“They’re going to stink,” Craig complained.
“You’ll be up to your armpits in laundry,” my mother warned (she knows better than anyone how much I like to complain about house chores.) Even my similarly well-intentioned girlfriends admitted that their once-lofty cloth diapering aspirations were eventually annihilated by the hectic pace of parenthood and the need to make things as simple as possible. And what is simpler than tossing a stinky diaper into the trash, never to be dealt with again?
They also knew, as I did, that our first go-round at cloth diapering with big sister Elle fizzled out about four months after she was born. It was around that time that she outgrew the size small cloth diapers she had been using, and I simply never bought any more. It was, I guess, just too convenient to snag the jumbo-pack of disposables, and never look back.
So, to be honest, I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations of myself with this cloth diapering go-round. But, I’m also fairly stubborn. Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest (or sweetest-smelling) thing, I announced from atop my soapbox. I know I suck at doing laundry, I admitted, but if it means keeping 4,000 plastic-lined diapers out of the landfill, I think I can make that sacrifice. The job of a tree-hugging, cloth-diapering earth momma isn’t an easy one, after all; but it was a job I was ready to tackle, one shitty diaper at a time.
This week Emmeline turned four months old, and I bought her the next size up in cloth diapers. Committing to at least another few months of diapering Emme in cloth isn’t, perhaps, the most triumphant of steps in my quest to be a green karma-building mother. I haven’t traded my decade-old SUV for a Prius (we have too much crap to carry around, I justify) and I can’t seem to motivate to build a compost pile (bears in the backyard is my excuse there.)
Nevertheless, the Huggies jumbo-pack hasn’t tempted me. After four months of swaddling my baby in all manner of different cloth diaper apparatuses, and even using reusable wipes to clean her little bottom, I don’t actually feel like I’ve toiled that hard for the good of the planet, or the cleanliness of my children’s future.
The revelation I came to this week was shocking: Cloth diapering isn’t actually that hard.
After my last missteps in the cloth-diapering realm, I vowed that this time I would take the task more seriously. That meant doing my homework. Rather than simply reading a few reviews online before deciding on which diapers to buy, I purchased one of almost every kind of cloth diaper imaginable – from the chic, pricey ones (yes, even diapers can be chic) to the my-grandmother-probably-used-these basic variety – before making my cloth diaper investment. What I found was that rather than making some breakthrough discovery in cloth diaper innovation, I simply learned which kind worked best for me, and which were best for our family’s budget. Now our diaper drawer is a melting pot of my three or four favorite brands and styles. Some work better at nighttime, others are best for going out, and still others are my top choice for, as lackluster as it may sound, ease of laundering (and also happen to be easy on the pocketbook.) Even Craig and my mom have jumped on the cloth bandwagon, each having found the diaper style that suits them best. Craig is a snap-closure kind of guy, but grandma goes for the Velcro.
Having an efficient cloth diapering “system” has also been key to our so-far cloth diapering success. There is a simple trashcan lined with an old pillowcase next to the changing table. Next to the trashcan is a little box of baking soda. I have instructed my husband on this system, with encouraging results. Remove diaper. Put it in the trashcan. Sprinkle some baking soda in there. When the trashcan is full, tell me to do the laundry. (I can only ask so much of him, okay?)
Surprisingly, laundry duty isn’t that daunting. This is how I wash diapers: I dump the pillowcase full of diapers and diaper covers into the washing machine. (I do make sure that the Velcro closures are stuck to themselves and not hanging out ready to attach to wayward passersby.) I put in some good herbal detergent (Vaska is my favorite). I press “Super Wash.” I return 80 minutes later and put the diapers in the dryer. I don’t hang the waterproof diaper covers to dry; they dry just fine sitting in a pile on top of the dryer. (It didn’t seem necessary to add a fifth step to this diaper washing process.)
I’m not exactly sure why I assumed that cloth diapering would equate to a significant increase in my weekly chore workload, and thus frightened me so. I have since overcome my fear, and am quite comfortable wrapping my kid’s bottom in cloth, and doing a load of diaper laundry every two to three days.
I share these tidbits I have learned in hopes that another family will make the switch to cloth – or at least give it a try. Our community is in the midst of pledging to eradicate the doling-out of highly polluting single-use plastic bags in our stores. Bringing a cloth grocery bag with you to the store isn’t that difficult, once it’s part of your routine. I conjecture that once parents get into the swing of the cloth-diapering thing, they’ll find it’s easier than they would have guessed to be greener in the diapering department.