Cheap disposable diapers

Why we’re not using Cloth Diapers for Baby #2

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that we used cloth diapers for with our first baby. I have no regrets about this — we saved a lot of money, and I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to do a few extra loads of laundry each week. But for our second baby, we are using disposable diapers. Why, you ask? The short answer — I discovered Aldi’s Little Journey diapers.

Let me back up. Different families have different reasons for doing cloth diapers. Some like that it’s less expensive than disposable diapers; some want to avoid exposing their baby to the toxicity that many disposable diapers purportedly have, and others want an option that is easy on the environment.

As for me, I’m not convinced that cloth diapers are actually better for the environment (cloth diapers generally mean an extra 180 loads of laundry per year, which increases your carbon foot print). I loved that cloth diapers were a nontoxic diapering option for my baby that had potential for huge savings. If you have three children, you can save over $7,000 by going the cloth route (see this post for a detailed cost breakdown).

However, around the time that my first child turned two, I rediscovered Aldi. And I noticed that their Little Journey diapers were cheap. As in, REALLY cheap. As in, 10 cents to 13 cents a diaper (to put it in context — the only disable that ever worked for my son were Huggie Overnights, which cost 30 center per diaper at Target). With a lot of things in life, you get what you pay for, so I assumed they couldn’t possibly perform well. Probably prone to leaks, and filled with toxic materials, I figured. And probably no way they would actually last 12 hours and function as a real overnight diaper.

But the price was certainly intriguing. So the next time we went away for the weekend, I picked up a pack. We’ve always used disposable diapers while traveling — and have been disappointed in the performance of A LOT of disposable brands (note: traveling is not the best time to discover that the disposable diaper brand you brought does not work for your child). As I mentioned above, the only disposable that had ever truly worked for my son were Huggies Overnight. Definitely not cheap at 30 cents a diaper, but it wasn’t a super big deal since we didn’t travel very often.

But… I was blown away. The Little Journey diapers performed on par with the Huggies Overnights. However, we still didn’t switch to them right away. I assumed it was a lot cheaper to do cloth, and we had built up such a nice collection. But every time we shopped at Aldi, I would notice the fantastic the price. Convinced they must be made with horrendously cheap and toxic materials, I decided to research the materials. It actually didn’t say on the package (which surprised me), so I called the Aldi customer service number. The representative gave me the list of materials, and I looked up each on on EWG. I was shocked to discover that each ingredient rated between a 0 and a 3 — so quite clean/low toxicity. As clean as Seventh Generation diapers? No, probably not. But then again, Seventh Generation diapers never worked that well for my son.

So I decided to revisit the numbers conversation. By continuing to use cloth diapers, how much money was I actually saving? At that point, my son was two and partially potty trained (as in, he would use the toilet sometimes during the day, but no where near consistently enough for us to put him in underwear), so he would go through about 4 diapers a day. At 13 cents per diaper — that was 52 cents per day, or $15.60 per month. I dug out my old spreadsheets that number crunched cloth diaper costs, and calculated that between detergent, disposable liners, and washer/dryer utilities, my monthly cost for doing cloth diapers was $10.66. In other words, I was only saving $5 a month by using cloth diapers.

Also, my calculations did not factor in the depreciation of our washer and dryer. Because they are machines, washers and dryers have a finite number of cycles they can run in their lifetime. If you put three children in cloth diapers, you will likely run an extra 1,600 loads of laundry through your machines (assuming you wash your diapers every other day and you children are in diapers until they are 3). I haven’t done enough research to confidently say by how much these loads will depreciate your washer and dryer, but suffice it to say that these extra loads naturally cause more “wear and tear” on your appliances.

In any case, I didn’t think saving $5 a month was worth the extra time it takes to do cloth diapers. And I thought the toxicity level of the Little Journey Diapers was “clean enough” (I personally feel very comfortable using anything rated 3 or lower).

Our first child became potty trained within a few months of switching to disposables, but we revisited the conversation when Baby #2 was about to arrive. Babies go through more diapers than young toddlers, but smaller diapers are also cheaper. So I ran the numbers again. Although it can vary widely, babies generally go through 8 diapers a day after the newborn phase. At 8 cents a diaper, that’s 88 per day, or $26.40 a month.

Again, after start up costs, it costs about $10.60 to do cloth diapers every month. So I could potentially save about $16 a month by doing cloth diapers, or $192 in a year. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here, but for me, the extra time it takes to do the extra laundry loads wasn’t worth saving $16 a month. Also, I knew there was a good chance we would try to sell our house shortly after the birth of baby #2 (more on that in another post!), and the thought of doing extra laundry while selling a house and adjusting to life with a toddler and a newborn seemed unmanageable to me. So, we decided our cloth diaper chapter had ended.

I have no regrets about going the cloth route with our first. I didn’t know about Aldi diapers, and doing cloth diapers is significantly cheaper than going with a “clean” disposable diaper option like Seventh Generation or Honest. Also, I only spent $80 out of pocket on my diapers — the rest I received as gifts from family members, or I purchased on sale with gift cards — so I didn’t spend very much money on my “start up” costs. In fact, I actually sold my cloth diaper stash on Face Book Marketplace earlier this week for $125, so I actually recouped all of my start up costs plus a small profit.

People tend to have strong opinions on the cloth vs. disposable debate, and I don’t think there’s a “one size fits all” solution that is right for every family. However, I do think its important to crunch your numbers so you know what each option will cost, because it enables you to make an informed decision on what will work best for your family and your budget.

Thank you so much for reading!

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