Guest Post: Diaper your Baby for Under $7 per month!

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Due to the recent news coverage about low income parents, money stretched to the max, allowing their children to sit in wet or soiled diapers for an inappropriate length of time.  If you’ve ever disposable diapered a child (I have) then you are acquainted with the extraordinary cost diapering a child can be.  Some of you out there are amazing couponers and can purchase your diapers for fairly cheap, but the average low-income parent does not coupon or have the means to spend hours of their week researching the best deals.  The news coverage talked about how some parents were going so far as to dump out the waste in the toilet and immediately reuse the diaper.

All this prompted the Flats & Handwashing Challenge to show people that cloth diapering with “flats” (see a definition here) and handwashing them (many low-income families don’t have regular access to inexpensive washing facilities) is a very feasible alternative to disposable diapering.

Here is one cloth diaperer’s experience with the challenge:

Recently I took part in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge that was initiated by Kim from Dirty Diaper Laundry. Her inspiration for the Challenge came from a news article that talked about the drastic lengths some parents would go to stretch out diaper usage because money was so tight. Some families were going as far as re-using diapers! Kim felt that things shouldn’t have to come to a choice between groceries or diapers and she also realizes that there was a drastic lack of education when it came to diapering options. So Kim put the challenge out there to her readers and to the cloth diapering community to commit to using flats and hand-washing flats them for 1 week. The rules were pretty simple: you had to use flat diapers, you could only use 5 covers, you had to handwash your diapers and let them air dry. The point of the Challenge was to show that a family could cloth diaper, even on  a limited budget and with limited resources. When I read about the Challenge, I knew that I wanted to join! You can read more about why I chose to join this Challenge HERE
The Flats and Handwashing Challenge ran from May 23-30 and during the Challenge, I used:
Detergent (only one type is needed)
Misc. Items That I Found Helpful 
  • 1 Snappi – $3.95
  • 1 pair of gloves (to save my hands from getting…errr… too dirty)
  • A portable drying rack from Ikea – $19.99
  • A tub, water and my two hands!
Total Retail Value of Items:
(only including the price of Rockin’ Green Detergent, since you only need one type of detergent and not including the price of gloves, since that can vary so much)
If you consider most children are diapered for about 30 months this cost breaks down to just under $7 per month–less if you purchase cheaper covers and flats or if you make your own flats out of old sheets.
Now, that may seem like a lot upfront, but, you don’t have to have all of these items to use flat diapers and hand-wash. I had a total of 29 flat diapers and found that that was more than enough for my son. I would recommend about 18 diapers (depending on how often you want to wash – I washed every day). I also tried a variety of diaper covers in a variety of price points and they all worked well for me. I would recommend trying one or two different brands to see how you like them and how they work with your child. Detergent is a reoccurring cost, but I feel that if you wash by hand, you use so little detergent, that each bag will last a very long time and that will really stretch your dollars! The Snappi was great to have and made fastening the diapers much easier (once I figured out how to use it!) and it is an inexpensive item, but you could also use diaper pins. Gloves were great to have and really save your hands from excess wear and tear. The drying rack isn’t a must either. It was super handy to have, especially since our HOA won’t let us have a clothes line. But, if you can use a clothes line, they aren’t too expensive and they are wonderful! Nothing beats having the sun and wind dry your clothes and diapers for you! but, again, you could also get creative drying indoors. My total would be different if I were on a tight budget – I would stick to the necessities and start small, buying a package at a time and only one or two covers, and then add as I had more money saved.
After the Challenge was over, I had some time to reflect on how the whole week went.
Overall, I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought! Learning the flat folding had a bit of a learning curve, but there are so many wonderful tutorials out there to help! (You Tube is a great resource!) Once I found a couple folds that worked for my son (The kite fold, pad fold and diaperbag fold were my favorites), I practiced and practiced and before the week was even halfway over, it came to me like second nature. I felt so accomplished that I had gotten over my fear of diapering with flat diapers! Within a week, I had learned how to take a square piece of fabric and turn it into a working diaper! It felt so good knowing that I had learned a valuable skill that I can not only use for our son now, but use for future children and maybe even teach others how to do it!
 Washing the flat diapers and covers by hand wasn’t really difficult, it was time consuming, but not difficult. I washed my diapers and cover in our tub with cloth diaper safe detergent. It was a little taxing on my back to lean over the tub to swish and scrub, so I might recommend washing smaller loads in a big sink. A good pair of gloves is a must! It will save your hands and keep them from getting horribly dry from all the water and detergent. Washing flat diapers is pretty easy and I did a load every day (but you could definitely wash every other day or so) – first you rinse the diapers with cool water, then fill the tub up about 1/3 of the way with hot water and add your detergent, then you swish and scrub them together until you feel they are clean. Then you empty the tub and rinse, rinse rine! Wring them out and hang them to dry (outside in the sunshine if you can!). I love hanging clothes outside to dry! For one thing, it’s free and the sun is also great for getting stains out! Plus, your diapers and other clothes will smell so fresh and lovely when they are dry! Washing flat diapers and covers is definitely not as easy as tossing them in a washing machine and pushing the “Start” button, but when you don’t have access to a washer or if your power is out, or maybe you’re going camping and you want to take cloth diapers with you, it is a wonderful skill to have to know how to use the resources that are in every home to clean your diapers.
Cloth diapering is such a great way to save money diapering your children. One of the greatest things that I learned from the Flats and Handwashing Challenge is that cloth diapering does not have to cost a small fortune. Yes, you can spend $300+ on your cloth diapers, but you can also spend $60-$100 on cloth diapers and covers that will last your child from birth to potty training and since they are truly re-usable. Money saved is a valuable resource. whether you use cloth diapers or disposables, the goal is to have a happy and healthy baby.

For our family, cloth diapering our son is the right choice for us. Would I use flats and covers and hand-wash if that was our only option for cloth diapering? Yes, I would. If it came down to buying disposables on a weekly basis or washing flat diapers every other day, I would definitely go with hand-washing cloth. I enjoyed using the flat diapers and learning the different folds – my husband enjoyed using them too! I’m so glad that I took part in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge -it was a wonderful learning experience to find out about a more budget friendly cloth diapering style and I am so glad I did it!

A little about Sarah~
I am a stay-at-home wife to my wonderful, hard-working, and unfortunately-has-to-travel-for-work hubby, a mommy to my darling son who was born November 2009. Let me just say, Mommy-hood rocks! I have loved the adventures my husband and I shared before we were married and I am delighting in all of the new adventures since becoming a mother.

About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.


  1. Thank you for all of the information, you are so thorough! Thanks again for sharing!