My son has been in cloth diapers since he was about two weeks old. My main motivation for cloth was the monetary savings (buy diapers for the first baby, and then you’re set for subsequent babies) and the environmental savings (no reason for any more of our waste to sit in a landfill). There are plenty of other benefits, though – a truly better product, a much more attractive product, no chemicals next to sensitive areas, and supposedly easier potty learning. Despite the extra laundry, cloth diapering has remained the most attractive diapering option for our family.

But recently I began wondering if I really was saving any money. According to Mothering magazine, “a child will go through about 8,000 diapers changes. At $.25 per diaper, that adds up to $2,000 spent on disposables.” (Evans, Lindsay. “Dumping Disposable Diapers.” Mothering. April 2008: 50.)  Are these numbers valid? How do cloth diapers compare?

Cost of Disposables

When I buy disposable diapers I always buy the Target brand which sells for $10.69 for 60 diapers – $.178 per diaper, a little less than quoted in the Mothering piece. How about the number of diaper changes? When my son was a newborn I remember changing his diaper constantly. But now that his little system is more mature he really doesn’t need as many changes. If you change your kid’s diaper 8.7 times per day for 2.5 years, you get to 8,000 diaper changes. Eight or nine changes per day is reasonable for a young baby, but I haven’t changed my son that often for awhile. Let’s drop the estimate down to 6,000, which still may be a bit of an overestimate.

Based on these calculations, my cost to use disposables full-time would be about $1,068 per child. Note that I have not included the cost of wipes or diaper pail liners, etc. I don’t use these products so I am not equipped to guesstimate their cost.

Cost of Cloth

There are several components to the cost of cloth: the cost of the product and the cost to launder.

I have purchased the following products for my son:

  • Snappis – $2.50 x 3 = $7.50
  • Newborn prefolds (dozen) – $21 x 2 = $42
  • Infant Fitted Diaper – $6.75 x 6 = $40.50 (yikes, this was a complete waste of money! Chaulk it up to learning curve).
  • Infant prefolds (dozen) – $25 x 3 = $75
  • Med prefolds (dozen) – $29 x 3 = $87
  • Large prefolds (dozen) – $32 x 2 = $64
  • Toddler prefolds (dozen) – $36 x 2 = $72
  • Newborn covers – $11 x 4 = $44
  • Small covers – $12 x 5 = $60
  • Medium covers – $12 x 4 = $48
  • Larger cover – $8 x 1 = $8
  • Large covers – $11 x 4 = $44
  • Doublers – $3.75 x 6  = $22.50 (would have skipped in retrospect)
  • I won several covers in a contest, had I not won them I would have spent about $25 more

The cost to cloth diaper all of my children comes to $639.50. (In retrospect I could have skipped a few of these items and shaved about $71).

To truly have an accurate comparison, I would also need to include the increased costs of my water, electricity and gas bills. I have sorted through the historical costs of these items and have found the variance to be a bit unbelievable. For a brief period of time my water bill was almost doubled and as of right now it’s at about a 40% increase. I really haven’t seen much of an increase at all in my gas bill which is odd considering that heating the water is supposedly the greatest cost of running a washing machine. However I do see a quite a large increase in my electric bill – almost 50%! I have to question whether this is really related to the diapers or if it because I am now home more often.

I will need to complete more research before providing an accurate utility cost for cloth diapering. Right now I would guesttimate that I am spending about $20 per month in additional utilities. If we cloth diaper for 2.5 years, I’ll spend a total of $600 on utilities.

I am not surprised to see that it costs more to cloth diaper the first child. Now that I have seen the numbers, I have to question whether cloth diapering is worth it. While it can be annoying to have to run the diapers through the laundry, I still firmly believe that the cloth is a superior product (personally I don’t enjoy having a baby poop on me). I also believe that it is the better choice for the environment. While I do use extra water to wash the diapers, I am not sending anything to the landfill and I like that.

I would love to hear more cost analysis from fellow fans of cloth. Do you think the cost to use disposables is accurate? What about the additional utility costs to wash the cloth diapers? Is cloth really worth it?

That I wouldn’t mind sharing a bowl of cereal with a baby.

I’ve mentioned “attachment parenting” or “AP” several time already but I haven’t really gone into what it entails. I first learned of AP about five or six years ago thanks to the wonderful message boards at Mothering.com. As I prepared to have children there was no doubt in my mind that I would parent in an AP style. Since then I have found that many non-APers have misguided views about what AP entails. Common misconceptions include:

  • AP parents don’t discipline their children
  • AP parents coddle or spoil their children
  • It’s too hard to be AP / AP is unrealistic
  • AP produces overly dependent children

To be fair, there likely are AP parents that are like this. There are parents everywhere that are like this. But this is not what AP is about, and most AP parents can’t relate to these statements.

At it’s core, AP means that you believe that your baby/child is a person worthy of respect and not an inconvenience that needs to be managed as such. It’s about a long-term committment to meet your child’s needs. It’s about integrating your children into your life. It’s about parenting from the heart without the baggage of cultural views. AP parents strive to be in tune (“attached”) to their children.

At first glance any decent parent would say “hey, I do that!” But then you later find all sorts of exceptions: they don’t meet their child’s needs at night, they don’t nurse the child except when it is convenient to do so, they discipline using a short-term fix rather than a long-term focus, their attitude sends a clear message that their child is an inconvenience. Now that I’ve criticized some parenting practices, let me be quick to qualify that I am not an AP poster child, nor am I anywhere near the perfect parent. But I do believe that there is a lot we can learn from attachment parenting practices – a lot that flies in the face of the way that our modern culture tries to parent. Read the rest of this entry »

Night weaning a toddler

January 20, 2010

I was the picture of patience for the first year of my son’s life. I co-slept, nursed on cue, wore him in a wrap – I was everything a good AP mama should be. But towards his first birthday my nighttime patience began to fizzle. Co-sleeping had previously been the perfect solution for meeting both Calvin’s needs and my needs, but now it seemed to have lost it’s magic. Around eleven months we decided to transition him to a crib. It was bittersweet; I missed being next to my sweet babe, but I also relished the chance to stretch out in my bed. Thus began my own hybrid style of parenting; very influenced by AP thought but thoroughly mixed with things that work for our family.

Contrary to many modern parents, I continued to nurse my son on cue – even at night – throughout the first year of his life and into the second. I did this for many reasons. One, I believe that he needed the nourishment and the comfort. Two, I believe that it was safest to meet his needs and not try to encourage him to sleep through the night. Three, I wanted to wait until I really felt that he was ready. Four, it is just the thing to do if you are AP. Five, it was helping me burn lots of calories even at night. Six, I was afraid of making changes, especially after one failed attempt when he was about 13 months. Seven, as long as he went right back to sleep and didn’t wake too often, I really didn’t mind. Eight, I believe that to some extent, this is par for the course when it comes to extended nursing relationships. Nine, I had spoken with other nursing moms who said that things started really improving between 18 and 24 months, and I thought I could hang in there until then. Read the rest of this entry »

Signing with your baby

January 15, 2010

It is ridiculously easy to teach your baby to communicate before he is able to speak. I started using a few signs with Calvin when he was about six months old because I had heard that signing can reduce a baby’s frustration as they wait for a parent to guess what they are upset about. It makes perfect sense to me – I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be if I could only communicate my needs by crying. Read the rest of this entry »

Creating a life list

January 11, 2010

I recently began paying attention to the video blogs over at momversation. They are fun to watch when I need a three-minute break from entertaining Calvin. I admit that sometimes I watch just to see how made up the moms are and which set of big earrings they are wearing today. (Do they look like that all of the time??) I can’t help but wonder if the kids are screaming in the basement while mommy shoots her video. Probably not – at least a couple of these women have nannies. (See, that’s why I want to be a mommy blogger! So I can make enough money to hire a nanny and then while nanny is watching junior I will go blog about being a mom).

Anyway, it’s through these video blogs that I came across the Mighty Girl blog and the accompanying Mighty Life List. Mighty Girl herself seems like she is totally stylin’ all the time and I am sure I could learn a thing or two from her. I’d like to start by fashioning my own list of “Things To Do Before I Go.”   I like lists, I like big plans, and I need a little direction.

This is an interesting exercise as I find that the things that haunt me on a recurring basis (“ugh, the house is a mess” or other such stressors) don’t even factor into the thought process when making such a list. It’s sobering to realize that one could spend the rest of one’s life worrying about trivialities and not really living and growing and doing those things that you really want to do. I’m a believer that great things usually just don’t happen – they tend to only happen when we actively seek them out.

I’ll be back with my list before long.

Limiting Toys

January 7, 2010

When my son was about nine months old, I learned an obvious lesson: his happiness had no relation whatsoever to the amount of toys that we had. In an effort to keep him entertained, I had scoured Craigslist and the neighborhood consignment stores for the very best toys. I found some good things that he still enjoys, namely a Fisher Price Laugh and Learn house and his toy trucks. But I quickly discovered that the majority of toys did not hold his interest for more than five minutes. He was much more interested in normal household objects, particularly those that we might consider trash (empty boxes and such). I resolved not to buy him any more toys until his birthday. Read the rest of this entry »