I was recently reading a blog post in which the writer estimated the cost of buying "prefold" cloth diapers at around $350. This estimate was based on buying different sizes of prefolds, which I'm not familiar with, but I thought I'd share my method of cloth diapering, since I know from my experience that cloth diapering doesn't have to cost that much. In fact, when I started adding things up, everything I have only cost about $100 (and I've only spent around $30!). I thought that this might be helpful to someone who wants to use cloth but doesn't have several hundred dollars to spend on it!
Prefolds are the only kind of diapers I've used, so I can't compare them to other kinds of diapers, but I can give you my thoughts on using them! Since I've never tried the newer fancier diapers, perhaps I don't know what I'm missing, but I'm okay with that, since I'm perfectly happy with what I'm doing!
Diapers: I have Gerber one-size prefold diapers. Since they are one-size they are used from newborn up to toddler. The smaller the baby is, the smaller you fold them. I still fold them down some with Benjamin, and they have plenty of room for him to grow. The Tightwad Gazette showed how two diapers can be put together if needed, for a larger child (I don't know if I'll have to try that eventually or not). I only used them on Benjamin a couple of times when he was a newborn, as I had been given a supply of disposables which lasted the first two months. They were a little bulky folded up so much, but they worked. I had initially bought a package of 3-ply diapers, but then found 6-ply, which I liked much better, as they are much more absorbant (the 3-ply ended up as burp rags!). I have found three dozen to be the perfect number for me - allowing me to wash every 2-3 days, with enough to last an extra day while the washed diapers dry (I line dry).
I have had no problems with using prefolds. I don't think they really take any more time than using disposables - and they have saved so much money! I use pins with mine and so far have not poked Benjamin! =) I like to use baby powder (cornstarch works great, too!) with mine and change him every 3-4 hours, although he does go longer sometimes. He gets pretty wet at night, so I like to double his diaper (two folded together). I've been using mine for about 7 months total (minus the time I've used disposables I've been given), and they are still in very good shape. I would expect them to last at least through a couple of kids.
Plastic Pants: I use the traditional plastic pants with my diapers. I tried some "wraps" that someone gave me but found they leaked almost every time. I have only had a couple of leaks with using plastic pants, and no wet leaks - only a few leaks with major "explosions". I have had far less leaks with these than with disposables! The main thing to watch with these is that you cover up the diaper all the way - if part of the diaper is sticking out from the plastic pants, uncovered, the clothes will get wet from it. Sometimes these do get ripped from a fingernail or whatever. I have repaired them by putting some hot glue on the rip. These come in different sizes, and I reccommend around 6 of each size. I bought small, and I have medium that someone passed on to me, which are older and better quality than the ones I bought new. The newer ones were thinner and so probably would rip easier, but they do work just fine. I have Gerber brand, which are made of vinyl. I have heard from a few different sources that nylon are better quality and last longer, but they are a little more expensive. I plan to buy my large size in nylon, but I haven't personally tried them yet.
Pins: I have the traditional diaper pins with the colored plastic head. I think I have about five pairs, but two or three pairs would be sufficient.
Wipes: I use cloth wipes as well - since I'm already washing diapers, it makes sense to save that extra money and wash wipes too! I use flannel cut up into squares and serged around the edges (a zig zag stitch would work as well). Instead of wetting them and putting them in the wipe container, I have a bottle of slightly soapy water, and I wet them as I needed them. (See this post.) This way I don't have to worry about the wipes getting moldy if I don't use too many.
Diaper Pail: I purchased a kitchen-size garbage can with a lid. The only time I ever have noticed a smell is right when I open the lid, and it disappears quickly. I have been very impressed with the lack of smell - I hadn't expected a non air-tight garbage can to keep the odor in so well. I clean it with my vinegar cleaner every few months or so.
Now I'll give the amount that it would take to buy everything - but there are several things you can do to keep from spending even this much!
36 diapers - I bought mine at Target. A package of 12 6-ply (3-ply are a little bit less) costs $16.99 - Total: $51.00 + tax
Plastic Pants: 6 of each size - The only store I was able to find these at was Babies'R'Us. The first three sizes should get you through at least the first year. A package of three costs $4.49, so, purchasing two packages of each three sizes means a total cost of: $27.00 + tax. If you wanted to purchase nylon, they can be found online for $3.99 for two pairs.
Wipes: Buy a yard of flannel, cut it up into squares, and serge or zig zag stitch around the edges. You can find flannel on sale or clearance at Wal-Mart or Jo-Ann's for around $2-3 a yard. Total cost: $2-3
Pins: Babies 'R' Us had a package of three pairs for $1.50. Total cost: $1.50 + tax
Diaper Pail: I bought mine at Target or Fred Meyer for around $7. Total cost: approx. $7.00 + tax
Even if you have to buy everything, you can cloth diaper your baby for an intial investment of around $90 - less than $100 after tax.
Like I said, I haven't spent nearly this much, so here are some ideas to reduce that cost:
1. Let people know that you are cloth diapering. If you register for gifts, put diapers, pins, and plastic pants on your registery. People may buy these for you. I didn't purchase any pins, and I have around 5 pairs that I was given as gifts. Also, some people will pass on their diapering supplies that they are no longer using. I received some plastic pants, diaper wrap covers (which I didn't keep because they leaked), and around 20 diapers, which I use for backup in case I ever need them (I probably will with diapering two!). I don't really use them now because they are a little thinner than the 6-ply. But they do work, and I could have bought one less package of diapers! I wouldn't ever buy used diapers, just my own personal preference, but since these were from someone I knew, I was okay with using them.
2. Use gift cards! Two of the packages of diapers and the plastic pants I bought were purchased using gift cards I got at one of Benjamin's showers.
3. Use what you have! You can cut up extra flannel receiving blankets for wipes. I happened to have some flannel in my fabric stash that I used, which worked great and didn't cost me anything. I have also seen a tutorial for making your own prefold diapers out of receiving blankets.
4. When I was checking on the prices for plastic pants, I realized that they had changed the sizes slightly, making each size fit for less time (essentially meaning that you will have to buy more sizes!). I have heard that you can skip a size without having leaking problems, so you could try that to save some money.
So far, I have only spent around $30 on cloth diapering, and I am very happy with my decision to use cloth diapers!