If you’re interested in using cloth diapers, the choices and up-front cost can be daunting. Prices vary greatly among styles and brands, but plenty of affordable ways can be found to purchase cloth diapers, especially if you plan ahead.
When building your stash, aim for 20 to 24 diapers for a newborn to 4-month-old, 16 to 20 diapers for a baby 4-10 months old, and 12 to 16 diapers for a child 10 months or older. These numbers work if you do laundry every two days, according to Kelly’s Closet. You may be able to stretch laundry to every three days if you add a couple more diapers, but longer than that and you may have trouble with smells and stains. If you purchase one-size fits-all-diapers, they may be too large on your newborn until he or she reaches 8 to 10 pounds, but once the diapers fit, they should last through potty training.
You don’t have to have a full diaper stash to start using cloth. You can start with just five to seven diapers until you decide which ones you like (any fewer and it probably won’t be worth the time and expense of laundry for such small and frequent loads). You can wash them all at once and use disposable diapers during laundering, and then add to your stash as you find good deals or preferred styles.
Cloth diapers vs. disposables: Which is cheaper?
The best time to start building your cloth diaper stash is during pregnancy. If you aim to buy two cloth diapers per month starting in the middle of your pregnancy, you’ll have almost half of your stash purchased by the time your baby arrives. If you can’t spend $15 to $30 a month on diapers during your pregnancy, you’re going to struggle to afford the up to $100 per month (as little as $32 if you can find good sales) that disposables would cost when your baby arrives. Once you have your cloth diaper stash built up, you won’t have to spend any money on diapers each month.
If this is your first baby, you may be lucky enough that a family member or friend will want to throw you a baby shower. Even if you don’t have an organized party or it’s not your first baby, people will ask what they can get for you or the baby. Tell them that you could use help buying cloth diapers. Amazon carries a huge variety of cloth diapers, and you can create a wish list or baby registry o the site. You could purchase or register for several basic Econobum trial packs from Amazon as an affordable option. Each pack contains three prefold diaper inserts and one wipeable diaper cover and will cover three diaper changes for $11.95. A Econobum Full Kit set, with three covers and 12 prefolds, runs $48.95.
Target, Babies R Us, and Buy Buy Baby all carry some brands of cloth diapers and have registries. These stores usually have coupons and you will receive a registry completion coupon to buy any unpurchased items from your registry. You can create a registry even if you aren’t having a shower to earn this coupon.
Some people will tell you that used diapers are unsanitary. I disagree. It’s easy enough to sanitize cloth diapers, and people are often selling diapers they didn’t use or that didn’t work for their particular baby since diapers fit babies differently. You can get cloth diapers in excellent condition for around 40% of their retail value. My rule of thumb is that I don’t pay more than 50% of the retail value, unless tags are attached and the diaper hasn’t been worn. To me, diapers are like new cars – they lose value after being driven off the lot. I’m not willing pay close to retail and take someone’s word that it was only worn “once or twice” or washed according to directions.
I prefer to buy used diapers locally so I can see them before purchasing. Otherwise, ask for detailed photos of the elastic and insides to make sure they are in good condition with minimal stains. I bought some diapers sight unseen from a friend of a friend and was told by the seller that a lot of life was left in them, but they turned out to have very worn and loose elastic and not worth anything to me unless I can find someone to replace the elastic. Stains, on the other hand, can usually be bleached out by the sun, so I wouldn’t rule out slightly stained diapers. But heavy staining may indicate that the seller didn’t take great care of the diapers.
The best place in which I’ve purchased used cloth diapers is through Facebook “buy/sell” groups. In Columbus, Ohio, almost every suburb has its own “buy/sell” page; there are also local buy/sell maternity and cloth diapering groups. Do a search for the name of your city along with “buy/sell” and “maternity” or “cloth diaper” to see whether a similar group is on your city. Once you join a page, search for cloth diapers using the magnifying glass search feature in the upper right corner of the page. Craigslist is also an option, but I rarely see cloth diapers available in my area. For all purchases, whether through a Facebook group or Craigslist, follow common-sense safety rules and meet in a public place during daylight, bring someone with you if possible, and if it’s not, let someone know where you’re going and whom you’re meeting. If you don’t like the looks of the diapers, politely decline to continue with the purchase. Don’t feel obligated to buy.
There are also diaper swap groups available through Facebook and Babycenter.
Email lists for sales and clearance
Most sites that sell cloth diapers will have sales and clearances occasionally. Sign up for newsletters and “Like” the Facebook pages for discount codes, deals and giveaways. I won one of our favorite diapers by Liking a giveaway post on Facebook. It’s not the color I would have chosen, but we’ll put a pink diaper on our son under his clothes if it’s free!
Cottonbabies: This site carries mostly Bum Genius, Flip and Econobum, with a few other brands. I bought several diapers through the occasional “seconds sales.” The seconds sales are for new diapers that don’t pass inspection because of a small flaw that doesn’t affect performance. I’ve never been able to find the flaw, and I usually save about 30% off retail prices. They also have regular sales and free shipping plus run package deals regularly.
Mom’s Milk Boutique: This store carries a wide variety of cloth diapers and offers free shipping for purchases of more than $25. The site regularly has cloth diapers on sale/clearance and usually offers an item like diaper cream for free when you spend a certain amount. Mom’s Milk also offers cloth diaper trials and sell used diapers.
Diapers.com: This site, which is better known for disposable diapers, also carries cloth diapers and accessories and regularly offers sales and discounts.
Other sites worth checking out for promotions, giveaways, used diapers or diaper trials include DiaperParties and Kelly’s Closet.
Facebook co-ops offer a less-expensive way to purchase cloth diapers. A co-op negotiates a wholesale price on an item from the manufacturer by having the members combine their individual orders into one large order. So instead of paying $10 retail for a diaper, it may only cost $3 to $4. You usually have to pay shipping and a co-op fee per order, but if you’re buying more than one item, your total will still likely be less than retail. Diapers available through co-ops are usually made overseas and include brands Happy Flutes, Alvas, THX and Kawaii. If you’re opposed to purchasing diapers made overseas, be aware that many small companies rebrand these diapers to make them appear American-made and sell them for four to five times the cost.
Most co-ops are closed groups, so you’ll have to join to be able to see what they offer. This group provides deals and reviews of co-op groups, so you can find just what you need.
Buy direct from manufacturer
If you don’t want to join or order through a co-op but want to purchase inexpensive Alva pocket diapers, you can order direct from the manufacturer at AlvaBaby. This company’s diapers are made in China, but shipping is free, the price is right, and they are rated pretty well among pocket diapers. The website isn’t very intuitive to navigate, but you’ll find diapers with inserts from about $4.50 to $9, with discounts available for lots of 10 diapers. You can buy 10 solid-color pocket diapers with microfiber inserts for $44. I have a couple Alva bamboo diapers, and they work perfectly fine, but pocket diapers aren’t my preferred style, so you may want to try a few before you buy a large number.
If you are really struggling to afford cloth or disposable diapers (or just find yourself somewhere without a spare diaper), check this article on Cottonbabies about alternatives for almost-free diapers.