In the cloth-diapering world, many budget-conscious moms and dads favor prefolds and covers. A prefold diaper is a flat cotton diaper that has been pre-folded and then sewn into layers. The center of the prefold is the most absorbent part and often made of six or eight layers of fabric. Since it is not waterproof, you will need a diaper cover. However, if it’s not soiled, the same cover can be used two or three times before washing. Parents who wash cloth diapers every couple of days should only need 10 or 12 one-size covers. This significantly reduces costs in diapering. A dozen infant-sized prefolds can be bought for around $20 and will diaper most infants from birth to about 16 pounds. Although you will need to purchase the next size, there’s no need to buy all your prefold sizes up front. This spreads your cost out.
Many diaper stores sell pre-owned diapers in good to excellent condition. These could be diapers that a customer “cashed-in” for credit to purchase new diapers. Or, they could be returned diapers after a customer utilized a trial-period and decided cloth diapers weren’t for him or her. The advantage to this type is that they are often inspected and certified by the store. You can also find used cloth diapers for sale on Craig’s List, eBay, and at local swaps.
It doesn’t take a great deal of Internet searching to realize that cloth diapers come in all shapes and sizes, as well as prices. Keep in mind, that what you get is what you pay for. There are inexpensive brands that are good quality. Research, research, research. That pocket diaper from overseas may be cheaper than your well-known, reputable brands, but will it hold up over time? If your diapers fall apart before your child is potty trained (and before subsequent children, if that’s your plan), then you’ve lost money in the long run. You would have saved more by paying for quality.
I just mentioned subsequent children. You could take the plunge and spend $300-$500 on purchasing a stash of pockets and types other than prefolds. It seems like a lot, but when you use those same diapers for more than one child…it is much cheaper than disposables. Over the course of years, it’s even cheaper for just one child. After you’re finished using your diapers, you can always sell your stash and regain some of that money.
This is only viable, of course, if you have the money upfront. The other option here is to use pre-folds and covers as your main go-to diaper as you slowly build up your stash of pockets and AIOs, etc. over time.
Another option for the savvy mommy or daddy is to sew your own diapers. If you have your own sewing machine or serger, there are many free patterns available on the Internet. If you choose this route, search for fabric sales. Otherwise, you may spend as much or nearly as much on materials as you would just purchasing the diaper to begin with.
Diapers themselves aren’t the only factor when it comes to frugal cloth diapering.
Although it may be tempting to cut corners by using cheaper products easily found in your local supermarket, it will cost you money in the long run if you ruin your diapers. Your safest bet for laundry detergent is to go with one specifically made for cloth diapers or one that is well known in the cloth diapering industry to be safe, like Country Save. Regular powder Tide is also used by many cloth-diapering parents with positive results. All Free Clear sold in military commissaries ONLY is specially formulated for uniforms and usually considered safe for cloth diapers. Whatever detergent, cream, balm, etc., you choose to use with your diapers, research it thoroughly first. Not all diapers are the same. What may be safe with one brand of cloth diapers may ruin another.
ABOUT ELISEBET: Elisebet is a former teacher, Army reservist, Navy wife, and full-time cloth diapering mommy to her baby boy. She enjoys reading, writing, traveling, photography, and shopping.