I admit that it always irks me to hear people say "I save thousands of dollars a year because I use cloth!!!!!11" Really? Thousands? That's a little hard to swallow, especially with just one kid in diapers, and such arguments somewhat invalidate the whole system. I'm here to be realistic about what cloth diapering has to offer, as opposed to convincing you that disposable diapers are the worst evil in the world and will make you declare bankruptcy.
I'm only here, in this post, to detail the cost comparisons between cloth and disposable. If you're looking for more info about cloth diapering in general - what kid of diapers, what brand, laundry, folding flats, etc - then you're in the wrong place. To stick all this information together would take me forever. I will most likely make such a post in the future, but not right now (nap time only lasts so long and all).
The savings with cloth can vary greatly, depending on what brand of disposable diaper you would use, how often you change your baby, where you buy your diapers, whether you use coupons... so for simplicity sake, I'm going with the information I pulled from Amazon Mom's subscribe and save program. I've laid out the details of package size, cost of package, and cost per diaper, in case you decide that I don't change my baby enough or change too much or just want to compare Amazon cost with, say, Sam's Club. I'm using the Luvs brand for this blog post, because I consider it middle of the line in cost and quality - a nice average compromise. I'm also using what I consider an average growth curve based on the babies on my mommy forums. ;) So anyways, here goes some math!
Basic diaper cost info: Luvs brand via Amazon mom.
Diaper Size (pound range): quantity in package / price of package / price per diaper
Newborn: (to 8) 152 / $26.36 / $0.17
Size 1 (8-14): 300 / $32.29 / $0.11
Size 2 (12-28): 258 / $32.29 / $0.13
Size 3 (16-28): 234 / $32.29 / $0.14
Size 4 (23-37): 204 / $32.29 / $0.16
Size 5 (27+): 168 / $32.29 / $0.19
Pull-ups (2T-3T): 108 / $28.04 / $0.26
Wipes: $0.03 (Huggies brand wipes, though if you use a store brand they may be $0.1 or $0.2 per wipe)
How many newborn diapers do you need?Average Mom seem to change her newborn about 12 times a day, and uses 1-2 wipes per change. So 12 diapers and 18 wipes comes out to $2.58 per day. A box of Luvs will last four roughly 13 days, so let's just say that's when you move baby up to size 1s.
Total cost to diaper with newborn: $33.54
How many size one diapers do you need?Average Mom appears to change her still small baby 8-12 times a day, so for the sake or argument let's go with 10. Still using 1-2 wipes per change based on contents of diaper. Daily cost - $1.46 A box lasts 30 days. Let's say baby is in size 1 diapers for 2 months, so you'll need 2 boxes.
Total cost to diaper with size 1: $91.60
How many size two diapers do you need?Average Mom is changing her baby about 8 times a day now, still using 1-2 wipes per. Daily cost - $1.40. Baby is in size 2 for another 2 months so you'll need two boxes and have a few left over unused (boo).
Total Cost to Diaper with Size 2: $86.54
How many size 3 diapers do you need?Average mom still changes her now roughly 5 month old baby 8 times a day, and still uses 1-2 wipes. Baby poops less now, saving a smidge bit of wipe money. Daily cost - $1.15. Size 3 seems to last a very long time for most babies, so let's say they are in size 3 for 4 months. The boxes don't quite average out, so we'll say you bought 4 boxes, and then bumbed up to size 4 a little early.
Total Cost to Diaper with Size 3: $166.06
How many size 4 diapers do you need?Average mom changes baby around 7 times a day. Same amount of wipes as before, since even though she may use less on the bum, Baby now eats solids and gets messy all over. Daily cost - $1.39. Size four diapers seem to be the longest lasting size, so let's say Baby, who is now 9 months old, is in this size for 6 months. That means roughly 6 boxes (technically it's 6.28 boxes).
Total Cost to Diaper with Size 4: $243.15
How many size 5 diapers do you need?Baby is now 15 months old, and Average Mom will change him roughly 6 times a day. By this point Average Mom has no doubt slackened on her wipes usage, and now only uses them for poop, which happens roughly once a day. However, she now uses wipes to clean hands, feet, fingers, and the face. Daily cost - $1.29 If we're assuming the Baby begins the potty training process at.. oh.. 28 months? Then we're in size five diapers for 13 months. Some kids will move up to a six in here somewhere, but for the sake of simplicity let's say Baby stays on the smaller size and skips size 6. 14 total boxes.
Total Cost to Diaper with Size 5: $479.06
How many Pull Ups do you need?This is where it gets tricky because of that whole "every kid potty trains differently" business. Let's assume, for the sake of simplicity and/or argument, that your kid will day potty train within 3 months of starting Pull-up usage (so at the age of 31 months, 2.6 years). Let's also use an average of 4 Pull-ups a day, because it'll be more when the kids starts out, and less by the time the process is over. This means that you'll need 3.3 packages of Pull-ups. You bought 4, and will use the remainder towards the night training section. We're going to pretend you're not using any baby wipes now.
Total cost of Day Training: $112.16
After that, your kid needs Pull-ups only at night until the third birthday (5 months). You'll need one more pack of Pull-ups, and you won't end up using all of them. Sadly, you can't buy them one at a time. You could buy a smaller package, but again - I'm just estimating things here.
Total Cost of Night Training: $28.04
Potty training phase total: $140.20
Now, some cloth diapering folk will tell you that you need copious amounts of diaper cream, because disposable diapered babies apparently have some kind of constant diaper rash. I never had this issue, and ended up using maybe 1 tube of diaper cream per year. Apparently my kids are freaks of butt nature, so I'll add a couple tubes to be more average.
Total cost of a rash free rump: $16
Phew, we've made it for three years. Let's review, okay?
Size One: $91.60
Size Two: $86.54
Size Three: $166.06
Size Four: $243.15
Size Five: $479.06
Potty Training: $140.20
Rash Cream: $16
I'd like to reiterate that this isn't a sure number. I never spent that much to diaper one kid, because I was stingy with my wipes, used less diaper cream, didn't change that often, and my second kid is moving from size 4 to Pull-ups (skipped size 5). But at the same time, my almost 4-year-old was in size 6 diapers for a year, and now he wears size 7 at night if we're being cheap. He skipped Pull-ups, and went straight to the Underjams for potty training. He was expensive to diaper, so I guess it all evens out. Your child may not grow like Average Baby did in this post, and you may not behave like Average Mom. That's why they are averages, and I've included numbers so you can do the math yourself. Anyways, we now have the rough cost to disposable diaper a child to the age of 3.
So how much does cloth diapering cost for 3 years?