Friday, April 3, 2009

Cloth is the Better Fit for our Family

"Why don't you just put him in a disposable for now?"

I get asked that question just about as often as I was asked "Why don't you just give him a little bottle of formula?" when I was exclusively breastfeeding. 

I really would like to answer back "For the same reason that you don't temporarily wear paper panties!" Maybe I will someday, but for now I usually just smile and say that I like the cloth better. My answer is usually met with that face people make. The "Are you crazy?" face. The "Are you stuck in the dark ages and can't get with the times AND crazy???" face. I have heard a lot of arguments in favor of  the disposable diaper, but none of them seem to stand up to scientific facts and the time honored traditions of cloth diapering momma know-how.

One argument is that cloth really isn't better for the environment. That in fact, they are worse for the environment than disposables. The reasoning behind this is taking into consideration all of the electricity and water each household uses to wash their cloth diapers. Most proponents of this argument claim that because there is no washing involved in disposables, that there also is no electricity, water, and waste water involved. Unfortunately, they have not taken into consideration what happens to the environment before that diaper ever hits their baby's bum. All of the energy, electricity, and water that is used at the factories to make those diapers is forgotten. All of the waste that is pumped out of those factories falls by the wayside, and the countryside, and the riverside. And then, there is the packaging and shipping of the diapers as well. When you consider that this process is done over and over and over, the waste per disposable diapered child becomes exponentially larger than the "waste" created by those parents washing their child's cloth diapers. 

Another argument that I hear a lot, is that disposable diapers are more absorbent. Yes, this may be true (although with the number of leaks I've seen with infants in disposables seems to be much greater than the number of leaks that I've encountered with Jonah's cloth) But why would that be? Why would a paper product be more absorbent than a cloth product? Which is more absorbent: the paper towel, or the terry cloth dish towel? (hint: it's the dish towel) So  why are disposable diapers more absorbent than cloth diapers? Because the disposable diapers have chemicals in them to make them more absorbent. Cloth diapers have materials such as cotton or hemp to give them absorbency. Disposable diapers have chemicals such as dioxin (related to liver disease and immune system suppression) and polyacrelates (causes al
lergic reactions, severe skin irritations, scrotal and perineal tissue bleeding, toxic shock syndrome, staph infections, and many many more averse symptoms.) Dioxin is a by-product of the bleaching process, and can be avoided if you buy unbleached, chlorine free diapers such as seventh generation or earth's best brands. Polyacrelates are the jelly-like beads that you can see seeping from the diaper when it has been saturated. You can often see these sticking to the baby's bottom during a diaper change. This chemical is what makes the diaper absorbent, with the ability to hold two hundred times its weight in water. Yes, that is a lot of water, but let me repeat "scrotal and perineal tissue bleeding." And you want me to put that chemical where?

We chose to use cloth diapers not only because they are healthier for our children, and environmentally friendly, but also because they fit our lifestyle. I have always been actively seeking to reduce the amount of waste that I throw in the trash. Reusable is always better, in my book. One person pointed out to me that we may be saving money, but what about the valuable time that I am wasting, taking more time to change each diaper (and more frequently, without all of that scrotal bleeding chemicals to back me up in the leaks department.) The truth is, I don't view that time as wasted. That is quality time that I am spending with my child. If I wanted to, I could fold, pin, and cover a cloth diaper faster than any parent using a disposable diaper could change. But I choose to savor this moment. I get face to face time with my son. The changing table is the perfect height for tickling games, song singing, and pat-a-caking. I talk to him about our day, what we did or will be doing, I marvel at his smile. I cherish the moments we have at the changing table. Yes, we saved a ton of money (Jonah's diapers paid for themselves before he turned three months old) but we didn't sacrifice our time to do so. In fact, I think we enhanced our time.

Also, because we use elimination communication, cloth diapers have been completely facilitating. While I'm learning Jonah's cues, he can play and have fun in a coverless diaper. I can see the exact moment that he is eliminating, and he can play freely without me hovering over him waiting to sop up any mess from a missed communication. I often will leave him with an un-pinned diaper as well, so that when I do see a communication I can quickly get him into "position" over the potty. When he wants to be free and naked as a jay bird, I can lay the diapers on the floor around him, so that there will be an absorbent barrier between his naked little bum and my mother-in-law's expensive carpet.  I honestly don't think that elimination communication would be possible with disposable diapers.

Finally, (and this is my reason more than it is my husband's) they are just plain cute. They are different and unique. There is a style of cloth diaper to match every baby's personality. On Etsy and Heyena Cart, there are tons of work at home mommies that make cloth diapers specifically for your child. You can often buy your own fabric and send it to these talented women. You can coordinate outfits to diapers, or diapers to seasons. A cloth bottom is definitely cuter to look at than a paper bottom!


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  2. So true Jess! My BIL's father works for a company that develops polymers for disposable diapers. He creates polymers that are ultra-absorbant so babies don't have to be changed as often. He asked me how many diapers I use per day and I was like "I don't know, we use cloth" and he thought I was joking with him! Not everyone wants a diaper that can go for hours and hours without being changed!

  3. The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use at the same time as you benefit from using it on the diapers, by using it on yourself. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Available at they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.

  4. Thank you, Jeff. If every household used one roll less each week, or even switched one roll (just ONE) to 100% recycled TP, millions of trees would be saved. Even though there are tree farms for paper products, the land for those farms has to come from somewhere (usually stolen habitat) and the trees are being used a lot faster than they can be grown to make our paper products.

    If you want a TRIPLE whammy, use a composting toilet as well!