One thing that amazes me is how quickly children grow. Our newest daughter is almost six weeks old, and she is growing much faster than our first daughter did. We’ve already retired her first set of clothes and we’ve gone from preemie diapers to size 2. That isn’t really a problem, except that we bought a few extra packages of diapers in advance so we wouldn’t have to keep going back to the store to buy more. (the cloth diapers we have are still a little large for her).
How to Exchange Diapers without a Receipt
The good news is that almost all stores will exchange unopened packages of diapers for another size, even if you don’t have a receipt for the purchase. That’s a great policy as children can unexpectedly outgrow diapers in a couple days (just like outgrowing baby clothes!).
I’m sure more than one sleep-deprived father grabbed the first package of diapers he saw at the 24-hour mega mart, only to find out he bought the wrong size (duct tape to the rescue!).
The process is the same at most stores – just take the unopened package to the customer service desk, explain the situation, and ask them if you can exchange the diapers for a different size. Most packages of diapers are similar in price, so you usually won’t have to worry about paying more or getting a refund or store credit.
While the diapers are usually priced similarly, they often have a different number of diapers in each package. The smaller diapers usually have more per package, and the larger diapers usually have fewer in each package. My guess is this is due to size and the amount of material used in the diapers. And hopefully, your child won’t use as many diapers as he or she gets older!
Think Twice Before Buying Diapers in Bulk!
Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money, and baby diapers are no exception. We tried to use cloth diapers most of the time, but those aren’t as convenient for travel and certain other times. So we would buy disposable diapers in bulk to save money for the times we needed them.
But you want to be careful buying in bulk, just in case your baby outgrows their diapers – you don’t want to be left with half a package of diapers you can’t use! Buying in bulk doesn’t save money if you can’t use everything!
I recommend buying in bulk right after a baby changes diaper sizes – that way you are more likely to be able to use the entire package if disposable diapers before your baby outgrows them. You might want to reconsider buying in bulk if you notice your child entering a growth spurt. You don’t want to be left with a large number of diapers that are too small!
What to Do with Extra Diapers
It’s not the end of the world if you have some leftover diapers that no longer fit. As noted above, most stores will only exchange full packages of diapers. If your child outgrew his or her diapers and you have a partial pack and can’t exchange them, then you still have a few good uses for them:
- Give them to friends or family who have a child, or who are expecting
- Bring them to your church (most churches have a nursery, and extra diapers are always welcome!)
- Give them to your local daycare
- Donate them to a women’s center or shelter
- Use them in the garage to clean up oil spills or other messes
If you donate the diapers, it’s helpful to either leave them in the original package or somehow label them with the size, if it isn’t printed on the outside of the diaper. If you no longer have the original package, place them in a large ziplock-style back and clearly label it with the diaper size.
You can also donate opened packages of diaper wipes, as those are always in need. Check with the organization before donating other items, as some items may or may not be needed, or there may be restrictions on the types of items they are allowed to accept.
Should You Switch to Cloth Diapers?
My wife and I discussed cloth and disposable diapers before we had our first child. We were both intrigued by the idea of using cloth diapers for several reasons – possible cost savings, better for the environment, better for our child, and the convenience of not having to run to the store a couple times per week.
Of course, we had our doubts as well.
- How much would they cost?
- Would they leak?
- How much of a pain would it be to do laundry? etc.
So we did what we do for any other major purchase/decision. We researched it and talked to people we knew who had used cloth diapers.
Let me tell you the first thing we found out: The cloth diapers manufactured today are not the kind of cloth diapers that were available when we were raised!
We were concerned about having to fold the diapers around a squirming baby and fastening them with pins (not a fun sounding proposition). But cloth diapers made now may have many features that weren’t around just a few decades ago, they may have liners, plastic coverings, Velcro or button fasteners or a host of other features. In short, we were intrigued.
Benefits of using cloth diapers
Cloth diapers have the obvious advantage of being reusable. That is a great benefit for the environment and saves you the hassle of going to the store in the middle of the night (though it doesn’t save you from the hassle of washing them, but more on that later).
Cloth diapers can also be better for the baby because some disposable diapers have plastics or other chemicals which can irritate a baby’s sensitive skin.
Finally, cloth diapers are adjustable and can be worn through several size ranges. Something we discussed above when talking about returning extra diapers.
The durability of cloth diapers
Cloth diapers can be used dozens if not hundreds of times before they wear out. Our friends have used their set of cloth diapers through three children and they are still holding up fine. And durability leads directly to long term cost savings. Obviously using them for three children will more than cover the cost of the diapers, but they should pay for themselves relatively quickly even if you only have one child.
How much do cloth diapers cost?
Prices for cloth diapers vary, from a couple dollars each to more than $15 each. But the quality and features also vary. We currently use a one-size-fits-all model made by BumGenius, but you can find many great brands on Amazon or other outlets. We also tried a couple other brands but preferred the BumGenius brand (some companies will send you a free or discounted sample to try).
The beauty of cloth diapers is that while the upfront cost is much higher, the ongoing cost is much lower. Once you purchase them you are only paying for laundry detergent and the energy to wash/dry them. [Note: I’ve also known people who have passed along cloth diapers to other family members or bought/sold them on Craigslist, both of which could be a cheaper option if you are willing to do either].
The cost of disposable diapers
Contrast that to disposable diapers, which must be purchased for each use (raise your hand if you’ve ever used 3 diapers to complete one change because your baby decided that diaper changing time meant going time).
Prices for disposable diapers also vary, ranging anywhere from roughly $.10 each to over $.30 each. Babies will use anywhere from 6-10 diapers per day, putting your average cost at roughly $.60-$3.00 per day, or about $20 to $90 per month (depending on brand and number of diapers used). Figure roughly 2 years or more of diapers and you are looking at $480 – $1800 literally thrown away.
Which is cheaper – cloth or disposable
Again, the upfront costs of cloth diapers are high enough to scare many people away.
$17 for a diaper?! Get out of here – I’ll buy a pack of 80 Huggies Ultra Elite Super Stopper Biodegradable disposables with a pretty print pattern, thank you very much.
And you’ll buy another pack next week. And another the week after that… and guess what, it’s 10 pm and you just used your last diaper. Off to the grocery store you go.
Or, you can use this diaper calculator from DiaperPin.com and run some numbers. Enter the per unit cloth diaper cost, how many you will purchase, and the cost of your preferred brand of disposable diapers. Run the calculator and it will return how long it will take to recoup your initial expense, then show you cost savings over the following months. In most cases, it should take only a couple months before you come out ahead and you should save well into the hundreds of dollars by the time you anticipate no longer needing diapers (this may not ring true if you pay for a diaper cleaning service).
Tip: if you are still concerned about cost, then be sure to add them to your baby registry for your baby shower.
Washing and caring for cloth diapers
OK, I know what you’re thinking… Cloth? Gross! Sure. But no more than any other diapers. The key is to deal with them quickly and not to let them pile up. There are several diapers bins designed specifically for cloth diapers, or you can just rinse them out immediately after use, hang them to dry over the side of the tub, then wash them in a batch of other diapers. Use a double rinse cycle if it makes you feel better, then dry them in your clothes dryer or hang them to dry. It’s not too much of a hassle, really. (tip: fasten the velcro on each diaper before washing – it will make washing/drying much easier!). More info about caring for cloth diapers.
Which diapers are better – cloth or disposable?
After 6 months of parenting, I can tell you this: Cloth diapers are great. We have only had one or two instances of leakage, which is about the same as what we have had with disposables. But we don’t use them exclusively. We typically use cloth diapers throughout the day, then use disposables at night, and anytime we plan on being away from the house for an extended period of time – especially overnight trips. We have no desire to carry dirty diapers with us, and asking friends or relatives to use their washing machine to wash dirty diapers probably isn’t the most polite thing in the world. Which is better? I think they are both great and I encourage you to try cloth if you have young children. The cost and environmental benefits will make it worth your while. Then use disposable diapers for what they were intended for: a convenience.