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Published on April 1st, 2011 | by Jennifer Labit

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Almost Free Diapers – How to diaper your baby when you can’t afford disposable diapers or cloth diapers

Over the weekend, a customer shared with us this news report from Manhattan's NY1: High Cost Of Diapers Forces Some Parents Into Risky Practices. It breaks my heart because I personally know what it feels like to have to choose food OR diapers. When my husband and I started Cotton Babies, we were living on $30 a week for groceries plus a WIC check. That certainly wasn't enough to buy a cloth diaper stash and it didn't buy very many disposable diapers either. Thankfully, we were given three months of diaper service at one of my baby showers and then a friend gave me her stash of prefolds and diaper covers. Without those gifts though, we would have been looking for information about how to diaper your baby when you can't afford disposables OR cloth diapers.

30 years ago, most babies were cloth diapered using flat diapers or prefold diapers. 100 years ago, most babies were cloth diapered using homemade diapers. Those diapers were simple squares constructed from cotton fabric. The diaper was covered with rubber pants or a wool sweater, if a cover was even used. Believe it or not, diaper covers were a source of parenting drama years ago because doctor's were sure that they would cause diaper rash (we will talk about diaper rash another day... that's a topic for a week of blog posts).

We have seen several media reports recently about low income families reusing disposable diapers. These families are forced to choose between diapers and food. In an effort to keep budget available for groceries, they are blow drying a disposable diaper dry and putting it back on their baby. We recently heard about a local family who almost lost their baby to an infection as a result of reusing disposable diapers.

Within the cloth diaper industry, it's widely know that prefolds and covers are the most economical way to cloth diaper. But what if a family doesn't even have $5 dollars to spend and they are out of diapers? Our goal today is to TEACH you how to use things around your house to diaper your baby. Your great-grandmother probably did this. Your grandmother might remember... it's time that *we* re-educate ourselves, our friends and our families that before modern disposable or cloth diapers, people found safe, healthy ways to cover and protect their little ones.

Life is unpredictable. Jobs, income, natural disasters like we've seen recently in Japan, anything could leave any of us in a position where we have to make adjustments in our normal diapering routine. Let me share with you some ways I've found to diaper your little one in a reusable way with things you already have around your house.
  • No Sew, Folded T-shirt Cloth Diaper This one takes no sewing, no cutting and just a diaper pin to secure it. This would be great for anyone to know, just in case. You never know when you'll be short a diaper, and this works.

 

  • T-Shirt Tie Diaper No pin or snappi? This one just takes a pair of scissors and a few quick snips to create a tie-on cloth diaper.

 

 

  • Receiving Blanket Origami Fold Diaper No t-shirts? Out with just a diaper bag and a receiving blanket. This video shows you how to fold a cotton flannel receiving blanket into a diaper that can be secured with diaper pins or a snappi.

 

 

  • Start Cloth Diapering for $20 This tutorial and video shows you how to create a budget stash with a dozen prefolds, 4 fleece receiving blankets, a Snappi and an infant bodysuit. This could idea would be great for a family's emergency kit.

 

 

  • Need a cover? Upcycle an old wool sweater into a diaper cover. There are lots of tutorials online, but I like the photos and directions on The Sewing Dork.

 

 

  • No sewing skills? Find a pair of little girl "bloomers" (the matching panties that come with most little girl dresses). Using a can of Atsko Permanent Water Guard, spray the outside and inside of the bloomers to create your own pull-on cover. Let it dry before using. This solution will not be completely waterproof, but it will certainly help .

 

Keep in mind: Many household linens, hand towels, kitchen towels, bath towels, washcloths, flannel or cotton sheets, etc. can be folded or cut into a prefold size or insert shape suitable for diapering. Have an old t-shirt, cotton flannel shirt hanging in the back of your closet? Take a look at the label. You're looking for a natural fiber. Natural fibers are made from plants, not chemicals. That class of fabrics typically includes cotton, hemp, bamboo, etc. If the shirt you find was made of a natural fiber, you can repurpose that into a cloth diaper as well. Overwhelmed with what to do with a square or a rectangle? You can cut just about any absorbent fabric into strips, fold it into enough layers and you'll have an absorbent pad that will function as a diaper. If you go this route though, you'll need to have a diaper cover to hold the pad on your baby. The directions for making a diaper cover out of a wool sweater above are great... in a pinch, you could even cut up an old tablecloth.

If you'd prefer to buy a diaper cover, the least expensive diaper covers on the market, are these Dappi Nylon Pants. At Cotton Babies, we sell these in packages of 2 diaper covers for $5. At $3.95, a Snappi is another good purchase. It holds fabric, a cloth diaper, a towel... whatever... on your baby without the use of pins. Our free shipping on any order gets that package to your door hassle free.

Washing diapers: If you don't have a washer and dryer, you can easily wash your diapers out in the sink with a little dish soap. If the diaper was poopy, rinse it out in the toilet before washing in the sink. Wash each night and hang the diapers to dry in the bathtub or over a railing. Depending on your climate, most diapers will be dry by morning. As long as you stay on top of it, this will only take a few minutes.

Have you ever cloth diapered with household items? Do you have experience with the suggestions we made above? Share your tips and ideas with others... you never know who you're going to help.

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About the Author

Jenn is the founder of Cotton Babies & creator of bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum, worldwide leading cloth diaper brands. She has four children (Andrew, Oscar, Elsie and Louis) and holds an MBA from Washington University. When she's not working full time, she enjoys teaching business leaders how to implement sustainable economic & social change.



110 Responses to Almost Free Diapers – How to diaper your baby when you can’t afford disposable diapers or cloth diapers

  1. If you’re interested in Cloth Diapering, co-ops are a great place to look. One I’m on has them as low as $4.30 for the cover and insert!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi i am the mom of a 14 year old daughter who wets the bed every night.right now she in a thick cloth diaper and rubber pants at night and i wish they made the diaperswappers in teen sizes.she is not crazy about the cloth diaper and rubber pants and feels like a baby wearing them.she tried goodnites,underjams,pullups,etc and broke out in rashes from them.I wash her cloth diapers and rubber pants separetly.

  3. sanjay jain says:

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  5. You can also earn gift cards at sites like swagbucks just for doing computer searches, playing games, etc. I have done this several times and gotten free diapers from amazon.com. Try http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/virginiabelle200

  6. Delice says:

    I also just read an article about using fleece blankets as a cover, under a onesie, for around the house! :)

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. My husband recently lost his job, I am seven months pregnant and we are now in a position where we can’t feed our family, let alone consider diapers for the new baby. I pray that things turn for the better, but for now I’ve got to do my best to take care of my family. This will help a lot. Thank you again.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I have a consolidated thread that’s actually simular to this. I found tuts for diff options and some I did and combined. I thought I would share the link if this is ok. It’s on diaperswappers here:
    http://diaperswappers.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1347551

  10. Mr.Cheap says:

    One time my baby was soaked and that i looked into my diaper bag and there wasn’t a diaper to be found cloth or disposable. and that we were visiting a somebody and weren’t anywhere close to a store. What I did have was a flannel burp cloth. Took the soaking wet diaper off of him and folded up that burp cloth, used the snappi and canopy he was already carrying. It worked amazingly well. It did not even leak!

  11. Sunbaby diapers are very inexpensive compared to most systems. There are tons of Facebook groups where you can buy them too for about $5-$6 a diaper.

  12. chambanachik says:

    I appreciate this article so much. I am in a situation where I cannot afford diapers- my mom had to buy our basic, white cotton diapers and diaper pins. I will definitely bookmark this article!

  13. Baby Carrier says:

    The Knickernappies dipe was our first side snapping diaper. Overall, it’s not a bad cloth diaper. It’s easy to snap and dries quickly. I love the bright, cheery spring green color. It does seem to wick at the legs, but may have just needed more absorbency.

  14. Hopewell says:

    The same “strategies” can be made to work for women’s “supplies” as well–they sure aren’t cheap any more. There are tons of free patterns for pads, nursing pads AS WELL as diapers on the internet. If you don’t sew buy a pair of pinking shears and cut with those so fabric won’t unravel.

  15. Anonymous says:

    For those who say of think that CB bum genius diapers are spendy…consider this. Try to re-sale your used disposables that cost significantly more over time. You have to pay to have someone take those away. My kiddo just potty trained and now I hust have 1 in diapers so I reduced my stash. I sold 30 3 year old 3.0′s on craigslist for $8.00 each that needed new tabs and had some stains but were still functional/waterproof. Who can say that about their used disposables? Even if you buy the “expensive” cloth diapers, you still save money over disposables.

  16. atiarwang says:

    This blog is very informative and helpful.Thanks for your nice post.

    Your online reusable cloth diaper resource

  17. Kim says:

    Very nice! Great job and tutorial. Thank you for the info!!!!

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  18. lyssa says:

    Hey, Thanks for the great post. i like it.. really fantastic work keep it up..

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  19. Milk Bubbles says:

    Just posted a blog about how I’ll be using only diapers made from things I found around the house for the Flats Handwashing Challenge. So far my FHC stash includes a towels, 3 tshirts, some cut up bed-sheets and a receiving blanket!

    http://bit.ly/mHQtvC

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Jenn! I just had to give a shout out because I have loved learning about you over the past couple years. The only reason I have paid so much attention to you is that Alora mentioned CB at church as a potential job opportunity a couple years ago when I lost the job I moved to STL for, within three months of moving there. I am the one for whose husband she asked if you had a position open at CB (because I was too chicken to apply at CB at the time, I had just lost an internet sales job and didn’t want to risk stinking at the same position again). Thanks for having the HR gal send the application, but Bryan didn’t know if he knew enough about cloth diapering to apply and decided not to take up your time… yet. :-P (See, I’m not the only chicken, although he does phone sales all the time) Sorry, I felt so bad pushing him to try that and asking Alora to ask you, but thank you! Just wanted to say that I smile every time I see your work online– you clearly understand that your sales of cloth diapers are a service for those who are able to afford them, but you are also willing to serve those who can’t bless you financially. I was inspired to start sewing my stash a couple of months ago, and I wish I had started when I was pregnant– just didn’t have the courage to do it! I felt bad doing so, feeling like I ought to be blessing your business because of your friendship with my friend, but I can’t– so thank you for blessing those of us who can’t bless you back! … we were talking about how she made a breastfeeding cover-up like one you sold, just because she couldn’t justify buying it at the time … and I am just going to apologize now for trying to come up with a cheaper way to sew CD’s (hopefully I can stop them from leaking) than you do so I can sell them profitably from home to feed my family. Looks like you were in the same place we are now, so I am just going to follow in the awesome footsteps of a Proverbs 31 woman!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’m printing this along with the information from some of the links to put in my resource files at work. I am a nurse and work with low income first time moms, I start during pregnancy and am with them until the babies turn two. (the national website for anyone who is interested in knowing more about the program is http://www.nursefamilypartnership.org) Many of my clients often need help getting diapers and these days resources for most people and organizations are stretched to the limit. I usually don’t get a very positive response when I suggest cloth, but I think this article and reading other reader’s responses may open some up to the option. Makes me wish I had another baby just so I COULD cloth diaper :) Sue

  22. Melissa says:

    I’m building up my stash of CDs for my DD and one of the cheapest ways to cloth diaper that I’ve found (outside of making your own) is to buy three six-packs of flatfolds from WalMart for six dollars (the brand where I live is Child of Mine, and they are really good!) and two packs of Dappi covers from Cotton Babies for five dollars each. So for $28 bucks you’ve got all that you need until baby outgrows the covers. Unfortunately, you have to have internet access to order the Dappis, but it is the cheapest option I have found outside of making your own (which I have done and wasn’t very successful at). I got scraps of flannel fabric from the fabric store and made them into wipes. I even use baby washcloths for wipes. I would love to help spread awareness about CDing. The only reason I didn’t CD my DS was because of a lack of information (and a lack of covers that would fit him). We are a low income family and I don’t think that we would be able to afford disposables. Thank God that I was able to find out about modern cloth diapers this go around! Or instead of buying the flatfolds, a person could buy the flour sack towels. Either way, those are the cheapest options I have found for cloth diapers.

  23. Anonymous says:

    ps. I’ve only spent 170 total on diapers for my 16mo old, including trainers for when he’s ready. I will not need any more diapers! I know if I needed to I could’ve gotton away with less dipes than he has, I just would need to wash more often.

  24. Anonymous says:

    As a single mom, part time employed full time student I know about stretching a dollar and improvising. I’ve used soft paper towels, cut in half as wipes. I’ve used baby wash cloths as wipes. I’ve also used the flour sack cloths from target as flats/doublers. They are sold as dish cloths and are in the kitchen section. I bought mine for $4 for 4 of them. They work great pad folded or origami w/ pin or snappi. As a cover, I’ve also used plain polyester fleece pants (not cotton). They weren’t made to be a diaper cover, but I figured what is the difference between a fleece cover or fleece pants?

    In our earthquake/emergency kit I have gerber plastic pants, some wool, diaper pins and dozen kitchen cloths. I figure if needed they could be used as diapers, or if not they could be used for bandaging, or a number of other things.

    When I started cloth I bought about 10 yards of flannel, cut it into squares and made flats. I dont even have a serger so I just zig zag stitched close to the edge. Then I bought a few gerber plastic pants and a few wool sweaters to make woolies. As I saved up some money and found good deals I bought a few econobum covers. Then I started working for a wonderful mama who gave me some of her old covers & pockets. Now I have a huge stash of mostly used or homemade diaper stuff. I shared some w/ my cousin, and will pass the rest on to someone in need once he is potty trained.

  25. Nicole says:

    We used all but a few of the receiving blankets (that, as someone else said, were too small for anything!) to make cloth wipes. Definitely cut down on costs there. And if baby is really poopy, we just hose him down in the shower instead. :-)

  26. P.S. to my last comment. In our area they have started a wonderful program were if you attend community classes (such as WIC and many others) you earn coupons and the coupons are good for baby things. One coupon is worth 12 disposable diapers. I wish they would start programs like this all over the country.

  27. One time my baby was soaked and I looked into my diaper bag and there was not a diaper to be found cloth or disposable. And we were visiting a someone and were not anywhere near a store. What I did have was a flannel burp cloth. Took the soaking wet diaper off of him and folded up that burp cloth, used the snappi and cover he was already wearing. It worked amazingly well. It didn’t even leak!

  28. kim says:

    Wish I had more time to read all the comments!
    When I was expecting my third baby we were tight on money, so that’s when I decided to go with cloth! I looked at buying my stash, but I couldn’t come up that much money up front, but I could sew…. So I got busy and went thrift store shopping, bought receiving blankets and flannel sheets and made all my babies fitted diapers and diaper cover wraps!
    I also made my nursing pads. It saved us so much money!
    Great blog, great post!

  29. To answer about the absorbancy of the flour sack towels – if you do an origami fold (Google it if you do not know how) it puts a “soaker” in the middle – if you’re really in a pinch you can use a wash cloth or any other type of material to work as a doubler. I have a heavy wetter and use the FST as flats during the day and particularly during snack and dinner time to prevent staining of our “good diapers” and have no issues with leaks. A good cover for these if $$ is an issue are Garanimals fleece pants sold at Wal Mart for $3 each! For about $25 you could have a set of 18 flats and 3 “covers” – HTH

  30. Janet says:

    I live in NC and We had Shane from Sweet Cheek Diaper Kits come talk to our MOPS group.
    http://www.sweetcheeksdiaperkits.org I have made the switch to only cloth diapering and I am on my third. I wish I knew about them with my other two. I LOVE them. Shane introduced me to Kawaii diapers which are very cheap and are AWESOME. no leaks. Cute patterns, you can get them here http://www.theluvyourbaby.com/ Also there is a lady out of King, NC who sells them and she will answer all your questions…even makes house calls. http://www.allaboutbabyboutique.com/.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I got some prefolds at babyshower and rubber pants from my Grandma, my Aunt found pkgs of fitted diapers with snaps at discount store, then I sewed my own fitted diapers with prefolds and velcro I already had. I also used flannel recieving blankets and flannel sheets and nighties I picked up from thrift stores and yard sales. I used these on the outside with prefolds on the inside. I have a serger and put elastic between the layers so they wouldnt leak. I had a few diaper covers from yard sales and rubber pants. My first son used mainly cloth diapers using these but I gave all these to my Amish friend after we tried getting pregnant a 2nd time for 3 years ( was pregnant a month later!) She passed them back to me and then I returned them back to her. I saved a few flatfolds and some prefolds and now use these for buffing and waxing my car.

  32. Jennifer says:

    I’m expecting my second in Oct and am already taking trips to the thrift stores for flannel and wool shirts/sweaters to recycle into fitteds. It’s nice to have a few awesome aio’s or order some really cute ones, but it’s just not necessary if you’re on a tight budget. Definite kudos to cotton babies for posting this! Makes me love your business even more. This also makes me want to volunteer some time at a WIC office or other pregnancy center to encourage the women to go the cd route. I think women in poverty circumstances may just need some encouragement from others who cd, that it’s not out of their ability. Thanks for posting!

  33. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for your willingness to share…great post and fantastic tips added in these comments…as a mommy of 2 in diapers, any creative ideas help out.
    Still haven’t learned with the flour sacks are though?? Wouldn’t even know where to look in Target.

    • Delice says:

      They are in the kitchen towel section. Google flour sack towel. You can find them at Walmart and Target in multi=packs super cheap. They are thin muslin towels that are very absorbent. :)

  34. kt says:

    DITTO the early potty training. Google infant potty training or DIAPER FREE! I started with my baby @ 4 months & went %100 diaper free @ 18 months when my washer broke. He just turned 2 & is %100 potty trained, meaning HE initiates more than me now to go potty.

    Also–there are some great online tutorials for sewing your own prefolds using a sweatshirt for the middle & T-shirt for the rest of the diaper. SUPER EASY! You can use an old towel for the middle too.

    Don’t forget to check freecycle if you have one in your area for cloth diapers and/or craigslist to purchase inexpensively.

    AND if you purchase NEW don’t pay full-price–look for SECONDS. I got a great stash of *seconds* that are brand new but supposedly have some flaw–they were perfect! I swear–but drastically reduced price!!!

    Think OUTSIDE the box & the ideas will come to you–think creatively & you can save BIG TIME!!

  35. Anonymous says:

    When we started cloth diapering, money was extremely tight [hubby had no job]. A friend mentioned the Cloth Diaper Foundation to us [it was called Miracle Diapers back then]. They loaned us ALL the diapers we needed for our toddler and the new one on the way. While we were using their diapers, I was able to build up our own stash through yard sales, craigslist, thrift stores, etc. Then, instead of having to continue in the program, we could return the diapers and CDF would pass them on to the next mom in need. It worked SO well for us and was such a blessing! Check them out at http://www.clothdiaperfoundation.org

  36. Anonymous says:

    I like the idea of reusable cotton diapers. It is economical and environmentally friendly.

    One thing that is never discussed is potty training your baby early. Why start at 2 1/2 -3 yrs old? Many other countries start potty training around 1-2 years old. That also helps reduce diaper expenses and landfill by starting 1-2 years ahead of U.S.A norm. You’ll still need some diapers (i.e. nap time, bedtime), but not as many during the day.

    Ideally, have your toddler & potty chair outside. The toddler should be naked waist down. If s/he has to go, the potty is right outside with them. They don’t like the feel of pee running down their legs so after awhile will use the potty. (OK, boys might be a little different.) If they make it to the potty ok, if they don’t then ok, too, your grass gets watered or fertilized.

    I started my 6 month old potty training. She could sit, but couldn’t get up from the potty chair. I just sat her there to get used to the feeling. I’d also run water at a trickle in the sink or tub. Magic! She pee pretty much all the time. Magic worked too well bcs when she got a little older, she’d pee in her pants when the water was running to wash her hands! ha!

    Early potty traning can be done with some time and patience!

  37. nanasewn says:

    Be sure all washing soaps/detergents are rinsed well, as they can irritate babies skin

  38. Jen Crum says:

    Thanks for the great post. I linked to it on my blog: http://jencrum.blogspot.com/2011/04/super-cheap-diapering-anyone-can-afford.html

    I’ve made some diapers using old tshirts and flannel sheets, a number of other old fabrics that I’ve picked up at thrift stores. We’ve also used microfiber towels in the place of prefolds!

  39. Jess says:

    My mom told me stories of the year I was born. There was a huge snow storm and they couldn’t get out to wash diapers so she used dad’s old tee shirts. When the roads were passable again she took the laundry to grandmas, washed it and dad wore the shirts to work the next week. I guess my dad really loved (loves) me! I’ve used receiving blankets in a pinch and wow do those things absorb!

  40. amy taylor says:

    Great post! I can’t believe how expensive disposables are, and I am so happy to save all that cash by cloth diapering. I bought a Flip diaper starter pack and ended up copying the pattern for the inserts and making my own. It was so simple and I’ve been using them for a over a year without any problems. I do prefer to buy the flip covers instead of making my own because they are great quality and the snaps allow them to grow with baby. All in all, I spent about $100 on a stash of diapers… which basically equals one month of disposables. I have more details on my blog: http://mommyhoodwithmia.blogspot.com/2010/04/adventures-in-cloth-diapers.html

  41. Anonymous says:

    LOVE love this article! I used disposables for first two babies…but with our 3rd we are using cloth! I saved up and bought a stash of Bum Genius one size and LOVE them! Even though I spent $220 upfront, I haven’t spent a penny since! Baby is 4.5 months old and we’re still on our first bag of detergent too…with lots left! I hate that I spent 3 years paying $40 a month for diapers! Never again

  42. Carrie says:

    People who are so desperate that they would reuse a disposable diaper should learn about Elimination Communication. Even part time, it reduces diaper usage.

  43. the best thing for keeping cloth diapers clean, bright, and white is Shaklee Get Clean laundry soap (also has fragrance free) and nature bright. It works and is super concentrated (for example a 32oz. bottle laundry soap lasts our family of five over 5 months!) and is 100% natural! http://srkindred.myshaklee.com/us/en/category.php?main_cat=HomeCare&sub_cat=GetCleanLaundry -Right now sign up as a lifetime member for Free with a $30.00 order! (members save 15% all the time)

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. Bagel Blog says:

    LOVE this post! I am a cloth diaper ma’ma and most recently I have started infant potty training. It’s only day 3 and Milan (my~lon – 2 months old) is already using his potty successfully! It is awesome! But we will still need diapers for awhile…our stash is small so thanks for all this great info!
    I am writing abour our infant potty training experience here :http://doing-things-differently.blogspot.com/

  46. Excellent post. I did CD for the savings. (Okay, and CD’s are also way nicer looking.) It is tragic that people are in such desperate straights that their children have to suffer so.

    I was originally going to sell some of my old CD’s to the local children’s store but now I’d like to call my local Pregnancy Resource Center to see if they could use them. I encourage all other parents with extra CD’s to do the same.

  47. Andrea Q says:

    Another thing to try…hold your baby over the potty every couple of hours and run water in the sink. They’ll often go and might learn to use the potty early.

  48. The Vagabond says:

    Thank you for the post and links to pictures/videos. Just started cloth diapering and it can be expensive to get your starter stash (especially when starting with 2 in diapers). I am overwhelmed by how “ignorant” I am (and our culture) to how to “use what you got.” We are bombarded with how we need to have this and that for baby, when really we can often re-purpose things we already own. Thanks again for all these great ideas on how to diaper on a budget!

  49. Thank you so much for this. I shared it on Facebook. We are actually on a pretty tight budget, which is the main reason we decided to CD. I wanted the security of bring able to put something clean on my baby’s butt, even if we didn’t have any money.

  50. Melissa says:

    Great post! I am a total disaster preparation nut (living in St.L on a fault will do that to a girl) and this is perfect! Now I can add a couple old covers and some ratty t-shirts I dont use to our “out the door” bag without missing anything and still be able to diaper E in an emergency!

    Also, for those who are worried about money. When DD was little I bought some used FBs for $10 each with an insert and after 3 mo of using them, I resold them on craigslist for the same price! Free diapers! I know it requires an upfront investment, but you can’t be free!

  51. Anonymous says:

    Heartbreakingly sad. And sad to think that someone with out the luxury of internet will miss these wonderful instructions and tips. Too bad state programs or hospitals don’t offer classes, that would make the information more accessable in my oppinion…
    after reading the article about reusing, I am totally aware of how ‘well off’ my family has it, even with being unemployed since September and three kids (one in cloth) we have yet had to choose between necessities.
    thank you for posting this eye opening and truely educational article!!!!

    Eliza Willett

  52. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this post! Another option is that if you have a local cloth diaper service, they may sell used diapers as “rags” (cleaning services and other businesses use them). I had an extremely spitty baby and was spending a fortune on burp cloths, so I bought five pounds of used diapers from our local diaper service for $5 a pound – at five diapers per pound, that’s only $1 per diaper! They had some very minor staining and a few were a little worn, but all were totally useable as diapers (indeed, some have found their way into my stash accidentally) and were very soft and completely prepped.

  53. Danielle says:

    This was a great post. We do use cloth for financial reasons, and just before I read this I was kinda sorta complaining…just wanting some “extra” things for my stash…reading about some other families in need put things in perspective for me & I am happy to use my prefolds & covers. :) These were all great ideas. I like the Dappi pull on covers quite a bit for the price. Another thing is that to stretch your stash & keep diaper rash at bay, go diaper free at home for awhile…we don’t EC or anything but I like to spread out a couple old towels on the floor & let the kids “air out” for awhile, lol…just once a day can make a small stash last a little longer til wash day–just a thought.

  54. Really hype up the savings of those $1 used sales. We had no idea, we just wanted to get some cheapies. Our 40 diaper stash (only 26 were used) has already paid for itself, and our daughter turned 5 months old today.
    We saw maybe a dollar difference in our water bill? Maybe? (we also have a little dripping faucet downstairs, so if we’d just figure that one out, it’d be back to normal, I think).
    I know know know it’s the investment cost that scares folks–but it’s something worth it to even just stick on a credit card and pay off, because once you’ve got cloth diapers, you’re not spending ANY more money on diapers! That’s what we didn’t quite… “understand”… but comparing my situation to people who have children the same age in disposables–we don’t have that constant financial worry of MORE DIAPERS! Amazing relief. (and country save detergent is so wonderful, cheap, and works on everything–if you’re doing your own laundry, save by washing everything in the country save).
    Thats my encouragement!

  55. Anonymous says:

    Hey guys my name is Michelle and I am a teen mom who is in desprit need of any used cloth diapers out there. If any one is wanting to get ride of some I could really appreciate it.. I am a single teen parent trying to make it on my own. It’s tuff. Please email me at lmgodbold318@yahoo.com thank you so much.

  56. Journey says:

    I was fortunate to be given a stash of prefolds and bummis covers from a friend, along with some WELL WORN mother-ease diapers that I love, but at times prefolds didn’t work so well. I bought some flannel and sewed some Rita’s Rump Pockets for one size fitteds. Here’s what I stuffed them with though – my prefolds were too bulky so I bought some microfiber dishtowels and stitched them into inserts. I love them. They are trim and I paid like $3 for 4 of them at Walmart.

  57. ldsgirl says:

    If they insist on disposables, a lot of times the couponing websites will have insites for good deals on them, or you can buy the inserts for the Sunday papers and get extras that way. Just match them up with store sales and you’ve got some cheap diapers. I’d love to find coupons for cloth there someday (hint, hint lol).

  58. A personal favorite of mine is to use the Rita’s Rump Pocket pattern. It only requires elastic for the leg openings, not the back (that saves a little bit of money). The diaper is best made from flannel. The moms love using scraps for cute patchwork diapers. I have lost count how many I have made for other moms over the years. The design fits any size baby. My favorite part is that you can stuff the pocket with anything absorbent. It really extends the usefulness of smaller pre fold diapers. Google it and make a few. They are a fabulous “sewing learner” diaper to make.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Good article- I tried to donate cloth diapers to my local teen pregnancy center, but none of the girls wanted to try them!

    Also, you could mention that cloth wipes can be easily made by cutting t-shirts into squares that can be wet with water for cleaning after pee diapers. We use disposable wipes for poop cleanup, but it’s another way to save $$!

  60. ldsgirl says:

    reposted, thanks!

  61. Anonymous says:

    Another option might be diaper free: check out Elimination Communication. not for everyone, but an option! :)

  62. Anonymous says:

    Great post! I have lots of respect for a company to post this kind of information that doesn’t just push their own products. Says a lot about you! Also, thank you for acknowledging that some families don’t have $20 (or even $5) to start a cloth diaper stash. We’ve been fortunate enough to not have to make choices between food and diapers but I’m tired of seeing “cloth diapers are so cheap” when I know some people might not be able to swing it. Thanks!

  63. Thank you! I have been trying to teach moms how to make cloth diapers for years! I am always shocked when moms tell me that they don’t have the money to try cloth diapers…REALLY?!? When my daughter was is diapers, half my stash was made from up-cycled t-shirts and receiving blankets. The other half I made using my favorite diaper, at the time BumGenius 3.0, as a pattern.

  64. Mama Bennie says:

    Dappi prefolds are $7.99 a dozen, that is what I started out with (not the ones with the sponge middle, the regular ones). On my older daughter I had to use 2 at a time, but it was still affordable to get diapers for my kids. Their wraps aren’t bad either, they are only $2.99 each. My only beef with the wraps are that the velcro isn’t sewn thru both layers, only one so it moves a bit unless you add a few stitches to it yourself.

  65. Anonymous says:

    What a great article! Glad to know I’m not the only person who has used random household items as cloth diapers =\ When our baby arrives in September, she will be fortunate enough to have a full stash of cloth diapers. But when our Son was in diapers we weren’t so fortunate. I had 5 diapers that a friend had given me, so I washed in the kitchen sink 2x/day at least and threw them in the dryer with other laundry, or line dried them. I was able to find 6 contours on diaperswappers.com for only $20, which helped out tremendously! But we still needed more…. so I started making diapers out of clothing and linens I would have otherwise sent to Goodwill. I found anything I had that was 100% cotton for the soaker part and used his old flannel recieving blankets for the outers (so they’d be cute!). Sew it all together with a bit of cheap elastic and voila!- fitted diapers!
    In fact, our son’s first fleece cover was made out of an old fleece hoodie of mine. It was magenta, but he didn’t seem to mind! :)
    I used old recieving blankets to make wipes, as well.

    There are great tutorials all over the internet for making diapers of all kinds, as well as covers. I think it’s a wonderfully economic idea to repurpose whatever materials you have to create diapers! Your baby won’t mind that it used to be your pillowcase, sweater, or t-shirt. And when it comes down to it… it’s being used to catch poo – it doesn’t need to cost $30!

  66. Jenilee says:

    Here is a great site with a lot of FREE patterns for making your own diapers! I <3 it!

    http://fernandfaerie.com/frugaldiapering.html

  67. Anonymous says:

    We used Gerber prefolds under fleece pajamas before we started really using cloth and it worked for during the day just fine. Trifolded one and pinned the other on top. Fleece made a decent cover. Now, I use mostly prefolds and covers/ AI2s but when we had to treat for yeast, I pulled out a dozen receiving blankets to use while stripping the rest!

  68. Oh wow. you would have thought there would be better incentives or help for parents in such financial straints. Deffinately agree with all the alternatives that people have written about. We started with cloth for lots of reasons. Financial being one of them and just started with some pockets from an auction site and some Econobums when they were BOGOF on a nappy retailers site. I now feel very privilaged that however tight money was at least i could afford these! Great article thanks for sharing with us xx

    Georgie x
    http://www.littlegreenfootsteps.blogspot.com

  69. Tiffany says:

    I also make our wipes. I just used extra receiving blankets and sewed two together so it would be pretty heavy duty. They are soft and big enough to cover your whole hand. Plus I just throw them in the wash with the diapers and they’re ready for the next round.

    Love this article!

  70. southernlass says:

    Before I bought some proper covers I used plastic bags cut as a H shape (with the legs of the H tied around the front and back of baby) like the ones my mother could buy. I used them with cheap muslin cloths for the actual nappies and secured with nippas.

  71. Lindsay says:

    We were lucky to CD for the first nine months of my daughter’s life with 12 used cotton fitteds + 6 covers + 4 Kushies AIOs that I bought from an acquaintance for $40; a 6-pack of Kushies fitteds that were a gift from my MIL; and a $70 starter pack of 7 assorted diapers and 2 covers from a local company. At 9 months, we bought 6 used FBs from a friend for $60, and then when DD was 1 year old my dayhome provider found a box of brand new homemade cotton fitteds at our local clothing exchange (bonus of living in a lower income neighbourhood: more resources like this!) – FREE! In total we spent less than $300 on cloth diapers in my daughter’s time in diapers. It can be done! We had a little luck on our side as well but it didn’t hurt that we let everyone we knew know that we were looking for affordable cloth diapers!

  72. Anonymous says:

    We aren’t really low income but cloth diapering can get expensive quick, we buy all our prefolds used, I buy a few every week. I also keep an eye out for used receiving blankets and flats to sew my own. These tutorials are great for that
    http://diapersewing.wordpress.com/2006/12/08/diy-prefold-diapers/
    http://hubpages.com/hub/How-To-Sew-Prefold-Diapers
    Also here is a great link to a free pattern for a fleece or wool cover
    http://katrinassqs.blogspot.com/2007/10/free-soaker-pattern.html (I haven’t used it yet but have looked it over and it look wonderful)

  73. Dana says:

    AWWWW!! Thank you “Kelly the nut”! What you do is so awesome, and I live in NC and had never heard of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Kits, I have a huge stack of GMD pre-folds that I am looking to get rid of, and now I am totally going to donate it to them! I work at a Pregnancy Care Center in NC and hope to educate my co-workers on this awesome ministry!

  74. MrsQriist says:

    We started CDing with a bummis starter kit (2 covers and 6 prefolds), a flip cover, and a bunch of flour sack towels and receiving blanket flats. My stash has gotten steadily bigger and I’ve added a few pockets and a fitted to the mix, but our basic diapers are still receiving blanket flats. The more they’re used, the softer they get, and I don’t have to pay for coin laundry.

  75. Kelli says:

    What are flour sack towels??

  76. Catherine says:

    I have so much respect for you for posting this. Almost none of it involved items you sell and the two you did mention, I would be surprised if you profited at all from after the free shipping. I have never been in the place of not being able to afford the necessities, but I use cloth, and the savings is just that- put into college funds and retirement savings. Thank you for helping my family do that.
    My advice (sorry, not that creative)- ecomobums. I love the seconds covers and prefolds I bought from you. It’s funny, I have ended up with a bunch of pockets, some of which are even the expensive brands, and right now my son is in a seconds econobum. They are more absorbent than the microfiber in my experience, and never get the stinkies. I can also easily use a cheap detergent on them with no consequence. Since the seconds covers were $5 they are actually more cost effective since they adjust to size.
    Well I am most certainly going to buy a few flour sack towels this weekend. Thanks for the tips ladies!

  77. HannahBG says:

    LOVED the receiving blanket tutorial. It’ll be good to know for when I’m out and don’t bring enough of my bG diapers along (like today).

  78. leanne says:

    Is someone helping that local family? I would donate a few things if there is a way to.

  79. foggie says:

    I use receiving blankets as flats and we have cloth diapers. When I was just starting to cloth diaper my son, I had 1 BG 3.0, the rest of our diapers were homemade. I made prefold out of flannel and towels and tshirts, and cut up fleece receiving blankets to make fleece pull on covers. The next step was making fleece pocket diapers from fabric at the local fabric store and using microfiber towels from the Target Automotive section as inserts.

    Now with DD we have an entire stash of cloth diapers(BG’s, Rumparooz, GMDs), but still have homemade pocket diapers, receiving blanket flats, fleece pull on covers, and wool covers made from sweaters.

  80. Shannon says:

    I have folded up wash cloths and kitchen towels and laid them in covers , or used recieving blankets left over from my daughter to diaper my son . He had an allergy to disposables that came on very suddenly righ afer christmas and we needed time to grow our stash . Happy to say we are in a good place to diaper our third but it is heart breaking to know people out there are having this hard a time. I also have to say my fav cover I got for free as a ester for Kissaluv marvels , it was a huge help when I needed it

  81. Courtney says:

    great post! and I love the link to the camp washing machine here in the comments -thanks I didn’t want to take ‘sposies on our camping trip this summer – and now I am going to bring a camp washing machine, flats and covers! Old receiving blankets are the best flats I have ever used! to small for much else (except swaddling a newborn!) they are already washed and super absorbent! (and free if you have them or super cheap at a thrift store!)

  82. Katherine says:

    This has been incredibly educational. Thank you!

  83. island girl says:

    Great post! Much appreciated.

  84. Mrs. Haid says:

    I am delighted to see this post because of how many complaints I’ve seen lately about how expensive cloth diapers are (I don’t think they are expensive, I made the choice to use some basic diapering systems as well as get some really pricey ones, too).

    Thanks for keeping up your image as a really reputable business by not even mentioning all the really affordable options your store has… but just basics for how people could do it in a pinch with what they own, rather than reuse diapers. I really respect you for this post!

    I also wanted to comment that if I were more frugal (and less inclined to be an online shopper when I really don’t need to be) I think Econobums would be the way to go from 10 lbs on. I rarely use ours, though we’ve had for nearly a year, but I am using them while I visit my parents because I think the washing is easier. They are just SUCH a good product! And the covers… I think they are wonderful, too. I really want to be in a place where I can start donating these kits to families who need them or in a place where they complain about a switch to cloth but could “rent” or borrow these for a few months until they could afford their own. If there ever is a cotton babies program that works like this… a cloth share type program, I would love to work with it and do lots of the leg work, too. :o)

  85. Bum Luxury says:

    Thanks for the great post. I also posted about it, but left it open ended for answers since I didn’t have them all! You seem to have most of the bases covered!

    Bridget from http://www.bumluxury.blogspot.com

  86. Anonymous says:

    Here is one I used in a pinch:

    We were over a friend’s house and simply ran out of pocket diapers. The last one DD went in was pooppy so there was no making it work. I borrowed dished towels from our friend. I overlapped two and folded and then laid a third in the middle, like a soaker. Poked holes in a grocery sack and put that over the towels tucking everything in so she wouldn’t pull at it. I only needed something to make it home during a 10 minute drive. We took it all off once we got home and put her in a regular night time diaper, but in that situation it worked!

    M Tapp

  87. This very problem is why I’ve started sewing AIOs for our local branch of the Morning Star Pregnancy centers. I was utterly broke with my first munchkin, too. I bought Gerber prefolds, pins and plastic pants, and washed them in the bathroom sink when I couldn’t get to my mom’s house to use the washer. It stunk. My dream was to have an AIO stash so I’d never have to deal with pins, pull-on pants or wimpy gauze diapers again. Even velcro or snap covers would have been great!
    My project is called “A Diaper a Day to Give Away”, and it’s small but growing rapidly. (Just like a baby!)
    I have a facebook page for it now, and I need to get more help cutting and applying snaps.
    There’s another group in North Carolina (We’re in Pennsylvania) that also sews and donates CD’s for families through WIC – They’re called Sweet Cheeks Diaper Kits.
    God bless!

  88. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Michelle!

  89. Anonymous says:

    You can always try diaperswappers.com there was a mom who was sending cloth diapers Free for Shipping, you only had to pay for shipping, some needed repairs or were a little stained but still good.

  90. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this great post! I’ve used microfiber cleaning cloths trifolded for inserts and/or doublers many times.
    Going cloth doesn’t have to be all or nothing either. I built my stash one cloth diaper at a time, reducing the number of disposables I used each week. In a few months I was able to go cloth full time and work on upgrading our stash. The great part is we haven’t needed to buy any diapers at all for baby #2 (but there were some I just couldn’t pass up, darn CD addiction) *blush*

  91. Michelle says:

    you’d probably have to double a flour sack, or look at getting preemie prefolds as doublers.

  92. Anonymous says:

    How absorbent are the Flour Sack Towels? I have a heavy wetter and I’m looking for something!!!

  93. Michelle says:

    I think you should reference a cheap “washing machine” like a bucket and a (new) toilet plunger.
    http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Camp-Washing-Machine

    Many grocery stores will give out large 5gal. buckets they get salads in if you just ask, and the $1 store sells plunger. =)

  94. Melissa says:

    Awesome post, thanks! Going to save this one for future reference…hoping to someday be involved in teaching skills like these. :)

  95. evenshine says:

    Thanks, CottonBabies, for doing what you do to help those in difficult circumstances. Your free shipping is a major plus for those of us on strict budgets, as are your many alternatives. This post was amazing, too. Thanks!!!

  96. Michelle says:

    eBay has lots of one size pocket diapers from China that are around $4 including shipping.

  97. Karolyn Mac says:

    It breaks my heart to know people are reusing disposables. Cloth diapers can be flexible and cheap, that’s their beauty.

  98. I agree. Also don’t forget that you can get well loved BumGenius pockets for 1 or 2 dollars a piece a few times a year and you can stuff them with prefolds so for $30-40 you could have pocket diapers to diaper a baby. There’s no excuse just lack of information out there.

  99. ^ I totally agree with mama2alexandholden, those make wonderful flats! I recently posted about them on my blog, they are really versatile (even if you want to use them with pocket or hybrid diapers).

    http://somethingsometime.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/target-flats/

  100. Ugh
    FLOUR SACK TOWELS not *four

  101. I didn’t have time to do a complete read, only skimmed so if you mentioned this forgive me for being redundant!

    Four sack towel from Target are $3.50 for 5 and work better as a flat than most of the actual flats in my stash.

    We use them and we HAVE “regular” CD’s

    HTH

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