Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Other Words...

My goals in writing this blog are to share the excitement I feel for cloth diapering, while making it accessible to parents who are considering taking the leap to cloth, and perhaps helping other seasoned pros to find new products, tips, or ways to talk to others about their choice to use cloth diapers. I have a passion for sharing this information, and I enjoy soaking up collective knowledge from much more experienced mothers. I definitely am not working under the delusion that I know all the answers- in fact the more I learn about cloth diapering, the more I believe that there are no right answers. The best answer is the one that works for you and your family.

I want to encourage and give guidance, but many times I find myself looking for guidance as well! In the spirit of sharing experience and support, I have asked a few experienced cloth diapering mothers to tell me about their own journey with cloth. They told me what led them to this diapering alternative; what they like about it and what they find difficult; their favorite diapers and their own tricks to making cloth diapering easy and fun. This is what I learned.

The Legacy We Leave

Anna (who happens to be the woman behind the gorgeous nursing covers of Lily & Sparrow) shares the conviction that leads so many of us to a variety of "green" lifestyle choices- she "didn't want to leave a legacy of waste for [her] daughters." To me, this quote sums up the biggest impact we can have through cloth diapering- we have an opportunity to decrease the negative impacts that our culture has steadily, increasingly been heaping on our planet.

Lauren, who has used cloth with both of her children, prioritizes the reasons she and her husband chose cloth diapering: cutting down on waste, knowing exactly what chemicals were being used on their children, and saving money over time. The chemicals used in disposable diapers seem to be low on some people's radar, but Lauren and her husband are committed to sharing the effects of toxins on our bodies- check out their incredible project, the documentary film Acceptable Levels. I believe that their research on toxins in our daily lives can be more thorough than I ever could.

Though the opportunity to be economical and financially savvy is an important factor in the decision to use cloth, caring for the environment is absolutely a top priority in the cloth diapering community. Being "green" is trendy right now, and this is one trend that we can all support- because in the end, this trend will leave less waste and less of a carbon footprint than most other popular cultural trends.

Preconceptions & Misconceptions

People tend to believe that cloth diapering will be a ton of work- that was what kept Jennifer from trying cloth with her first daughter. As a new mother, she worried that using cloth would become overwhelming. Now that she has experienced motherhood and cloth diapering her second child, she says "cloth diapering is SO much easier and [more] fun than I thought it would be! I really wish I had cloth diapered with my first." Anna thought that doing the laundry was going to be a horrible, disgusting experience. Now she shares that "it has really been a lot cleaner and easier" than she expected.

Truthfully, aren't these two of the biggest obstacles that people feel will prevent them from choosing cloth? The worries that the amount of work involved will be overwhelming, and that dealing with your baby's diaper waste will be too much to stomach, seem to cross every mom's mind. What I took from these answers was that I wasn't alone in those concerns, but I am also not alone in my realization that nothing is as bad as I imagined it could be. The take home message: if you feel strongly about trying cloth diapers, don't let your fears prevent you from giving it a go. Others have worried, tested, and come out with success stories! You can, too.

Getting Started & Overcoming Obstacles

It seems that everyone experiences some of the anxiety involved in putting together a starter stash of diapers. Anna spent lots of time researching, but in hindsight realizes that is "about as helpful as researching which pair of jeans would fit [her] best!" Her experience found her reselling many of her early diaper purchases as she learned what fit her daughter, and which styles worked best for her. Based on her research, Anna believed that hybrid diapers would be her favorites- but experience led her to a preference for all-in-one diapers! To avoid this complication, she highly suggests renting a trial package (her favorite is through Itsy Bitsy Bums) to get some hands-on experience.

In retrospect, Lauren wishes she had not committed to one system before giving it a try. For her son, the stash initially consisted solely of gDiapers, and when her daughter arrived, she struggled with leaks due to difficult fit issues. Lauren found that trying a new diaper (Sunbaby) and testing different combinations of doublers led to the perfect diapering solution for her little girl.

For Jennifer, getting started seemed overwhelming because of the "lingo" used in the cloth diapering community! The incredible variety of diaper options became overwhelming, and luckily she was able to turn to a friend (and some online support!) to get clear and simple answers. She hopes other moms will realize that you don't need tons of things to get started! (Here are my suggestions: Back to Basics.)

Anna experienced an obstacle when she realized that her daughter was having bad rash reactions to synthetic fibers. Her solution was to sell any diapers that used synthetic fabrics, and to stock up on brands such as GroVia all-in-one, Bright Star Baby, and Bottom Bumpers- all of which use natural fibers. Discovering this problem early on helped her to successfully navigate the pitfall and continue to cloth diaper her daughter.

What We Think of Disposables

In general, we're not big fans. Once you have a cloth diapering system that works for you, disposables just don't seem very appealing. Anna says that cloth diapers mean "fewer blowouts, no rashes, saving money, and a cuter bum!" Jennifer cites the cuteness of cloth as a perk- and disposable companies are taking note of this. They are knocking off cloth diapers by introducing designer prints, and who hasn't seen those "jeans" diapers? Sadly for them, the cost of those diapers widens the gap between the natural perks of cloth and the drawbacks of disposables. And as Lauren points out, not needing to run to the store every week and spend money on diapers is awesome!

Dealing With Negativity & Sharing the Joys of Cloth

As with most parenting choices, cloth diapering can lead to some pretty interesting reactions from family, friends, and even strangers! Anna's family member asked if her daughter was wearing a cloth diaper "on purpose?" A well-contained blow-out diaper later convinced the cousin that cloth was a valid- maybe even superior!- choice. Jennifer is more often met with surprise than with overt negativity- "like it is silly to be concerned about the environment." When I was pregnant, I was shocked when a girl responded to my plan to use cloth with, "we'll see how long that lasts." I hope she has since seen that dedication to such a plan is both possible and fulfilling!

Sometimes all it takes to spread the word about modern cloth diapering, is to let it all hang out. A fellow congregation member became interested in cloth diapering after simply seeing Anna's daughter's diapers. Lauren realizes that sharing cloth diapering is as easy as letting strangers see how cute the diapers are- curiosity naturally follows.

Diapers We Desire

It seems that the diaper that moms most want to try is ANY diaper by a well-established Work-At-Home-Mom (WAHM). Maybe you didn't know that there is a competitive arena for cloth diapering moms; if you get a thrill out of Ebay auctions and the like, you will probably love stalking a WAHM's wares. These diapers can be incredibly difficult to score, as you have to follow sales pages on sites such as Hyena Cart, and "win" the diapers posted before one of hundreds of moms finishes the checkout process. Some of the diaper brands are reported to be excellent quality and design, so it is no surprise that we less-fortunate (read: non-winning) moms are curious!

To illustrate the fact that different styles work for each family, I'll share the following: Anna loves Bright Star Baby, GroVia AIOs, and Bottom Bumpers; Jennifer loves her prefolds with Kissaluvs covers; Lauren loves using Sunbaby diapers and wants to try FuzziBunz. As for myself, right now I love fitteds, Rocky Mountain Diapers, and any natural-fiber all-in-one!

Working It Out

Jennifer is a working mom, and she manages to keep up with the cloth diaper laundry with some careful planning and preparation. She says she is lucky to have a daycare that is completely supportive of cloth diapering- a challenge for many working moms. Jennifer washes her diapers each night, even though she has enough of a stash to last 2-3 days between laundering. She prefers to stay on top of things so that there are no surprises- like a day where her daughter needs more diapers than usual. She suggests having a location to store all the diapers needed for the next workday- a grocery bag works for her- and pre-stuffing (she uses pockets for daycare) all of the diapers the night prior. Jennifer adds a wetbag for the daycare provider and is ready to leave the next morning.

Things You Should Try

Anna suggests using Spot's Corner on Hyena Cart to find a wide variety of used diapers. She also urges other moms to follow the manufacturer's care instructions on all new diapers, so that you don't void your warranty! She is a big fan of coconut oil, and along with her wet bags, cloth wipes and diapers, she manages to cloth diaper without any fancy extras.

Jennifer loves using her homemade cloth wipes and makes her own solution. She highly recommends picking up a few hemp doublers (and I second this suggestion!) for heavy wetters or overnight use. Her husband built (yes, you read that correctly- how handy!) her a diaper sprayer, which is one of her favorite extras.

Lauren echoes the suggestion to use a diaper sprayer once your child begins solid foods- it is not a necessity, but a convenient bonus item. She suggests buying pants one size larger than usual to make room for the extra fluff- though if your child is smaller than average, like mine, you might not need to size-up. Lauren also warns against using too much Dawn when stripping diapers. Going overboard can lead to lots of extra rinse cycles, as she found out first hand when she was starting out.


I hope you have enjoyed hearing about cloth diapering experiences from three other experienced moms. Many thanks to Anna, Jennifer, and Lauren for sharing their stories with me!

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