For better or worse, we use cloth diapers. Let’s start with the better.
- Cloth diapers are cheap. Total diapering cost (minus water and energy washing related costs) for one child: $244.50. This includes six dozen diapers split between two sizes, and two sets of five Thirsties brand diaper covers.
- Cloth diapers are reusable, so your child’s first major environmental impact isn’t several thousand poopy disposable diapers that will sit around in a landfill somewhere for eternity.
- Cloth diapers motivate you as a parent to toilet train earlier, and they let your child ‘feel’ the wetness better, making them more receptive to using a potty.
And now the worse:
- You have to deal with them.
Until your baby starts eating solid food, this isn’t so bad (except for the first few nights after being born, which if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m not going to be the one to scare the beejesus out of you). Baby breast milk poop is surprisingly sweet smelling, the consistency of cottage cheese and a not off-putting shade of yellow. Quite pleasant really. Then around six months they start eating real food, and your cute little baby who had been producing these cute little poopies, apparently transforms into a 40-something lactose-intolerant homeless alcoholic with a penchant for cheese. It’s awful. It’s honest to God shit now, and you do NOT want to put that into your washer.
So you start doing the toilet dunk, which is a new low in your relationship with your toilet. Then, if you’re like us and notice certain tenacious log jammers don’t give up the fight so easily, you grab a stick from the woodpile, CLEARLY label the business end with a sharpie, and hide it in a basket so your dinner guests don’t notice it while they’re perusing the contents of your medicine cabinet. Then, you balance the stick on the lid, and carefully lower the now soaking diaper onto the stick, folding it back on itself several times so that it will drain. Wait a few minutes – grab the NON-BUSINESS END of the stick, carefully lift it up and walk over to the Rubbermaid diaper bin. Inhale before you open the lid, hold your breath, then deposit the dirty diaper with all the others. Replace stick.
This is why parents of cloth diapered babies encourage their children to potty train earlier. In fact, during the 1940’s and 50’s, 95% of babies were potty trained by the age of 18 months, and they ALL wore cloth diapers. Then with the widespread adoption of disposable diapers in the 1970’s, this dramatically switched, and 90% of babies wore disposables, and by the age of 18 months only 10% were potty trained. Since then the age at which children are potty trained has steadily increased now to 30 months, but can go as high as 60 months. We’re certainly not going to go that route, and though our 14 month-old is not there yet, it’s a rare event to find a turd in her diaper.
She has a cute pink potty that she has sat on since she was about 8 months old, and given the chance she’d prefer to do her business in it than in her diaper. And all I can say to that is Hallelujah. Toss the turds in the toilet, quick rinse of the potty, dump that, done. We’re still working on the ASL sign for ‘potty,’ and once her fine motor skills develop a little more, I hope she’ll pick that up, and we’ll be well on our way.
But there’s still the pee. Little kid’s bladders are tiny, and they drink a lot of milk. I really commend those ‘elimination communication’ parents out there who try to catch every pee, but I have my limits on how much of my life I want to spend on my bathroom floor making ‘psssssss’ing noises at my daughter. So she mostly pees in her diaper, which is its own flavor of awful to deal with, and requires its own set of tools.
From Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Urine': “Subsequent to elimination from the body, urine can acquire strong odors due to bacterial action,and in particular the release of asphyxiating ammonia from the breakdown of urea.” Did you read that carefully? It said ‘asphyxiating.’ My daughter’s pee could literally kill me. And trust me, when I open the lid of that Rubbermaid container on wash day, I want to kill myself. Luckily, I’m a carpenter, and over the years, I’ve acquired an organic vapor half face respirator. I’m completely honest when I say that I wear this and a pair of gloves when I do laundry.
So a tumble in the washer and dryer, or out to hang on the line in the summer, and Wah La! you’re done! How awesome was that? Obviously, bundling up a polyethylene disposable diaper and tossing it in the trash would be lower on the ick register, but I just can’t justify it economically or environmentally. Like everything prior to the disposable era, cloth diapers require maintenance and often a closer relationship to life’s unpleasantries, but I believe they’re worth it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I really should try to hone that straight razor I bought off ebay all those years ago – the one I am still too terrified to use.