Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Plan vs. Reality: diapering

Originally I was going to write one monster post that detailed the plans I had about all the different aspects of parenting - style, feeding, diapering, and whatever else came to mind - and then how those plans are actually panning out on the ground. I realized a couple hundred words in that I will never have the time to write that as one post. Also, it's always evolving. So I'm making it into a series! This makes me feel like a legitimate blogger, and means that there is a handy label that you'll be able to click to see all of them. I would imagine that if this blog continues here in this format past our Adoption Day then eventually I'll do Plan vs Reality posts on all sorts of things like preschool, play dates, etc. Also, if you're someone who is waiting and the parenting type posts are less interesting or even painful for you to read, you'll know which ones to skip! (and I have totally been there and get it.)

The Plan: Diapering
I decided that we should use cloth diapers well over a year before baby J was born. And I say "I" because poor Andrew was sitting around one day, maybe working on an autobiographical statement for the homestudy, when I issued the executive order about cloth diapers. If he was skeptical he hid it well. I then did a ton of research that made me feel pretty good about my decision on a number of levels.

1. The Environment: I'd say on the green continuum we're somewhere between concerned and genuinely committed, moving towards genuinely committed. Care for the environment is a value that figures in to many of our decisions, including where we live and what we drive and how we consume paper products. We're not perfect at it, but it is important to us and the idea of diaper-filled landfills bothers me enough that I don't want to be a contributor to it.

2. Money: This is probably the biggest reason we chose to commit to cloth. The cheapest cloth diapers, prefolds and covers, add up to a total cost of around $300 from birth to potty training, even when you add in water and energy costs. There are fancier diapers, but we didn't plan to buy those. (We registered for them instead, because they're a good price for a shower gift and we don't want a lot of baby gear because of our limited space.) IF (and I understand it's a pretty big if) a child is potty trained around 24 months of age disposables will run you over $3000. Now, you can easily spend almost that much doing cloth diapers if you use a service, which is why we decided to wash them ourselves.

3. Ease: We thought that it really would be easy for us to wash diapers. Our laundry closet is literally in our bedroom, where baby is changed. We have two bathrooms, and decided the one off the bedroom would be great for attaching a diaper sprayer and devoting some space to poop cleaning.

4. Baby's health: This is perhaps (perhaps!) the most debatable reason to cloth diaper. But many people believe that cloth diapers are better for baby's skin. The most real and provable reason for this is that babies are changed more often when wearing cloth. The reason babies are changed more often is that they feel wetter in cloth. Disposables have chemicals that turn wetness into gel that doesn't feel so wet, so they can stay on baby longer. Which isn't as good for their skin.

There were plenty of people who doubted our plan. But we also have a lot of parents who cloth diaper in our lives, and we asked them questions and watched them at work and it really didn't seem all that hard. One of the advantages of living in Seattle is that living green is a big deal here - I think there are at least as many parents at our church who cloth diaper as not, and perhaps even more cloth users than disposable users. Even so, we had our doubts. I bought this kit from bummi back in February and spent way too much time diapering my cabbage patch doll. Our friends K+K, who use a service, gave us the Thirsties covers that their baby grew out of so we were extra stocked. I prepared myself to become a martyr to cloth, swore to Prove We Could Do It.

The Reality
Cloth diapering is ridiculously easy. Maybe we were expecting it to be so terrible that the reality is a pleasant surprise, but we've both been shocked at how simple diapering Baby J has been. She was in disposables in Georgia, of course, and we definitely took a deep breath the day after we got home when we realized we had run out of the organic disposable Nana had picked up for the plane ride home. (Side note, the nice organic disposables with none of the nasty chemicals in them don't actually work all that great. hmm.) But we went for it and have never looked back. About a week after we started on cloth we ran out of disposable wipes and started using cloth wipes as well. Turns out they work out even better - we don't need as many, the wipe warmer Grandma got us works for them too (we just wet a bunch of them down at the sink and throw them in the warmer), and it's much easier to just toss a flannel wipe in the pail with the diaper than to throw away a disposable one separately.

What we have learned so far is that we like to wash every day, even though we have enough diapers that we could wash every three days if we needed to. Also, the Thirsties covers work better for Baby J than the the Bummi ones at the moment, because she is long and skinny so those gussets come in handy. Transitions are going to be our challenge - right now she is wavering between the XS and S. Weight wise she should be well into the S, but again she is a tall skinny lady, so the S covers are still pretty wide for her.

Our first baby shower was last week, so we've just started to get the BumGenius and Fuzzi Bunz diapers we registered for. We have one of each so far and I'm planning to use them mostly for travel and overnight now that Baby J is sleeping for 6-8 hour stretches at night. (I know, she is a miracle baby in many, many ways.)

Baby J had a horrible diaper rash when we first got her. At one point it was actually cracked and bleeding. I freaked out, of course, and sent pictures via confidential medical email to one of the dermatologists I work for at the University. She recommended treatment and by the time we got home it was under control. Since being in cloth her skin has been perfectly healthy. A couple times a week we do diaper-free time for 20-30 minutes, which is also helpful for baby skin, and dermatologist recommended, no matter what sort of diapers you use!

We face a big test later this week, when we travel to visit my parents in California for a week. Our goal is to use cloth everywhere, even for traveling, so we'll be taking our diapers along and washing while we're there. We've done this on overnight visits to Andrew's parents and it has worked fine. I'm sort of excited to see how it works on a longer trip!

Alright, that concludes this episode of Plan vs. Reality! Thanks for watching, and to reward you here is a little Christmas cheer:

p.s. the hat was a gift from one of our faithful readers and we love it! THANK YOU!!!


  1. Very useful info, thanks again. Your time spent on this blog is extremely valuable to us in "the wait" who are still researching everything and trying to stay busy preparing, so again, thanks. Not to mention the fact that the photos of Jubilee are adorable and make us all just melt and smile! Wishing you and your new family of 3 a very Merry Christmas and wonderful trip to CA- these are the moments we all dream about, traveling with our children to see family after all the years of praying and hoping and wondering what it would be like! Enjoy and safe travels!

  2. The hat looks so very very adorable!!! It makes me have a Happy Christmas smiling dorky moment! I love it!!! Can't wait to meet Ms. J in person!! The holidays are blissfully busy, but soon!!


  3. Good luck traveling and CDing, we've not been that brave yet. Laurel never had diaper rash until she started in earnest with the solids at about 9 months, now we have to deal with it a lot more. And of course it is freezing here now, so diaper free time is pretty limited. LOVE the pic of J in her Christmas jammies and hat!

  4. We're paper-diaper folks for now, but it's good to know cloth diapering isn't all that tough. I imagine this route is better for potty training since that whole feedback mechanism is built in.

  5. Glad to hear it's all going well and that the Thirsty covers are working for you. I think this, like everything else, is about finding what works best for you and baby. We use disposables when we travel if we are gone for more than a weekend. But, that's because with our diaper service we aren't suppose to wash the diapers ourselves, they have their own system set up. When the new bag of diapers arrives each week Phinney likes to help me bring it inside and put all the diapers into the basket where we keep them. Guess he likes his cloth diapers too! :)

  6. I've always done diaper free time since my guy was a new born and I usually fan his fanny dry before I put the cream and diaper back on. I bought one used cloth diaper and the elastic had stretched so nothing wouls stay in... I am a fan of really high zinc cream for rashes. I use Desitin at 45% zinc but I am in canada and our Desitin is a different. I've also used corn starch as well.

  7. Baby J look stunning in her outfit! So angelic!

    I love your posts about plan/reality re: diapers. So how exactly do you clean the dirty diapers?

  8. Love the picture. Adorable Christmas baby.
    I wanted to try cloth diapers but apartment living with no washer and dryer would not have been easy. Reading about the diaper rash though, makes me wish we had been able to. We've been struggling with getting rid of one lately and I know the diapers don't help. If only she were ready to potty train.