At 11:15 a.m. today, I put my first-ever cloth diaper on my baby boy. It’s a bit of an experiment in our household, one I’ve been putting off for fear of the unknown, and a healthy dislike of handling poop.
I never used cloth diapers with 3-year-old Eve, and claim complete ignorance as the reason. I had no idea the advances that had taken place with that particular garment, until my friend Tammy Swift did a story on their resurgence. Eve was 7-months-old, and Tammy asked me if I had any cloth diapers she could borrow for a photo. I said yes, referring to the 12-pack of white cloths I now use as rags. I think she was confused when I said I didn’t have any safety pins for them.
Once I found out how super cool cloth diapers are now (Snaps! Velcro! Inserts!), I still hesitated for three reasons. First, I’m not totally convinced, considering how much extra laundry they produce (and extra water used), that the end result is better for the environment. Before you lambaste me, please read this article in which Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the group doesn’t recommend cloth over disposable (or disposable over cloth).
The second reason is the dollars. Many parents cite cost savings as a reason to use cloth diapers, but I’m not sure the savings always add up, especially because I use generic-brand diapers. Here’s the math to back up that statement: My boss once told me he wrote a check for $500 to a local baby store for cloth diapers and supplies. Those would fit his daughter for her first year. My family goes through roughly one jumbo pack of disposable diapers a week. The Target brand costs $6.29/pack (though I usually buy the box and pay less per diaper than that). $6.29 x 52 = $327.08 plus tax, less than my boss spent and that doesn’t even include extra laundry costs.
There are exceptions to my money math. If you use the diapers for more than one kid, yes, it will save you money. Or, if you can sell them to recoup your costs. My friend Jacy ordered her cloth diapers online, and then after a year’s use, sold them on Craigslist for the exact amount she paid. Or, if you’re able to get the diapers super cheap. When a friend (another Jaci) was selling a generic brand of cloth diapers through a co-op for less than $5 for the cover and insert, I thought it was worth a try and ordered four. (If I use each one at least 30 times, I’ll make my money back.)
I wanted to wait until we were past those first couple of months, when Owen and I were still getting to know each other, before venturing into cloth. Then a couple more months passed by. I knew I needed to wash the diapers repeatedly in a special soap before the first wearing to increase their absorbency, a step that I unnecessarily complicated. And I needed to get a wet bag to store the soiled diapers, which I delayed.
See, there’s that third reason: My weak stomach. The whole changing/storing/washing of the dirty diapers grosses me out a little. A lot, actually.
Which is why I was thrilled at about 1:30 p.m. today, when I changed that first cloth diaper. It was way less gross than I thought it would be. The diaper and insert (and extra mini-insert Jacy gave to me to pad the front of the diaper) absorbed all the moisture really well. I probably could have left the diaper on him longer. (I will say, it was hard to tell how wet the cloth diaper was. With disposables, I can tell by how “poofy” they get in the front. These were poofy from all the padding as soon as I put them on him.)
So let the adventures begin. Owen’s napping now, and I anticipate change No. 2 will contain, well, No. 2. That will test my stomach, and perhaps my will to continue on with cloth.