How cloth diapering is a bit like home ownership

Mr TCM is more environmentally and health conscious – he prefers cloth diapers because it doesn’t create a lot of trash and it is better for baby’s skin. I imagined it must be cheaper to cloth diaper because every site that advocates clothing diapering talks about the cost.

It struck me that I probably need to do my own guesstimates before investing in the expensive modern diapers. Baby’s going to be in cloth for a minimum of 12mths and maximum of 18mths. (Child/Infant care centres don’t do cloth diapers.) Most computations are estimates from birth to potty training. Plus, expensive diapers are not often sold second hand. So, my savings may not be that great.

Using the estimates from and assuming that I need 24 diapers and 4 AIOs, I made some calculations.

It turns out that cost savings differs a lot, depending on the cloth diapering option. The pocket diapers cost more than prefolds. If baby is going to be in pocket diapers for 12 months, it cheaper to buy disposables. If prefolds and covers are the way to go, I see savings only if I’m going for the cheap priced disposables.

If he is going to be in pocket diapers for 18 mths pocket diapers, I see only savings only if I use medium or high priced disposables. Cheap priced disposables still win out compared with pocket diapers. I see clear savings if I choose prefolds.

Pocket diapering will only shows savings if baby is going to use disposables up to 2 years. Prefolds show between 38-70% savings if used full time.

Since cloth diapers will only be used at night and on weekends. I suppose there will be some minor savings – not a great deal. A hoped for second child will inherit the system with minor replacement costs for wear and tear, so more savings could be had.

So yeah, I will go with the prefolds. It is not less convenient to wash or fold them into covers. With prefolds however, there is a tendency to want to buy more than what I need because I think I’m saving heaps, or buy accessories like wetbags. (Although I think I might need one or two for us to transport the dirty diapers home from the nanny’s.)

This reminds me of the rent vs buy calculator on NYTimes. I’ve always assumed it is always cheaper to buy than rent – well I’m chinese and chinese like property ownership. It turns out, that is not always true. Home ownership is only cheaper over the long term. Kind of like cloth diapers.