Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cloth Diapers

This is a blog post that's been in the works for quite awhile.  I've been contemplating what I want to say and how I want to say it and it's all swirling around in my head, but has had no direction.  I hope I can get my thoughts together and be coherent enough to make a decent post.

I've mentioned in more than one post that Josh and I have switched to cloth diapers.  It was a decision made mostly for financial reasons.  I'm so glad we made the switch, and for so many more reasons.

I'll first start this by explaining the cost of cloth vs. disposables.

Disposables were costing us about $10/week to purchase.  Add to that the stress of wondering if we had enough and did we need to buy more and what if I run out mid-week.  Even with coupons, it was at least $6/week, and the weeks we got them that cheap were rare, usually had to buy generic for that.  This cost changes as the baby grows and switches sizes and how often baby poops/pees.  But it's a pretty close average, considering the changes in package sizes and such.  At any rate, just $10/week alone, that's $520/year to use disposable diapers for one baby.  The average toddler is potty-trained around 3-3 1/2; that's nearly $2000 in diapers.  And that's just one baby.  You have a second baby, and the cost doubles.

It cost us about $150 to get started with cloth.  It's a big investment at first, and when we were just getting by every month, it seemed like it was hard to come up with that kind of money.  We started with a pretty cheap system that would conceivably last through potty-training because they are "one-size."  We could have done it cheaper per diaper, but the diaper to do that requires multiple sizes, and that would end up costing us more money in the long run.  

We could have easily spent $500 to get started with diapers, but knew that if we were doing this for financial reasons, we needed to pick the most fiscally responsible option.  We got 24 diapers and 7 covers; I had a couple others from other means, too, so we had a total of 30 diapers and 9 covers.  Perfect number of diapers to get us through about 4 days.  (Conceivably it's enough to last a full week if Audrey has a "normal" pooping week, but that's a lot of diapers to wash at once.)  Calculated at the $10/week cost of disposables, after 15 weeks we'd have used the cloth diapers enough to "break even" with the cost of disposables.

I know someone out there is questioning about the cost of washing/drying the diapers, having to physically wash them, cleaning up poops, detergent, etc.  OK.  I'll address this.  When done properly, I only have 2 extra loads of wash a week.  The cost of water is negligible for 2 loads.   And if you have an HE washer, it's even more negligible.  It probably cost more to shower every day than to run the washing machine for 2 extra cycles a week.  While it doesn't cost much to run the dryer to dry the small load of diapers, I actually take it one step further and dry them out on a clothesline, so the energy there is just what it takes me to take them out.  And I let my daughter play outside while I'm doing this, so she gets her outdoor playtime.  She loves it.

Detergent ... you actually use less detergent for diapers than normal clothes because you want to prevent a detergent build-up on the diapers.  So again, that's a negligible expense.  I bought a small thing of All Free & Clear in April and it lasted me until mid-August.

Taking the time to wash ... I wash my diapers on Mondays and Fridays.  These are the same days I wash my other clothes.  I just add one load to my laundry day duty.  Takes me about 3 extra minutes to take the diapers out to the garage and start the extra load.

Stigma of cloth diapers ... there's a stigma surrounding cloth diapers that they are old fashioned and they leak and such.  Why would you want to use cloth diapers when our technology allows for cool disposable diapers?  I'll start this discussion by saying that cloth diapers have come a LONG way in the last 30 years.  When I was in diapers it was all about pre-fold diapers, pins, and plastic pants.  My mom even has plastic pants that match dresses, but it's the same ol' plastic pants.  While these still exist (and we own some), they don't have to be that way.  Technology not only allows for disposable diapers that absorb urine and hold in poo, but it also allows for really cute cloth diapers that are just as easy to use as disposables.  Did I say cute??  Yes ... I said cute.  Many diapers these days are made of outer waterproof material that with cute prints and colors.  So many moms (and dads) coordinate the outfits with the diapers.  Fun vibrant colors, stripes, polka-dots, flowers, monsters, oogas, characters, animals, etc.  Even diapers without a waterproof outer (and therefore require a cover) have cute prints.

Furthermore, the technology responsible for disposable diapers is a bunch of chemicals that cause the liquid to bead up in little beads that sit up against your baby's bottom.  Some have even been known to cause chemical burns.  Just because the technology is there, doesn’t mean it needs to be used.

I started using cloth diapers for financial reasons; obviously there are other benefits to using cloth diapers.

Already addressed the cuteness factor.  Touched on the safer and better for baby.  Let's go a little bit more into the disposable factor.  Most people are aware of this, but I'm going to mention it anyway.  Disposable diapers are plastic and chemicals and take years, as in hundreds of, to break down.  All this breaking down is with human waste in them.   Yuck.

OK.  So you aren't a "green" person.  You aren't that aware of your carbon footprint.  But did you know that most states require you to dispose of the waste from the diaper prior to throwing it away?

Which leads me to my next point.

The "icky" factor of using cloth.  Dealing with the mess.  Do I have to wash the poopy diaper in the washing machine?  Won’t that gunk up my machine?  Won’t I have poop all my loads after this?  Funny you should ask this.  No.  you don’t.  When you run your dishwasher, do you have food remaining in it to wash with the next load of dishes?  When you wash a pair of muddy pants from your son playing in the dirt, does the mud stay in the machine to wash with the next load?   No.  It drains with the dirty water.  So does the dirty diaper water.  100% breastfed poop is water soluble and therefore the diapers don’t even need to be rinsed.

Once the baby starts on solids, then you do have one more step before doing laundry.  You must get the majority of the solids off the diaper before washing.   Back in the day of plastic pants and diaper pins, our mothers/grandmothers would give the diaper a swirlie in the toilet to get the poop off of the diaper.  While this method is still very effective and works great, someone out there smarter than me invented a diaper sprayer.  Basically it’s a kitchen sink spray hose attached to the toilet tank intake.  You spray clean water on the diaper and get all the solid waste off.  Again, back in the days of plastic pants and diaper pins, our mothers and grandmothers stored the diapers in a wet pail.  For reasons of pure grossness, someone realized this wasn’t necessary anymore.  You can store your diapers in any sort of pail, open or closed, lined or unlined, and wait until laundry day.  I use a large trashcan with a popup lid and line it with a waterproof reusable bag (that I made from a shower curtain liner).  The ONLY rub is that the diapers shouldn’t sit too long or else the stains will set in the diaper.  But we’re talking about a piece of material used to catch poop ... I think it’s OK if there are a couple stains.  Just as long as the outside is still clean and pretty to coordinate with the outfits.

I think I’ve rambled on long enough about why I chose cloth diapers, and I hope I dispelled some myths that you may have heard and/or believed.  In a future post I will discuss the different types of cloth diapers.

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