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.