Affording Cloth Diapers on a Low Income

Guest Post Written by Erin Odom

After Keeper of the Home’s recent series on cloth diapers, you may finally be thinking: Hey, I CAN do this! She makes cloth diapering seem so EASY!

But have the upfront costs of modern cloth diapers frustrated you?

I’ve been there.

And I found a solution.

Image by chahad

My Story

It wasn’t long after the birth of my second daughter when I realized my family would barely be able to afford diapers for both our children, since our 2-year-old wasn’t potty trained. It was the perfect time to suggest cloth diapers to my husband.

He agreed that we could try them—but our compromise was that I would seek out modern cloth diapers , like pocket diapers.

So I happily set out to researching modern cloth diapers.

And I quickly became frustrated. The brand my one cloth diapering friend recommended cost $20 per diaper.

I realized I would have to spend money (money we didn’t have) to save money, and it just didn’t make sense.

The Cloth Diaper Foundation

I set out to find a way—any way—my family could afford the start-up costs of cloth diapering. My search led me to The Cloth Diaper Foundation.

The premise of the non-profit organization is to provide diaper loans to parents who cannot afford the start-up costs of cloth diapers. The program is open up to anyone living within the continental United States who meets certain income qualifications.

Once your application is processed (including paperwork with your child’s birth certificate and recent pay stubs), The Cloth Diaper Foundation will loan out 12 diapers per child for the cost of shipping. My family received 24 diapers—12 for each of our girls.

Sometimes the foundation will send new diapers, but they mostly send out gently-used diapers. They rely solely on donations from cloth diaper companies and individuals who want to spread “cloth love” to other mamas.

The goal of the program is that parents will use the diapers CDF loans out while slowly building their own stashes, as their income allows. Parents will then return the diapers to  CDF.

The CDF is currently in the process of transferring their location from Texas to California, so they are closed for applications, but they hope to re-open sometime in August.

Giving diapers, Giving Hope

As more people are finding out about CDF, other organizations like it are popping up all over North America.

Giving Diapers, Giving Hope started in early 2011 as another diaper-lending organization for low-income families. Cloth diapering mom Kristen McCarthy began the program after losing her job and house and finding herself in a tough financial situation.

“I started to think, what WOULD other people do if they were in a similar situation and DIDN’T cloth diaper? How would they diaper their children?” Kristen says on the Giving Diapers, Giving Hope website.

Like CDF, the program is open to anyone within the continental United States. Applicants must meet certain income requirements and pay for the shipping of the diapers. Recipients must return their diapers at the end of their loan.

Local Diaper Lending Programs

The Cloth Diaper Foundation and Giving Diapers, Giving Hope operate on a national level, but many other communities offer smaller programs to local families in need.

Former CDF recipient Cara DeCoito recently founded Kaw Valley Cloth, a diaper lending program in her Lawrence, Kansas community.

Sweet Cheeks Diaper Kits is a North Carolina non-profit that makes, collects and distributes cloth diapering supplies in their area. Each kit contains everything a parent needs to cloth diaper one child full-time, including a diaper pail, handmade T-shirt diapers, donated brand name diapers and covers, handmade wipes, a spray bottle, detergent, diaper cream, stay-dry liners AND on-going support!

Volunteers from the community get together for a Diaper Derby each month, where they recycle old T-shirts to make the fitted T-shirt diapers for the kits.

cloth dipes

Image by Liz

But how do I build my own stash cheaply?

The point of a cloth diaper loan is to allow you to cloth diaper full-time while slowly building your own stash.

There are ways to build a stash of modern cloth diapers cheaply:

  • Buy used from cloth diaper companies, Craigslist, DiaperSwappers, your local Mommies Network, from Facebook trading and selling sites, etc. (Just exercise caution when you don’t personally know the seller!)
  • Check out Re-Diaper. This company sells some gently-used diapers as well as new diapers for a lower price than some other stores. They also offer a small diaper assistance program.
  • Make your own. Cotton Babies has an excellent tutorial on making your own cloth diapers—even if you don’t know how to sew!
  • Buy second-quality new diapers. Many companies will sell their slightly imperfect diapers for a fraction of the retail price. I bought several Bum Genius diapers for $8, and they work perfectly!
  • Buy off-brands. The bulk of my stash are Kawaii brand diapers, which cost about half the price of name-brand diapers. I have found them to hold up as well (or better!) than my more expensive diapers.
  • Are you a missionary? Cotton Babies offers a grant program for missionary families, providing gently-used (and sometimes new!) cloth diapers.
  • Remember: You don’t need EVERYTHING. Stephanie demonstrated in her video last week that you can “swish” poopy diapers; a diaper sprayer isn’t necessary. You can make your own stay-dry liners out of fleece remnants. You can use baby washcloths instead of buying pricey cloth wipes. If you get the diapers, you can be creative with the rest.
  • Cloth Diaper purchases

Image by moohaha

A Challenge for YOU!

If you have a low income, I hope this post has given you HOPE that there IS a way to afford the start-up costs of cloth diapering.

But what if you aren’t low-income? What if you already have all you need to cloth diaper your babies? What if your babies are already grown?

I want to leave you with a challenge. Why not give to The Cloth Diaper Foundation; Giving Diapers, Giving Hope; or another diaper lending organization?

You can donate your gently-used diapers, new diapers or even monetarily.

Many mamas want to cloth diaper their babies and think that they can’t.

Maybe you can help them out?

Or maybe…just maybe, God is leading you to take it a step further and start your own diaper lending program in your local community. The organizations I listed can only service so many families.

I was unable to locate any diaper lending programs in Canada. Does anyone know of one? Maybe a Keeper of the Home reader can start one?

How did you afford the start-up costs of cloth? Do you know of any other diaper lending programs? What are your ideas to afford the start-up costs of cloth?

About Erin O

Erin is a follower of Jesus, wife to Will and mommy to three little redheaded girls (born in 2008, 2010 and 2012). She is a life-long, professional dreamer and recovering overwhelmed homemaker. Her mission is to encourage, educate and empower her readers at The Humbled Homemaker to live a grace-filled, natural life. She is the author of a 200+-page eBook all about cloth diapering-- Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert: A Simple, Comprehensive Guide to Using Cloth Diapers.

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  1. Thank you so much for your article! We live on one income under $20k. I remember with my second son not having work in the winter and having to ask people on Facebook for diapers! Send out a mass plea! It was aweful. We now cloth diaper our second and its been rough affording everything. Now we have found out unexpectedly that we will have TWO in diapers! So we need ANOTHER stash of diapers! So I’m trying to figure all that out lol. I’m thinking thirst flats, inserts from old flannel shirts, but in unsure for what covers to get? I like just the wipeable covers like thirsties but don’t know what other brands are out there that are cheaper! The baby is due in the winter when we again will not have an income!
    Thank you!

  2. Victoria C says:

    Just want to thank you for this post. Due to current hardships and trials in my family life I have been looking for ways to pinch pennies. I figure by converting most of our everyday disposable products to cloth it would cut costs tremendously. I’m leaning toward AIO for my 10 month old daughter. Any suggestions? I’m so glad this popped up in my Google search. Such a blessing :)

    • AIOs can be pricey. I would suggest going with a cheaper pocket diaper. It will still seem very much like a disposable diaper. The Kawaii brand is very affordable, yet it is still a quality diaper.

  3. FYI- the Cloth Diaper Foundation has officially dissolved as of May 8th…
    They’re referring everyone to Giving Diapers, Giving Hope.
    Thank you for this post, though!

  4. Hey! *waves*
    I am the CEO of Cloth for a Cause! We’re your Canadian Cloth Diaper charity! :]
    We have 12 chapters across Canada, and we’re growing! We got our beginnings in October, 2011. I wasn’t able to afford my first stash until my son was 6 months old! I remember starting out with 8 Fuzzibunz perfect size. I always knew I wanted to cloth diaper, so falling in love wasn’t difficult!
    Anyways,wishing you a great new years!

  5. Hey I came across this page while looking for single moms that cloth dipered I know random… But I also see a lot of people looking 4 more cheaper options… I sew my own diper covers (snaps or velcro no pull flece or old blanets or tee shirts and PUL catch a sale at Joanns fabrics and look 4 free patterns online also so Maney YouTube tutorials) I chose to use prefolds with covers because they are WAY cheaper (12-$30 that all you need to last a full diper day with NB..just going to need to wash daily or the way cheaper brand is gerber 12-$10 but they dont hold much pee + snappies optinal) and easy to wash if u don’t have a washing machin also I use viva paper towels $1 Walmart probable buy n bulk as SAMs club or bjs (so soft and don’t break apart)4 liners when I know he has to poo so its not so messy.I don’t use cloth wips ( I know not Eco friendly but I don’t CD 4 that reason sorry ) my diper stash only cost me $300 maybe more and my time that’s including thread and I use metal snaps witch r pricer then plastic snaps or Velcro… Just a segestion…hope I could help someone

  6. hi, thank you.. this was very helpful and im thankful that the Lord led me to your site. ;) blessings, sandra

  7. Cotton babies offers Econobums. Buying two of the prepackaged Econobum covers with prefolds is enough to start cloth diapering for under $100. This is what I probably should have done, but instead I have turned to family members to help out. We live in an apartment so space is at a premium, instead of asking for a bunch of toys my son doesn’t need, we have asked for cloth diapers to add to our stash. I also asked for only one size diapers because we plan on having another child, I figured that way we could use the same diapers on both babies, just adjust them to size ;). We also used the money he got for his Baptism, since he didn’t need anything at the moment. He already has a Bible, some books centered around scripture, etc.

  8. Thank you for this post! I found it really helpful! I already cloth diaper but you posted some resources I had never seen before.

  9. Hi I’m Maria I’m a mother of 5 kids, i was looking on the internet about cloth diapers and this page came through I need some help with cloth diapering I have a 6 months old baby girl she’s got a bad diaper rash, i tried a lot of stuff to take it away but nothing seems to work, then i thought maybe cloth diapers but i found out they’re more expensive then i thought to be honest and God knows its not a lie we don’t have money to buy them, but if there’s someone willing to teach me how to make them I love to learn if you want to communicate with me please send an e-mail to
    Thank you very much to take the time to read my ad.
    God Bless you

  10. The Cloth Diaper Foundation is no longer in operation. Just thought I would pass that on!

  11. has great deals too . . .

  12. LaShanna says:

    Thanks so much for this post! My husband and I , recently started cloth diapering our soon to be 8 month old daughter. We desired to cloth diaper from the very beginning, but received so many disposables from our showers, that we just used those first out of gratefulness. After we begin buying disposables, we quickly realized that we would save money, by using cloth. I too, surfed the internet looking for the best possible buy, for our budget. I needed to find a good system for under $100.00 We ended up spending around $30.00 for 6 covers and $30.00 for 60 contour prefolds. Such a great deal! I ordered the (Kawaii) covers from “Sweet Bottoms” and the prefolds from Amazon. I took about $35.00 more dollars and bought material/PUL (on sale) to make 15 more covers (my wonderful mother-in-law showed me how.) This is really working well for us!!! I just tri-fold the diaper and lay it inside of the cover and it works just fine!

    • I’m so glad you like the Kawaii brand as well! I have found them to be really quality diapers for a low price! We did not have any showers for our second baby (we didn’t start using cloth until our second–although both girls were still in diapers), but we did buy diapers during my pregnancy to “stock up.” We ended up taking most of them back to Wal-Mart and Target and getting gift cards to use on other merchandise. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Charissa says:

    Wow, this is great. But our biggest cost obstacle, as a low-income family (we qualify for WIC right now living on my husband’s student stipend) is the cost of doing laundry. We live in a small apartment where we pay $1.75 per washer load and $1.50 per dryer load. Even if we hung the cloth diapers to dry, we calculated that it would still be much cheaper to go with the LUVS disposables we get for $.10 each on Amazon. And in a small apartment, there just isn’t room to do laundry by hand. So what we need is a cheap diaper laundry service for low-income families (and we also happen to be future missionaries)!

    • @Charissa, Wow! That does sound a big obstacle! My family did a short (semester) missionary stint in Vancouver (LOVED it!), and we lived in a tiny apartment and had to pay (lots!) to do laundry there as well. At that time, we weren’t using cloth. I guess the only other option I can think about is if there is a laundry mat close by that is cheaper (but that might be a lot of hassle). Have you looked to see if there are any diaper services in your area?

      Once you have all your paperwork from your church and mission sending agency, I encourage you to apply for the Cotton Babies grant! I *think* they only give so many per year, but I have had several friends receive them and was visiting one of my friends when her package arrived. They are very generous. She received 15 brand new Bum Genius diapers (although sometimes I think they send gently-used) plus all the accessories she needed to cloth diaper her son full-time! Blessings to you, Charissa! :)

  14. I wanted to add two things…

    1) I would recommend buying one cloth diaper each month during your pregnancy, if at all possible! I heard this advice with my first child when I was six months pregnant, and I had a great head start on cloth diapers this way! It was much easier because I had an income then, vs. being a SAHM after the baby. This might not be the case for most of your readers, but maybe they know someone to pass the advice on to!

    2) Why no mention of flats? Flats are so awesome! I am lucky enough to have the pricey diapers, but I really, really, really like unbleached organic flats from Green Mountain (which seems to be a great Christian business with diaper grants and missionary grants!). These are super, super affordable. Other types of flats are even less expensive, and some people just use flannel blankets or sack towels from Walmart.


  1. […] in", as my mother would say.Since the baby boys couldn't pee in a pot yet anyway, we had to find a cheaper alternative than disposables.  By the time #3 came along, we were able to indulge in the luxury of disposables, and I never […]

  2. […] don’t feel like you can make the initial investment needed with cloth diapers, please check out Affording Diapers on a Low Income, written by my friend Erin.  She shares great ideas for getting started without having to […]

  3. […] search out great deals and decide which diapers you like. Find out more about these programs from this post over at Keeper of the Home! Recommend on Facebook Share with Stumblers Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post […]

  4. […] Keeper of the Home has a great post from Erin called Affording cloth diapers on a low income. […]