Sunday, August 10, 2008

How many diapers do I need, and how much is this going to cost?

This is just not a simple question. First of all, how many children do you have in diapers? How old are they? - newborns go through many more diapers in a day than a 2 year old does. It also may be determined by what style you choose to go with: if you have an 18-month old light wetter who goes through 6 sposies during the day and just one at night, and you wanted to order BumGenius or Happy Heinys pocket diapers, you could order as few as 8 or 9 and do laundry every day. If you have a heavy wetter, you'll definitely need to plan to change your child's cloth diapers more frequently than you would change a sposie, even with a high-quality pocket. Then, of course, if you want to do EC (elimination communication), then you'll probably want to go with prefolds and plan to have enough to change your child's diaper every single time s/he wets.

Well, for me, the decision of how many diapers to purchase came down to how often I wanted to be doing laundry. You can buy a ton and do laundry less often, but keep in mind that if you have more than 16 to 18 diapers in your washing machine, they won't get as clean. I do laundry every other day, and it's quite a load by then! Here's some sample stashes, to give you an idea. You certainly don't need as many as I have, and of course there are people who have more. I know of one woman who washes diapers once a week, but on her diaper laundry day, she does three separate loads in that one single day. That's just what works for her, but I imagine that with 2 kids in diapers, she must have to have quite a large number to make that schedule work!

I switched my son to cloth at 18 months. I started out with 5 daytime pockets and 1 nighttime pocket. With my heavy wetter, it wasn't even enough to get through one whole day! I had to use sposies to bridge the laundry gap. Once I decided I wanted to stick with it, I ordered 8 more days and 1 more night and was able to go down to laundry every other day as long as I was carefully watching my stash to make sure I wouldn't run out. Then my sweet mother-in-law bought us 5 more, so going every other day was no sweat. So for an easy every other day routine with a heavy wetter, I had a total of 18 daytime diapers and 2 nighttimes. Like I said, though, he's a heavy heavy wetter, and it's not uncommon for him to poop 4 or times a day, so we change him pretty frequently. (Now he's grown out of 4 of those, so we have just 14, but still not a problem to launder every other day.)

For my daughter, I planned to cloth diaper her from the beginning. I knew I would wait until her umbilical stump fell off, because you're not supposed to cover it with a diaper or let urine touch it, because it could become infected. Also, things rubbing across it can irritate it. Anyway, my stash for her that fit her when she was a newborn was INSANE: 13 kissaluvs fitteds size 0, 10 each newborn, standard infant, and infant prefolds (total of 30), and 6 MonkeyBuns fitteds; also 8 or so covers/wraps. Needless to say, I never even came close to running out by laundry day! Now that she's older, I'm still using the infant and standard infant prefolds, and I have a combination of 3 different brands of fitteds, also a few pockets and AIO hybrids that I use for naps and nighttime (total of 20 prefolds, 8 fitteds, 2 pockets, 2 AIO hybrids).

A good rule of thumb if you're going to go the PF/flat/contour/fitted route is that you'll need 2 to 3 covers for every 10 to 12 diapers. Covers don't need to be washed after each use unless they get poo on them, just wipe them out with a wipe and let them air dry. I usually rotate between 2 covers all day, then toss them in the pail at night.

Using prefolds and covers is by far the cheapest way to cloth diaper. I don't have a great money breakdown, but I can link one here and tell you that you WILL save money over using sposies! The average yearly cost for disposable diapers and wipes is $1000 per child! Take into consideration that the average child in sposies does not potty train until somewhere between 36 and 48 months, and you could be looking at close to $4000 PER CHILD!! Conversely, you could order a prefold package for just $250 and cloth diaper your child from womb to potty. Even if you decided to go exclusively with a name-brand pocket, like BumGenius One-size (7 to 35 lbs), and wanted 18 total to wash every other day (or even less frequently), you could order them in a bundle deal and spend just $300! Buy a 3-pack of receiving blankets from WalMart, cut them into wipe-sized squares and make your own wipes solution at home to save even more money. However, it's a front-loaded investment, so it may not initially feel like you're saving a lot. And CDing is like just about anything else - if you want to spend a lot of money, you sure can find things to spend it on.

Another way that PFs save you even more money is because especially if you get DSQ PFs, they literally last forever. The trouble with pockets and AIOs is that eventually, the PUL will break down and not be waterproof anymore. If you have a younger child in diapers, or you're planning to have more, replacing every pocket and/or AIO will be quite expensive. The average pocket is around $18, and the average AIO is around $22. But if you're only replacing 4 or 5 covers (at anywhere from $7 to $18) in each size, that's obviously a lot less money. Fitteds will last a long time too, but probably eventually the elastic would wear out, the snaps might break or not hold as tight, or if you have fitteds with velcro closures the velcro wears out.

So, to wrap it up, how many do you need and how much is it going to cost? Sorry, but there's no short answer there. How many you buy will be determined by the style of diapering you choose, how many children you have in diapers and how heavy a wetter each of your kids is. How much will it cost? Depends on what style, brand and how many you decide to buy. The best thing I can advise you to do is to determine first how much money you can spend, then start looking around and writing down prices of different diapers. I had a huge grid worked out that showed how many prefolds and covers, how many fitteds and covers, and how many pockets I could buy for a predetermined amount of money. (Sorry, I don't have it anymore, or I would happily share it here.) Then I figured out how often I would need to launder with each mock stash, and decided from there. I will say that I thought I would prefer one-size pockets, so that was my first purchase. However, after diapering for a while, I felt more confident and wished I had gotten either prefolds or fitteds instead.