Friday, February 3, 2012

A practical & personal reflection on cloth diapering ...

There are a lot of blogs out there discussing the "411" of cloth diapering: the pros, the cons, the costs, the savings, the environmental impact (or lack thereof), the options ...

... this is not one of those posts.

This is just a personal review that will hopefully give any non-cloth parent a glimpse into the world of "fluffy love" ... and hopefully bring a knowing smile to the face of those who are firmly fixed in that world.

It wasn't until my second child was 4 months old that I launched headfirst into the world of cloth diapering (my first step into real sustainable living).  I had flirted with the idea before when my firstborn was an infant, but made a bad investment and promptly gave up.  First life lesson: don't trust big retail.  They make their money off disposable diapers and consequently will not carry/sell quality cloth.  Use your search keywords wisely.  Join a cloth-oriented community and get veteran advice.

Armed with new information but still very much a novice, I ordered a large starter package from a small business "CD" retailer.  Second rookie error: purchasing an entire stash based on pictures and description (not to mention the assumption that the economy option was holistically best for us).  Prefolds, one-size covers, and a half-dozen pockets: here I come!  Of course, my baby's shape did not work well with the prefold + wrap method.  I was having enough trouble finding clothes to fit her chubby frame, but the added bulk of her diapers made the effort almost fruitless.  The only diapers that fit well were her pockets ...

... rookie error #2.  I resold her almost new stash at well below their standard resale value (remember what I said about joining a community?  I hadn't yet ...) and stashed up on the only other type/brand of diaper I was familiar with ...
... and to my utter dismay, 10 days after I moved her entirely into her pocket diapers, she developed a sensitivity to synthetic fibers.  And the term "sensitivity" is putting it lightly.  My poor baby girl developed a lobster-red, evenly raised, weepy rash that covered her entire diaper region.  She could not even sleep.  We both cried for hours ...
... and via Facebook I wailed to my only two CD friends about my sweet baby's agony.  One sent me straight to the web's leading cloth diapering community,  And for that, I am forever in her debt.

I spent hours in the Diaper Chatter forums, posting desperately about my epic fail at CD.  Fortunately, some much wiser mamas came to my rescue and redirected me to the wonderful world of natural fibers.  Using Froogle as my guide, I searched the lowest prices on a selection of recommended diapers and found a few options to try. (Sadly, it didn't occur to me at that time to to sample diapers via the DiaperSwappers Marketplace, or I would have saved substantially.)   A month and several hundred dollars later, my daughter finally had a stash of diapers that 1) fit well and 2) was kind to her skin.  With that settled, I was blessed to learn the wonders of the For Sale or Trade forum, where I recovered about 75% of my losses.

Edit: You may be wondering why I didn't simply give up and put my daughter back into disposable diapers after the rash issue.  Well, initially we did.  However, after that sensitivity to synthetics was triggered, the only disposables she could wear without relapsing the rash were Huggies Pure&Natural (though I'm sure 7th Generation would have also worked).  After my husband and I crunched numbers, we realized that even after our losses and another substantial investment in organic cloth diapering products, we'd still come in marginally ahead of diapering her in disposables.  Besides, one of my favorite aspects of cloth diapering is the utter lack of "pooplosions."  I'd rather routinely launder dirty diapers than routinely grapple with blow-outs as I did with my son.

My daughter grew, and still more diapers were purchased and resold.  I honestly don't know if I have saved anything over disposables in my cloth diapering journey with her, but I have gained so much that disposables would never have given me.  I have learned about the wonders of natural fibers (especially wool!) and the hidden dangers of synthetics.  I have learned the art of resale.  I have developed relationships with some incredible women that I otherwise would never have met.  Cloth was my gateway into both thrifty and green lifestyle education and decisions.

And hey, after dropping easily $1000/year in disposables, wipes, rash creams, and increased garbage costs on my son - who, because of the "feel dry" nature of disposables, didn't potty train until the age of 3 1/2 - even if I dropped $2000 dollars on diapers to from birth to toilet on my elder daughter, it's well worth it.

Armed with over a year of life lessons in cloth diapering, I was excited rather than overwhelmed to prepare to CD my third child from birth.  Yes, I showed the true sign of "fluff addiction."  After picking myself up from the shock of discovering I was pregnant, my first thought was "Yay!  An excuse to buy more diapers!"  I know, it sounds crazy.  How does that saying go?  "You'd have to be there"?

Well, if you made it through this disjointed post, stay tuned.  I'll give you an insider's view of one child's stash from birth to potty training.

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