Cloth Diapering on the cheap

I started cloth in 2003 with my first daughter, Abby (who let me steal her name for our store), and for some time I was diapering on a very tiny budget, the “groceries or diapers” kind. I started with my youngest brother’s 24 year old Gerber prefolds, pins and rubber pants from walmart. My first splurge was a snappi, then another snappi, then proraps and finally some chinese prefolds (indian were just starting to come on the scene back then). We diapered her that way for some time, every few paychecks I would snag a few dollars and get a pocket for nighttime. My second daughter was a mix of prefolds and pockets, bumgenius came out when she was a baby with their first version (the 1.0 white nylon pocket for the veterans here!), and I had the store at that point and could try a few more things. With each baby I have been able to increase my stash, but it doesn’t mean I forgot what I did, what I HAD to do with my first and second to make sure we could pay the bills on time.

Gerber prefolds are cheap, can be bought at the grocery store and certainly can work. She always had to be doubled up, nighttime was 3 and still being changed every few hours to prevent leaks. Same can be said for today’s Indian prefolds that I love and use, they last a long time, and you can diaper with them from birth to potty training for around 200 dollars, including covers and snappis. If your baby is a heavier wetter and you have prefolds, double them up! Fold one like a business letter, lay it in the middle of the second, when you lay the baby in, flip the trifolded middle piece up over their belly, then wrap the second prefold around them. You have just made two prefolds give your baby 30 layers of cotton in the middle. For this style, you will have to upsize the cover, but it will still work!

I also would use old rags, handtowels and washcloths to boost absorbency. I started with enough diapers to almost get me through the day, so I ran tiny loads of laundry every day to keep up until i could afford more prefolds. Using washcloths, handtowels and cutting/sewing the edges on old bath towels got me through the day of laundry. Don’t have a sewing machine? Roll the edges of a cut handtowel and hand-sew the edges with a whip stitch, it holds and is easy and quick to do. If your baby is sensitive to wetness, go to your local fabric store, you can get a half a yard of scrap fleece for about 2-3 dollars. Cut them into 5 x 15 rectangles, no sewing needed, and lay one in with each prefold. Lay it in the middle, lay the baby down, flip up the liner over their belly then wrap the prefold around, otherwise the liner gets wrapped up in the prefold and is useless.

I look at Abby’s baby pictures and giggle, she was a tiny, tiny petite child and her diaper was HUGE! LOL-put a handtowel in a gerber prefold with a snappi on a 13 pound 6 month old and a medium cover over it, watch what happens 😉

Bottom line, it works, and I think I spent maybe 75 dollars on her entire first year of diapering. We would have done that in disposables in less than two months. Those prefolds she used I had in use until my third daughter, they finally wore out during her baby-hood. The worst feeling in the world when you are tight on cash, is looking in a disposable diaper pail when your child has “cluster pooped” and you see that you have just gone through 7 disposables in a 2 hour period when you thought they were done and they just kept going, the best feeling is looking in a cloth diaper pail and seeing 7 prefolds that will be washed by morning and ready to use again.

Some cheap accessory ideas:
-Wipes: wipes can be expensive and a pain to wash/dispose of. The best cloth wipes for newborns are going to be small and thin for their little nooks and crannies, especially for baby girls. Big thick wipes won’t do the job, and the best newborn wipes can be baby washcloths. Usually at your baby shower you get 30 packs of washcloths, and end up needing 4-5 during the week to actually bathe your baby. Use the rest for cloth diaper wipes! At wal mart or the dollar store, you can get a 5 pack for around a dollar, so you can build your stash of wipes for 5-6 dollars. For my oldest daughter we used these through her toddler years, you need more per changing then the bigger thicker wipes, but they do the job and will last for years. You don’t need essential oils or wipe recipes, plain old water is the best for any age of cleaning 🙂

-I would say 99% of babies will need fleece liners at some point in their diapering years. Whether for nighttime dryness, or to be able to use diaper creams, fleece liners are needed. You can make your own for 2-3 dollars, go to your local fabric store and buy a yard of scrap fleece, the kind doesn’t matter. Or, sometimes big box stores will sell cheap fleece throws at the 2-3 price point, and you can cut them up. Rectangles of 5 x 15 inches, no sewing needed as it won’t fray.
-Diaper Sprayer: Get your husband or partner to dunk/swish, pretty cheap method, failproof and be used anywhere 😉

The biggest challenge to frugal diapering is the toddlers and nighttime heavy wetters, but surely generations before us did it with success, we can, too, right? Absolutely! Much of this will tie back into the first article we did on prefolds/layering. If you have any sewing skills and access to a machine, this will come in handy. Being able to sew flannel layers from old receiving blankets is invaluable, if you can sweet talk your mother or mother in law into doing this for you, even better 😉

Flannel is cotton, is very durable and easy to wash. It also provides good absorbency, and is super trim. Making inserts out of lots of layers is easy and cheap to do. If you don’t/can’t sew, you can whip stitch by hand the same thing, it will just take longer and not be as neat, just keep folding the flannel onto itself and finish the edges, you can do this to two stacks and then sew them together. Sandwich these in your prefolds, or behind the prefolds held in place by the cover for extra core absorbency.

For nighttime your homemade fleece liners we discussed earlier will help provide a stay dry feeling for your baby is he is sensitive to wetness. If you go to any thrift shop you can get old wool sweaters for a few dollars. These can be cut and sewn into wool soakers, if you google “recycled wool sweater soakers” you will get a bajillion links on how to sew your own, many with free patterns. Wool is invaluable for heavy wetters and breatheable covers, and easy wool care can be found here.


May 3, 2011. Tags: , . cloth diapers, FAQ, Q & A.

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