The Cost Of Diapers: Cloth VS Disposable – Total Price Guide


I have 4 children and have been cloth diapering for over 5 years, however, during these diapering days I have oftentimes turned to the convenience of disposables. I have become very familiar with the prices of diapers, both cloth, and disposables.

For those of you curious about which type of diapers are cheaper, I spent the last few days calculating the total cost of each diapering system so that you can see just how much money there is to be saved by choosing cloth.

Cost Of Cloth Diapers Compared To Disposables

Total Cost Of Cloth DiapersTotal Cost Of Disposable Diapers
$403 – $1,276.50$943.56 per child

As you can see from the table above, cloth diapers can be substantially less expensive than disposable diapers. $540.56 cheaper! If you choose cloth and go on to have more children, your savings will skyrocket because you can reuse them on the next baby.

Even if you purchase the most expensive cloth diapers, by reselling them later for 25% of what you paid for them, you will bring the cost down to $987.50. Almost the same amount as disposables! If you are weighing your options between cloth and disposables, and the cost is your biggest consideration, choose cloth! You can save a boatload of money.

Cloth diapers are substantially less expensive than disposable diapers, saving families on average $994 on diapering expenses. Demand for pre-owned cloth diapers is great, further boosting savings when families opt to resell. When selling pre-owned cloth diapers expect to recoup up to 25% of the retail cost.

How Many Diapers It Takes To Get From Birth To Potty Trained

Let’s begin by calculating how many diapers a child will go through until they are potty trained. Obviously, the longer it takes a child to become potty trained, the more diapers they will require, which will increase the cost of using disposables.

Most children begin potty training somewhere between the age of 18 months and 3 years old. So, how many diapers will a child go through in this time frame?

When a baby is first born, they poop a lot. You will be changing diapers most frequently during the newborn stage. I’m talking, 10-12 times a day. 12 diapers a day, during the first month of life, equates to 360 diapers.

By 3 to 6 months of age, you may notice your baby’s bowel movement patterns begin to change. You can expect to change around 10 diapers a day until 3 months of age. 10 diapers a day from age 2 months to 3 months, equates to 600 diapers.

It is common for babies, once they are a bit older, to go several days without pooping. Exclusively breastfeed babies can go a long time without having a bowel movement. This is because breast milk is exactly what the baby needs, and so baby’s body is making use of the nourishment, and leaving little waste.

This could mean fewer diaper changes during this time. 7 diapers a day from age 3 months to 12 months, equates to 1,890 diapers.

Once baby is a year old, you can expect to change a diaper every three hours, or so. This means you’ll be changing 5 diapers a day, from now until potty training. 5 diapers a day from age 1 to 2 years old, equates to 1,825 diapers. By the times your child is two years old, you will have changed around 4,675 diapers.

Most children are potty trained by the time they are three years old. Another year will be an additional 1,825 diapers, for a grand total of 6,500 disposable diapers. Yep, you heard that right.

A baby will go through a total of 6,500 disposable diapers from birth to potty trained at age three. If potty trained sooner, by age two, only 4,675 diapers will be used.

Total Cost Of Disposable Diapers

Now that we know how many diapers a child will need. We have to consider how much it will cost to buy them. My estimation is based on the price of Parent’s Choice disposable diapers from Walmart. These are probably one of the cheapest options you will find at your local store.

Diaper’s come in different sizes. The sizes are based on the child’s weight. Newborn will fit a baby up to 10 pounds. Size 1, 8-14 pounds. Size 2, 12-18 pounds. Size 3, 16-28 pounds. Size 4, 22-37 pounds.

The price per diaper varies based upon what size the diaper is, and the quantity you purchase. If you buy in bulk, you reduce the cost per diaper. If you buy Parent’s Choice diapers in bulk, here’s the cost for each size:

  • Newborn are .11 cents per diaper
  • Size 1 are .09 cents per diaper
  • Size 2 are .10 cents per diaper
  • Size 3 are .11 cents per diaper
  • Size 4 are .13 cents per diaper

I have calculated how many diapers in each size you will need, based upon the average weight of a child, by age. Here is the breakdown of how many diapers you w

ill need in each size, as well as the cost.

  • 360 diapers in Size Newborn = $39.60
  • 600 diapers in Size 1 = $54.00
  • 840 diapers in Size 2 = $84.00
  • 3,085 diapers in Size 3 = $339.35
  • 1,825 diapers in Size 4 = $237.25
  • Total cost to use disposable diapers until age 3 = $754.20

The total cost of using disposable diapers from the birth of a child until the time they are potty trained at age 3 will be on average $754.20.

The Cost Of Baby Wipes

How many baby wipes will a child need? It will take around 8,400 baby wipes to diaper your child.

We will assume people using disposable diapers, will be using disposable wipes as well. You’ll need a few extra wipes per diaper change to clean up a newborn mess.

3 wipes per change for the newborn period, 2 wipes per change until 3 months old, and 1 wipe per change until potty trained. This equates to a total of 8,030 wipes.

Parent’s Choice wipes cost .02 cents a piece. The bulk boxes are 1,200 count. 7 boxes of wipes will get you 8,400 wipes. The cost for the disposable baby wipes will be $129.36.

Chances are if you decide to use cloth diapers, you will use cloth wipes as well. The cloth wipes will be washed right along with the cloth diapers, and won’t increase the amount of laundry you have to do. The only extra step you will have to take with cloth wipes, is wetting the wipe with water. You can do this in the sink at home, or with a water bottle, or peri-bottle on the go.

How many cloth wipes will you need? 60 cloth wipes will suffice for your diaper stash. You can get a pack of 15 for around $10. 4 packs of 15 cloth wipes will get you 60 wipes at a cost of $40.

How Many Cloth Diapers You Need

How many cloth diapers will you need? 36 cloth diapers will be an adequate stash. Remember a newborn can go through 12 diapers a day, so three dozen diapers will get you three days before you will need to wash them. Here’s a helpful tip. You will still need some clean diapers while you wash and dry the soiled ones. Babies love to poop when you are in the throws of housework, so start the load before you completely use them all up.

The wonderful thing about cloth diapers is that they are very multipurpose. So even if you buy more than 36, you will certainly use them. I use my flats and prefold diapers as burp cloths, changing pads, nursing covers, wipes, and blankets. Try doing all of that with a disposable diaper!

Total Cost Of A Full-Time Setup Of Each Type Of Cloth Diaper

Type Of Cloth DiaperPrice Of Full-Time Setup (36 diapers)
Diaper Covers$79.50 (6 covers)
Flats$54.00
Prefolds$82.80
Pocket-Diapers$300.00
Fitteds$360.00
Hybrids$508.50
All-In-One$800.00

There are many different types of cloth diapers on the market. The cost of cloth diapering is going to vary dramatically, depending upon which system you choose.

Some cloth diapers need a cover, which is a water-proof barrier that goes over the diaper. Covers are used over flats, prefolds, and fitted diapers. A typical cloth diaper cover will cost you $13.25, and you will need to have at least 6. The cost for the diaper covers will be $79.50.

You can get flat fold diapers for as little as $1.50 per diaper. 36 flat fold diapers will cost you $54.

Prefold diapers come in different sizes, so the price will vary depending upon which sizes you buy. The bigger the size, the higher the cost. You can get away with buying one size, by buying a larger diaper, and then folding it to fit a smaller baby. You’re looking at around $2.30 per prefold. A nice stack of prefolds will cost you $82.80.

Fitted diapers cost around $7.50 to $13 per diaper. You can expect to spend around $360 on fitted diapers.

Pocket-diapers can go from $7 to $21 per diaper. Budget conscience pocket-diapers will cost around $252. Nicer quality pocket-diapers will be around $756.

All-In-One diapers fall into the high-end price range. This is because it most resembles a disposable diaper when compared to all of the other cloth systems. You can buy All-In-Ones from $10 to $28. For an AIO cloth diaper system, expect to pay anywhere from $360 to $1,008.

How many children will you have?

Now, you may, or may not have an idea of what this number looks like, but it is an important variable in our cost analyst. When it comes to cloth diapers, the more children you have, the more savings you will net. I am diapering my third baby right now, with the same prefolds and flats that I used on my first baby, and these diapers and covers are still in excellent condition.

Other Expenses & Considerations

Necessary Cloth Diaper AccessoriesAverage Price
Pail Liner$18.50
Wet Bags$10.00
Fasteners$10.00
Total Cost Of Cloth Diaper Accessories: $38.50

There are some other expenses we need to factor in. A diaper pail will be an expense for both disposables and cloth. A nice disposable diaper pail will run around $60. For cloth diapers, a standard kitchen wastebasket (up to 54 quart capacity) will work with a large pail liner. Budget $20 for the wastebasket, and $18.50 for the pail liner.

Cloth diapers require some extra accessories. Wet bags are small water-proof bags, used for storing soiled diapers in the diaper bag. You can get a two-pack of medium size wet bags for as little as $10. It is nice to have more than one wet bag, that way you have a clean one available, while the other is in the laundry.

You’ll also need a way to fasten your cloth diapers if you use flats or prefolds. Diaper pins are super cheap. You can actually get a pair for free if you order diapers from Green Mountain Diapers. A pair of pins cost .50 cents, or less if you buy a big pack of them.

Another way to fasten diapers is with a Snappi or Boingo. These are stretchy fasteners that have teeth, which grip on to the diapers and hold them in place. A 3 pack of snappis cost $10.

You can expect some extra expense from laundering the cloth. Over the span of 3 years, you might spend around $180 between utilities and detergent.

One more variable to consider when estimating the cost of using cloth is the opportunity to re-sell your diaper stash when you are done using them. You can certainly recoup some money by doing this. If you think you will sell your diapers, then deduct some money from your total cost. A fair price to ask for used cloth would be 25% of what you paid. If your diapers are still in excellent condition, you could sell them for 50%.

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