I was super excited about using cloth diapers on Conan. I had a great time reading cloth diapering forums on the internet, doing research on different styles and materials and laundry strategies. I bought some to try out the professional offerings in a few different styles. I busted out and sewed up dozens of adorable pocket diapers, using all my new-found knowledge and all the best features. I made diapers from space-age fabric (soft! waterproof!) using only polyester thread (won’t wick!) with gussets (won’t leak!) and fold-over elastic (won’t chafe!) and special diaper velcro (won’t scratch!) I ordered online. I even made teensy weensy newborn sized ones with a curved dip in the front so they wouldn’t rub on the umbilical while it healed.
I was into it. We were going to save money, save the environment, and have the comfiest, happiest baby around. We had a waterproof bag for wet diapers in the diaper bag, and lots of cloth baby wipes. We had a diaper pail with a lid and a removable bucket, and extra gentle baby laundry soap, and Biokleen Bac-Out for odor removal soaking.
And at first, it worked… Conan wore his teensy weensy newborn scoop diapers for a couple of weeks, and then grew out of them and into the next size up. So far so good. Both of us were home for the first couple of months, and my Mom came and stayed for a few weeks, so keeping up with the laundry was a snap.
Then at about 6 weeks we started going out more, and that’s when the seduction of the disposable diapers really started. It was just SO much easier to have Conan in a disposable diaper when we were out and about. Hauling home a stinky bag of wet and/or poopy diapers sucked, no matter how nice a waterproof bag you have. But more than that, it’s the frequency of the diaper changes that really did us in. With cloth diapers, even super-duper high-tech modern cloth diapers, you just can’t go more than an hour or two without a change. Disposables, with their absorbent polymer gel, just really win on that count.
It may not sound like much, but the difference between taking your tiny baby grocery shopping and having to change him in the bathroom or the backseat vs. not having to change him again until you get home is HUGE. Pretty soon it was just the norm to put on a disposable before going out, period.
But we were still using the cloth diapers all the rest of the time, so that wasn’t so bad, right?
Well, then we reached that baby intestinal milestone where they no longer poop EVERY SINGLE TIME they eat. WooO! And with that, it suddenly made a lot more sense to put him in a disposable diaper for bedtime. He’d still wake up every 3-4 hours, but that was just to eat. The last thing we wanted was any extra waking up due to feeling wet! With disposables, on average, we only needed one diaper change per night, which meant the other two or three wake-ups were just simple feedings, and we could do that in a sleepy stupor. No light, no fuss, just feed and back to bed. Ahhh.
Then came the 1-2 punch of going back to work. Not only did that mean a LOT less time for keeping up with the laundry, it was really just too much to ask our babysitting friends and relatives to use the cloth diapers.
We still use about 1 cloth diaper per day, in the evening, for that hour and a half or so between dinner and bathtime. I massage my eco-guilt about using disposables by buying the Seventh Generation Chlorine Free diapers. We use cloth wipes all the time, so that’s another small reduction on our environmental impact. It’s kind of the “change one lightbulb for the planet” approach. If everyone used one less disposable per day, that’d be a lot less diapers in the landfill!
I should mention that the cloth diapers themselves performed perfectly. We never had any trouble with odor or rashes or inordinate leakage (a certain number of leaks are inevitable, even with disposable diapers). No, cloth diapering didn’t work out as well as I had hoped due to the realities of our lifestyle and the limitations of time and energy.
But you know what? It’s OK. We did our best, we gave it a good shot. If we’d been able to get a diaper service, or been able to stay at home to parent, I think we would have stuck with it. I would encourage anyone considering it to give cloth diapering a try. I’ve passed on my diapers now down through a number of different friends to use on their babies, so that counts for something too. Right?