Your first major decision in the diaper department will be between the cloth (a.k.a. "reusable") and disposable ("single use") kind. Both types have their benefits and drawbacks. Disposable diapers are undeniably convenient, but they're costly. You can expect to spend $1,500 to $2,000 or more on disposables by the time your baby is out of them. If you use "eco-friendly" disposable diapers, which are biodegradable or not bleached with chlorine, you'll pay even more, an average of $1,600 to $2,500, depending on the number of diaper changes per day.
Cloth diapers can be much less expensive, especially if you wash them yourself. After paying the start-up costs—namely the waterproof covers you'll need to lock in moisture, the diapers, diaper inserts (cloth pads added to increase absorbency), and flushable liners that help to contain the mess and eliminate the need to rinse cloth diapers before depositing them in a diaper pail—you'll spend hundreds of dollars less in diapering supplies over the years because you'll wash and reuse them again and again. You might even be able to use them for more than one baby.
"People have this leftover image of rubber pants and pins," said Betsy Thomas, co-owner of Bummis, a Montreal-based company that makes washable waterproof diaper covers and sells prefolds and fitted diapers to go with them. But cloth diapers that close with snaps or Velcro can be almost as easy to use as disposable diapers. Yet you still have to wash them. Despite a resurgence in the popularity of cloth diapers, disposable diapers continue to be an accepted choice among today's parents, day-care centers and hospitals.
For disposables, plan on using plenty of diapers for your newborn, but don't load up on the newborn size. Unless you're the parent of multiples, it's overkill to buy economy packs, which may contain up to 160 newborn diapers. Your baby is likely to outgrow the newborn size before you use that many. In fact, some babies are too big at birth to ever wear the smallest size. Buy by your baby's weight. Start with one package of 40-count newborn diapers if your baby weighs less than 8 pounds at birth. If your baby weighs 8 pounds or more, start with a package of size 1s, then buy in volume after you find the brand you like best. Don't be afraid to experiment. You'll find a favorite brand in time.
In general, purchasing the largest-count package you can find is the way to go. Opting for an extra-large case of Pampers Baby Dry, for example, rather than the jumbo-size package, could save you up to 9 cents per diaper, depending on the size of the diaper you buy. You'll save the most money if you buy store-brand diapers in economy-size boxes, which come in counts that range from 92 to 252; you can also find competitive deals on name-brand diapers on sale, in packages of various sizes.
Don't be too quick to jump to the next size diaper. Selecting the smallest diaper your baby can wear comfortably will save you money in the long run because a larger diaper costs more. Manufacturers usually charge the same amount per package regardless of the actual size of the diapers, but they will put progressively fewer diapers in the package as the size gets larger. In addition, a diaper that is too roomy might allow leaks.
Diaper sizes vary from brand to brand. One brand's size 1 might fit children from 8 to 14 pounds, while another's fits those from 8 to 18 pounds, combining sizes 1 and 2 into one package. A brand's weight ranges usually overlap: Size 2 in one brand covers 12 to 18 pounds, size 3 16 to 28 pounds, and so forth.
For cloth diapers, the type of cloth you choose (as well as whether you go with cloth at all) is a matter of personal preference. Cloth diapers can be a significant money saver, so it can pay to go this route. But don't be a slave to the laundry room. Buy enough to have on hand so that you don't have to wash diapers and fabric liners more frequently than every two to three days.
If you choose unfolded, prefolded, or fitted cloth diapers, you will need two to three dozen to begin with, plus six to 10 waterproof covers. If you go the all-in-one or pocket diaper route, having 12 to 16 should be adequate in the beginning. Some cloth diapers are sold as start-up kits, which include all the diapers, diaper covers, and flushable liners you'll need for that diaper's weight limit, which can help you to make sure that you're prepared. Pay close attention to washing instructions until you get a system down and diaper duty becomes second nature. If you go the cloth diapering route, don't think it's all or nothing. Feel free to use disposables when you need or want to, such as when you're traveling with your baby. Browse online to find the most competitive prices and bulk discounts.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.