HOW TO SWITCH TO CLOTH DIAPERS
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The basic diaper equation = absorbency + moisture resistance
All diapers need two components: absorbency to soak up urine and moisture resistance to keep wetness from outer clothing.
Different cloth diapering options put these two components together in different ways. To see the range of options, look for local resources or a Real Diaper Circle for in-person advice. Or study our Cloth Diaper User Guide to determine what you need.
How to budget for cloth diapers
Using cloth diapers will save thousands of dollars over the 2-3 years of your baby's diapering phase. Getting started doesn't have to be expensive. Avoid purchasing everything your baby will need from birth to potty learning at the very beginning. Buy only what you need for the current stage of your baby (or newborn if the baby hasn't arrived yet). If you are currently buying disposable diapers, take what you spend for a month (or a week or 2 weeks, whatever your budget can manage) and buy some basic cloth diapers. Get 12 quality prefolds and 2 waterproof covers. This should cost less than $50 and can be as low as $25 if you are purchasing used. After 2 or 3 weeks of using them, take the money you have saved from not buying as many disposables and buy 12 more prefolds and 2 more covers. That is really all you need for basic cloth diapering. But you can keep building from there. As you will be saving from $50-$100 per month by not buying disposable diapers, you can use some of that money to upgrade and expand your cloth diapering supplies if you wish.
If you have very little money, get a couple of waterproof covers first. Some clothing items such as polyester fleece pants or wool pants can be used instead of a diaper cover. Many people will also skip the diaper cover around the house for greater breathability. Very young babies can just be wrapped in a blanket over the diaper as they are changed so frequently and aren't mobile.
Absorbency is the easy part. You can use anything absorbent as a diaper: a washcloth or small towel, cotton socks, folded t-shirt, or any other cotton item you have around the house. For increased absorbency, try microfiber towels from the auto department. Good quality cotton diapers can also be found in some automotive sections. These are often less expensive and work better than the poly-filled ones available in the baby supplies department.