While the majority of parents think nothing of shelling out $2,000-4,000 per child for disposable diapers, many are shocked when they hear that a stash of good cloth diapers will cost $200-500. While there are many ways to make that initial investment easier, I also think it is important that parents understand why good cloth diapers are not cheap cloth diapers. I also want to educate parents about why I don't sell "Chinese cheapies" and other ultra-cheap diapers (sold under MANY different brand names, often on eBay).
Anyone with a little money to invest can have Chinese diapers made under their own "brand name." I was sad to inform one mom who bought a $30 diaper from a local boutique that it was actually a $6 diaper Made in China. I could easily do this and have my own line of cheap diapers. I could sell a lot of them. I won't do it because I think my customers deserve better.
Over the last 7 years, I have just seen too many disappointed parents who bought these and other cheaply made diapers. Quite a few of my customers have come to me for advice, then bought cheap diapers elsewhere. In most cases I see them again a few months later, looking to replace those inadequate diapers.
It amazes me when parents who look for quality and safety in everything else they buy for their babies are willing to search high and low for the cheapest of cheap diapers. You are already saving $1,500-3,000 dollars. Some even go so far as to blog about how "stupid" it is to buy any diaper that costs more than $10. If you have no other choice (and I know that money really is tight for a lot of families), there are reasonable ways to diaper your child for a very small or even no budget.
If you are choosing between food and diapers, there are ways to cloth diaper on the super-cheap. However, most of the families I see are actually spending plenty of money on things they don't need (like expensive strollers, baby holding devices, and the like) then skimping on buying something they do need - good cloth diapers.
Buying hassle-free, fairly made, safety-tested diapers seems like a no-brainer to me. I like things easy, and I like them simple.
Lest you think I am made of money, I will tell you that my husband was unemployed during much of the time my daughter was in diapers. Now I am a single mom and this business is my main income. Much of what my daughter wears, plays with and learns from is used. I bottle much of our fruit, make my own jam, bake my own bread, sew my daughter's pajamas and drive an 11 year old car. Yet, I happily paid for quality, new cloth diapers as we could afford to build our stash. They were totally worth it! Here is why I did not use and do not sell inadequate diapers (yes, I do sell inexpensive quality diapers, but not those that are cheaply made.
* Quality matters. Yes, even for something your baby will poop in, quality matters. Or should I say, especially for something your baby will poop in - quality matters. Your baby will be wearing these diapers 24 hours a day for 2-3 years. You'll be washing them hundreds of times.
Good diapers offer a more comfortable fit for your baby. They last longer both because of the better fit and because of the better materials used. They contain messes and leaks better. You will do less laundry with quality cloth diapers than with cheap cloth diapers or worse, disposables. Yes, the truth is, disposables leak. A lot. But that is for another article.
Quality cloth diapers will be much more likely to last through hundreds of washings. They often come with a warranty. Yes, you will pay almost $20 for one FuzziBunz one size diaper. That diaper comes with a LIFETIME warranty and free replacement elastic. Many other brands come with a one year warranty including bumGenius and Thirsties. Have you ever bought any other article of clothing for that price that comes with a long warranty and replacement parts? What other item of clothing can you wash 300 times and then expect it to be in any kind of useful condition? Try that with a pair of jeans and you'll have nothing but dryer lint after 300 washes.
* Cloth diapers are an very practical investment. Good quality cloth diapers will last through more than one child. If you only have one baby, you can usually resell them for about 50% of what you paid. If your diapers are cheap, you will likely not be able to resell them because they won't be worth the trouble. You get to enjoy all the benefits of better fit, better design, and better materials - and still get some of your money back.
* Knock off diapers are just wrong. Part of the cost of a quality diaper is the massive amount of testing that usually goes into development, sourcing durable materials, and bringing the product to market. In many cases there are patents on the techniques, materials or designs. Then a company in China traces the diaper and sells it in the US for a fraction of the cost, using substandard materials. Ouch! Would you buy counterfeit purses or shoes? These copies are not much better from an ethical standpoint.
* Chances are, the knockoffs won't last as long as the quality diapers. Sure, you can just keep replacing them. Sure, you can buy a new one every time a snap falls off or the waterproof backing (PUL) delaminates. Sure, you can mess with all that. Or you can just buy good diapers to start with and not have to deal with constant issues.
* When I sew a diaper here in the US, the materials I use cost me more than some junk diapers cost. In fact, just the snaps one a one-size diaper cost me more than I have seen some poorly made diapers sold for. Then I have to factor in insurance, the cost of sales such as web site hosting, labor (a good diaper takes me 30-60 minutes to make), and other costs. When I hire help, I pay them a fair wage. The same is true of any other honest manufacturer. I know that some materials are cheaper in China, but quality materials are still not so cheap that making diapers for pennies is possible wiht quality materials.
Whether their products are made in China or the US or elsewhere, US manufacturers must pay for safety testing their products, they must insure their companies against potential lawsuits, most offer warranties and pay US employees fair wages for shipping, customer service. If they manufacture in the US, they also must pay fair wages for seamstresses and higher costs for materials and shipping. Overseas companies can ship directly to the consumer without paying customs fees, safety testing, and other expenses. Great, saves us money, right? It also costs American jobs, produces a bigger carbon footprint, and means there is no one to take responsibility if there is a defect or injury.
If a company is selling a complex diaper for less than $10, I have to question whether they are paying their workers a fair wage. I know that diaper takes time to sew. Even if their seamstresses are much faster than I am - I know it is impossible for them to be paid a fair wage if the diaper is sold for so little.
I also have to question whether the factories offer good working conditions, like good lighting, clean air, time off for workers, safe conditions with enough ventilation and fire safety. Quite frankly, the conditions in some overseas factories are beyond appalling. Workers actually die or become ill from the conditions in some factories. Some workers are paid so little they can not afford to feed their families - or pay someone to watch their children while they work. In some areas it is common for babies to be left alone for hours under horrible conditions just so mom can buy food. Which factories are this way? Honestly, I don't know.
All of these companies could be models of human rights and fair wages. If so, I'd love to know how they can do this while paying their workers what must be pennies per diaper. I believe that all people everywhere should be able to feed their families, so I am ok with buying things from overseas. I just want to have some assurance that my cheap goods are not causing someone else's heartache.
Some people shrug and say they don't care or can't monitor this kind of thing. To me, it matters. I can't justify diapering my daughter on the backs of other moms who are struggling to survive. There are good manufacturers who offer fair wages, clean factories, safe working conditions, decent living conditions. Many of the brands I carry in my store are made by companies that go to great lengths to police their overseas factories. This is not a guarantee that things are perfect over there, but it sure makes me sleep better at night.