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We would like to use "real nappies" (reusable diapers); both to minimise environmental impact, and to save a bit of money. According to some literature I've been given, using real nappies can save thousands of pounds. But have people really found this to be the case?

If you've used real nappies, did you find that you saved as much as you'd expected or do other costs offset the savings?

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    +1 for use of the term "nappies". Haven't heard that since I was kid. :-) – Zephyr Mar 29 '10 at 15:26
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I only used disposable diapers for my baby's first month. However, I now use half disposable diapers (for part-time daycare) and half cloth. My son is now 1 year and during a normal weekday, I go through 4 disposable diapers and 3-4 cloth diapers (this count includes a double thick cloth diaper for night). On the weekend, I use about 7-8 cloth diapers a day.

For disposable, I buy Costco's Kirkland brand diapers which gives me about 200 diapers for $50. I tend to go through one pack every other month. For cloth, I bought FuzziBunz One-Size Diapers. These are pretty expensive diapers (about $19/each) but I wanted ones that would last over multiple children (I chose these over the BumGenius because I thought snaps would last longer than velcro). I bought 24 new cloth diapers which means I wash diapers every 2-3 days. A couple of weeks ago I totaled up my receipts for cloth and disposable diapers and determined that I will recoup my diaper costs at around 16 months of part-time use.

Notes:

  • My calculations do not include the costs of washing nor my labor costs (though I usually treat myself to a tv show while I stuff the diapers and other than that don't find cloth diapering to be terribly onerous).
  • I've heard from many people that they prefer using the pre-folds. Allegedly, they find them easier to use than the all-in-one pocket diapers. I've never tried them but if you go this route it is obviously much cheaper for the basic materials. I buy prefolds as burp cloths for my baby and the quality can vary dramatically. For instance, Gerber prefolds from Walmart were dramatically worse quality than those from another retailer. I was very surprised since they were labeled exactly the same and the price was also pretty similar.
  • While I bought my cloth diapers new, there is a thriving market for used cloth diapers.
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I just remembered a blog post at CashMoneyLife - Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers. I had come across it a little while after posting my answer to a question at moms4mom.com - What can I expect to spend monthly on disposable diapers? And what do/did you spend? and I had linked to it from there, too, since it contained some information about disposable diapers.

However, since you're asking about real nappies, i.e. cloth diapers, it is also relevant to your question, since it was discussing both kinds of diapers. Here are some choice excerpts from the CashMoneyLife post:

...
The beauty of cloth diapers is that while the upfront cost is much higher, the ongoing cost is much lower. Once you purchase them you are only paying for laundry detergent and the energy to wash/dry them. (Note: I've also known people who have passed along cloth diapers to other family members or bought/sold them on Craigslist, both of which could be a cheaper option if you are willing to do either).
...
Which is better? I think they are both great and I encourage you to try cloth if you have young children. The cost and environmental benefits will make it worth your while. Then use disposable diapers for what they were intended for: a convenience.

There are also some excellent comments following the post by readers who have also used cloth.

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I don't think they do. And here's why.
If you don't want your child to get skin irritation, you need to watch closely and change the "nappy" right when it got wet. For newborns it means like every 2 hours. It creates a big pile of laundry, but the main thing — additional burden on mother.
So, even if you save a little on diapers, you will spend that on water+electricity bill + comforting the mother more often than you would otherwise.

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    That's an interesting point, I have an electricity meter to isolate the usage from the washing machine. Once babby arrives I'll run some numbers to see how the cost compares. – Rich Seller Mar 30 '10 at 10:35

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