft, Method or Purex Baby.
- Use a regular hot water cycle and your washer’s highest water level.
- For best absorbency, dry diapers for as long as it takes to get them very dry, usually two dryer cycles.