Cost Analysis: Cloth Diapers Vs. Disposables

Updated: Jul 19, 2018

Cloth diapering your little one will require an initial investment, but by the time baby is potty trained you should recoup that investment and then some when compared to disposable diapers.





Let’s take a look at what people are spending on diapers these days.


What do disposables REALLY cost?


  • Let’s assume newborns need 10-12 diaper changes per day.


  • Disposables range in price from about $0.10 - $0.32 each (USD). For this exercise, we will use the average diaper cost of $0.20 each. With these assumptions, you would spend about $2.00-$2.40 per day on disposable diapers.


  • The cost for the first two months, assuming you are changing your newborn 10-12 times per day, would be about $120-$144.


  • After the first two months, most babies will need fewer diaper changes (between 6-10 diapers per day). Let’s assume 8 diapers for the purpose of this exercise. Using 8 diapers per day, you would spend $1.60 per day on disposable diapers. Multiply that out to a month and you are looking at roughly $48 per month.


  • The first year using disposable diapers would cost roughly between $600- $624.


  • Assuming your little one is potty trained at 2 ½ years, and you are in about $1,560. If baby is not potty trained until 3 ½ years old, you are looking at roughly $2,184.


This is literally money that you are throwing away in the garbage. And if you have a second child, you will have to purchase those diapers all over again. When your family is through its diapering stage, you will have nothing of value that you could resell, barter, or even give away to a friend, family member, or family-in-need.


What do cloth diapers REALLY cost?


That depends on the type of cloth diaper you want to use. There are many styles out there and each one has its own pros and cons.


For this exercise, we will look at the most common styles of cloth diaper and we will assume you need 24 cloth diapers, which would allow you to do laundry every other or even every third day.


Flats


They can be found in packages of 6, priced anywhere from $18-$29.95 (we will assume a conservative average of $25 per package). You would need 4 packages to get 24 diapers, so it would cost roughly $100 for the flats.


You will need covers for the flat diapers. Typically, 8-10 covers would be plenty. For this example, we will assume 10 covers. Covers range from $10-$15; using the higher end, the total cost would be around $150 for 10 covers.


You will also need a cloth diaper fastener to hold the flat diaper closed, which costs about $10 for a package of 3 (that is plenty because you only use one and you reuse it).


In total, from birth to potty training, the cost for flats would be $260 (assuming your newborn baby is around 7-8 lbs). If you have a smaller newborn, you may want special newborn diapers. (The same holds true for all but a few of the other cloth diaper styles we will discuss.)


Pre-folds


Pre-folds cost between $15-$18 for a package of 6. You would need 4 packages, so at the high end you would be spending $72 for the diapers.


With the added cost for the 10 covers and a pack of cloth diaper fasteners, as discussed for flats, the total cost would be around $232.


Contour Diapers


Contour diapers range in price but you can find some for around $6 per diaper.


24 contour diapers, 10 covers, and a pack of cloth diaper fasteners would cost $304.


Fitted Diapers


Fitted diapers run between $16-$25 each.


For 24 diapers, the highest end would cost $600.


Add in the covers and a pack of cloth diaper fasteners and your final estimated cost would be $760.


Pocket Diapers


This estimate is for the one-size option (some pocket diapers come in more than one size).


If you buy them in a package of 12 and it costs around $220 per package (you can find deals on some websites), you would be looking at roughly $440 for everything. These diapers should include inserts, so you should not have to buy them separately.


You do not need to spend extra money on covers or cloth diaper fasteners with the pocket diaper style.


All-in-Two


The All-in-Two (AI2) is where you snap the cloth insert into the outer cover.

AI2 covers range in price from 16.95-19.95. Using the high price for 10 covers would be about $200. Add 24 inserts at roughly $4 each and the price would come to around $300.


Hybrid


The hybrid diapers have a cover and you can either use a cloth insert or disposable/biodegradable insert for them.


You will need 10 shells at around $15 each, which would total $150.

If you are using disposable inserts from birth through potty training (we will assume 2 ½ years for this example) you will need roughly 7750 inserts (430 packages of 18), which would total roughly $4,305. This sounds like a lot because it is a lot, but at least you get the benefit of not sending diapers to a landfill and you can reduce that cost by using cloth inserts whenever possible.


If you choose the reusable cloth inserts, the inserts will be roughly $21 for a package of 3 inserts. You would need 8 packages, which totals $168.


All-in-One


Just like the pocket diapers, you can save by buying a package of 12 for approximately $220 (on some websites), so the cost would be $440 for a total of 24 diapers. Covers and cloth diaper fasteners are not required for this style.


The Final Diaper Decision


Making the decision to cloth diaper may come with an initial investment, but if you compare the cost of using cloth versus disposable diapers over the roughly 2 ½ years that your little one will be in diapers you will find that cloth diapering is actually the more economical option.


In addition, your cloth diapers can be used for the next baby your family welcomes into the world. When you are through with the cloth diapers, you can resell, barter, or give them away to a family just getting starting. Disposable diapers do not offer those advantages and, as a result, become exceedingly more expensive.

Whether you are still on the fence or totally gung-ho, I recommend trying a few different cloth diaper styles before making the initial investment to see what you and your baby like. Happy babies make happy homes and you are well on your way to making an informed decision for your family.

Please note that this cost analysis is for diapers only. Indirect costs, like trash, water, detergent, etc. were not included because these costs can vary depending on your location and living situation. Wipes were not discussed, either - they also come in disposable and cloth forms. You can also make your own cloth wipes for next to nothing!

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