My decision to cloth diaper was probably driven from a rather unique desire. It wasn’t to save the earth. It wasn’t how adorable the diapers were. It wasn’t to save money. It was because I longed for a way to bond with my newborn that didn’t involve nursing. Before you jump to any conclusions I wanted desperately to nurse. A very long and painful story made short is that when my first son was born just over two years ago I started nursing him in the hospital. Four days later he had a high fever and was admitted to the hospital for 3 days. He had lost 12% of his body weight and eventually, after having X-rays, a Spinal Tap, a catheter put in and IV antibiotics they said he was dehydrated. If you have never seen a 4 day old going through all of that medical testing, it is heart-wrenching! I was told I needed to supplement him with formula. I had no support to help me with nursing . I was told that he had a short latch and was too small. I was hooked up to a hospital breast pump for a half hour at a time and nothing would come out. I kept trying to nurse him but he wasn’t growing and after his 2 month check up ended badly I gave up and started using formula exclusively. It devastated me. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember and finally at 31, with a previous ectopic pregnancy and a warning from my ob/gyn that I would not be able to have children, here I was holding my newborn son and I couldn’t even feed him.
Fast-forward two years to the birth of my 2nd son.
Again, I nursed him within minutes of his birth and within a day of being home, I heard that all too familiar hunger cry. I had been hopeful that the first time was a fluke and that this time I would be able to breastfeed. At his 4 day follow up I was told that he had lost 10% of his body weight and that I would have to supplement. But this time I saw two different lactation consultants, was put on several different regimens, herbal formulas and medication. Yet once again, nothing worked. My son would nurse for 20 or 30 minutes but never swallow more than once or twice. Nothing worked and the ob/gyn and lactation consultants informed me that they were 99% sure I had an underlying hormonal issue that was preventing me from producing milk. So after 6 weeks of trying everything I realized it wasn’t going to happen.
This is when I found cloth diapering. I wanted to bond with my son in some way that felt as intimate as nursing. It may seem unrelated or odd but so much of myself goes into his diapering now. I pick out types, sizes, styles, and material. When I change his diaper I’m not just whipping off a disposable and lobbing it into the trash. I am taking a moment to consider-are we going out? Staying home? Is it naptime? I choose his diaper carefully and I take the time to check the snaps or Velcro, to talk to him about the color of the diaper or the pattern or let him touch the material. I lay him on my lap and we do our fluff stuffing. I love washing his diapers. In that time that I spend to hang each insert on the line, organized by brand and size, I contemplate the time I am investing. Trust me, I have always hated laundry, I have even used the word despise to describe how I feel about folding laundry. I have a very weak stomach and will gag if a stranger passes gas near me. But here I am spending an hour to hang and then stuff his diapers, to organize them every single wash. I am dunking diapers, making and using cloth wipes and I’m proud to say that I haven’t gagged once! As strange as it sounds, I feel as close to my son when I am diapering him as I did when I was nursing him. More importantly, I stopped beating myself up. Cloth diapering my baby has allowed me to feel complete as a mom.