Mar 29, 2016

Mommy Wars: What's the Deal with Cloth Diapers?

What's OTB?

No, OTB (at least in this case) is not referring to "off track betting" but instead "on the butt".  In the large array of things that people feel is their business we have on the list diapers.  

Diapers?  Why are we discussing diapers?

Well, like everything else in the mommy wars, people have very strong feelings about how they would raise their child, and feel that you must comply or else.

For our family I chose, for a multitude of reasons which I will explain later, cloth diapering. Before I go into the Why's of the awesomeness of cloth that I felt made it great for our family, I will note that we have also utilized disposable diapers throughout our children's diapering history and may again in the future for one reason or another.  So, please do not take offense to anything said here if you choose to use disposables.

Now, why cloth diapers? For me it was a multitude of reasons that just made it fit for us and I will go over 3 the biggest ones here.  Then I'll answer some frequently asked questions that I have had over the last almost 4 years.

Grossness/The environment
Biggest of all was the fact that the thought of a landfill full of used disposable diapers makes me want to vomit (I hope you're not eating and if you are I apologize). It was just something that I could not get past.  I am a pretty green person (drive a hybrid, compost, recycle all things possible, avoid GMOs, have our own garden, try to conserve water and other resources as possible, etc), and that was just one thing that I could not get over easily.  So if I could do my part by NOT adding to the pile of diapers, I would. 

The questions I get frequently regarding our choice to cloth was what you do with the "poo" ("ew I could never do that, you have to like, touch the poo right?") and "do you really put that in your washing machine?".  And the answer to those are simple.  
#1 I touch no more poo than I would if the kids were in disposables (maybe less as cloth is much less likely to have the patented "poo-splosion" that you see so frequently). There are easy ways to get the poo off such as a diaper sprayer {} or using liners.  Easy peasy.  
#2 My question back to you... do you assume that the only thing a child will ever get poop on is a diaper? If so, my friend, you are quite mistaken.  See the above aforementioned poo-splosion issues.  And unless you plan on throwing away a TON of clothing, I am going to assume that you are going to take that poo-tainted clothing and put it in your washing machine.  And you know what? It'll be fine. You will not die from the plague.  If you have a washing machine that is worth anything, it will very easily wash away the evidence and you will never notice the difference.

Also, the thought of the amount of processing that goes into each of those diapers just gives me the chills. 

Cost for me was a big one.  We can debate the cost differential between the two for days. I have several friends (the host of this blog for one) who went to quite a length to ensure that their diapers were as cost effective as possible, couponing and looking for sales.  

It also can be debated whether the cost of a new set of cloth diapers (which can range from the low end of $400 for a stash to $1500+ if you go with the high end diapers or an abundance of wool covers) is really cost effective.  Honestly, it depends on how you go about building your stash.  For us, limiting cost was important so I aimed for diapers that would last us the longest (One size, aka diapers that can be adjusted to fit from ~8 pounds to upwards of ~40 pounds).  There are an overabundance of types of diapers ranging from the simplest (covers and flats) to the more complex (an array of all-in 1,2s).  

I was quite fortunate that my mother-in-law was big into sewing and enthusiastically okay'd the production of a set of pocket diapers {} (a diaper that looks similar to the structure and functionality of a disposable but includes an absorbant layer underneath fabric; bonus you can add more absorbancy as needed) for our 1st. 

Over time I started to collect covers {} and prefolds {} for inexpensive additions to our stash.  As our first got bigger, we started to appreciate the ease of a cover (which mimic the old-school "plastic pant" with the use of a polyurethane laminate that keeps the wetness in) and the prefolds (layers of absorbent fabric, typically a cotton) as it was less prep work on our part.  Bonus was that both of those things could be acquired for a small cost and we could greatly increase the number of diapers we had in circulation, allowing us to cut down on the number of days a week that we had to do laundry.

The costs associated with cloth can be easily managed by adjusting a few variables: picking cheaper/more cost effective diapering options; running a more efficient washer; utilizing certain laundry soaps and buying them when on sale; etc.  For us the biggest cost driver would be that I could use them for more than one child.  The diapers that we used for my 1st, we are now using for my second, saving us hundreds of dollars this time around.  Also diapers that I had purchased for the very early days of my 2nds time home with us were passed on to a friend who used them with her little one, getting a 3rd life (and putting a little money back into our costs for diapering). There are several venues for selling diapers that are still in very good or excellent condition such as or one of several Facebook groups.

If you know how to sew you could easily create your own stash with a few materials and some time spent. It would be much cheaper than most of what you could buy out there.

Limiting Chemicals
Do you have any idea what is actually in your disposable diapers?  You know those things that you strap onto your child and let them sit in/on it all day?  The outer lining is typically a polyethelyne film similar to that in plastic wrap. The inner lining is polypropylene, material common in thermal underwear. The absorbent center can have one of a multitude of different materials inside including sodium polyacrylate (the crystals that show up when your munchkin pees a little too much and the diaper leaks on you) or wood pulp.  All of these things are probably okay, but I prefer to stay away if possible.  

What's in a cloth diaper?  Well, if you go the most natural route you are utilizing some kind of cotton/hemp material with a wool cover (wool is super absorbent).  Otherwise, you are using some combination of diaper that utilizes an outer layer of polyurethane laminate (fabric that has a laminating layer of polyurethane or PUL) with an inner layer of fleece/terry cloth/flannel.  Often microfiber inserts are used in pocket diapers (but these do not touch the skin of the baby as they are super drying and would cause a rash if used inappropriately.)

We utilize (mostly) the prefolded cotton diapers and cotton flats with the PUL covers.  I have crocheted up a few wool covers but prefer the ease of the PUL.  

So why cloth? The Q&A
So, with all of that being said, I still get a lot of questions like:

Are you that poor?
No, and that's rude. Why am I friends with you again?

Okay, but don't you do a lot of laundry?
Yes, we probably do twice the amount of laundry that the average disposable-wearing household does, but it really only takes a little bit of time to throw them in the wash, move to the dryer, and later fold.  I personally prefer knowing that if I need diapers, I am just an hour or so away from having them (are you ever REALLY on your last diaper? No, maybe 1 or 2 away... but never the last one), versus having to run out to the store to pick up more.

Isn't it gross?
Aren't all diapers gross? It's poop and pee, what isn't gross about that?

Doesn't it smell?
See above. It doesn't smell any more than disposables. And honestly, with the omission of the perfumes that most disposables have, they actually smell less.

Your house must stink of diaper
No more than any other house with a baby.  And actually there are no chemically smells/perfumes from cloth, so I actually notice those smells more when out.

Isn't it a lot of maintenance?
Again, other than the laundry that we do, it's really not that bad

Isn't there a service that can wash them?
Yes... but it's not cheap. And we're trying to save money.

Will it affect their walking/crawling/other development?
What do you think people wore BEFORE disposable diapers?  Your parents' parents learned to walk right?

Doesn't all that wetness cause diaper rashes?
Your typical cloth diapered child will have no more rashes, and may actually have less rashes (depending on the skin of the baby) than a disposable-diapered baby.  The rash creams are a little more expensive (as you cannot use creams with petroleum - ew anyway - as they would cause the fabric to repel and would cause the diaper to leak).  We had one rash prone baby and another baby with only one rash his whole life.  It's the luck of the draw with that one I'm afraid.

You're just being a gross hippy
Nah, not hippy. Just doing my part.

What do you do if you, like, have to go out?
You, like, bring diapers with you. Same thing as disposables.  They're just bigger.  And you bring along a wet/dry bag {} to store the used diaper and you get along with your day.  For those who don't like the idea of carrying around a soiled diaper, they do have disposable inserts that you could use with any kind of cover/diaper {} and then just toss like you with a disposable diaper and keep the cover for the next change (we actually used these on a trip from NJ to FL a year or so ago and they were great as I didn't have time to hit the laundry mat while on the trip).

So, cloth diapers... those are the things with the safety pins right? How do you not stab the baby?
Well cloth has come a long way.  Sure, you can still buy diapers that you could utilize the pins with, but why bother?  You can use something like a snappi {} if you are a fan of folding the diaper around and pinning it in some fashion.  Or you can just utilize one of a multitudes of folds that would not require pinning of any sort.  OR you can just use one of a slew of other diaper types.

Are you nuts?
No, not at least according to my therapist.

What is wrong with you?
Lots of things, but they don't have anything to do with my choice of diapers

Why would you do that?
Please see my reasons above.

Okay, you gave us pros, what are the cons?
#1 Biggest gripe?  - I cannot find pants that don't look ridiculous or aren't super expensive (like most clothing for children).  Project Pomona pants are one of a few groups that have pants made especially for that cloth diapered fluffy butt {} but for someone using cloth to cut costs, they were just a little too expensive for my taste.  However, I have heard NOTHING but good things about them and may invest in a pair or two in the future.  Until then, I will continue to use pants that are 2+ sizes too large for my kiddo and just roll up the legs.  I do lose out on some outfits because they just don't fit.  Adorable outfits purchased for our munchkins never seem to fit at the right time due to the excess junk in the trunk (isn't that always the case ladies?).

#2 - Sometimes I just don't want to do any more laundry! There are days when everyone gets home and just wants to go to bed.  Well when you have kids, that doesn't really work.  So after you get dinner made, children fed, bathed, and put to bed, dishes washed, and finally sit down you realize "oh hey, I really should start that diaper laundry".  And sometimes, you just don't want to.  Honestly, we never let it hit the point where we would NEED to do diaper laundry.  I just like to stay on top of things, so we do it pretty much every other day, to every 3 days.

3# - Dealing with the comments.  I can't tell you how many times people have commented on the fact that my children are wearing cloth diapers.  "Are they ever going to be able to walk?" "That's so gross, I couldn't deal with cleaning them" "Why are you doing that, why not just use disposables?" "Why are you so gross? Hippie!"

#4 - No cute diaper bag.  I am a girl who likes things to put stuff in. Containers, bags, etc, I'm game.  However, it seems that all of the "cute" diaper bags are simply too small to really fit in more than a few diapers.  2 cloth diapers can take up just as much room as 6 disposables. And that is just not going to work for a day away from the house.  So we have to tote a little bit more around than the average family, so be it.  I can still throw a diaper, wet bag, and some wipes in my purse and run out if necessary, so it's not THAT big of a deal.

A lot of people just don't get it. And honestly, I don't know how to explain to them that it honestly is no different than using a disposable in functionality and is no less or more gross when it comes to dealing with waste. My recommendation to those who are curious would be to find your friendly neighborhood cloth diapering group/person and give one a shot.  What's the worst that could happen? 

Any parting words?
In the end who cares what's on the butt? As long as that butt is clean and the baby is happy.

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