saving money when having a baby part two–the other end

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baby nappy Last week I looked at ways to save money on feeding a baby, this week I’m covering the other end…with nappies.

Using cloth nappies rather than disposables is the second major way of saving money on having a baby (along with breastfeeding). Below are a few ways that we used to reduce the cost of nappies.

As usual, I’d love to hear about your savings tips and nappy experiences in the comments below.

Cloth v Disposable Nappies – a cost comparison

Using cloth nappies is almost always cheaper than using disposables. I say almost because if you buy the most expensive modern cloth nappy or MCN on the market, wash in hot water, use brand-name detergent, and dry using a dryer, then yes, you may end up paying more for cloth nappies (although the initial capital outlay is offset if you have more than one child).

On the other hand, if you buy cheaper nappies, wash in cold water and line dry, the cost of cloth nappies is much, much cheaper than disposables.

And of course, the environmental impact of cloth nappies is much less than disposable nappies.

When the little fella was younger, I ran a cost comparison between our costs, based on our usage, and the cost of disposables, I’ll reprint it here:

We use the flannel flat nappies which cost $1.70 each. I wash every two days and each nappy gets worn approximately three times a week. Over the course of the first year, the  amortised capital outlay is less than 1 cent per wear (the little fella is still wearing these nappies at two and they will be used for the new baby, so actually, the capital cost is much less, but we’ll stick with 1 cent for simplicity).

We soak the nappies in commercial nappy soaker, wash in cold water, make our own laundry detergent and line dry. Electricity is around 4 cents per wash (calculated as per our electricity bill), water is around 6 cents (as per our water bill) and detergent and soaker around 20 cents for a load of 14 nappies. This makes the cost of each wash approximately 30 cents – 2.14 cents per nappy (incidentally, costs have risen since I first did this calculation, it is probably closer to 3 cents per nappy now).

We also use a liner in our nappies for convenience, which adds another 3 cents to the cost of each wear.

Adding together the amortised capital cost, the cost of washing and the cost of a liner, the total cost per wear is 6 – 7 cents for the first year (again, a little less if the same nappies are used for more than one year or for more than one child, which is our case).

To compare: Woolworths homebrand disposable nappies are around 30 cents each. Huggies brand nappies are around 70 cents each. Assuming we average about 6 nappies per day throughout the first year, we save around $500 in the first year compared to purchasing homebrand nappies or $1,380 compared to the Huggies brand.

Saving money on cloth nappies

I know that a lot of people swear blind by the Modern Cloth Nappies – we tried both the MCNs and the old-fashioned flannel flats and actually preferred the flannel nappies.

The upside to the MCN is that they are easy and quick to use– their design being very similar to that of a disposable. If you get the ‘all-in-one’ design, then you don’t have to worry about separate pilchers. Depending on the material, they can also be quick drying. The downside is that they can be expensive and depending on the type you purchase, you may have to buy different sizes for your growing bub.

Flannel flats are a lot cheaper (as stated above, around $2 each, compared to around $10 – $30 each for an MCN if purchased new). We found the flannel nappies to be easier to use, one-size-fits-all and easily adjustable to suit bub’s (and now toddler’s) size and shape, easy to wash and very quick drying. They are also multi-functional – we cut some up to use as bum wipes and burp cloths, clean nappies (as they are) are good for vomit spills and burp cloths, they’ve also become part of play as tents and blankets for teddy and the little fella can help me hang them on the clothes horse (I’ll talk more about pilchers and fasteners below).

So, if you’re looking for the most inexpensive option, flat flannel nappies are the way to go.

However, there are ways you can reduce the cost of MCNs. You can purchase them second hand at baby markets, eBay, Gumtree, or other dedicated websites like this one.

You can also make your own MCNs using recycled materials. I’ve written an article in the past explaining the different types of nappies available (because it can be a bit confusing – at least I found it was), different materials used and tutorials on making your own nappies. You can read about making your own nappies here.

Another option is Elimination Communication (not using nappies for either some or all of the time). We used this method with success for the first few months until the little fella was more interested in crawling around than sitting, at which point we reverted to solely using nappies – it was easier both for us and the little fella. You can find out more on EC and our experiences here.

The final option, which I haven’t explored myself and maybe if you have, you might tell us about your experiences in the comments below, is a nappy delivery service. I once knew people who ran a nappy service and it was very popular and profitable (although a lot of hard work). The Eco Mum (a great blog) also runs a Modern Cloth Nappy service in Sydney (soon to expand to other regions), if you are interested in looking at how these services work.

Saving money on disposables

At around 8 months of age, we found that the cloth nappies were leaking at night and we were changing clothes and bedding several times a night. We tried a few MCNs without any luck and decided to use a single disposable nappy for over night.

If you have any suggestions for cloth nappies that don’t leak at night and that keep baby dry when they sleep through, I would LOVE to hear about them in the comments below (I found one that looked promising but is not available in Australia). We would really prefer to go back to a cloth nappy for the night times also.

When it comes to disposables, we found the homebrand ones to be just as effective as the more expensive brand variety, for half the cost. Other mothers I know swear by Aldi nappies, although I haven’t tried them myself.

I’m a little hesitant when it comes to bio-degradable or ‘eco’ disposable nappies, mostly because we can’t afford them, but also because generally for something to bio-degrade, it has to be exposed to air, water and critters, not buried in a plastic bag deep beneath the earth. On the other hand, they may use less chemicals and have less of an environmental impact during manufacture, which is the other important factor to consider when it comes to disposables and the environment.

Aside from buying homebrand nappies to save money, you can keep an eye out for specials and discounts and stock up during sales. Discount chemists are also a good source of cheap nappies and sales as well as discount stores like Big W. When comparing brands, don’t forget to look at how many nappies come in a packet and go for the smallest size range that fits your child, because as they get older and the nappies get bigger, there are less in a packet and therefore more expensive per nappy!

The extras


We use a combination of homebrand ‘chux’ cut up into little squares, and cut up flannel nappies that can be washed and reused, for wipes. A little squirt of natural soap on a chux square helps clean a dirty bum when bub is older (we just used water for the first couple of months).

You can make your own wipes with chamomile or other scented natural products, but I neither had the time nor did I think that stuff was necessary.

When out and about, I always carry a bottle of water for myself (and now the little fella), so I can use that to dampen a chux square. Plain old toilet paper is a good alternative if necessary.


Liners are completely unnecessary but convenient for poo disposal. As the little fella is fairly regular, I don’t always use a liner. We use homebrand liners, although these are not flushable, Eenee has flushable, bio-degradable liners. I like Eenee products – not so keen on the cost of their postage (they are in Tasmania). Biome Stores also stock their products, which is more convenient if there’s a store near you.

The little fella went through a stage of doing a poo as soon as we put on his (disposable) night time nappy. Using a liner (and changing it immediately) kept the nappy clean so we could continue to use it rather than using two each night.

Pilchers and Fasteners

If you use flannel flats, you will need pilchers and fasteners.

You can buy plastic pants very, very cheaply from Kmart or Big W – they last about 5 seconds before tearing.

I found the best ones are the Eenee plastic pants – they are supposed to last 100 washes and can be tumble dried as well as being ‘breathable’. So far, they have lasted very well for us. Although much more expensive than the cheapo plastic pants, as the Eenee ones last longer they end up saving us money (and less waste!) in the long run.

Old fashioned nappy safety pins are very cheap from discount stores or chemists. For convenience, I found the Snappi to be an excellent alternative and also inexpensive. I used to be able to buy the Snappi in Kmart, but they don’t seem to stock them anymore. Any suggestions on where to find them (apart from online) would be welcome.

Change table and change mat

A change table is one of those things that comes down to personal preference. My friend is a chiropractor and is eternally aghast that I never used a change table.

We used the bed (or the floor) instead. It was just as convenient. When bub was little and I was changing way more nappies, I just knelt down to prevent a sore back. I did make a vinyl change mat from recycled materials, which was invaluable for the early months when accidents happened, but now we just use either an old towel or a clean flannel nappy as a change mat.

Buckets and Soakers

To soak or not to soak? We experimented with both options and found soaking the nappies kept them cleaner, smelling fresher and the little fella suffered from less rashes (he gets eczema, and ironically, un-soaked nappies would actually make it worse).

We have tried soaking in vinegar and this works a treat, but if you are (ahem) lazy and leave the bucket for a few days, it does get pretty nasty in there.

Homebrand nappy soaker is much cheaper than the brand alternatives (see ingredients here) – this is what we use. Alternatively, you can use eco soaker, but it costs a small fortune – try vinegar (and bi carb) first.

A bucket (or two) with a tight fitting lid is invaluable if you decide to soak nappies. A regular cheap bucket is useful to put nappies in to carry to the laundry.

Finally, a good pair of rubber gloves saves hands (I also get eczema) as well as reduces ick factor when rinsing ‘number threes’.

That’s it for our nappy experiences and how we saved money over the last two years. As you can see, I’m a big fan of cloth nappies, both for financial and environmental reasons.

What are your tips and experiences on saving money on nappies? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.


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  1. I love cloth nappies! Seeing them flapping on the line to dry makes me happy. I have used cloth on all four of my kids, the last two being twins. Husband hates them so there was always a bit of controversy using them. I used flat terry nappies with a snappy and pilchers. Washing them never bothered me either. We did use a disposable at night. go the cloth nappy.

  2. Our bub is only 4 months and seems to be a heavy wetter but maybe not as much as your 8-month old. We use terry towelling flats too (same as your flannel flats I guess??) and love it. At night we increase absorbency by either double-nappying with two bamboo terry flats, or a bamboo terry flat with a bamboo prefold for a booster. Bamboo is more absorbent than cotton. As bub wears her night nappy for 12 hours, we use a reusable synthetic liner so she feels drier. We use the Motherease Rikki cover. No leaks yet!! Good luck.

    1. Yes, I mean terry towelling – don’t know why I wrote flannel? I was thinking about bamboo or hemp liners / boosters. What synthetic liner do you use? That sounds like a good idea.

  3. Hi there,

    I’ve found snappis at most large supermarkets. I don’t really enjoy frequenting coles or woolies as a general point but they do have the snappis. You are looking at around $4 per snappi from memory.
    We have just invested in the Mandy Mac night nappies. We had been using the regular mandy macs and then inserting a heap of extra material but they were getting too big to do up easily. BUT… and this is a bit BUT for us as I really don’t like disposables the child has recently been complaining about her nappy being too tight when I put in on. I think it might just be wind (she is little miss farty pants at the moment) so have reverted to disposables at night (she is toilet trained during the day) until tjhings settle down. ONly other downside is that with only one nappy per day being used I have to remember to clear out the nappy bucket when ever I do a regular wash. Child is just short of 2.5- very big wetter at night due to lazy mummy not cutting milk consumption before sending her to bed :-)

    1. Our little fella (just turned two years) is a big wetter too – we give him a big glass of water before bed :). I’ll have to look into the Mandy Mac nappies – thanks!

  4. Hi,

    My girl is almost 2 and we use cloth nappies. We started with flannel squares as they were smaller but now use terry for the extra absorbancy. I did buy Mother-ease covers and have both the Rikki and air flow. I did spend on the covers to make changing easier than pulling off pants for those number 3’s but I managed to get them during the cloth nappy hunt with a discount code.

    I’m expecting number 2 and expect to use them more often that I did with my girl. I didn’t start with her until she was 3 weeks old and I settled into a routine and then I had a break last winter after I weaned her and put her in disposables full time so I didn’t have the extra washing. With this bub I imagine we will start using them as soon as we get home from hospital and don’t imagine we will be using disposables half as much as we have a good system and the girl is still in cloth nappies.

    I just have to practise refolding the nappies in the newborn fold and we will be into the swing of it. I have been tempted to try a bamboo booster overnight so maybe I might with the next bub.

    I was also lucky enough to breastfeed, and have been given a heap of clothes from a girlfriend so we went months without spending a cent on bubs. A great feeling especially when people try and tell you how expensive kids are.


    1. Mother Ease – I haven’t heard of them, I’m going to look them up. Had aweful trouble finding covers! That’s great that you had lots of clothes and stuff given to you – I really don’t believe that babies have to be expensive at all.

  5. I wish I had read this before I had my baby! She is now 15 months old and we were given new flat cloth nappies, we have purchased MCN and we mostly use Huggies just because I never got my head around the flat nappies and the MCN are not great in terms of sizing and reliability, and they don’t dry very quickly. All very interesting to me all the same!

  6. Hi Melissa, terry and flannel nappies are the best, still going strong as my drying rags of choice 7 years later! We always used a nappy folded in a liner shape inside another nappy for night time wear. Had to use bigger pyjamas as baby’s bottom enormous! What nappy fold do you use? We found a brilliant one, think it is called new born fold? Gives a thickness of, from memory, 3 poss 4 folds between legs, and not very bulky around waist.

      1. Yes, we used that exact fold, for girls as well as the boy. We had the soft brushed cotton nappies (flannelette) as well as the terries, and we generally used the flannel inside the terry as it was a bit less bulky. And (it’s all coming back to me now), we used those fluffy absorbent pilchers over the nappy, then plastic pants. There was nothing going to leak out of that! A thick layer of zinc before bed meant we almost never had to change a nappy at night. With the last baby we did try a couple of shaped nappies, more convenient, but less reliable in my experience, and once you have a washing routine going, you just do it, and don’t bother about it. I think the main stumbling block to using cloth nappies is psychological – it just sounds like hard work.

        1. No, it wasn’t plastic pants, it was the eenies that you mention, they are fantastic aren’t they? But you know the worst thing about cloth nappies – modern baby clothes are designed to fit over slim disposables, not bulky cloth. Simplicity is sometimes very complicated!

          1. Thanks Jo, that sounds like a good way to go.

            I too find the ‘brand’ name clothes don’t fit over cloth nappies – we were gifted Pumpkin Patch – ugh, too small and so many buttons and clasps… I’ve written about that same thing for some other week in the future :). The cheaper clothes are better and usually also more comfortable or easier for bub to move.

            Thanks again for your reply.

  7. I do have a tip – if you spend $25 per nappy for MCNs – don’t let your dog chew them up!

    I’m past most of this expense now, with baby # three being no longer a baby (she’s two), but I had to chime in on the nappies anyway. :) We use MCNs that we bought for my second baby – they cost about $20ea from memory (maybe $25?), which is a big upfront expense, but when spread over several years and two children – doesn’t end up being much. We use the babybeehinds fitted hemp and bamboo nappies (they have all-in-ones now, but they didn’t back then), with their covers as well.

    Most of the nappies are still in really good condition and could easily be passed down to another baby, although some of the extra inserts/fold-ups that we got as bonuses (and have used a lot just with the smaller covers like pocket nappies) have started to wear out. And there’s that one the dog chewed up…

    With kidlet #1 we used a nappie service for probably the first 8 months or so, which was terry cloth nappies, and just used pilchers from the supermarket (I didn’t know there was anything else). When I made the switch to the fitted nappies I thought I would never use those again (and I haven’t), but I think if I were advising someone now I’d say the most important thing is probably a really good cover. Spend some money on good covers and then if you want to save money on the nappies themselves, go right ahead.

    As far as the cost of the nappy service vs buying disposables, I don’t really know because it was mostly gifted, and I don’t remember how much it was (this was 10 years ago). I prefer to wash my own now, so that I know they haven’t been soaking in chemicals and anyway, I love my MCNs. But as new mum I didn’t know about dry pailing or MCNs or quality covers, so I was grateful for the service that at least stopped me from switching right to disposables.

    1. LOL, the dog ate my nappy – starting early :). Thanks for your experiences on the nappy service.

  8. Night nappies – we use Issy Bears. Went though a stage of needing an added booseter to help with leaks at night, but over time that caused more leaks than it solved as bub’s body grew, and now she’s in them as they are and with no fluids over night (she’s 19mo) and no issues. As a little one she could wear one all night through (unless it was a messy one) with night feeds and all and no leaks for 12+ hours

    I’ve got a bub (errr… toddler) with sensitive skin, and the only diposables we can use that won’t give her a rash are huggies, so avoid using disposables if at all possible. We do need them if she does end up with a rash to use nappy cream though, as our MCN’s can’t be soaked in nappy soak (it breaks down the waterproofing, thus wasting our nappy investment), and we use Happy Babes nappy liners as they’re flushable, and the first ones we tried that didn’t irritate her skin.