My first experience with cloth diapers was as an infant. I had super sensitive skin and could not handle bleached plastic on my tush. My parents, therefore, had to use cloth diapers. These things were white flat long sheets that you wrapped around the baby and kept together with a giant metal safety pin. After my brother and I were grown up, these giant sheets served other purposes like dusting and drying dishes. I didn't even know that they were cloth diapers.
Well I moved away from home, and my mom sent me a care package with those old cloth diapers. When I got married I still used them for their cleaning purposes, but remembered that after all they are cloth diapers.
I, within, the last year went on a save the planet campaign and thought about those cloth diapers. Working at a day care, you change a lot of diapers and I wanted to know if there was an alternative to putting dirty plastic nappies in a land fills where they would never break down. So I went investigating. And to my surprise those white, long, flat, thin diapers are no longer the norm in cloth diapering.
So now there are three basic alternatives in cloth diapering: pre-fold, fitted, and all-in-one (for those of you out there who know about inserts/doublers I consider those to be part of all-in-one)
Pre-Fold: They are not my old cloth diapers. They now come in multi-layers in different fabrics (cotton, terry cloth, and bamboo to name a few). They are smaller and simple rap around the baby's fun parts. They can be secured with a safety pin or a Snappie (a cool all plastic thingy) or not at all. You can place a plastic cover over (complete with Velcro or snaps) or use wool or fleece or flannel coverings.
Fitted: They work similar to pre-folds, but they also go around the baby's legs, and they are more form fitting. Some of them have a velcro-closure, but they still need some sort of diaper cover.
All-in-one: These are cloth diapers where the cover is attached to the cloth itself. You can insert doublers for extra cushion which is nice for bed time.
I've also discovered for Mom's out there who don't want to have to wash diapers that they do make bio-degradable diapers. You can find these at baby specialty stores and Whole Food Markets. They're are more expensive that regular disposable diapers and of course cloth diapers.
Cloth diapers you can use over and over again (although you pay up front costs and costs as your child grows). You can use them with more than one child and if I may be a testament, they can be re-purposed as nice dust rags. They also stand up to the test of time. Many moms make there own diapers and end up getting they're costs back by reselling these diapers to other moms.
So what did I do...I'm super cheap and went to around looking for the most economic thing I could find. I also sought after advice from other moms (via the Internet). And this is the system I have set up. I have four plastic diaper covers, three dozen pre-folds, and five all-in-one diapers.
The covers and the pre-folds I bought new through clothdiaper.com (see links). They had a special on a package which was about 80 dollars. The covers and pre-folds are for infants 7-15 pounds so that means that they should last from birth to 4 to 6 months. Of course this all depends on the infant. Most infants require 8 changes daily (that's 56 diaper changes in a week). I have four covers which can be rinsed and 36 cloth pre-folds. That means I'd have to wash every three or four days. This is totally when most moms recommend washing because diapers tend to stain or stink any longer than that.
The all-in-ones are used that I bought on eBay. They are kushies (Canadian brand) for newborns from 5-10 pounds. You have a pocket built into the diaper to add more padding. I figured that the first two weeks after birth, I will be a zombie especially for night feedings and changings. With the all-in-ones, I can use them like any ordinary disposable diaper (meaning no thought). I can use them on another child or I can resale them after my son outgrows them (which wouldn't be long since most babies reach ten pounds after a month). They cost me 13.80.
I also plan on buying a simple spray bottle and filling it with ordinary water. Those old cloth diapers (yeah, the ones that I wore as a baby three decades ago), I plan on reusing them again. This time I plan on cutting them into small rectangles and stitching the sides. I can use them as extra padding for night or I can make them cloth wipes. This costs me a total of 2 dollars because of the spray bottle (the cloth wipes are free!).
So far I have spent 95.80 approximately. This should last me as I estimate 4-6 months. Of course I may have to buy extras or change the type of diapers depending on how the diapers go with my son. Most moms have a number of different types of cloth diapers and recommend trying different ones to see what works best. During this four-six month time I approximate that there will be 896-1,344 diaper changes. If I were to buy disposable diapers for four months, that would cost 10 dollars/week or 160 dollars. Wipes would cost $5.00/week or $80 dollars. That's 240 dollars for a four month period. Keep in mind that these are estimates. Many moms find great deals on disposable diapers and often buy in bulk which is cheaper.
Now for the cloth diapers I'd spend $4.00 a week on washing that's 64 dollars over a four month period. That would give me a grand total of 159.80 for a the total cost of a four month period of washing and diaper costs. But here's the big difference between cloth and disposable. Even though I save about 80.20, I can do several things with these cloth diapers that you can't with disposable: I can reuse them for future children, I can resale them once my child outgrows them, or I can re-purpose them. So actually I'm saving money.
Plus none, I repeat none of these diapers will end up in a landfill to sit for 500 years!!! Cloth breaks down better than plastic and even though I'm using some plastic, it's nothing compared to the 896-1,344 disposable plastic diapers. I only have four covers and five all-in-ones. That's nine plastic diaper things, people, nine.
If I get more creative, I can make my own diapers. Several moms have suggested using old worn out sweaters, sheets, clothes, and towels (I've got a nice set of dishtowels that would make a great prefold). One mom blogged how she diapered her son for free by buying cloth diapers at garage sales or re-purposing old shirts. She said she made a whole bunch of diapers from a fleece queen sheet set bought at a garage sale for 3 dollars. She turned around and sold all her diapers and never really spent a dime to diaper her son. Now I'm not that great (my sewing machine has issues), but I can at least make pre-folds and buy covers. Or since I'm a thrifty shopper I can take her advice and look around at garage sales, diaper swap sites, and eBay to find deals on used cloth diapers. Plus many cloth diaper manufactures have small errors or change products which they sell the errors or old products as "seconds." These aren't always listed so you have to contact them to find out. They are cheap and brand new.
And even if you think I've gone totally bonkers, go to walmart.com and type "diapers." See even walmart is on board with the whole cloth diaper thing so you know it must be becoming more mainstream.
Now if I can only convince women to switch to reusable menstrual products. But that's another blog.