19 August, 2010

thoughtful thursday: cloth diapers!

When Asher was still turning cartwheels in my belly Milt and I decided to go the cloth diaper route. We had several reasons for it, but it started when I was about 10 and our dear friend Miz Mac made a comment about how wild it was to realize that her son's poop was being preserved in the landfill. My own mother expressed regret about the amount of diapers she sent along to the dump through her three girl's babyhoods. We also were in Santa Cruz at this time, which led to a lot more awareness of diapering options, and the fact that I am a 'crazy hippie' and wanted to lessen our impact as much as possible. We went with a diaper service until he was about 9 months old, as it was convenient to have the clean diapers dropped off and the dirty ones whisked away, however, the cost was a bit more than we could continue paying and the smell of a week's worth of dirty diapers was a little overwhelming any time we opened the storage closet. Yes, we probably should have had a proper diaper pail, oh well.

I did some online research and decided that bamboo diapers were the way for us! The initial cost for 17 diapers would be recouped within 5 months of not paying for the diaper service, so we ordered them up and said ciao to the diaper people (who were super nice, btw). This worked out well for us, as we had purchased covers from the diaper service to go over the
ir diapers and they fit fine over our soft! adjustable! bamboo! diapers. Plus our apartment complex had heavy-duty washing machines in the laundry rooms, so those diapers got nice and clean!

Then we found out Adin was coming along and, with Asher still in diapers, figured that we needed more diapers. This time we went with a microfiber insert style, as Asher's 'products' were getting sticky and they liked to cling to the bamboo material. yuck. I ordered a bunch off of eBay, and while we like them a lot if I could do it again I would have ponied up the cash to get the real versions with organic materials, blah di blah, I'll have to blame pregnancy daze and a small bank account for that transgression into the world of Chinese knock-offs.

back row, l-r: bamboozle, knock off dipes
front row, l-r: cloth wipes, microfiber insert

Anyhow! The diapers were working out great until: we moved. The diapers started to smell. All the time. When they were drying the exhaust was tinged with ammonia. yuck. My sister commented about how my kids had the strongest-smelling urine EVER, and I should get their kidneys checked. Now, I'm not one to ignore possible illness, but I just didn't get the vibe that it was my boys that were the problem. No, those diapers were staying stinky, and I needed to know why! Also, those soft, soft bamboo diapers were getting crunchy. and stained. Boo! I thought, I guess they only last a year or so! what a waste of money!

Then, during our trip to PR (during which we put the boys in biodegradeable, compostable, relatively non-planet-killing disposables) I looked up the bamboozle website and, voila! The explanation! Turns out our new, high-efficiency washer simply doesn't use enough water to get the diapers clean. ew. Also, many 'brightening' detergents work by depositing a film of light-reflecting chemicals on the fabric, so the fabric looks clean but, in reality, IS NOT. So, every time the diapers got wet the smell of all the old urine was being mixed with the new, resulting in very stinky boys. I was furious! Thankfully, we were on vacation, so it was pretty easy to calm the heck down :)

So we came home and made a few changes. I now clean the diapers with baking soda and a vinegar rinse, and we put them through two cycles. This does not help with water consumption, but until we can get a washer that will actually clean these guys in one wash that's just what we have to do. I also threw all the diapers in the bathtubwith oxyclean, baking soda, and HOT water and soaked them for an hour. I had to do this4 times before the water was not murky and disgusting. How awful, that I was essentially putting my boys back into dirty diapers.

So, what's the takeaway on this?

1. Some people say that having to wash the diapers repeatedly is bad for the environment. They use the same excuse for not using cloth napkins. Fact is, manufacturing paper uses a lot of water too, so even if the water used were equivalent (it isn't, manufacturing paper uses more) with cloth products you aren't filling up a dump, and buying more. planet and wallet both win!

2. My boys have never had a diaper rash from their diapers, (even when they were not getting completely clean) which cannot be said for disposables. The chemicals used to keep those baby bottoms dry in disposables often is very irritating to their skin, or worse, and are toxic, both once they are released into the environment after being thrown away and in those cases when the diaper gets ripped open. (Those little round gel beads? Not good.)

3. We have only ever had one blowout with cloth diapers, and that was due to user error (ours, not the baby's), while with disposable we got blowouts all the time. Now, all babies are shaped differently, so some diapers will 'leak' with some babies, while others won't. Fit is key!

4. Cost, cost, cost. Cloth costs more up front, but by the time your kid is potty-trained the savings over disposables can be enormous. I think we've spent about $600 total on cloth diapers, plus diaper service, so I'll give a high estimate of around $1000. After 3 years of diapers, with two in diapers for two of those years, which would have been in the neighborhood of 10,000 diapers (that's a low estimate; my boys like to use those diapers!) the cost if we were using disposables would have been in the neighborhood of about $2500, and that's if you get diapers on sale, like .25 cents apiece on sale. Plus, to get them cheap you need to buy in bulk, so if your baby has a growth spurt (which they seem really good at doing) you are left with a bunch of 'too small' diapers all of a sudden. (Please donate these! Organizations like emergency shelters, women's shelters, foster homes, and help a mother out help those who cannot afford diapers keep their babies' bottoms diaper-clad.)

5. Waste: with cloth, you are not filling up your local (or not so local) dump. Think about it! One kid = ~5000 diapers thrown away. That's huge! Instead, you can have 20 cute, soft, cloth diapers sitting in a drawer, waiting to be used.

6. (slight) convenience: if you forget to buy more diapers for your kid, and you go to change that bottom in the middle of the night only to reach into an empty bag. CRISIS! Off to the (hopefully open) store you go to buy (hopefully on sale) diapers! If you forget to wash the diapers, well, you've got about a 2-hour wait. We've made due with a hand towel and a diaper cover in those situations. (It took us a whole to remember things like "bring a diaper bag on outings!" yeah. ) Yes, it is easier to just be able to chuck the whole mess in the trash and be done with it, but chucking it into a bag/bucket/whatever and then washing a load at a time isn't that much harder than taking that trash bag out to the curb. Believe me, if we can do this, in an apartment with a laundry room that gets locked at night, then just about anyone can. (If you are reading this post, there is a 99% probability that you can, just based on having internet access, so relative affluence...etc. yanno. )

Ok, well I am suffering through one awful cold so back to bed I go. Going to megadose Vitamin C and hopefully I'll be up-an-at-em in the morning!


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