as i became an avid reader of baby blogs, and a frequent board poster on hellobee, i have found myself drawn to the idea of cloth diapering. yeah, you read that right - cloth diapering. call me crazy, call me a hippie, call me whatever you want. it's something that i've been really interested in and done a lot of reading and research on. i devoured every single thing i could find about cloth diapering. i researched the various kinds of cloth diapers available, the care of cloth diapers, the cost of cloth diapers....i poured myself into it.
i talked to matt about it and he thought i was nuts. i forwarded him several of my links and he started to come around, but still thought it would be harder than i thought.
finally, i found a small local store, the nesting house, that sells cloth diapers. i thought it would be good to go and put our hands on the products and talk to someone at the store. and then! i found out that once a month they have a cloth diaper class! for free, you go and spend 2 hours learning all about cloth diapers. they have samples of products to see. i told matt about it and we decided to go check it out.
so on saturday afternoon, we ventured into crunchy little mt. airy, a small neighborhood of philadelphia, and sat down with about a dozen other couples and/or mamas-to-be and got a full tutorial on cloth diapers.
our instructor, jessica (i think?) was really nice, super knowledgeable, and crazy thorough. she broke class down into 3 parts - comparing cloth vs disposable diapers, caring for cloth diapers, and then she went over all the different kinds of cloth diapers.
first, comparing cloth versus disposable. cloth is significantly cheaper than disposable. yes, it's a big cost out-right, but in the long run, it saves you a ton of money. using disposable diapers for one child for 2.5 years - from birth till potty training - will cost you approximately $2000, if you use average-cost diapers. cloth diapers, on the other hand, can range anywhere from $150-$800, depending on the type of diapering system you choose. that is an up-front, one-time cost, but then that's it. if you choose to strictly cloth diaper, with no inserts or anything else, the only on-going costs you have are for the laundry - your water and electricity bills, laundry detergent, etc.
cost aside, cloth diapering has a much smaller environmental impact. it takes approximately the same amount of energy to create a cloth diaper as to create a disposable, but it is cotton versus paper, and the cotton industry is a much cleaner industry than paper (have you ever smelled a paper factory? ugh). waste-wise, there is no comparison. if you took all the disposable diapers you used for one child, it would fill a space the size of the room we were in on saturday - about 20x15x12 feet. the space used by cloth diapers would be about 3x3x3 feet. the only category where disposable diapers wins here is in water consumption, as it takes very little water to create a disposable diaper, whereas with cloth, water is being consumed not only in production but also in cleaning. and then health-wise, cloth diapering wins pretty easily again. disposable diapers are filled with wood pulp, which in and of itself is not terribly absorbent. so they inject this gel made of sodium polyacrylate to help soak up the liquid in the diaper - this is what makes disposables not feel wet against baby's skin. the problem here? sodium polyacrylate has been named one of the top 10 most toxic substances on the planet. truth is, most of the time, it doesn't directly come in contact with baby's skin, so that's why it hasn't been pulled out of diapers like it has with tampons and other products. but if baby really soaks his diaper, it can sometimes push that gel out to the edge and can come out of the diaper. yuck. cloth diapers are made from cotton, hemp, and sometimes microfiber. and though there is not a single stitch of natural fiber to be found in microfiber, i'd still rather have that against baby's butt than toxic gel crystals.
so there was that. the next section of the workshop was caring for cloth diapers. i have to admit, this is the part that had me nervous - i really wasn't sure we'd be able to handle the constant laundry, buying the special detergent, "stripping" the diapers, etc. oh, and of course, the whole "putting poop in your laundry machine" thing. it seemed like it could be overwhelming for 2 full-time working parents. here's what we learned that helped us feel much better about it. number one, you don't need a special "cloth diaper" detergent. there are detergents and soaps that are specifically created for laundering cloth diapers (charlie's rock soap, bumgenius diaper detergent), but it turns out, you can totally get by without using them. jessica said there is a pretty big list of "regular" detergent that is safe, but off the top of her head she knew that tide free and clear is approved for use for cloth diapers. in fact, pretty much any "free and clear" kind of detergent is fine. number two, well...number two. i had read that when breastfeeding, baby's poo is pretty liquidy and therefore the cloth diapers can just be thrown into the wash, just like if he'd just peed in it. but once they start eating solids, it's a whole other ball game. the only thing i'd ever heard of was to get one of these diaper sprayers that attach to your toilet, spray the solid poo into the toilet, then put the diaper in the laundry. sounds groddy. but jessica told us about rice paper inserts, that you just lay inside the diaper. liquids pass through, but solids are held in place, so you just lift out the insert, throw it in the trash, and then throw the diaper in the laundry. easy-peasy. number three, stripping shouldn't be necessary as long as you're careful about what you're using (as far as diaper rash cream, etc). boom. matt and i both felt loads better after this.
this is getting long, so in the next post, i'll tell you about the different kinds of diapers, what we chose, and why we chose it. and then i'll tell you why we're planning to purchase our cloth diapers and cloth diaper supplies ourselves rather than register for them (namely, people are rude).