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Thursday, October 28, 2010

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A Common-Sense Campaign for One-Size Diapers

The country has made a move, out of necessity but for the better, I believe, towards frugality these past few years. We have relearned the nearly lost arts of food preservation and storage, the value of a well-maintained pantry, and the simple pleasures of baking our own loaves of bread and bringing in baskets of sun-dried laundry off the line. If you're anything like me, you may have wished that you could go back in time and ask great-grandma to share her tricks and tips.

In parenting, we're experiencing growing pains as we re-learn, as a country, the challenges and benefits of breastfeeding. We're making our own baby food. There has been a big enough shift in behavior that we've left corporations scrambling to figure out how to get at least a few dollars out of us - you can now find all manner of “support” items in the major chains, from soothing gel packs for breasts, to freezer storage trays for baby food. A few are even useful.

With the increased interest in back-to-basics frugality, then, why are we having so much trouble convincing our baby-shower attendees that a 3-pack of FuzziBunz, BumGenius, SmartiPants, or (insert your favorite one-size cloth diaper) are a practical investment for any mother? I'd like to put forth the argument that having 8-12 one-size (OS) diapers on hand, usable for the bulk of early childhood, should be viewed as just plain common sense and good household management, to boot.

Why is it good practice to have a supply of cloth diapers on hand? For the same reason it's good practice to have extra food in the pantry – any number of situations might occur over the course of 2-3 years that would limit your ability (due to time constraints, financial limitations, or natural disasters) to pick up that next box of diapers as planned. Can you see yourself in any of the following situations?
  • You or your partner's employer may use employee furloughs to stay in budget, or the overtime you'd expected doesn't materialize.
  • Your hours are cut for a few weeks after the holidays.
  • You need to pay the copay for the doctor's visit and two prescriptions, or the car needs a new alternator.
  • You've been so busy with other errands that you haven't had time to run to the store.
  • A series of big winter storms keeps you stranded out of town for the better part of the last month (remember last winter?), and when you finally make it into town, the shelves are empty.
  • You're an exhausted new mom who can barely make it to the grocery store, let alone to the big warehouse store where you normally get the best deals on bulk items like disposable diapers. Need I continue?
Since I'm arguing for the acquisition of a small OS stash as a practical financial measure, it's only fair to calculate how many uses are required for “pay off”. It depends on several factors, but generally, you'll want to replace about 400-800 diaper changes (of over 7000 for the average baby) for a $100-$150 investment (the cost of 8-12 diapers for some popular one-size systems). That may sound daunting, but take a look at some “pay-off scenarios”:
  • Cloth diaper full time from the time your child is 2-5 months old, or until she starts solids.
  • Cloth diaper full time on the 2 days before every laundry-day. This works out especially well for laundrette users.
  • Cloth diaper just during the evenings (or just during the day) on most weekdays.
  • If you know you will have more children or the cousins can use them, (and a diaper could last through as many as 4-6 children over the normal lifetime of a back-up diaper) you can hit payoff with as little use as one-day of use every 2-4 months- a true back-up supply.

Another way to look at it is that every diaper you use on a daily basis saves you about $150 (minus the price of the diaper) by the time you potty train.

Can it really be a cost-saving measure if you don't plan to cloth-diaper full time? Is it honestly a realistic form of insurance against a rainy day? While the answer to that will vary on family-by-family basis, in general I believe the answer is yes. I do believe that the beauty of having a small, user-friendly (as opposed to the ubiquitous package of Gerber prefolds) and guilt-free (because mom knows they will pay for themselves, if not with this child, than with the next) diaper supply of modern, identical, one-size cloth diapers at every mother's fingertips is the flexibility it grants the family's financial and time budgets. And frankly, family budgets (financial and time) are seldom challenged like they are when we have small children.

Who knows, that 8-12 OS backup stash could even lead to full-time cloth diapering.

Author: Angie S. is the mother of two, Andrew (7), and Kate (8 months). She's passionate about good household management and cloth diapers.


Becky LaSalle said...

My daughter is having twin boys and we were going to get a "small stash" of cloth diapers to use as back ups for when we were too broke to buy the disposables. But the very first diapers I bought had me hooked. They are SO cute... they are sturdy... the variety available is amazing... and I used a "savings calculator" and found that using cloth over disposables will save us about $1600 PER BABY over the course of the first two years! That's a lot of money. So we have decided that we will cloth diaper at home 100% of the time and will use the disposables as back ups or for travel. We have learned so much from this blog (how to launder the diapers and covers, solutions for leaks, etc.) and now we have about enough diapers for 1/2 a day per baby. They are due in about 10 weeks so we have time to continue to build our supply. We hope to have enough before they are born to wash every other day.
I agree... cloth diapers are the common sense choice!

Janine said...

Despite our registry being close to half cloth diapers and diapering accessories, less than 5 of 30 or so shower guests went that route for us. There is no way to comment on gifts without sounding ungrateful but I'm really not - we made out amazing - but I know that if we'd added a bunch of Fisher Price junk, we probably would have gotten it all. I also didn't get a single breastfeeding item, although that might be because people were uncomfortable.

Hopefully we'll be the last generation with these issues - Our kids will grow up seeing cloth diapers and breastfeeding, and grow up to pass it on.

Nancy said...

Amen Sister! I am having the hardest time "convincing" everyone around me, except hubby, that this will save us money and that it is very practical. I am slowly building my stash from diaperswappers with hopes to have a full stash when newbie comes in January! I think I will send this blog to all my nonsupporters!

Thanks for this bit of wisdome!
Nancy- 3rd time mom, 1st time cd'r

Anonymous said...

When I registered for cloth diapers for my baby shower I think a lot of my friends thought I was crazy. But 18 months later we are still cloth diapering almost exclusively (with the exception of travel to in-laws and really bad diaper rashes). One of the best gifts I ever got was from my father-in-law. He chose a six-pack of bumGenius 3.0 one-size pocket diapers from Kelly's Closet, having found the site at random and choosing the diapers himself, and had them mailed to us when my daughter was 3 months old. They were the girl colors I wasn't going to invest in because my husband wanted all our diapers to be neutral so we could pass them on to later children more easily. We are still using them.

d.o.wife said...

Well, that would be nice - if they fit early on....

Natalie said...

I really enjoyed this article, especially because we started out cloth diapering part time when LO was 13 months old.

I can't wait for all of the cost savings when we have baby #2 (and #3 and maybe even #4!)

Nate and Aimee said...

Couldn't agree more. We love Smartipants! Though I have to say I go with the sized FuzziBunz. I don't like bulk on my tiny petite toddler. :)

Becca K said...

I couldn't agree more! I am currently fighting the uphill battle of the baby shower: people look at the diapers and say "they are so expensive"--but they think nothing of the $75 plastic swing that the baby might only use for a short time! I explain that these diapers will last for years and that they are a one time expense, and that they really are a common sense investment. What is more practical than diapers?

Upstatemomof3 said...

I've never really thought of cloth diapers as a back up system. But that is very true. And from a financial aspect if you ask for and receive them for your shower they are simply free which makes them as awesome system for back up. :)

Amanda said...

I didnt start CDing until my son was 8 months and I LOOVE IT. I wish I would have started sooner, and my husband was very leary at the begining but he likes it to, except that I cant stop buying them. I told him how much it was going to save us, and he just laughed at me, as I think the money that could have saved went right into buying MORE! But I love it and cant wait to CD all the babies I have, I even had a friend that had switched because of me!

Sarah said...

I totally agree on this "diaper stigma" that people have, especially for baby showers. I didn't register for cloth as I already bought a stash and got some from my mom as a gift, but people see the price for one CD and think it's outrageous! I love this post, but I personally prefer perfect size diapers. You can buy them in excellent or very good used condition for 2/3-1/2 the price of brand new ones, on the right websites. We are a FuzziBunz family and I already have a stash of XS's for our next baby who isn't even conceived yet! :) Better yet, my SIL paid for half our stash so we can share for our next babies. Ideally I'm hoping that I'll also only need size XS-M as I hope my kids will all be potty trained in time and won't need L or petite size cloth. I also prefer perfect size as they can fit even preemies and aren't so bulky! But any cloth is good cloth, in my opinion!

Brenda said...

I am encouraged that the enthusiasm lives on!

My daughter is now 4 months old and we have cloth diapered full time since birth. Not only is it practical, it makes diapering a pleasant experience rather than a garbage experience!

Sadly, though, I have no support from family or friends. Not one diaper was purchased off my registry. We did receive many other wonderful gifts - freeing up our cash for cloth diapers!

Maria said...

This post hit home for me, its exactly the reason I started. I started CDing because we used to live in a flood zone and there were times we couldn't leave our house because the water was so high (it blocked road access), even though everything else worked (elec, phone, internet, etc) I bought a one-day supply of cloth in case I ran out of disposables, and that is when I found the cloth love, I placed a larger order and started cloth diapering almost the same week, and have continued using them for my next baby.

Paloma said...

It is common sense to have a back-up stash whether they are cloth diapers or disposables. My back-up is of disposables. But the mayority instead of investing $100 in cloth diapers just once (unless you become addicted, and we all are) prefer to spend $10 weekly and throw those $10 to the trash. People don't just grab a ten dollar bill and throw it in the trash so why buy that much disposables. I think that people need to know about cloth diapers and with all the gadjets there are it is very easy to do it.

Shay said...

I agree! I have 12 OS diapers and that's it! I do my wash every other day and I would never buy sized diapers- way to much money to put into buying new sizes all the time!

Maia G said...

I agree! I know so many frustrated mothers that could have benefited from this!

Dee said...

My parents are having a hard time with the idea of cloth diapering. Thankfully hubby is on-board! I am investing in a good stash of OS diapers once our baby can wear them for their convenience (even hubby's).

I didn't register for CDs and am preparing myself to receive a lot of sposies at my shower. I know everyone means well but I hope they'll understand when my baby comes around in cloth!

Hopefully we can change some minds!

padronalisa said...

i think i might buy cloth diapers for every shower i go to in the future. noone bought the diapers i registered for. so i'll use that as an excuse to buy diapers for people who didn't even think of them. they may thank me later. or they may not. maybe they'll never use them, but pass them on eventually to someone who really needs them. or maybe one of those rainy days will come along where they use them and fall in love and never want to use disposables again. i'm sure there are better ways to spread the CD love, but some people need an extra push! i'll gladly be the obnoxious person to give it!

Anna said...

I totally agree! I have a friend I tried converting. She wanted nothing to do with it, even though she was constantly running out of sposies and had no cash to buy them. At the very least, why not keep a stash for emergencies, right???

Yara said...

My cousin's wife recently had a baby, and by the time we had a baby shower for her, I'd already given her at least 2 one size diapers (one I tested, and a Flip) and for the shower, I gave her a one size Fuzzi Bunz as well as a box of Tiny Bubbles. I already knew she was using cloth diapers and planned on the Econobum, but it's always nice to have a few extra diapers. I firmly believe in giving expecting moms a cloth diaper or two!

Ang-n-Jas said...


I think sized diapers definitely have their place in full time diapering, and even for a dedicated part-time cloth diapering family. However, as a simple, user-friendly back-up stash, where parents need a usable supply but may only use the diapers (for example) once at 6 weeks, then perhaps for a month at 5 months, again for a few weeks at 15 months, and maybe just for nights at 30-35 months, sized diapers just aren't practical. You'd get very few uses out of each size. Admittedly, they'd last a good long time, but unless you have more than 2-3 children it probably won't pay off as a cost-effective back-up stash, and it certainly won't be any more convenient.

I agree (as do most of the OS manufacturers) that OS aren't "true" OS, and fit few newborns well. In a pinch, though, those 8-12 diapers will fit most babies through most stages of their diapering years. While sized cost a percentage less, by the time you by 8-12 Smalls AND 8-12 Mediums, you're not really going to save money. In addition, when the "emergency" arises, you're less likely to have to go digging through bins for the next size up diaper, after finding that your baby grew out of Smalls since their last use.

Mini MNM's said...

I agree with this article. We started cloth diapering my oldest at 13 months. We already knew that we were pregnant with the twins. About 90% of our stash consists of BG One size diapers. They are daddy friendly and have grown with us. We started using them when the twins were about 3 months old (10 lbs) and haven't looked back. It is hard though to find a one size diaper that will fit from birth until potty training.

maebystyle said...

i was surprised that no one even entertained the though of purchasing cloth diapers from my registry. we received vast amounts of clothing, most of which she outgrew before wearing (or the seasons changed and it is no longer appropriate to wear in this weather). if i were in their position, i would have opted for some o/s cloth diapers because i know they'd get the most wear. i guess people still have their hang ups on cloth diapers. i am happy to report that everyone followed our request for no disposable diapers,