Who remembers their first car? I do! It was a Ford hatchback. It was a stick shift. There was no power steering, power windows, no power locks, no air conditioning, a TAPE player, and I changed my own oil! (Ok... once) It was not glamorous, smooth, pretty or even very big. But you know what it did have? The necessities. Four wheels and a motor, it got me from point A to point B (usually) without any trouble. I was so proud of my car. Did I wish I had the Mustang that the other (richer) girl had? Sure. Did it beat a bike? You bet! So many things in life are like that aren't they? Almost anyone with measurable success in life will tell you that it wasn't always so. Michael Dell (founder and CEO of Dell computers) started off as a dishwasher making $2.30 per hour. What's the lesson here? Sometimes you start small and work your way up.
I had wanted to cloth diaper my son for a while, but each time he ran out of disposable diapers, the cost of another box from Costco just seemed easier to achieve. You can get a box of diapers containing about 200 dipes for 50 dollars. 900 wipes is 30 bucks. Using around 60 diapers per week, we would go through the box in just under a month. I was looking online at all the beautiful, healthy and eco friendly cloth diapers and wishing I could break into that world. However, on our budget, 50 dollars was all that was doable at one time. Here was my solution.
I had a friend that told me never to bother using Gerber diapers as diapers. They were really only good as burp cloths. "But they are so CHEAP!!!" you might say. Yes. And with a little help, they can be a perfectly good option. I decided that to avoid trouble with my hubby, I would only spend as much on cloth as I would in a month on (as we call them in our house) 'sposies. I thought if I could get enough to get me through a month, even if I gave up after that month, there wouldn't be financial loss. If anything, I would gain burp and dusting rags. So I set out on a trek to Babies R Us and got myself two packs of $16.99 Gerber prefolds, each containing 12 diapers. I was up to 36 dollars now. Gerber also makes waterproof pants and you can get 2 for under 5 dollars. Like my Ford, these are NOT cool, but they get the job done. I ordered my snappi on ebay and these things brought my total to just around the 50 dollar mark. I quickly realized that my friend was right, and the prefolds just aren't very absorbent. I had constant leaking. I had learned something important though..... I LOVED cloth diapering and knowing I was making the a good choice for our family. I knew that when the next month came around, I would not be going back to 'sposies. So, here's what I did to make them work for me. At our local Joannes fabric store, they have a bin of scraps. When people buy material, and there is less than a yard on the spool at the end, they put the leftover pieces into a bin. These scraps are 40-60% off. I found some flannel in the bin and brought it home for under ten dollars. Then, at a garage sale, I bought some old towels for 2 bucks. Giddy, I took my new materials home and got to work. I cut the towels into strips the size of the middle portion of my prefolds and cut the flannel into pieces just slightly larger. Now, you don't need to be a seamstress to accomplish this..... I promise. I attached the towel piece to the center of my prefold, and then attached the flannel on top of that. It's easy.... sew around the edge of the rectangle and sew an X across all three layers, so it doesn't bunch in the washer. I was able to make them in several cute patterns. This added the absorbency I needed without buying fancy unbleached organic hemp Indian prefolds. Don't get me wrong... those prefolds are divine! I have some now.... but they are not necessary for the tight budgeted parent. This arrangement worked well for me. I cut leftover fleece from that same bin into squares and with gentle soap and water... I had my wipes. California Baby makes a diaper area wash that works great and lasts forever. You can find it at Target, no need to hunt down a natural parent's store.
Just like anything else in life, you can gradually move up from there. Have an extra ten bucks this month? Buy a nicer cover off the swap (diaperswappers.com is amazing). Next month? Perhaps some liners to get you through the night. Over the past year, I have bit by bit increased my inventory to include pockets, AIOs, wool, liners, Indian prefolds, better covers and more appropriate laundry detergent. I've also made several of my own. Nothing I own was purchased new with the exception of those first prefolds. It's like driving a car in a way.... if you learn on the difficult and more labor intensive stick shift, you find that you are able to drive anything. Those early prefolds are still my workhorses. They are absorbent, trim and have some pretty cute patterns on them! So, for the same cost as a box of 'sposies, you can start on your journey of cloth diapering.
Here are some resources that I found useful in my early days:
Next on my purchase list? A diaper sprayer. I'm ready to move up from dunking and swishing. Baby steps!