Friday, October 5, 2007

Diaper waffling: Cloth vs. disposable

For three months now I’ve been diaper waffling. Sometimes I’d reach for the disposable, sometimes I’d reach for the cloth, sometimes I’d just hesitate and say einee-meenee-miney-mo.
When Will was an infant I was all about cloth diapers. I hated the whole process, yes, but I figured I was saving the planet in my own little way and I had to justify my purchase of a couple dozen cloth diapers and some plastic over-pants from, an online cloth diapering store that seems to have since faded into non-existence. I got some super-thick, very absorbable diapers but none of the fancy Velcro stuff. We just did old-fashioned diaper pins, which are actually very quick and simple to use without wounding your kid.

Until your kid starts squirming, and standing up, and generally hating diaper changes -- which is what happened as Will got older. Sometime after he’d graduated into a giant-sized toddler cloth diaper I just threw my hands in the air and went with the disposables full-time. We were also motivated by the fact that a dirty toddler diaper is a foul smelling thing compared to the virtual odorlessness of an exclusively breastfed infant’s poopy diaper. I got to the point where I wanted to wear a gas mask when it was time to throw a pail of water-and-vinegar-soaked dirty diapers in the washing machine.

So I abandoned cloth entirely with Will. And then once Owen was born I started the waffling.
Somewhere between Will’s birth and Owen’s, I’d started hearing the debate about whether cloth diapering was really better for the environment anyway. Here’s a column from the Sustainability Institute, a fact sheet from the Ohio State University Extension service and another column from Green Living weighing the pros and cons of disposable and cloth. My take on it is, if you’re going to do a single wash cycle with the diapers (which is enough if you first spin them to get all the excess water out) and then line dry them, you’re probably better off going with cloth, environmentally speaking. And of course it’s much cheaper – especially if you’ve already purchased the cloth diapers, as we had.

But if a lot of people claim it’s a wash, and it’s a royal pain, why do it, I wondered. Always the wishy-washy momma, I’d put cloth on half the time, disposables the other half in the first two months with Owen. I’d make excuses to go exclusively disposable for a week at a time, when friends or family were coming to visit and I thought I’d rather not deal with the chore. And whenever I went out, I always chose disposables.

But then we had the Publix poop explosion and it sealed the deal.

Now even for short outings, Owen goes in a cloth diaper, which is the only thing that usually manages to contain his mammoth, flooding once-a-day poop explosions, which leak out of our disposable diapers with annoying predictability. He looks like some kind of a tub toy with his rounded-basketball shaped bottom, but now that he’s not pooping a dozen times a day, the clean-up is simple. Once a day, I hunker down over the toilet and rinse out a poopy diaper, but at least I’m not having to scrub Owen’s clothes and mine too like I was with the disposables.
And if it takes a couple extra seconds to fashion the pins and snap on an outer cover, well, Owen and I just get to smile and talk to one another for that much longer. He generally loves a diaper change.

Once he gets squirmy and belligerent and super-stinky on me though, I probably won’t even waffle. It’ll be straight back to disposable land for me.

Where do you come down in the disposable/cloth debate? Anyone else out there insane enough to try cloth too?

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