How to save money on diapers: 6 tips for using fewer cloth and disposable diapers
Any way you slice it, the expenses involved with raising a baby can add up - even more so when you have 5 kids like we do! But there is one area where you can cut costs significantly. Today's episode is all about how to save money on diapers.
Obviously, doing full-time Elimination Communication will save you a lot on diapers - most parents use only ⅓ of the total diapers they would have used if they didn’t do EC - and some parents never use diapers at all. But, even if you don't do EC full time, there are ways to save on diaper expenses that add up over the long run - creative solutions that we can all practice today. So, let's start saving you some money on diapers already!
Today I’ll share:
- How working with your child's rhythms will lead you to less diaper waste
- Whether EC is all or nothing
- How thoughtful shopping can save you a lot on diapers
- What your cloth diaper supply should look like
- How when you start EC can impact your wallet
- Other tips for creatively saving on diapers
- A story from one of our coach trainees, who is the most bootstrapping mama I think I’ve ever met when it comes to living with less and making it work...out of pure necessity.
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- The Go Diaper Free Book
- Tiny Potty Training Book
- Episode 1: Why Parents are Going Diaper Free
- Episode 2: What in the World is Elimination Communication?
- Episode 3: When to Begin Elimination Communication
- Episode 4: The 9 EC No-no's
- Workhorse Diaper
- Tiny Trainers
- TinyUps Cloth Cover
- TinyBums Cloth Diaper
- Learn Undies and Trainers
- DYPER Biodegradable Diaper Backup
- Cotton Prefolds
- Blog Post: How to Send Your Young Toddler to Preschool or Daycare without Diapers
- Toilet Seat Reducer
- Top Hat Potty at TinyUndies.com
- Mini Potty at TinyUndies.com
- Easy Start Guide for EC (Free Download)
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
EPISODE 067: How to save money on diapers
Welcome to the Go Diaper Free Podcast where we're all about helping you potty your baby as early as birth. I'm your host, Andrea Olson, author and mom of five ECed babies. This is episode 67, How to save money on diapers: 6 tips for using fewer cloth and disposable diapers.
Welcome to the show, you guys. I'm so glad you could make it today. Today, we're going to talk about several creative ideas on how to save money on diapers. One of it obviously is going to be EC, but we will get to that. At the very end today, I'm going to share a little story from one of our coach trainees who applied for a scholarship. It is one of the most moving things I've ever read and just shows that if we all lost access to diapers today and to washing machines today, what would we do? This woman is a bootstrapper and I really want to share her story at the end, so stay tuned for that.
Meanwhile, you can find the show notes for this episode and anything that I mentioned is linked to somewhere on the internet at godiaperfree.com/67. You can also ask questions here. I answer all of the comments and also you can share your ideas. If you have tips that I did not mention today, definitely come join the conversation there. If you want to start EC, go ahead and go to godiaperfree.com/start. You can get my free quick start guide for EC there. All right, so let's start off with number one on this list. It’s definitely inspired by the Penny Hoarder's article, which I will link to in the show notes as well.
I looked at hers and a few other articles, but I really felt like Penny Hoarder had it nailed as far as how to save on diapers. I'm going to do a sort of slightly modified list inspired by hers. Number one, no diapers. If we do not use diapers, we don't have diaper cost. Duh. Now, if you only have one child, this is probably a little bit more feasible. Not using diapers at all is definitely something that some of our EC-ing community does. I've read of a handful of women who have done this from birth and just not used a diaper at all. They usually live in kind of a tropical climate, Hawaii or Central America, and found a lot of success with that as well. These women stay at home. They don't work, and they don't use diapers now. They also the single child to work with.
Now, that's not to say that it can't be done without diapers period because that's what all humans have done for all of human history. No diapers is obviously something that needs to be modified for many of us in the Western world. The way that we modify this is by doing elimination communication. Elimination communication, as you all know or may not know... If you don't know, go back to episode one and two and three and four. You can get the primers on everything EC, but it's basically you're starting based on the child's instincts for dryness and to be clean for good hygiene, which as mammals, all human babies are born with. They desire to stay clean and dry and try to let you know that they want that through crying. We pick up on those signals, we call them.
I get into a rhythm in the day when they wake up. Anytime an adult would need to go to the bathroom, we offer for the child to go to the bathroom as well, after a long trip in the car, et cetera. Elimination communication is just basically responding to your baby's needs and helping them until they can do it for themselves. We do have a series on Montessori inspired EC coming up very soon, a four part series on this podcast. It's going to be super fun. Stay tuned for that if you want to learn more about doing EC in a way that is going to help your child develop and have the best start and the development will be the smoothest with EC. The first option for saving money on diapers is clearly elimination communication.
No diapers all the way up to the range of just using the diaper as a backup instead of using it as a full-time toilet. If it's a full-time toilet, you're going to go through many more of them. You're going to teach your baby to stay in them and not want to be taken out of them, and you're going to have a child in diapers for three or four years. If you use a diaper as a backup for when you are not doing EC, if you're doing it part-time or if when you're cooking dinner or you're in the car and use it as a backup, not a full-time toilet, you're going to use them for a less long period of time, and you're going to use less of them typically. Okay. Number two in our list of six tips for using fewer cloth and disposable diapers. We've got used cloth diapers.
For newborns, I prefer to use the workhorses. Thirsties makes the workhorse. It's just the padded cotton material that goes inside the cloth diaper shell, and it just Velcros onto the baby. For a newborn, this is an awesome backup. When they wake up as a newborn, hold them over a receptacle or typically they will go immediately because when you wake up, antidiuretic hormone wears off in every human being's bladder and bowels get ready for movement. Okay, so for newborns, cloth diaper alternative could be at workhorses. You can get those second hand oftentimes. The other part is if you're afraid of doing cloth diapering because it's so much work, here's the deal.
If you're doing number one, which is doing EC with limited diaper use, with not using it as a toilet, you're going to skip the poopy diapers for the most part. One of the biggest benefits about doing EC that I personally love is skipping the poop. Cloth diapers become a lot easier to manage. You can spend $200 stocking up on cloth diapers versus an average of $3,000 on disposables per child. It's a huge cost savings to use cloth versus disposable. I recommend to everybody who always asks me, "Andrea, how many should I buy," because I do sell these. I sell a really nice bamboo fleece lined cloth diaper on tinyundies.com for people who are still kind of in that. Yeah, we're going to do trainers sometimes for diaper free time, but we're also going to do cloth diapers.
Those are called Tiny Bums. I recommend that you get three covers and 20-ish inserts and a Wet/Dry Bag. Those items I'll link to in the show notes at godiaperfree.com/67, but that's a really good stash to get you started. If you don't want to use the inserts that I sell on my site and you just want to use prefolds, there's the Indian cotton prefold that I really love because it's super absorbent and it's all natural. Really good for baby skin. You can just fold those in half or in thirds, lay it inside the cover. Don't use a snap. You don't use pins or anything. You just lay the baby in there and put it on. It's really good for easy offs, easy ons for EC. Second way to save money on diapers is to use cloth. You can save about $2,700 per child that way.
The third way, which kind of goes hand in hand with EC too, is to train early. In 1957, 92% of children in America were potty trained, like done by 18 months old. When you think about it, they were using cloth diapers. These moms were not working outside of the house. They did not have washers and dryers, so they were hand washing and hang drying all of their laundry. But also just culturally, we never learned that a diaper was a toilet from birth. A lot of people were known, and it's in baby books too, baby raising books from the time, that you just hold the baby over the potty when you notice they're starting to poop or when they just finished eating or when they wake up. People were already doing EC because it just made sense.
Like why would you teach them to go on this thing that you then have to hand wash and dry? It doesn't make sense. Back in 1957, babies were exactly the same as they are today. Maybe microscopic changes in evolutionary terms, but pretty much the same. They all, babies all then and now, are capable. There was no message in our culture that says you need to wait for readiness. All babies are capable of learning. The way that I would like to share this with you, if you don't do EC or you don't want to do EC or you missed that window, that training between 12 and 18 months basically looks like this. You would switch to cloth training pants at home and during the day during waking hours, like full-time, starting when they start walking around 12 months.
Montessori really highly informs the way I think about this 12 to 18 month period because it's what Montessori coined as the sensitive period for toilet learning. They show an interest. They want to do what the parents are doing, and they really want to master this so that they can then be freed up to move on and learn other things. It actually really benefits the child's brain as well and their ability to move on and to have a normalized behavior, which we'll talk about in a later podcast. Doing EC and early potty training really normalizes their behavior. For example, I can take all five of my kids out to a really nice restaurant. At the end, 9 times out of 10, 10 times out of 10, somebody always comes up and is like, "Oh my gosh, your kids are so well-behaved."
I'm really biased because I'm an EC book author, but I really feel like they're well-behaved because they have got control over that one thing. They, from that, have become so self-confident and independent and they feel like they don't... They don't feel out of control. They feel like they fit in. You know what I mean? They fit into this culture. That's just a little bit about that. How you would do this during 12 to 18 months to save money on diapers? You would stop using daytime diapers starting right at walking, and you would proceed to teach them. This first amazing opportunity to teach your child something is how to manipulate their clothing, how to self dress, how to change wet pants and where to put them.
Again, we're going to have a four part series on Montessori inspired EC coming up really soon, and in that I will share a lot of details that can take this further. If you can't wait for that, my book, Go Diaper Free, comes with the hybrid plan. It's like an optional download that covers 12 to 18 months and exactly how to start at this age. If you're in this age range, please do it now. This is an amazing gift for your child, and it will help you save on diapers because you will be done with them. I have never had to potty train any of my five children and each of them has been out of diapers during this range. One of them even before this range. I've calculated I've probably saved somewhere near $10,000 in diapers from doing this, wrapping it up during these ages of 12 to 18 months.
I do have books on all these topics you can check out. Definitely I'll link to them in the show notes, but I also have Tiny Undies. These underwear that are called Learn. They are self-dressing, self-correcting underwear, and they come in in training pants. If you're interested in starting between 12 and 18 months, yes, it's hands on, yes, you have to teach, yes, you have to understand your baby and learn them, but it's so amazing that then you're done and it's done. You have no more diaper cost unless you're using a diaper at night. Okay. Let's move on to the fourth way to save money on diapers, disposables. Now that sounds counterintuitive. How can I save money on diapers by buying disposable diapers, Andrea?
Well, I'm a huge advocate for doing EC and doing early potty training or just being EC aware if you're not even going to do it, but you're just aware of the movements, that you do it and whatever is comfortable and affordable and causes you the least stress while still achieving your personal goals. I have done EC with the last four of my babies with probably I mean 50 disposables and cloth diapers, sometimes more disposables than cloth. Here are some ways to save on diapers with that. First of all, you can get a subscription on Diapers.com or with Amazon Moms. You can save money by having them delivered at a certain period every so often. I love when I used to use Seventh Generation diapers, buying them at Walmart. They are so much cheaper.
Usually I'd wait for a sale on Target and then I realized that Walmart, they have free pickup. They can shop for you and you don't even have to go in because our Walmart's a little bit shady and I wouldn't want to go in there. Then they bring it out to my car and I've got diapers for maybe 30% cheaper than I could find anywhere else. You can shop there too. The better option though to save money on diapers, but also save the environment because none of those diapers ever biodegrade, you guys, there is a new diaper that is biodegradable. It is by DYPER, D-Y-P-E-R. I'll link to in the show notes. I am an ambassador for DYPER, full disclosure, but it's only because I freaking love them and I think that everybody should use biodegradable diapers.
If there's no poop in them and they are moistened, they are said to biodegrade within 75 days. Here's the thing though, we can nitpick that until the cows come home, but it doesn't really matter. The point is they're biodegradable. You put them in the landfill, they are actually going to biodegrade, whereas every other diaper will not. I think that's good. We want to save money on diapers. A way to do that with disposables is to get subscriptions or to buy at Walmart or we can get biodegradables and do EC and wrap up that EC between 12 and 18 months. You've kind of got like you're going to save less money because you got less length of time that you're using them. Okay. The fifth tip for using fewer cloth and disposable diapers to save money on diapers is to skip the diapers at daycare.
What? But my daycare requires it, or Andrea, it's the law. No, actually. If your child is poop trained at home and is poop trained period, they are no different at 18 months than a three year old in that class. They deserve the same hygienic treatment no matter the age. I have a post on daycares. I won't get into the details here, but believing and going along with this idea that you have to use diapers at daycare because they require them is actually something that we... It's often a self-limiting belief that we have instilled upon ourselves. Here's what we can do. We can send TinyUps and Tiny Trainers and a wet/dry bag. I usually send three pairs of TinyUps, three pairs of Tiny Trainers, extra socks and extra pants in my wet/dry bag.
I send that everyday with a child who is still working on stuff. I meet with the daycare worker very briefly and just say, "Hey, when you're changing everybody else's diapers, please potty my baby. Here's a toilet seat reducer," and get them equipped. Again, so many details on my post on daycares, which I'll link to in the show notes at godiaperfree.com/67. There are two downloads there that are free, one for you and one for your daycare worker. If you have found success at home, you do not have to send your child in diapers by some strange age. In fact, daycare's used to potty train our kids for us. There are some, if you have an older daycare worker, who would be like, "Oh yeah. We used to do this. I love that."
It is actually proven that using diapers beyond two and three years old at daycares brings disease into the daycare. If you really want to get educational with your daycare owner, definitely look into that. I'm talking about preschool too as well, so check out that post if you need that. The sixth tip for using fewer cloth and disposable diapers, this is the one that was directly inspired by the Penny Hoarder article that I mentioned, use smaller sizes longer. Funny enough, you guys, I've always done this because the smaller sizes of disposable diapers are actually you get more diapers per package. Like Twyla right now, she's almost 12 months old.
She's still using size medium in the biodegradable diapers, DYPER, and the Tiny Bums cloth diapers that I mentioned in number two today, they are expandable so they grow with the baby. You definitely want to get something that's expandable. But also if you're using disposables, just get the smaller sizes and use them longer. You get more bang for your buck for sure. Diapers don't really get wider as they get into bigger sizes. They get longer. That is just the main difference. That's number six and those are the six tips. I hope that these help you save money on diapers. I really want to share this little blurb from one of our coach trainees right now with you.
This can really help you to see that if you were in a bind, would you be able to implement any of these six things, especially numbers one, two and three, to help you use fewer diapers and save some money? Here she is. I'm going to leave her name anonymous. "Andrea, my entire EC experience has been secondhand, makeshift, do what I can with what I have. After taking the financial hit of having baby number two and relying solely on my husband changing jobs and losing jobs, barely keeping us from getting our house foreclosed on, we did get the car taken, and the power shut off a few times. We had to apply for food assistance. Thank God for EC. There is not money for diapers.
I bought my baby Bjorn potty secondhand for $3 on Letgo, and I used receiving blankets and old diaper covers that survived from baby number one. I cut out old pants. I cut old pants to make diaper belts, and I checked out your book from the library, Go Diaper Free, for three months. Without internet. I'm using my dad's cell phone right now for internet because that is shut off too. Now despite all of that, today my son spent all day dry and accident free in pants. His first birthday is in a week." I almost want to cry, you guys. Isn't that beautiful? This just goes to show that we don't have to do what everybody else does. We can save money on diapers and at the same time give our babies the best start, and at the same time really focus on what matters.
Through some of these six tips, I hope they helped you today. Again, go over to the show notes at godiaperfree.com/67. Let me know if I've missed any brilliant ideas you have about saving money on diapers. Also, go ahead and tell us how much you've saved or are planning or estimating you are going to save by doing EC or early toilet training, or what is your plan for using this information today? Let's start a conversation over on the blog. Thank you so much for listening today. If you want to leave a review at iTunes, go for it. It helps more people learn about all of these kinds of options. I'm Andrea Olson with Go Diaper Free and this is the Go Diaper Free Podcast. Have a wonderful week and see you next time.
Watch the Video Version
If you want to watch me record today’s podcast episode, you can do that on my youtube version right here:
Thanks for Listening!
To help out the show and help more parents find out about EC:
- Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
- Subscribe on iTunes
- Share your thoughts by leaving a note in the comments section below!
Have I missed any brilliant ideas for saving money on diapers? How much have you saved, or are expecting to save, by doing Elimination Communication or early potty training? Please leave a comment below!
I look forward to chatting with you in the comments.
Disclosure Note: As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from purchases made through the links on this page.
About Andrea Olson
I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 10 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)
Hi! This is great. Just one tiny correction- Workhorse is actually the trademarked name for Cloth-eez fitted diapers by Green Mountain Diapers. Awesome diapers, awesome company! Thirsties are still great, but I don’t think that they have a unique name like Cloth-eez Workhorse does- just called fitted diapers… take care!! :)
Great suggestions! I use flats (36 regular size and 12 large). I’ve been using them since birth and the large diapers I used as swaddling blankets and burp cloths until baby was older. Now I use them for the night time and nap diaper and I never have leaks. I bought two newborn covers three size one covers 1 size 2 cover and two one size covers. The 36 diapers were $1 each; the 12 large were bamboo and cost a bit more (maybe $2-2.50 each) and the covers were $15-$19 each. This is all Canadian dollars so cheaper for Americans. I used the origami fold with my baby and just tucked the ends under and the diapers stayed in place. During the day my now 15 month old is very active so I use a diaper belt and the pad fold. You don’t have to spend over $200 on cloth diapers. We also use disposables when traveling or at night when he’s too excited to lay still for me to put on his big diaper. Flats are very easy to use, quick to fold and easy to wash in a front load washer!
My supply list:
12 Osocosy premie prefold
12 Osocosy regular prefold
18 LBB all-in-one pocket diaper (shell+insert) (6 sets for $30 on Amazon, so I bought 3lots of 6)
4 plastic training pants cover (from Bed Baths, about $2 each. Great for covering training pants in winter so the rest of baby’s thicker cloths don’t need to be changed every time)
14 training pants, (I bought 6 from Tiny Undies, and 8 were given from family overseas. I prefer the Tiny Undies one by far, because no other training pants fit better. I actually think 6 total would be enough)
These are enough to let me get by doing laundry every 2-3 days. I prerinse by hand before tossing into washer with the rest of laundry.
For my 7 months old I alternate between cloth diaper and training pants. I use training pants mostly in the afternoon when she signals stronger and lasts longer between pees. The prefold are very absorbant, even the premie size will absorb a heavy pee and still keep the shell dry so I dont have to change it often. I only use the regular size for night time, so I only need 3-4 instead of a dozen really. But they always sell it by the dozen so I use a couple as changing pad liner, and others as bath towels. They absorb all the moisture in the little baby folds, much better than any bath towels!
I love the LBB all in one (sorry Andrea, I love your passion for EC, your book and your products, but this one is way cheaper so I can’t not love this!) because it’s so versatile. I usually use it as a shell, lining it with premie prefolds. When I run out of prefolds I use the polyester insert from the LBB set, folding it in thirds and putting it where baby pees inside the shell. Again this keeps the shell dry usually. Occasionally if I run out of inserts I use the diaper shell without any inserts, if I’m very close by, since it won’t be very absorbent without insert, but it’s great feedback for baby because she feels wet. So altogether that’s 2×12 prefolds+18 inserts+18 shells+14 training pants=74 items to catch misses! No time for disposable diaper :D
I love how you can use the all-in-one with the insert slipped inside too, so you can change it like a disposable diaper. I don’t usually do that because it means changing the shell every time, but it’s convenient for outings and when I leave baby home with dad. Daddy is a master engineer, but somehow he finds folding the prefolds more challenging than understanding the most complicated computer, so we came to the solution of using the all-in-one as an all-in-one, if it makes sense.
I hope this helps at least one person—I wish someone showed me this when I was wondering what to buy when I started EC!!
Hi Andrea,i practice ec with my 4m old liitle girl.i actually feel like i dont save money on diapers because a lot of the times when i take a fiaper off to go potty its already wet,and even if its from one pee,i dont feel right putflting it back on her,so i take a new one. What are your thoughts abiut that?