Cloth Diapers Can Help Low Income Families

By: Katie Mark - Bumbini

For the majority of people, having a baby puts a definite squeeze on finances.  Between the immediate needs (clothing, crib, stroller, change table) to future (college!) anyone’s banking situation can start looking a little grim.  Add to that the fact that baby needs to be changed between 5000-7000 times before they are potty trained, and it can put new parents in a very difficult situation.

For many parents, cloth diapers can be a great alternative to disposables to help save money during this time.  With modern advances in cloth diapers, they are no longer bulky, cumbersome sheets of fabric that require pins, rubber pants and a degree in origami to use.  They do not create a huge amount of work or laundry for parents, and can save up to $2000 over the first 2 years of baby’s life!

Cloth diapers also have the added benefit of being able to be used for multiple children.  If you are having more than one, you can use them on your second (and third!) children.  If not, you can sell them when your baby is potty trained!

My child is going to daycare.  Will they allow cloth diapers?

Many day cares happily accept cloth diapers!  It is a good idea to contact your daycare to make sure they do, and if they have any requirements for you.  Generally, day cares require enough cloth diapers for a day, plus a wet bag to send dirty diapers home in.

There are ways to make cloth diapering more daycare friendly, such as sending easy to use diapers (look for pocket diapers or all-in-ones) and adding a disposable liner so poops can be easily flushed away.  If your daycare provider is hesitant, I am happy to chat with them to find a solution that works for them.

If your daycare refuses to use cloth, it can still help to cloth diaper part-time at home and save your disposables for daycare.

Will the laundry cost me a lot more?
No, the increase in laundry costs is very small compared to the cost of buying disposables.  Diapers don’t require a specialized detergent, so you can use whatever you use on your clothes.  There are also ways to minimize the laundry costs, for example air drying your diapers instead of using the dryer, or adding other laundry to your diaper load to decrease the number of loads you need to do.

I don’t have a washing machine at home.  Can I still cloth diaper?
Yes, you can.  Many laundromats don’t have rules regarding cloth diapers, but it is always a good idea to check. 

It is also possible to wash your diapers at home in a bathtub!  It may sound like a total hippie thing to do, but it is a total money saver.  Flat diapers (like the one’s Grandma used) are the easiest for doing this, but other styles of diapers will work as well.  Do a quick search on YouTube, and you will find tons of resources for how to quickly and easily hand wash your diapers.  It may be more work, but it is a way to put clean diapers on baby’s bum.

Do you have any hints for buying cloth diapers on the cheap?
I sure do.

  •  Cloth diaper stores have sales periodically (think Black Friday, Boxing Day) and you can usually find some good deals.
  • Join some cloth diaper groups on Facebook. There are often giveaways, so you can actually win some of your diapers.
  • Buy used. There are lots of local buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook, and it is possible to get some excellent deals. Take a look at my “buy used” section below.
  •  Avoid buying cheap diapers from overseas. They may look like a good deal, but they often are of poor quality and don’t last long. You may end up spending less in the long run buying better quality.
  • Find a local diaper store or an online store with cheap shipping options, and then pick up one or two diapers each paycheque. In a few months, you will have a full stash.


Should I buy used cloth diapers?
Buying used can definitely be a good option!  There are lots of local buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook, and it is possible to find good deals.  As with buying anything else used, it is buyer beware though, so do your research to make sure the deal isn’t too good to be true.  A lot of the major brands (AppleCheeks, Funky Fluff etc.) are really durable and can be used and reused for multiple kids.  If you are crafty, you can buy some “fixer upper” diapers and make them useable by replacing elastics, sunning out stains, etc.  As well, some diaper stores have rental kits that are periodically retired, and they sell these gently used kits at a very affordable price.

It may sound ooky to buy used diapers, but with a good wash and a bleach soak, they are as good as new.

What if I can’t afford to buy cloth diapers?
There are lots of local resources to help parents get started here in the Ottawa area, starting here with Bare Bottoms! During our yearly cloth diaper drive, we collect cloth diapers as well, and pass them on to the Ottawa Cloth Diaper Lending Service. They put together kits for new parents with everything they need, and help them along the way. Both organizations are very non-judgmental and supportive, and operate to help parents in tough situations.

I’m interested in starting, but have no idea where to start!
The choices out there are mind-boggling! I suggest you check out a local cloth diaper workshop. Bumbini Cloth Diaper Company holds free workshops in the Ottawa area on a regular basis, and also has an online version if you can’t make it to one in person. These workshops show you the basics, and will help you succeed with cloth diapering.