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Purchase the "Do It Yourself" Cloth Diapering Handbook: The most complete and comprehensive introduction to cloth diapering today! Endorsed by Natural Family Online.

The True Cost of Diapering: More Than Money


Just as you gathered information on pregnancy, birth and infant care, so will you want your diapering choice to be an informed one. Today, parents must consider which diapering system is best for their baby, convenient to their lifestyle, financially feasible and environmentally responsible.

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Get comfey
Cloth diapers are made of 100 percent natural soft, absorbent cotton and are gentle on baby’s skin. Cotton is a breathable material, allowing fresh air to freely circulate, cooling and preventing diaper rash. Cotton is kinder and more comfortable to your baby’s skin than paper or stiff plastic and contains no irritating perfumes or chemicals.

The interior of single-use disposable diapers do not breathe well and therefore can be a much higher temperature. Parents tend to change single-use disposable diapers less often than cloth diapers, increasing the risk of diaper rash, since heat and moisture provide an excellent medium for bacterial growth.

Innovative cloth diaper designs provide a slim, tailored fit. Washable stay-dry liners keep moisture away from a child’s skin. The fit, natural softness and dryness are all there for baby’s cotton comfort.

How much will they cost?
The costs calculated below for disposable, single-use diapers are based on two of the most popular brands from a store known for its value pricing.

The newborn package (up to 10 lb.) contains 48 diapers at $16.23, or $0.34 each . The average number of changes for a newborn is 12 to 16 per day for the first two weeks.

14 diapers x 7 days x 2 weeks = 196 diapers at $0.34 each = $66.64

The infant size 1 package (up to 14 lbs.) contains 104 diapers at $ 0.22 each. An average baby requires 10 to 12 changes per day for the first three months.

11 diapers x 30 days x 2.5 months = 825 diapers at $0.22 each = $181.50

The infant size 2 package (12-18 lbs.) contains 88 diapers at $0.26 each. An average baby who is three to six months old requires 10 to 12 changes a day.

11 diapers x 30 days x 3 months = 990 diapers at $0.26 each = $257.40

Mega-pack pricing was used for the balance of the packages, because mega-packs are the least expensive. Each mega-pack was $28.92 + $2.02 sales tax, for a total of $30.94 per package.

The infant size 3 package (16-18 lbs.) contains 96 diapers $0.32 each. A six- to nine-month-old baby requires eight to 10 changes per day.

9 diapers x 30 days x 3 months = 810 diapers at $0.32 each = $259.20

The infant size 4 package (22-27 lbs.) contains 64 diapers at $0.37 each. A nine- to 12-month-old child requires eight changes per day.

8 diapers x 30 days x 3 months = 720 diapers at $0.37 each = $266.40

The toddler size 5 package (over 27 lbs.) contains 58 diapers at $0.41 each. The average 12- to 18-month-old child requires six to eight changes a day.

7 diapers x 30 days x 6 months = 1,260 diapers at $0.41 each = $516.60

The child size 6 package (over 35 lbs.) contains 48 training diapers at $23.00, or $0.45 each. An average 18- to 30-month-old child requires six to eight changes per day.

7 diapers x 364 days = 2,548 diapers at $0.45 each = $1146.60

Grand total
The total estimated average cost is $2,694.54 for 7,349 disposable, single-use diapers. Keep in mind that this is a conservative estimate. It is not uncommon for a child of 3 years to require a diaper at night, and children in single-use diapers tend not to feel wetness, requiring a longer duration of time for toilet training success. Your child’s individual sleep pattern, body functions and time frame for toilet training success will determine the number of actual diaper changes required.

Cloth diapering is relatively simple and financially rewarding, saving from a minimum of $2,300 to upwards of $5,000.

Single-use diapers range in price from $0.22 to $0.45 each. Cloth diapers pay for themselves within a six-month period. After six months, you’ll be diapering for almost free.

A quick estimate of cost: Consumer Report estimates that the most inefficient washer and dryer system costs approximately $0.78 per load, whereas more efficient models cost approximately $0.44 per load. So wash your own twice a week for $0.44-0.78, including water, hydro and detergent -- or spend $16.94-$22.05 for single-use disposable diapers. Please keep in mind that your child is in the large size single-use disposable diaper for the longest stage of diapering, and yes, they are the most expensive at approximately $0.45 each.

Breastfeeding helper
A simple indicator allowing a new mother to determine if her newborn is being breastfed successfully is the number of wet diapers her baby produces. Due to the super-absorbent padding found in today’s single-use disposable diapers, it can be very difficult to know if your baby has a wet diaper.

It can be a true confidence-builder to readily detect that your child is producing eight to 12 wet diapers a day. A new mother may incorrectly decide that her child is not feeding well and switch to a bottle because she is unaware of the wetness her child is producing in disposable single-use diapers. If a child produces no wet diapers within an eight-hour time period, professional help should be sought immediately. Cloth diapers assist in detecting signs of illness and attaining prompt medical intervention.

Cloth: Better for the environment
Consider the numbers: 36 cloth diapers that are used over and over, most likely for more than one child -- or an average 7,349 single-use diapers per child. One-time use, throw-away diapers are the single largest nonrecyclable component of household garbage, creating one ton of garbage per year per child.

Throw-away isn’t go away, and what appears to immediately advantageous also has long-term consequences. It is agreed by many objective reports that so-called “disposable” diapers are the worst environmental choice: Environment Canada, The Recycling Councils of Ontario and BC, The BC Medical Association, The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC), The Worldwide Home Environmentalists’ Network (WHEN) and The David Suzuki Foundation.

More than 4 million disposable diapers are discarded in Canada per day (1.6 billion per year). Disposable diapers are not biodegradable and make up a significant amount of municipal waste. A landfill site does not provide the conditions necessary for the single-use diaper to biodegrade. The “Diaper Genie” now mummifies single-use disposable diapers into our landfill sites for eternity. Consider the cost to operate additional landfill sites and the depletion of our natural forests.

Cloth is convenient!
Cloth diapers are less likely to leak because of a two-stage containment system. Not only does a leak have to get past the elasticized leg of the diaper, but it has to escape the leg gusset of the cover as well. The diaper and cover work in tandem to prevent leaks.

Velcro or snap closings have done away with pins, making modern cloth diapers as easy to change as single-use diapers. Today’s cloth diapers require no folding. Stay-dry liners catch a child’s bowel movements so you don’t have to rinse the entire diaper.

Home laundry may take less than 10 minutes of your time per load, while using disposables entails repeated trips to the store. When running low on diapers and the weather was foul outside, I was so thankful that I just had to dump the diapers into the washer (less than $0.78) turn it on and within two hours (while I did something else), clean, fresh, soft cloth diapers were available. I would not have relished bundling up the baby, warming up the car and trekking to the store to spend $30.94 and carry the bulky disposables home.

Consider this routine: Flush the poopy liner down the toilet and soak the diaper in a pail with a solution of water and a half a cup of vinegar (keeps odors at bay). When you are ready to wash, simply dump the whole pail full of diapers and solution into the washing machine, spin out excess liquid, run through a cold rinse, a hot wash cycle and dry normally. Later place into a laundry basket and pull out diapers as required.

Diaper safety
Some disposable, single-use diapers have been linked to suffocation. The plastic exterior of the diaper is removable to aid in disposal. However, it can also be removed by your baby and can be as dangerous as letting them play with a plastic bag. The super-absorbent padding presents a similar hazard. It can be pulled apart by your baby and stuffed into his mouth and nose. The sticky tabs are not always strongly attached and if removed, may be ingested. Never put your baby to bed clothed only in disposable diapers. Always cover the diapers with clothing.

Babies diapered in disposable diapers are exposed to far too many questionable chemicals contained in the disposable diapers. Newborn skin has an underdeveloped outer layer, and chemicals are more readily absorbed through the skin and into the fat cells than in adults.

The B.C. Medical Association warns of the danger of dioxins and encourages the use of cloth diapers. The absorbent chemical in disposable diapers, sodium polyacrylate gel, absorbs 100 times its weight in liquid.

Studies have shown that when these chemicals become wet, they become even more absorbent and pull moisture from the baby’s body, thereby diminishing the normal defenses of the skin. You can see when this is happening, since your baby’s bottom will look a bit shriveled.

© Diapering Decisions is a supplier of innovative cloth diapers and home to an extensive collection of diaper reviews, tips and care instructions. The above article has become an internet classic to parents seeking information about the cost of cloth diapers vs. disposables.


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