An argument for cloth diapers…

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It has been about three years since I last used cloth diapers, but I have to say, in doing research for this article, seeing all the pictures of those cute little cloth diapers made me kind of nostalgic.  I know what you are thinking (especially if you are in the middle of “the diaper zone” right now): How on earth can anyone be nostalgic about diapers? Well, you can if you have used cloth, because it is a “whole experience”, an adventure, a really satisfying option on many levels.  Cloth diapering is cheaper in the long run, it is (arguably) better for the environment, and it is better for your baby.   I am so thankful that I chose to cloth diaper my children, and equally thankful that I can look at it in retrospect (meaning my boys do their own “business” now…doesn’t mean they get the “business” IN the toilet bowl, but we are getting closer to the desired end goal). As usual, I digress.  And about bathroom stuff – go figure!
Are you still with me? If you are, that means you are willing to tolerate me for a few more paragraphs while I try to convince you that cloth diapering isn’t a “super-mom” thing – it’s a “simple-mom” thing.  Aren’t I always talking about simplifying? And how does adding in another challenge like cloth diapering get me there? Well, I will be the first to tell you, when I initially thought about cloth diapers, I am pretty sure I had my “very upset face” on and I think I was out to prove that it would never work for me. I had my arsenal of reasons: time, smell, water usage, inconvenience, upfront costs,and learning curve, to name a few.  I had my oldest son in disposables at the time, he was almost two, and twin babies about to make their entrance.  We were financially strapped. I had recently left my career, and started working 5 hrs/day from home with a toddler underfoot.   So I had “some” time, but virtually no money for extras.  The idea of spending $60-$100/month on disposable diapers times three, seemed like too much.  I also knew I couldn’t be throwing so many disposable diapers into the landfill, it just didn’t sit right with me.
So, at the prompting of one of the mommas from my son’s jr. pre-school, we’ll call her A., and armed with research done by my best friend H.  I began my own reluctant research and shopping for cloth diapers.  A. is a VERY passionate cloth diapering Mom of FIVE children, SIX actually as they now foster a sweet baby as well. She (and her husband) are “balancer extraordinaires”.  And H. is the mom of three children, one with a terminal developmental disorder, as well as three dogs! She is a researcher “extraordinaire”.  She’s like a Jack Russel Terrier who’s chasing a rat when she gets “into” something. Everyone should have a researcher-friend and a balancing-guru friend.   Let it be said, that if you are using “too busy” as an excuse not to cloth diaper, me, A. and H. are calling you out on that one.
With a list of websites to check given to me by A.  and H., and bolstered by their freakishly giddy encouragement, I set out on my diapering adventure. I was delighted with the options out there, as I had envisioned the old pre-folds with giant pins that we all wore in the 70’s.  I was intimidated by the up-front costs of the diapers, but after calculating the cost over 2-3 years times three bums, it was a no-brainer, even including the extra water, special soaps and replacement parts.  My friends helped me navigate the initial purchase. They both recommended buying a few different brands to start, since each baby is uniquely (and wonderfully) built,  and each brand of diaper fits differently.  They helped me with washing and stripping instructions and schedules.  They helped me find second-hand diapers once I figured out which ones I liked.  There are so many to choose from now, from very popular brand names,  to some great hand-sewn diapers you may be able to find in your own community. I tried a little of each.  They gave me tips, like “it’s ok to take disposables to play dates and weekend trips…especially camping, or when you and/or your babies are sick.”  It’s also important to check with daycares,sunday school, and babysitters and/or caregivers to make sure they are comfortable and confident with cloth diapers, and  to provide them with the tools and training to use them if that’s needed.   While I am thinking about it, it is also important to remember to bring your little water-proof (really poo-proof) bag with you for dirty diapers. A large freezer bag works too.  Just don’t forget it in the back of the van, full of poopy diapers.  Unless you have a seven-year-old who will enjoy the repugnant “science experiment” that will ensue!  When I first started cloth diapering, I cut myself some slack and used store-bought wipes.  After a while, I realized it was simpler to use cloth wipes.  A wash basin in your laundry room (ideally with a sprayer) are very handy, but a spoon and a toilet work too!  I found whole blogs, websites and forums on cloth diapering.  There is no end to the info available on the subject.  You can make it as complicated and technical as you want, but I recommend gleaning the basics, and keeping it simple.
Cloth diapering is no longer a thing just for super-moms and hippies. It’s  relatively easy once you get the hang of it, functional, super healthy and if done right, can be environmentally responsible. It also gives you serious nature-Mama “cred”.  Expect people to be shocked when they look at your feet and don’t see Birkenstock sandals. If you don’t have super-fanatical, freakishly giddy friends like A. and H., it turns out that most cities and towns run “cloth diapering seminars” now.  You can find them through online diapering forums, and local baby and health food store websites.  Baby clothing and public health resource websites will often have links to useful cloth diapering information and products. You will find info to help you through any of the challenges: fit/sizing, weird smells, stripping diapers, diaper rash/causes, and SELLING your used dipes! That’s right, you can make money back when you are done.  There is a huge market for used cloth diapers out there.  They are the diapers that keep on giving.  And it is a healthier option all around.  You can rest assured that whatever cloth diaper product you purchase, they will be free from the “not so natural” chemicals they put in disposables.   With a little self-sacrifice (of your time, aka:more in the laundry room, less in the shower), and a little extra planning, you can save money, help the environment, and most importantly, give your baby another healthy option.
Don’t be intimidated.   Be brave.  And if you are still not convinced that cloth diapering is for you, my “field research” indicates that babies who wear cloth diapers tend to be cuter, and also tend to potty-train earlier than their “disposable diapered” counter-parts.  Seriously, check it out.
Looking for super-cool onesies and tees to go over your baby’s cloth diapers? Check out Sillymama’s favorites at www.sillysouls.com 
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