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Friday, October 7, 2005

Discovering Cloth Diapers

Discovering Cloth Diapers


When I noticed the cartoon print across the front of the disposable diaper, I seriously consider switching to cloth; the picture was of a baby lamb drinking out of a bottle. Every third or fourth diaper that I pulled out had the print. I didn't remember this with diapering my first two boys. But now I wasn't interested in dressing my third breastfed baby with an icon normalizing bottle feeds. I wonder if the formula companies had anything to do with getting this design on the diaper; just one more subliminal message to brand-new moms that bottles are 'cute' and 'acceptable.' 

While my first two boys were in disposable diapers I was not aware of anyone who used cloth. I had no role model. I thought they were old-fashioned. About the only thing I had heard about cloth was that they were a burden to tote around. They are bigger, thus bulkier to tote, because they don't contain the expandable and absorptive chemical-laden beads like disposable brands.* Then you still have to store and carry the dirty ones home. I was told that disposable diapers were one of the greatest inventions for advancing motherhood. Now that I think back, perhaps a washer and dryer to expedite cleaning the soiled cloth garments would have helped more. For me washing a load of diapers turned out to be easier than carrying them to the trash can. And, it was not that much harder to take a plastic grocery bag with me when I went out to bring the dirty diapers back home in. Our garbage collection only came once a week, so it also meant that the diaper odor would accumulate! 

By the time my third son was born, I actually knew two Super-moms who had used cloth diapers. I felt inspired. They used diaper pins. However, the first cloth diapers I purchased were 'all-in-ones.' The waterproof liner is a part of the outer diaper and they have Velcro tabs similar to the ease of disposable. No pins were needed. They are shaped to fit. I hesitently ordered six off the Internet, without ever having seen them in person. When they arrived I was surprised and intimidated at how big they looked compared to the disposables. (Being bulkier also means many 'today's' baby clothes won't fit right. Today's clothing for newborns are designed to be worn over trim-fitting paper diapers. This doesn't help to set one up for cloth diapering success.) I was very impressed with the soft flannel lining that would be against my baby's skin. I put one on him. The dipes looked comfortable. We went through the six diapers really fast. (It made me realize how much waste is put into the environment!) I was hooked on the softness. I washed them all right away. The next round I did the wash after using five so I would not have to put the paper diaper on him. Then I ordered twenty more. I couldn't wait to get them because I was doing way too many loads of laundry keeping six clean. The initial investment seemed huge. Economically the investment was sensible. 

Another mother heard I was using cloth and gave me her surplus hand-me-downs. She didn't know anyone else who would use them. (Looking back it is sad in a way, that not to many give cloth diapers a chance.) I received a wide variety of diapers from this mom. Experimenting with the variety she gave me, helped me to appreciate the cotton diapers in person. The variety of diapers found on the internet was overwhelming --And I did eventually need about four dozen in order to exclusively and comfortably cloth diaper. 

No more running to the store for disposable diapers. What a great feeling to pass up the diaper isle in the store and leave those big boxes on the shelf! I was also using cloth wipes and warm water to clean my baby's bottom. No chemical-laden wipes for my baby. 

She gave me Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) pre-folded (the white rectangles) and covers that fasten closed with Velcro. I was set for a long time. When I did need bigger covers, I could still use the rectangles; they are flexible to a baby's growth. DSQ diapers are economical. You can start with rectangles and covers from birth and just replace only the covers as your baby needs a larger size. When my older boys were babies, I had purchased what I thought was the white rectangle diapers from a baby department store. I did not appreciate the difference in quality, until I was handling the DSQ diapers. The chain store diapers look good at the time, but are only stuffed with non-absorbent polyester filling. They are probably designed for leakage and failure... that way you can go back and buy their disposables for a few years and they continue to profit. (This is analogous to producers of baby food and formula 'specializing' in making breast pumps. These pumps often don't work well or don't have good directions and sets moms up for breastfeeding failure... and you can then go buy more of their other products - baby formula and food—and they profit.) DSQ diapers have layers of cotton to absorb the moisture. I cut them open myself to verify. 

Many toddlers can't last in a regular cotton rectangle all night. There are several ways to handle this. With the wide spread use of disposables, the art of cloth diapering has been lost in consumerism. 

A concerned relative was concerned about rash caused by wetness. She actually thought paper diapers were healthier because they 'pull wetness away.' Perhaps they pull too much moisture away. With proper use and washing, cloth is healthier by being less irritating and chemical-free. Daytime cloth diapers should be checked every hour and changed at least every two hours or immediately if soiling occurs. If you are used to disposables you probably don't change and throw a diaper out that fast. You do your errands with the comfort that a diaper will last until you're done and won't be bothered with diaper changes while you're out. With cloth you do have to estimate how many hours you will be out and prepare to have enough diapers. Cloth doesn't hide the wetness. Once you realize how much urine your baby produces, it is gross, IMO, to think about the urine being held in a disposable diaper for hours so close to your baby's skin. A surprise benefit from changing the diapers more often was that it attuned me more to my baby's needs and elimination patterns. 

It took a few weeks to get into a changing and laundering routine. I've had some challenges in staying all natural. For example, I traveled out-of-town with my baby. But I had the fore thought to plan when I would be near a washing machine. So we made it ten days traveling in cloth - no disposables. Another time, I was on crutches for two weeks. It turned out to be much easier to wash the diapers than go downstairs and down our sloped driveway to take bags of garbage out. People warned me when you start work or when he starts eating solids you will tire of the cloth. I have started working outside the home and he has started eating solids. And I am not tired of the cloth. In fact my baby gets to model off his dipes at work so he can show other moms that this is do-able. We went from conservative all-white to experimenting with the print patterned diapers. My toddler loves the prints. Diapering is fun. I can't resist patting my sons little but with each diaper change. 

I now have people calling me Super-mom because of cloth diapers. I have piece of mind that I am doing something else good for my baby and the environment. What a good feeling! All because of cloth! I don't want my baby days to end! 

*A friend living in Atlanta was whining that her boyfriend lived and worked out in the country and could not move close to her. He worked at the factory that made the stuffing for disposable diapers and that the factory couldn't be in Atlanta because if it blew up, it would destroy Atlanta. Interesting, that is the stuff we put on our babies bottoms for 2-4 years. 

Original October 2004, Revised December 2005 




I encourage new parents to stay away from convenient chemical laden wipes. The breastfed baby tends to soil nearly every feed from the first week or so of life through 6-8 weeks of age. Think about it: feces, cloth diaper, chemicals in the wipes. That is a lot of repetitive irritation on a newborns bottom adding up to a lot of diaper rash. Naturally the question follows, "What do you use, if you don't use a wipe?" 

My strongest recommendation: warm wet cotton baby-size wash towels and a daily bath. Warm water on cloth is so much more soothing. You may find that your baby doesn't cry getting a diaper change. Adult size wash cloths tend to be too thick to get into small crevices. Baby wash cloths easily launder. They can be washed with cloth diapers. You can keep a few wash cloths in a sealed bag with a little water to have when away from home. I also observed in cases of messy blow-outs which might need a half a bag of wipes, that cotton cloth is much more efficient and absorbing. This means less irritation to baby, quicker clean-ups, and less garbage. 

For those who must have a wipe for traveling or emergencies, Lansinoh and Mustela have a gentler wipe. The wipes can be used alone or for the final touch. Mustela also has a rinse-free cleanser for diaper change. 

Contrast disposable diapers and chemical laden wipes to the softness of cotton diapers and wash clothes and a soft pat on babies butt. Diaper changing can be a time of continued bonding for you and baby. Your baby won't assosiate diaper changing with harsh skin irritation. Cloth diapers and wash cloths increase our awareness for babies needs. Some parents state they don't have time to change a wet cloth diaper every hour or two. But once you see how much urine is in a cloth diaper, realize, it is the same amount going into a dispoble diaper--just covered up by absorbtive beads. Do you really want your baby carrying around that much urine for three or more hours? 

One last note on cloth diapers: Bummis covers make excellent swim diapers! Consider buying a size smaller. 

If switching cold turkey to cloth is overwhelming--just go slowly. Try the diapers or the wipes first. Just get a few and see how it goes...It's worth the "investment." 

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