Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trying Cloth Diapers (on a budget!)

After my recent post about the politics of diapers, I got the following comment:

So I'm actually kind of interested considering I'm going to have two kids in diapers in the next week. Any ideas on how to try out cloth diapers without investing a ton of money pre-commitment?

What a great question! I was ready to make the commitment before trying them out, so the investment wasn't really an issue for me. I knew that I wanted to use cloth, so I spent my time researching types of diapers, reading reviews about various patterns, and deciding which fabrics to buy. However, if you're just thinking about cloth diapers, and not sure yet if you're ready to jump in with both feet, here are a few suggestions:
  • Figure out how many diapers you need (for all diapered kids) for one full day and night. I think that's the minimum number of diapers you'll need to get to try it out. If you only get enough diapers for a few hours then you may not be able to find out how you feel about mid-night changes or super-poopies, and we all know that those are facts of diapering, so if you're really considering cloth then you should try them for a full 24 hours.
  • Remember that some parents choose a middle ground--they use cloth diapers at home or during the day, but still use disposables when going out or for nights. There isn't a right or wrong way to cloth diaper, it's just a matter of finding what works for you. This is one reason I recommend trying out cloth for 24 hours--maybe you'll find that you love cloth, maybe you'll hate it, and maybe you'll just realize that you're a middle-ground parent, and that's ok too!
  • Some diapering styles are cheaper than others...but not everyone likes all the styles. The cheapest is prefold diapers (held closed with a snappi or pins) with some form of cover over them. Next come fitted diapers (with their own elastic and velcro/snaps but no leak-barrier layer and still requiring a cover). Then there are pocket diapers, and finally all-in-ones as the most costly options. There are single-size diapers (which come in S, M, and L), and one-size-fits-most diapers (which adjust to fit different sizes, but of course cost more per diaper). Cotton flannel or birdseye is pretty budget-friendly, bamboo velour is quite expensive. Recycling old fabric of your own is the cheapest of all! Even the diaper covers come with choices--fleece, wool, or PUL--each with their own options and price ranges. I recommend doing a little research at DiaperPin or one of the other diapering forums linked below to learn about the pros and cons of the various types of diapers.
  • If you know someone who cloth diapers, especially if her children are different sizes from yours, she may be willing to let you borrow some of her diapers for a short period to try them out. Most cloth diapering mamas that I've known really love cloth, and are typically eager to help convert someone else to the world of cloth. ☺ Even if she doesn't have any spares, at the very least she'll let you look at her diapers and get an idea of what various styles are like without having to buy one of each of yourself.
  • There are a lot of online shops that offer discounts if you buy big diapering packages. They tend to run $1-400 (depending on the diaper style, materials, or brand), and typically include a full set of diapers in one size, or some of the larger ones have everything you need to last from birth through potty training. Yes, that's a big monetary investment all at once BUT consider this: If you decide you don't like them, cloth diapers (especially barely-used ones) have a resale value. Yep, you read that right, you can re-sell your used cloth diapers, so if you buy a discounted package set, then decide you don't want to stick with cloth, you can probably resell all those diapers for very close to what you paid for them. So it's a lot of money up front, but it's not really a risky investment because you can get it back if you change your mind.
  • Of course, that leads us to the next option--yes, you can buy used cloth diapers. I know several moms who have bought a variety of types of diapers so that they could try them all out. They keep the styles they like and re-sell the ones they don't care for. There are a variety of options from practically new diapers (sold for nearly new prices) down to "FFS" (free for shipping) which means that the diaper is old and worn but still works ok and you can have it for free if you'll just pay the cost of mailing. There are several places where one can do this: DiaperSwappers, and ClothDiaperNation are the most well known. (There are a few people who try to sell secondhand cloth diapers on ebay, but technically this is against ebay policy and they do police the listings, so I don't recommend trying to buy or sell diapers there.)
  • There is at least one online shop which has a "try them out" kit where you can rent a set of a couple dozen diapers to try out. You do have to make a deposit for the full value of the diapers, but after the rental period if you decide that cloth is not for you then you can return the diapers and get back your deposit. If you do like them, they are yours to keep. I believe you can even exchange the (gently used) rental set for new diapers if you want. There may be more than one place that does this--search around a bit and see what you can find!
  • If you know how to use a sewing machine (even just a little bit) then you can make diapers for a fraction of what it costs to buy them new. Depending on the type of diapers you want, you can save even more by making them with old flannel shirts for the outsides and old towels for the inside layers--your monetary investment can be limited to a snappi or some velcro and elastic, plus some covers. If you worry that your sewing skills are not good enough to make a diaper, remember these two things: 1--I know two different people who learned how to sew by making diapers and 2--diapers are to catch poop, not to win beauty contests; it's ok if they look a little funny. ☺
  • If you have questions, ask a cloth diapering mama!! Like I said, we tend to get excited about new cloth-diaper-converts. There is also some useful information about various aspects of cloth diapering (such as information about diaper sprayers or cloth-diapering on the go) at the EtsyClothDiapers blog.

5 comments:

Kaylie said...

I have always wanted to try cloth diapers, but I've always been scared to try it. I already have plenty of laundry and I worry that adding more of it will turn me into psycho raving crazy mama. But I like your idea of buying just enough for a day. I can handle almost anything for just a day.

Lindsay said...

I use cloth as well and I agree we love to convert people :)great post

Jessica said...

I've been wanting to try cloth for a while but couldn't bring myself to make the investment. These are great ideas and I actually found a whole bunch of second-hand diapers and accessories for sale on Craigslist... you may have just created another convert.

Autumn said...

If you need any help once baby gets here don't hesitate to ask!

autumn AT allaboutclothdiapers DOT com

When you have a newborn it can be quite overwhelming!

on my site there is a post on how to begin on a budget that may help ;)


http://allaboutclothdiapers.com

Lisa - edenwild said...

Hi, I just found your blog and I like it. I wanted to jump in here and tell about my economical experience with cloth.

We started with disposables because I just felt overwhelmed by all the cloth choices. We bought a bunch of prefolds to use as burp cloths. Then I decided to buy a cover and try using them as diapers. I converted pretty quickly and bought a few more covers. My mother-in-law supplied us with some flat diapers, so those plus the prefolds we have plenty. I hardly spent any money at all, and now I am getting an idea of whether I want to invest in more expensive diapers next time around. I think that even if you just try the cheap flat or prefolds you will get an idea of what your diaper needs are and if you want to go for something fancier like an all-in-one.

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