motherhod monday: why do we cloth diaper?
One of the most frequently-asked questions of J and I now that we have baby E is, “So, how’s that cloth diapering going for you?” This question is usually inquired with one of those facetious tones—a bit of doubt, a bit of curiosity, and perhaps a hint of fear. Most people were sure we couldn’t keep it up, I think. Many people still don’t know why we even bother. When we answer that cloth diapering was one of the best decisions we’ve made so far as new parents, the incredulous looks and uncomfortable giggles are always worth treasuring.
Before I go on about our reasons, I just want to throw it out there that I sort of kind of might struggle just a little with a bit of a competitive spirit. I’m not always the best at sympathy, and I only believe in the statement “you do what’s best for your child” to a certain extent (as a Christian, I believe that there are standards that all of us should live up to, including raising our children), I want to say that I’m not here to make anyone feel guilty … too much. I think that as a parent and as a person of faith, it’s my responsibility to think through all of my decisions, looking past what’s convenient as well as what’s expected as “the norm.” Convenience is a crutch in Western culture, as is fitting in. But, that’s just my opinion I suppose, and I’m willing to accept that.
I’m not very good at being apologetic, so if anything I write sounds accusatory … well, you’ll just have to live with it. If our decision to use cloth diapers makes you uncomfortable, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your choices. If you think we’re gross, that’s okay, too. So, instead of taking offense to my forwardness, you’re welcome to take what I have to say with a grain of salt. Just take some time to think about what’s convenient to you one of these days. Is convenient always right …?
Anyway, honestly, I can begin by saying that my husband brought it up first.
(Please note that my husband also vacuums, does laundry, and spends more time in the bathroom than I do getting ready. I love him. He’s amazing.)
Okay, back to why we cloth diaper. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a hippy. I may have some crunchy tendencies—I try to buy organic, I’m not a fan of processed anything if I had my druthers, I recycle, and a few other things—but I’m not hardcore homegrown. My reasons to make these more environmentally-friendly choices don’t stem from political or media influence so much as my faith. I’m not one of those christians (yes, the C is lowercase for a reason) who go about living however they’d like because they’re happy that God will be making a new earth as well as a new Heaven when Christ returns. No, I live a life that honors what God has given me, a life of stewardship not only of myself and my finances but of all the resources He has made available. That includes natural ones.
So, yes, one of the reasons we’ve chosen to cloth diaper is because it saves room in landfills (that diaper you changed just a moment ago may take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill… hundreds!). It keeps human waste out of our waterways (did you know you’re supposed to dump/rinse poop out of disposable diapers before disposing of them? Yep, you are.). It keeps chemicals away from my baby’s skin (I wouldn’t want some of the stuff in diapers on my butt). It may lead to earlier potty training (babies can feel their wetness better when it’s not absorbed by gel).
There’s a big debate on the internet as to whether or not cloth diapers are really “better.” They do need to be washed (cold rinse, hot wash with detergent, cold rinse) and dried (line dried or put in the dryer). They’re made out of fabric that had to be created somewhere (bamboo- and hemp-derived fabrics are very popular for their extra absorbency). They’ve been made with sewing machines that use electricity.
Oh, and they cost more … up front. But only up front.
For baby E’s newborn “stash” (as any collector of cloth diapers knows to call their pile of “fluff”), I spent sooo much less than $500. That was for two dozen prefolds, covers, and a handful of fitteds. The best part about it? Now that Elisha has outgrown his smaller diapers, I can wash them up and pack them away for the next baby. So, that $500 becomes $250. Three kids? Then, it’s an even smaller amount. If I were to buy disposable diapers … well, my costs would be much greater! Check out the price of a large package of diapers next time you go to the store and note how many diapers are in there. If a newborn goes through 18–24 diapers a day (more if you have a particularly frequent pooper). How much is that in disposable diapers a year? Some say $2–3,000. That’s a big difference?
Well, there’s another reason we cloth diaper. Cost. Sure, the really cute diapers may cost more, but they have a lot more life left than just one use.
Lastly, cloth diapers are cute. They’re often covered in adorable prints or awesome colors. Sure, Huggies wants you to think they’re the bomb for those blue “denim” disposables, but diaper makers like Kissaluvs and Goodmama make amazingly absorbent, creatively cute diapers. Other brands like Thirsties make diaper covers that are just as eye-catching. There’s also more neutral but soft diapers like Sustainablebabyish or just ordinary prefolds like those from Green Mountain Diapers (these two are my personal favorites). Yes, you have to cover them up with clothes (unless you stick your babe in a lap t-shirt and a diaper with a cover), but it’s still really fun to know that your little loved one has something squishy on their bum.
Cloth diapering is a choice we made before Elisha was born. We weren’t chicken about cloth diapering a newborn, either. Some people are afraid of the cord stump. Others are afraid of the meconium. Some people just think it’s too expensive to buy diapers for something so tiny and new. To me, newborn diapering was what made me fall in love with cloth to begin with! A fresh baby in a soft, fluffy diaper with some adorable print is the most heart-melting sight ever. Ever.
There are some wonderful options for cloth diapering a newborn—options that can be made more affordable by purchasing used diapers off sites like diaperswappers.com (re-selling diapers after your baby outgrows them if you don’t plan on having more children is also a cost-saving option). For us, newborn-sized prefolds, covers, and a few WAHM fitteds (Muttaquin Baby, Littleboppers, Bumstoppers are a few of our favorites) were all that we needed. Many newborn-sized fitteds have a snap that folds down the front of the diaper so it fits below the cord stump. Prefolds can be folded to adjust for the rise so they fit under the umbilical cord, too. Meconium also rinses right out in the wash, and if you’re still afraid, you can just lay in a fleece liner to protect your diaper.
So, in my opinion, there’s no reason not to use cloth diapers. I not only feel a spiritual obligation to care for my baby and the planet God has graciously given to me, but I feel like ultimately, they’re a better choice than disposables. Sure, they’re not as trim and you do have to love laundry … but … yeah. That’s not enough of an excuse if you ask me.