Cloth Diapering: NOT a Big Deal

baby cloth diaper

While reading a(nother) parenting book recently, I came across a line that I couldn’t decide whether it made me angry or made me want to laugh.

The author said something along the lines of, “Cloth diapers are such an enormous added burden that I recommend using disposables until the child’s first birthday.”

You guys. That is just so laughably untrue.

I can personally attest that cloth diapering is not a huge deal. Seriously!

Before I had Lydia, I had already long established I would use cloth diapers. Disposables were out of the question. I just couldn’t justify the expense and the atrocious damage to the environment, especially now that there are so many easy cloth diapering options.

My family was supportive, but I could tell my Mom wasn’t so sure at first. She didn’t want me to overburden myself with work.

Her memory of cloth diapering is very different from mine, of course: she remembers the big sheets of flannel that had to be meticulously folded every day, the diaper pins and the plastic pants. I remember her having to slosh those sheets of stinky, poopy flannel around in the toilet before tossing them with a wet thump in the diaper pail. Ugh.

Remembering this, probably, she’d subtly hint every once in a while that maybe I should give disposables a chance.

You guys, I repeat: cloth diapering today is not the way it was for your mom.

But a lot of people still assume it’s too much work. A friend of mine recently laughed and said, “I’m too lazy for cloth diapers.” But the good news is: I’m pretty lazy, too! And it’s still not a big deal.

I thought I’d walk you through my cloth diapering cycle, to help you see how simple it really is.

Actually, I’ll cover that in my next post; first, I wanted to briefly explain why I find that cloth diapering is really not that big a deal.

 The Hardest Part: Choosing!

Just a few of the options: Prefold-and-Cover; All-in-One; Fitted

By far, the hardest part of cloth diapering today is deciding what system to choose. The dizzying plethora of options can be downright debilitating.

Just surveying all the various choices was almost enough to make me want to give up before I even started. Do you want to go with fitteds, pockets, prefolds, or all-in-ones? Sized or one-size? Snap or Velcro? New or used . . . or even homemade? Do you buy from a brick-and-mortar store, or online? Some people have diaper services available to consider, too.

Once you’ve decided those things, you have to choose the material – cotton, organic cotton, or hemp? What about prints? What brands are the best? Do you want to add disposable liners or inserts to make cleanup easier?

Goodness! It is OVERWHELMING.

But please, don’t let that stop you. If you want, just start with a small batch to get you started, until you’ve figured out what you like best.

I have a couple of initial tips, when it comes to choosing diapering systems:

  • Don’t go with cheap-o department store brands (available at places like Wal-Mart, Sears, or Babies-R-Us). They’ll leak, they won’t last, and they’re poorly designed. Just don’t. Trust me.
  • Cloth diaperers invariably LOVE talking about cloth diapers. So if you know someone who uses them — even if you barely know them — talk to them about it. Ask for their advice. They’ll love it. You might not be able to get them to shut up.
  • If you’re doing E.C., you probably want the least absorbent diaper, so you can feel the wetness and change your baby’s diaper right away. I know this goes against common wisdom. (Prefolds are good for this, BTW.)

Why Cloth Diapering is Not a Big Deal

Okay, a lot of people don’t know this, so I want to spread the word: for the first six months, while your baby eats nothing but breast milk, cloth diapering is a cinch. Here’s why:

The urine of breast-fed babies is odourless. The poop has a bit of a smell, but it’s not offensive. And the best part? The poop of breast-fed babies is completely water soluble, meaning you can just toss the dirty diaper into the diaper pail as is. This takes no more effort than a disposable diaper. Later, you dump the whole pail into the washing machine without any special treatment. Done and done.

(The runny, yellow poop of breast-fed babies does tend to stain quite a bit; but just because a diaper is stained, doesn’t mean it’s not clean. No one’s going to see the inside of your baby’s diaper. Don’t worry about it. You can bleach them in the sun when your baby has outgrown them, and periodically in between, if you want.)

After you introduce solids (at around 6 months), the poop needs to be removed before washingStill no big deal (mostly). Sure, it’s stinky now. But it can usually just be plopped into the toilet and flushed. (Technically, you’re supposed to do this with disposables, too. It’s pretty sad to wrap up that totally biodegradable waste in non-biodegradable wrapping, to go sit in a landfill for a few millennia). If you need a little extra oomph to get it off, you can easily install a diaper sprayer onto the side of your toilet (more on this in my next post). But you don’t even need that for the first 6 months or so.

Diaper sprayer. Holiday toilet. Boo-ya.

And if you practice part-time elimination communication, as we do, you will have to deal with very few poopy diapers. Except during her newborn stage, I have probably had to deal with, on average, one to four poopy diapers a month.

I also want to highlight the fact that blowouts are a lot less common with cloth diapers. Anyone I’ve talked to who uses cloth diapers can attest to that. You know how everyone has a story about how their baby blew poop all the way up to their necks? Yeah. That has never happened to me. The TWO times Lydia got poop on her clothes, I was using a disposable diaper.

And finally: diapering is diapering. One is not grosser than the other. Either way, you’re dealing with poop. But I must add that I find cloth diapering decidedly less smelly than disposables. They get washed every other day (instead of sitting in a garbage can for a week), and there are no plastics or chemicals or weird scents involved (IMO, disposable wipes = the ultimate stink).

Want to know our family’s super-simple diapering system? Stay tuned!

This post ended up being uber-long, so I decided to give you the details of my diapering system in a separate post (coming tomorrow).

Also, in case you weren’t already convinced that cloth diapers are a better choice in terms of cost, environmental impact, and your baby’s health, check out this post: Why Cloth?

I also really appreciated this FAQ page from our local cloth diaper store, Sweetheart Diapers.

Any thoughts or questions? Are you a cloth-diapering queen, and want to add your own suggestions for choosing a diapering system?

(Note: this post was included in Your Green Resource at SortaCrunchy.)

Girl Gone Green: An Environmentally-Friendly Solution to Your Period. a.k.a. A Review of the DivaCup

menstural cup(Note: yeah, I’m talking about menstruation. Male readers be warned. I’ll get back to yesterday’s topic of morality in babies later.)

I’ve been eco-conscious for as long as I can remember. Too many episodes of Captain Planet growing up, I think. (Remember that show? “Your powers combined . . .” ).

In my adulthood, I’ve felt increasingly convicted that Creation Care is an important part of Kingdom Living.

For years, I felt uncomfortable with how That Time of the Month necessarily meant a bathroom trash can overflowing with waste. Every month, for a week, we had to empty that thing with careful regularity, to keep the piles of crumpled plastic, paper and cotton from spilling out all over the floor.

I hated the sight of all that crumpled waste. Not just because it was unsightly – though it was that, too – but because I hated how something as natural as menses had to have such disastrous consequences for the environment. But I assumed there was no other way.

I started using tampons later in my womanhood, feeling they created less waste than pads, but this was still far from ideal. Plus, I felt uncomfortable putting chemically-bleached, pesticide-laden cotton inside my you-know-what. (Cotton is considered the world’s “dirtiest” crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Read more about the horrors of conventional cotton.) And then there’s the whole Toxic Shock Syndrome thing. Yikes.

Finally, when I was trying to get pregnant, I read a suggestion online to refrain from using tampons to improve vaginal and uterine health. Instead, a silicone cup or cloth pads were suggested.

I already cared about the planet, but I also desperately wanted to get pregnant and was willing to try anything.

So I did some research and bought myself a DivaCup.

(A month later, I got pregnant. I don’t think the DivaCup had anything to do with it whatsoever; I just thought I’d mention it. It means I haven’t had a lot of periods since.)

The DivaCup has changed my periods.

It results in virtually no waste, and once it’s in, I have a habit of forgetting I’m even on my period. So I thought I’d offer a review of the product, in case you were interested in giving it a try.

(Note: I contacted DivaCup to see about a giveaway. But they were all like, “Requests for giveaways are so high, we can’t fill them all; fill out this form, and we’ll consider it.” And I was all like, “You want me to fill out a FORM? Do I look like a SECRETARY?” So . . . yeah, no giveaway. Sorry guys.)

There are other silicone cups out there, too, like the Moon Cup, which I’ve never tried. I think I went with the Diva mostly because it’s made here in Canada, so the shipping costs were more manageable. Other cups might have other advantages.

divacupThe DivaCup: My Review

So, the DivaCup is a reusable silicone cup that you insert into your vagina, sort of like a tampon; but instead of absorbing the menstrual fluid, it catches it.  You simply empty it out a couple of times a day, wash it off, and re-insert it.

It definitely takes some getting used to. It’s about the length of my thumb, and the width of a tablespoon, in the shape of an upside-down bell with a stem. The walls are surprisingly thick. You have to fold it up a special way to insert it. It’s much more hands-on than, say, disposable pads. You have to get to know your body pretty intimately, pretty quickly, if you haven’t already.

I’ll admit, it feels weird – bordering on uncomfortable – to get it in there. I always feel a mild dread just before letting it go, when it springs back into shape inside your body. Then you’re supposed to rotate it a full circle to ensure a proper seal. (Of course, read the instructions in full yourself before using). Like I said, very hands-on. But, like a tampon, once it’s in, you don’t feel a thing. (Or at least, I don’t.)

If you put it in right, it forms a seal and shouldn’t leak at all. It’s amazing.

Sometimes, I’ve experienced very mild leaking, just as I have with a tampon. A single pantiliner is sufficient to eliminate worry. I’ve gone without a liner and been fine, but I feel more secure if it’s there.

So far I’ve just used disposable liners – I still have part of a pack of organic cotton ones from my pre-Diva days to use up. And at the rate of one a day, for a couple of days a month, they don’t go very quickly. Once they’re gone, I plan to switch to cloth. I want to try making my own, though you can purchase lots of different kinds, too. (I’ve heard good things about GladRags.)

Benefits of the DivaCup:

Cost. It’s a chunk of money up front – I paid about $40 for mine – but after that, you never have to pay for stuff you’re just going to throw into the garbage. Those things get expensive, month after month! Unless your size changes, you can use a single DivaCup for several years, saving you hundreds of dollars.

(A note on sizes: there are two sizes – one for women who have never had a baby, and one for those who have, or are over 30. I bought the small size pre-baby and used it once. I’ve used the same one a couple of times post-baby and it’s been fine so far. I don’t recommend it; I just thought you might want to know. This will probably vary from woman to woman. Some moms find even the bigger size not quite big enough).

Less Waste. No more piles of crumpled trash! Menstrual blood goes into the toilet and gets flushed along with everything else. This is better for the planet as well as your trash can.

Simplicity. A silicone cup is much more minimalist: instead of keeping a drawer full of various-sized pads, tampons, and liners, covering the full range of absorbancies, I have ONE cup, which fits in the palm of my hand, and a couple of pantiliners. This small stash takes me through my entire week.

Health. The DivaCup carries no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, since it doesn’t absorb the flow. No pesticide-laden cotton inside or next to your lady parts, either.

I love my DivaCup, and won’t ever go back to disposables as long as I can help it.

I think cloth pads would be a decent alternative, but they do require a bit more work (laundering) and use up hot water and soap, so aren’t quite as eco-friendly.

So that’s my review. Check out the DivaCup website for more information.

Any questions? Have you used something similar? What was your experience?

Note: Dulce de Leche has written a review, too: she didn’t like the DivaCup, preferring cloth pads instead.

(Note: I wasn’t given anything to write this review: I just wanted to spread the word about a product I love!)

This post is participating in Your Green Resource with SortaCrunchy.

Confessions of a Hypocrite: How I Fail the Environment

curtain

I mentioned in my introductory post that every Friday, I intend to explore and confess ways that I fail to live out the ideals I discuss in my blog. I call this my “Confessions of a Hypocrite” series. Here’s my first one.

On Monday I talked about why taking care of the environment is an essential part of my theology. But the truth is, I still do all kinds of destructive things. I’m still kind of lazy and I fail to do all that I could to protect the environment.  Here are just a few ways I still fail to care for the planet.

  • I leave my computer on all day. From morning to night. Sometimes I put it on sleep mode, but not always. It’s just such a hassle, remembering to click “Stand By” before getting up to go do something else.
  •  I take long, hot showers. I must waste gallons of hot water every month but I find it impossible to shower quickly.
  • We use plastic bags to contain the trash in our trash baskets throughout the house (which then go to the landfill), when I know we could just empty out and reuse the baskets. But then you have to see the gross garbage in there and occasionally clean them out with soap and water (ugh).
  •  I feel that air conditioning is an absolute necessity in a car, and whine and complain when a vehicle doesn’t have it. You think your four-year-old complains a lot when it’s hot? He’s got nothing on me. You’d think I live in the middle of the Arabian Desert, rather than southern Ontario.
  •  We live in a house that’s much larger than it needs to be. We have rooms in our basement that we don’t even use, and we keep them heated throughout the winter. It’s a terrible waste of energy, but we don’t like to be chilly when we use the laundry room down there.
  • I’ve used air travel several times in my life, and will probably use it again in the future, even though I’m pretty sure it’s absolutely devastating to our planet.
  •  I use disposable diapers when we go out, mostly because they’re trimmer under her cute, trendy clothes, and I want people to think we’re fashionable. Sad, right?
  • This one I’m most embarrassed of. I recently talked about why we line-dry our clothes, and said we planned to hang Lydia’s cloth diapers when the weather got warmer. The other day I hung a few, but when I took them down I was dismayed by how stiff they were. I was used to their softness from the dryer and had forgotten how much crunchier they are if they air-dry. I seriously started to consider sticking with the dryer, but didn’t want to tell you on here because of what I’d already said.

I could go on and on listing ways that I know I could improve (I could use handkerchiefs rather than Kleenex; I could be more vigilant about turning lights off when not in use, etc) but you get my point.

My main point is that while I preach eco-consciousness, I am far from exemplary. I hope to always work towards doing better, but right now I’m still consuming far more than I need and contributing to the degradation of our land, water and air with my daily habits and practices.

Just wanted you to know that, and to acknowledge it myself.

How about you? What are some ways you fail to take care of the environment, even though you know it’s important?

Why Line-Drying Your Clothes is Kind of Peculiar

clothespinWhile I’m still introducing the blog, I thought I’d take a moment to explain why I chose a clothes line as a header image.

For me, the clothes line epitomizes the central theme of Becoming Peculiar: living radically in ordinary, everyday ways.

I’m interested in exploring ways that we can serve God in our daily lives.  Prayer and Scripture-reading are important, and so is talking to people about who Jesus is. But how does following Jesus impact our day-to-day choices – the way we prepare our food, the way we interact with strangers, the way we shop? How does Jesus’ call to love our neighbours affect, say, the way we do our laundry?

I believe it’s possibly to live radically in small, humble, everyday ways.

Hanging your laundry is just one of those ways.

So, what’s so peculiar about hanging your laundry to dry?

* * *

Ben and I hang our clothes to dry all year long,* even though we live in Canada where the winters are long and cold. For us, hanging our clothes is a form of worship. It’s one small way we try to show God that we appreciate the beautiful planet he gave us to live in. It comes out of our desire to be conscious of the impact our decisions make on the people and environment around us. And it questions the cultural assumption that we’re better off when machines do our work for us.

It’s also how we keep our energy bills down.

In a culture that values efficiency,** hanging your laundry can be a revolutionary act. It’s an act of resistance against our culture’s addiction to fossil fuels.

Line-drying takes more time and effort than simply stuffing your wet clothes in the dryer and pressing a button. It forces you to slow down. You can’t hang laundry in a rush. While you’re hanging your clothes you can take that time to pray or meditate.

Hanging laundry requires a certain amount of creativity, too, especially if you live in a colder climate like we do. You have to solve the problem, How can we hang up all our laundry within the limited space of our home?

(I’ll tell you how we do it: Ben has attached old broomsticks to the beams in our basement ceiling so that we can drape our towels, sheets, pillowcases, and jeans over them. We bring handfuls of empty hangers down to the laundry room with us every week for our shirts, which later go directly into the closets. And we have this extraordinary little contraption from Ikea for hanging up our socks. We also have to be self-disciplined and stagger our laundry-washing throughout the week to make sure there’s room for everything.)

It just takes a little bit of imagination and forethought.

We all know that clothes dryers consume enormous amounts of energy to run. The standard electric dryer takes five kilowatt-hours of energy to do one load of laundry. If your family dries one load of laundry a day, that means one ton of poisonous gases are expelled each year to run your family’s dryer.***

Line-drying your clothes keeps those toxins out of the air. It’s a simple way to protect your neighbours and children from air poisoning.

There are other benefits to line-drying your clothes, too:

  • As mentioned above, it saves us money.
  • It also provides exercise, which means less energy that needs to be spent on running a treadmill or getting us to a gym.
  • It also makes our clothes last longer. You know that lint you have to clean from your dryer filter after every use? Those are fibers that have been stripped from your clothes. Your dryer is slowly eating away at your fabric. You can keep wearing your clothes twice as long if you line-dry them.
  • And it reminds us of the dignity of manual labour. We have to take time out of every day to hang up our clothes — to touch each garment and find a place for it, only to take it down the next day and fold it, only to wear it again. It keeps us connected to the daily rhythms of life.

When you hang your clothes to dry, then, you save energy, you keep poisonous gases out of the air, you get an opportunity to pause and reflect, and you get a chance to (gently) use your muscles.

It’s kind of a peculiar act, but also kind of awesome.

———————

*I must confess that we dry our cloth diapers in the dryer during the colder months, simply because they are so thick and take days to dry indoors. This would be all right if we had enough diapers to last us several days, but alas, we don’t. We hope to return to line-drying them when the warmer weather hits.

**Really, dryers are the opposite of efficient: they use huge amounts of energy when clothes actually dry all by themselves if they’re just hung up on a line.

***Stats taken from J. Matthew Sleeth, Serve God, Save the Planet, p. 92

Photo credit: @sahxic
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