Baby on a Budget: Cloth Diapers

Baby wearing Bummis cloth diaper

In my quest to save you from buying piles of baby stuff you won’t use, I’ve been outlining the essential baby basics on a budget.

You will change a lot of diapers. Elimination is one of those baby needs you meet one way or another.

As with baby carriers, you save money when you buy diapers that can be used from baby through toddler. We’ve got the solution for even a tiny diaper budget.

How Many Diapers Will a Baby Use?

Short answer: you will change 3000 – 6000 diapers on your baby.

During the first couple of months, you will probably have 12 diaper changes or more a day. If your newborn eliminates every hour, you change the diaper every hour in order to avoid discomfort and rash for your baby. That number will gradually dwindle to 4-5 diapers a day before your toddler uses the toilet.

12 x 30 x 3 = 1080
10 x 30 x 6 = 1800
8 x 30 x 6 = 1440
6 x 30 x 3 = 540
4 x 30 x 3 = 360
Total = 5220

Even if you are lucky and find that your child learns to use the toilet early and doesn’t eliminate as often, the lowest estimate for number of diaper changes per child is about 3000. I’m going to use that lowest number so I have a generous place to start when comparing with disposable diapers, but I want you to realize that it could be almost double that number. Babies’ needs vary.

How Many Diapers Do I Need?

Short answer: you need 24 prefolds and 4 one-size diaper covers.

On a budget, choose the lowest number of diapers you will need. I’ve seen more than one family make do with a dozen diapers, but you will end up washing more than once a day or leaving your baby in a wet diaper (which can cause irritation and rash). I consider 18 the minimum to start for a family washing diapers every day. The number of diapers used per day will go down quickly, so your laundry will go down quickly.

Just to keep being generous with the numbers, I am going to use 24 as my comparison number. Buy 24 prefold cloth diapers and 4 one-size covers, and a few accessories (like wipes or wash cloths and a bucket to hold the dirties), and you are set.

Compare Diaper Prices

  • $690 Disposable Diapers
  • $600 Cloth All-in-one Diapers plus Newborn
  • $240 Cloth One-size All-in-one Diapers
  • $231 ($195) Cloth prefolds with sized covers
  • $177 Cloth prefolds with one-size covers

The clear winner is prefold diapers with one-sized covers.

1 set of 12 Organic Cotton Prefolds, Infant Size
1 set of 12 Organic Cotton Prefolds, Premium Size
4 Bummis Simply Lite one-size diaper covers (Made in Canada!)

Our calculations

  • Disposable diapers – 3000 diaper changes x $.20-25 each = $690 ($.23 x 3000)
  • All-in-one one-size (no newborn) – 12 AIO x $20 = $240
  • All-in-one one-size plus newborn – $240 + (18 Newborn x $20 = $360) = $600
  • Prefolds with sized covers – 12 organic cotton Infant prefolds $44.96 + 12 organic cotton Premium prefolds $59.98 + (3 x 3 x $14 = $126) = $231  SPECIAL: Bummis Super Brite sized covers are on special right now for $10 per cover. Knock that total down to $195.
  • Prefolds with one-size covers – 12 organic cotton Infant prefolds $44.96 + 12 organic cotton Premium prefolds $59.98 + 4 one-size diaper covers $71.92 (4 x $17.98) = $177

Simple diaper bonus: prefold cloth diapers are by far the easiest diapers to wash. You can use and accidentally abuse cotton, and it still performs. For answers to your diaper cleaning questions, start at our Cloth Diaper Laundry Hub.

Why Shopping Local Will Save You Money in the Long Run

Saving money with diapers isn’t just a matter of the price you pay up front. I’ve heard many sad stories of people who thought they had found great diaper deals, but it turned out that they bought trouble.

Nature Mom has outlined the reasons shopping at bynature.ca or any other local store will save you money when you are buying for baby. The store in Orillia has a staff that is trained to help you succeed.

We’ll help make sure the diapers you choose are best for your individual circumstances. You won’t have to try multiple styles to get it right. We can help narrow down the many choices to the absolute best choices for you.

Every cloth diaper purchase from bynature.ca includes our 10 years of experience helping thousands of parents with cloth diapering. We’ll ensure you get off to a good start from day one, with everything you need to be successful.

We’re easy to get in touch with when you need help. Email, phone, or stop by the store, and we can help troubleshoot with fit, leaking, overnight diapering, washing issues, etc. This saves time weeding through the crazy responses online. (We joke, please don’t put your diapers in the dishwasher! This could be a costly mistake.)

Many local stores offer consignment sales so when you are done with your diapers, if you choose quality brands and followed recommended washing instructions, you might be able to resell your diapers through the local stores. Our next cloth diaper consignment sale at bynature.ca (our Repeat Sale) is coming up fast already! We’ll start registering consignors next month for our Spring Sale on March 22nd. (Check in on Facebook or get our newsletter for updates.)

How do you know if your diaper is safe, a counterfeit, or under warranty? When you talk to us in the store, we help you understand these issues. They do matter. It’s like having insurance for your investment. Authorized retailers can also help with warranty issues, and there are many unauthorized sellers online.

Bottom line, cloth diapers are an investment. Spending your money with a local retailer helps to secure this investment. That $50 or $100 you might think you’re saving buying from a big box store is easily worth the independent retailer’s time and expertise when you need it, as well as your own peace of mind throughout your cloth diapering experience.

Are You a Super Saver?

Go diaper free with infant pottying (or elimination communication). You will still need some diapers but not nearly as many as you would cloth diapering full time.

More Baby on a Budget

Next week I’ll talk about breastfeeding essentials. As you can guess, doesn’t involve much more than you and your baby.

Cool Diapering in Hot Weather

Baby at the beach in summer

A sweaty baby bottom in the hot summer heat is more likely to get not just diaper rash but heat rash. Keep your baby’s bottom clear and dry by choosing cloth diapers carefully when it’s hot outside.

The main concern in extreme heat is air circulation. This should be a concern in all weather, but the consequences are more pronounced in the summer. Despite the wetness of a diaper, you need to keep your baby’s skin dry in order to avoid most diaper rash. When you read about cloth diapers and diaper covers and see claims of breathability, meaning that air can move through the fabric of the diaper, this is the time that matters most of all.

Choose cool diapers. When breathability is your main goal, don’t choose PUL covers, pocket diapers, or AIOs. These diapers and covers have a plastic layer laminated to the polyester fabric. Laminated fabrics keep moisture in, but they also keep your baby’s bottom hot in the summer. Some of these diapers might allow some air circulation, but your baby’s bottom needs the most air possible in the heat. Save these diapers for cooler weather. Use cotton fitted, flat, or prefold diapers for the coolest summer diapers.

Use wool diaper covers. That sounds counter-intuitive if you think of wool as a warm sweater, but wool actually absorbs moisture then evaporates it into the air around your baby. Wool diaper covers create a moisture and air insulator that won’t trap wetness and heat against your baby’s skin.

Change diapers often. When you need to keep your baby dry, change that wet diaper. You should be changing your baby’s diaper every time it is wet.

Go coverless. If you will be at home, you can allow a lot more air circulation by using no moisture barrier at all. Sure, you need to change the absorbent diaper more often to avoid wet furniture or floor, but you should be changing every time the diaper is wet anyway. If you aren’t using a cover, don’t put clothes over the diaper. That just begs for a wet mess.

Go diaperless. Especially if your baby is recovering from heat rash or diaper rash, the best air circulation comes from going completely bare. Be prepared to clean up. While your baby is diaperless, what better time to start infant pottying, if you aren’t using this method already.

Wear a swim diaper. When you want to cool off, stay home and swim. Hang out in the pool in the shade with your baby in a swim diaper. If you don’t have a pool, let your baby play with a bucket of water. It’s all fun and splashing.

Choose cool wool for a long car ride. If you will be going on a long car ride, you can still use wool to stay cool, but keep in mind that wool can leak when compressed for a long time. Think of squeezing a sponge. The moisture will wick toward the dry car seat. You can avoid that by putting a sheepie or sheepskin rug between your baby and the car seat.  The wool on the sheepskin will absorb the moisture and will not let it through to the carseat. If you don’t have a sheepskin rug, a wool changing pad will do a similar job, though it could leak if you wait too long to change a diaper. Just plan regular diaper change stops. If you use a sheepskin, make sure you understand how to adjust the carseat safely because the sheepskin will make the seat a bit tighter.

Summertime Bonus

Save energy by line drying your cloth diapers. This is especially helpful if you want to get rid of stains on cotton. Just leave them in the sun, and watch the stains fade. For diapers with stubborn stains, spray a little lemon juice on the stain before you hang the diaper on the line. Be sure to rewash that diaper so you don’t put lemon juice on your baby’s sensitive skin.

What do you do to keep summer diapering cool? Please share your tips.

Image © Markcarper | Dreamstime.com

What’s the Deal with Charcoal Bamboo?

Charcoal sticks

We often get questions about charcoal bamboo rayon and its emerging trend as a cloth diapering fabric. We don’t carry charcoal bamboo, and we want you to know why.

You may have seen charcoal bamboo rayon used for cloth diaper inserts or the absorbent inner layer of a diaper. You will notice because the fabric is charcoal grey. Charcoal doesn’t just refer to the nice, grey colour, though.

Charcoal bamboo is rayon with added nanoparticles of charcoal, which is made from bamboo. During the process of making rayon from bamboo (drying, aging, ripening—essentially cooking), other materials can be added. Any cellulose fiber can be used to make rayon, and many materials can be added to the goo phases of the process. In this case, bamboo is heated, creating charcoal, then the charcoal is ground into a very fine powder so small that the particles are called nanoparticles. (Nano refers to size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter like a centimeter is one hundredth of a meter.)

Charcoal nano-particles can be added to any extruded fiber. You might find charcoal polyester fleece or charcoal microfiber in addition to charcoal bamboo rayon. All of these fibers are extruded—like pasta dough through a spaghetti press.

Charcoal bamboo and other charcoal fibers first came to the North American market through import co-ops—the same import co-ops that bring us cheap, unsupported diapers. We’ve talked before about the hidden costs of cheap diapers and of imports (labour, safety, quality, environment, sustainability). Basically, these products externalize costs. You save money in the short run while you and others pay in other ways. Cheap is only inexpensive when you don’t notice the ripple of consequences.

Questions We Hear about Charcoal Bamboo

Doesn’t bamboo charcoal nanotechnology kill bacteria?

First of all, what are you trying to kill? Washing diapers kills bacteria through heat and detergent. What more needs to be killed? Even if charcoal nanotechnology does kill bacteria, I’m not sure that this is a desirable characteristic of a diaper.

Second, I don’t know. I see that manufacturers of fabric make this claim, but I also see those selling bamboo rayon continuing to claim antimicrobial properties of bamboo rayon when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission absolutely states that there is no evidence in support of this claim for rayon. According to the FTC, “Even when bamboo is the ‘plant source’ used to create rayon, no traits of the original plant are left in the finished product.” Manufacturers and retailers continue to fight the FTC over this, and I see small cloth diaper sellers repeating claims that have been debunked. The only difference I see so far with charcoal bamboo rayon is that it is newer, so the claims haven’t been argued with regulatory bodies—yet.

Isn’t charcoal bamboo just another natural fabric?

What is often just called “bamboo” is bamboo rayon, a manufactured fiber. We wrote about the process of creating rayon from bamboo in “Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers.” This manufactured fabric is made from natural inputs (bamboo and other cellulose), but the processing is far from natural. This is another issue that U.S. FTC takes seriously. Claim this is a natural or environmentally-friendly fiber, and they will sue. If you still see the claims, maybe they just haven’t gotten around to the lawsuit yet. They are already busy with bamboo rayon marketing and labeling claims.

I heard charcoal bamboo contain natural oils. Does it?

Sometimes I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with no. Bamboo rayon has no natural oils. Even mechanically processed (non-rayon) bamboo has no oils. Rayon is not a natural fiber; it is manufactured fiber. If there are oils in your fabric, they are the oils added during the knitting or weaving process to help the fibers move through the machines as the fabric is created. Oils, sure; natural oils, not so much.

Is charcoal bamboo rayon approved for the North American market?

That is an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer.

I heard that charcoal bamboo rayon calms the mind.

I’ll just wait until the science comes in on that one.

Are You Willing to Submit to an Experiment?

I would like to go back to one very important point: safety. One of the most important complaints made about co-op diapers that are imported without regard for legalities is their lack of compliance to safety regulations.

The problem with cheaper materials isn’t just the potential de-lamination of a diaper cover, as an example. Smell that off-gassing? Those molecules escaping from unstable polymers have an effect on your brain and your body when you breathe them. That is why some phthalates have been banned in certain children’s products. Imagine what those unsafe soft plastics can do when placed against the most sensitive skin on your baby’s body. Soft plastics, though, are already under regulation. If you buy diaper covers that are CPSIA compliant, you know they don’t contain banned soft plastics.

What about nanotechnology? We mentioned the nanotechnology in conventional sunscreens last month. Those particles “are designed to be absorbed into the skin.” Can nano-particles of charcoal be absorbed into the skin? What are the potential consequences of that? Are other nano-particles added to rayon? Some textile processes use both nanosilver and nanocharcoal. Is that true of charcoal bamboo? We wrote about the use of nanosilver as an antimicrobial and found that the science showing potential harm is building up. Where is the independent science that shows no harm will come to your baby from absorbing nano-particles of charcoal through the genitals? What are the short-term effects? What are the long-term effects?

If that science isn’t available, using nanotechnology on your baby in this way is experimentation. This is the wrong way around. We don’t just try things out on our babies first then work out whether it’s safe. Prove safety first.

Let’s back up a long way and start over with the first question.

Why don’t you carry bamboo charcoal diapers?

We prefer domestic products over imports, and bamboo charcoal fabric and products are all imports. The same companies referred to in our Cheapie Leakies post are importing a lot of charcoal bamboo rayon products. Low-quality imports like this are just a non-starter for us.

We will not test new technologies on your baby. Until a product or material is proven safe, we will not carry it in our store.

We choose the simplest solutions that work for our customers. When there are already basic, natural materials that do the simple job of a cloth diaper, there is no need for nanotechnology just for the sake of the technology—especially when questions of safety remain.

So, no, we won’t be carrying charcoal bamboo products until or unless we become convinced that it is safe for your baby, until the benefits have been proven, and until the benefits of nanotechnology outweigh the benefits of natural fibers.

You can count on bynature.ca to look into new products, but we will not jump on bandwagons.

Yesterday, we asked what our Facebook followers thought of charcoal bamboo in diapers. Not one of the dozen people who answered was willing to experiment with this nanotechnology in diapers.

Related Articles

Cheapie Leakies - Cloth diapers in general have SO much value compared to single-use products. And, many cloth diapers that seem higher priced actually reflect the value of products made ethically and sustainably, not cheaply and without care for workers or the environment. These high value products are also safety tested to the highest standards, so you can be assured you’re buying something that is safe for your little one.

Cheap Products—At What Cost? - You already know what we think of cheap imports if you read our 6-part “At What Cost?” series last year on labour, safety, quality, environment, and sustainability.

Antimicrobial Overkill – Use of disinfectants such as nano silver in everyday situations is overkill. Even in more extreme situations, there is a lot of debate about whether the antimicrobial benefits outweigh the potential risks.

6 Questions about Natural Sunscreen That We Hear Daily – What are nano particles, and why does it matter if my sunscreen is free of these? The concern is that nano particles could enter the human body.

Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers – There are efforts to add nano-particles of charcoal to make the fiber antibacterial.

Image © Dianazh | Dreamstime.com

Baby Needs a Swim Diaper

Mother-ease Swim Diapers Poolside

Uh-oh. Baby in the pool! Do you worry that your baby will leave a mess in the pool? The answer is easy: use a swim diaper. The idea of a reusable swim diaper is very simple: catch poop and let the pee flow through.

A soggy, leaking mess of a plastic or paper diaper leaks everything, not just urine. That is what gives swim diapers a bad name. Avoid those.

A swim diaper is not designed to hold in urine. If it were absorbent, it would weigh the baby down, which would make swimming a much less pleasant activity for a child. Babies need swim diapers just to hold in solids and prevent those getting into the pool. A great reusable swim diaper also has mesh to hang on to what needs to stay and to let flow what needs to go.

Reusable Swim Diapers – How novel!

Anything but a reusable swimsuit, even for a child, confuses me. After adults and older children swim, they don’t toss their suits in the garbage. We rinse, dry, and repeat.

It’s very easy to do the same for your baby. Your baby deserves a soft, comfortable swim diaper that won’t weigh her down or get in the way of her doing what we should be doing in the pool— having a great time and learning how to swim.

We’ve noticed at byNature.ca that even parents who use disposable diapers otherwise will often buy a reusable swim diaper for the pool because it just makes sense. Granted, some of them are completely wowed by how cute reusable swim diapers are.

Really, Use a Swim Diaper

Cloth diapering parents ask us if they can just use a diaper cover for swimming. Yes and no.

If you use a diaper cover as a swim diaper, you risk chlorine destroying the laminate that makes the cover waterproof. More chlorine means greater chance of leaky cover. Leaks don’t matter with a swim diaper, since they are designed to let urine and pool water flow through.

If you do use a diaper cover as a swim diaper then as a diaper cover again, you may find that you have leaks. If your child has grown out of the cover or it isn’t holding in leaks well enough to pass it on to another child, you can use a polyester or laminated cotton diaper cover as a swim diaper. (Don’t try this with wool! Wool absorbs and stretches, so you will have a baggy, soggy mess.)

Baby Swim Diapers Made in Canada

A note from Nature Mom:

“I realized when talking with a customer in the store the other day that all of the swim diapers we carry are made in Canada. That wasn’t done intentionally, but I certainly wouldn’t change it!”

Swimmis from Bummis is a version of their original diaper cover with fun cotton prints on the outside and a cool mesh lining inside. Lycra bindings are stretchy and comfortable for babies. Made in Canada.

Swimmis Bummis baby swim diaper

Mother-ease swim diapers are made of soft, stretchy, bathing suit material. If you have ever caught hook-and-loop closures from you baby’s swim diaper on your swimsuit, you will understand why some parents prefer snaps. Netting on the inside of the swim diaper catches messes. Made in Canada.

Mother-ease baby swim diapers

 

AMP swim diapers have two layers of micro mesh to catch messes. We like that snaps will last a long time, but wiggly babies and anxious toddlers might not stick around long enough for snaps. Made in Canada.

AMP swim diapers

Apple Cheeks swim diapers have one layer of knit and one layer of mesh to let the water flow through easily. This two-size system adjusts with a snap at the waist and another at the thigh. Made in Canada.

Apple Cheeks swim diaper

When you get home, either toss the swim diaper in the diaper pail if soiled or rinse the swim diaper and wet bag with the rest of the swimsuits if it’s just wet.

Have a great swim!

Infant Pottying Enters the Conversation

Mother holding baby

Infant pottying, or elimination communication, has entered the mainstream conversation several times recently. It’s easy to laugh, unless you’ve seen it work.

Every day my children, both teenagers now, come to me to talk about the news. They get their news from Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report (which, I tell them often, is only a start. “You could read news online. I could show you how to get news in your Facebook feed.”). Last week, my son was laughing. He wanted me to know how weird it was that some parents didn’t use diapers at all, because they just get their babies to pee in bowls around the house.

 

“You know,” I told him, “we did that with you. You wore diapers, but I don’t remember you pooping in diapers.”

Yes, that did quiet him. Of course, it became a lesson in not being so quick to judge what is unfamiliar as just weird, and we deconstructed the needs of a comedy news show to exaggerate for effect. We got past the news quickly. He asked why we did it and how it worked. I planted the seeds for my son to look past mainstream pressures to avoid “weird” and look at parenting choices on their own merits.

One of the themes, as my children and I talk every day and call it homeschool, is the need to look beyond the surface of what we read or hear to get to the pattern of facts, the bigger picture, the deeper need. I have been reading a new book by Jennifer Margulis, The Business of Baby. This investigative journalist looks at mainstream cultural practices around birth and babies as they are shaped not by science but by corporate interests. Marketing pushes us to choose actions that serve corporate profits. Ultrasound, ceasarean, formula feeding, vaccinations. These choices are the norm. They are often expected. Parents who do not follow the full mainstream path are pushed or shamed by those around them who have also been conditioned to accept the marketed norms. As my children get closer to their own parenting than to their babyhood, I want to make sure they realize they can get past the pressure to laugh at the weirdos to understand their real choices. So, I’ve been talking to my children about each section of The Business of Baby as I read it. I don’t want them just to know they were born at home and think, “That was the weird choice of my weird mother.” I want them to understand that I looked at the evidence and specifically made that choice because I was confident it would serve them best.

My son isn’t a particularly awkward teen. He asks questions easily. After the laughter, he slows down and thinks through issues. Comedy news gave us a learning moment to push back against the kind of pressures he feels every day to fit tidily into the norm.

For some parents, cloth diapers are too far outside the bounds of their norm. The idea of washing soiled diapers is difficult to process if you have been conditioned to think of diapers as a thing that is thrown away. For many parents, even those who find washing cloth diapers to be perfectly acceptable, the idea of holding a baby over the toilet is too unfamiliar to find a way to fit it into their idea of normal.

One point that I find really disappointing in The Business of Baby is the author’s speculation that perhaps infant pottying isn’t mentioned as a third option in the diaper debate of disposables vs. cloth because no one makes money from parents who choose no diapers at all. On the contrary, most of the cloth diaper retailers and activists I know include a range of possibilities when they teach classes or talk to customers in a store. Many of the cloth diaper professionals I know have used elimination communication with their babies. Few cloth diaper business owners I’ve met are in it for the money. I think the idea that there are discrete choices (disposable diapers, cloth diapers, elimination communication) is a convenient way to draw a comparison without being an accurate description of how parents really choose to deal with a baby’s elimination. It makes each choice weird to those who choose otherwise when the reality of our parenting practices is far more fluid. We cloth diaper; we potty. It isn’t either/or.

Stephen Colbert’s newsie item was based on a New York Times article, which was less unflattering that you might expect. Despite the somewhat dismissive tone of mainstream stories about natural parenting choices, you could learn a lot about infant pottying from reading this New York Times article and watching the Colbert Report. If you haven’t considered going diaper-free at least some of the time, use these pieces to think about it. Don’t be swayed by the peer pressure to join in the laughter. Or, laugh, but try it anyway. You might be surprised how easily you and your baby take to pottying. You might be surprised how close you feel to your baby when you become responsive to needs in this way.

As Jennifer Margulis wrote in The Business of Baby, “Unless you actually try it, it’s easy to dismiss infant pottying as too hard or too messy or simply too weird.”

Image © Iliuha007 | Dreamstime.com