As I shared last week, the Blueberry and I have taken the cloth diapering plunge. We're easing into to it slowly, particularly since Daddy still hasn't jumped on board with the idea fully. Thus, the Blueberry wears cloth diapers from the time Mommy gets up for the day, somewhere between 5:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m. until about 5:00 p.m. when Daddy gets home and becomes the primary diaper changer. I estimate that the Blueberry's in cloth about 50-60% of the time as I usually sneak at least one cloth diaper in during the evenings, although I do stick with the disposables during the middle of the night.
Why on earth are we doing this?
When planning for the Blueberry, I stumbled across the whole modern day cloth diapering bit. From retail vendors like Babies R Us to deal-of-the-day websites such as Zulily or Totsy to YouTube videos, I kept hearing more and more about cloth diapering. Quite frankly, all of this combined made it seem like the trendy thing to do. Or at least something worth looking into. So I did and it looked doable. Nothing like what our parents probably wore--no pins, dunking or plastic pants. However, it seemed as though cloth diapering required a significant extra time investment and still had "yuck" factor despite modern advances. Thus, I decided to wait until my baby arrived and reassess later.
The most popular reasons I hear people give for why they cloth diaper are:
4) Cute Prints
Let me touch upon each of the reasons as I understand them. First, money--Although cloth diapering can have large start-up costs, a 2-day stash of cheap cloth diapers can be built for $100, which is roughly 2 months worth of disposable diapers. A fancy stash runs up to $500, however the lifetime savings (i.e. from birth to potty-training) is touted to be a over $2000 in savings! Second, chemicals--Parents, particularly those with sensitive skin babies, want to minimize harmful chemicals in their baby's life. Third, environment--Tree-huggers want to save the planet. Fourth, cute prints--Cloth diapers come in a myriad of colors, styles and prints. Homemade cloth diapers, which are purportedly as functional as the commercial ones, are super customizable (and cheap if you make them yourself). Fifth, convenience--You never have to run to the store in the middle of the night because you've run out of disposable diapers.
Most of the above reasons have an obvious counter-argument. For example, there are diaper sales and generic diapes which can bring down the cost of disposables tremendously. Add to that the value of Mom's time, that energy costs for washing vary across the country, and all the gear which can come with the game, cloth diapering may become pretty expensive. As for the environment-saving, the impact of extra electricity, water and soap required may have a more immediate effect than the longer-term costs of the landfill. As for convenience, while there might be no running to the store at 2:00 a.m., there is the 2-hour minimum wait for the cleaning process (longer if you air-dry).
The only two reasons I don't see any arguments against are chemicals and cute prints. Ignoring cloth diapering services which purportedly use scary chemicals as I see no use for them with today's modern diapers, by washing your own diapers you can absolutely control what chemicals come in contact with your baby's skin. The "best" and "recommended" laundry detergents for cloth diapers are lower in chemicals and rinse away well (as to avoid degradation of and build-up on the diaper). The cute prints factor speaks for itself. (I've opted for solids, but look at all the cute options at any cloth diaper retailer or this mom's yummy stash.)
Taking a look at these reasons, I'd say cost, chemicals, and cute prints were my deciding factors. Around the Blueberry's 2-month birthday, I calculated that we were spending roughly $50 per month on disposies--that was assuming I always bought diapers on sale. (I change diapers
obsessively frequently in efforts to avoid diaper rash, so we still go through at least 10 diapers per day.) I could do heck of a lot with an extra $600 per year. Our start-up stash (half shown above) cost about $300 but 3/4ths of our 24 cloth diapers are adjustable such that they're supposed to last till potty-training. I'm also air-drying which is surprisingly fast indoors and somewhat enrgy-saving. The colorful diapers also look really decorative hanging about. As for chemicals, although the Blueberry thus far has shown no sign of having sensitive skin, I find it pretty scary that the gel in disposies can hold something like 200x its weight in liquid. At least while his system's most vulnerable, we're attempting to go low-chemical. I know our parents probably didn't give much thought to such things when we were little--hell, they smoked indoors and we're perfectly healthy, but why chance it? I also believe technological advances have led to a greater abundance of chemicals than 30-some years ago. It may come as a surprise that the cuteness factor ranks at the bottom of my list why we're trying cloth diapering.
Okay, this post has become much longer that I expected. I was going to discuss how things are going thus far, describe our cloth diaper stash, and touch upon a few other topics but I think I'll save those things for future posts. Plus, someone pooped and needs a new diaper. In a nutshell, it's been very manageable and I'm optimistic that we'll continue after he starts solids (when the poops gets a lot yuckier). Stay tuned...
If you're curious and anxious for more info, check out the Cloth Diaper Report.