When I was first married, a coworker of mine was pregnant and we chatted on a daily basis about her children and all things baby. She had decided to use cloth diapers and I was fascinated by the idea of reusing diapers. You really just wash them and put them back on the kid? It was a mind-boggling idea.
Fast forward about three years to my pregnancy with my first son. After a bewildering online research rampage to decode the many acronyms of the cloth diaper world, I purchased 17 all-in-one diapers on clearance and stored them in the closet. We jumped headfirst into parenthood with the idea of using them after the initial new baby phase calmed down. (Um, wait. Is that an oxymoron?)
Keeping the Green in My Pocket
I’m going to start with a disclaimer: My husband and I differ on this point. Here is the math as I see it: A $50 box of disposable diapers from a popular online retailer lasts about 1 month (using an average of 10 diapers/day, which I figure rounds itself out with newborns using more diapers and toddlers using less). Kids average at least 3 years in diapers, so $1,800/kid. We have 2 kids in diapers, so $3,600. Plus disposable wipes, add $80/year, or about $500 for 2 kids for 3 years. So I’m pretty sure I can buy cloth diapers for less than $4,000.
Talk to the daddy at our house and he’ll say the opportunity cost of my time to wash, hang, and stuff the diapers should factor into the equation. A valid point; but I don’t think surfing online or watching TV is really a better use of my time anyway.
The Not-So-“Cute” Reason
When our first son was about 5 months old, the pediatrician added “acute eczema” to his chart. In case you didn’t know (I didn’t), “acute” is actually a medical term meaning “extreme.” Our poor little baby was covered in red, bumpy patches, some that were so bad they almost looked like scabs. Since this was our first child, my husband and I had no idea that the patches we saw all over his precious baby skin were actually eczema patches that were begging for more moisture, not less. We had tried a few petroleum-based creams to try and clear them up, but we didn’t know that we should be using lotion on his skin from the day he was born.
Since he was so young and had such an extreme case, the doctor initially told me he must have an allergy to a food I was eating (as I was exclusively breastfeeding). So I switched to a gluten-free, dairy-free diet and started the other recommendation, a steroid cream. (Which I was pained to use, as the directions stated to use sparingly, as thinning of the skin may occur. Are you kidding me?) Our doctor also recommended daily 10-minute baths and an emollient cream three times a day.
Cue second online research rampage. I read voraciously about the best ways to help keep his skin healthy, and the main theme of all the reading was “less chemicals, less irritation.” My father-in-law and husband both had eczema as children, so I concluded his eczema was probably a genetic predisposition, not an allergic reaction to a food. I decided to change everything I could about his environment to keep his skin clear. Gone was the mainstream “free and clear” detergent. No more fragrances in lotions and body washes. We said goodbye to synthetic pajamas, blankets and bedding. The eczema was also in his diaper area, which made it very difficult to treat. Enter cloth diapers. I started the lotion regimen and dropped the steroid cream. These fluffy beauties literally saved the skin of my little guy and put us on the road to what my husband calls my “hippie” lifestyle.
So now the serious conversations at our house are about the consistency of poop, how double gussets are a lifesaver and who slept less the night before. Cloth diapering changed our world of parenting. It’s had its challenges. But the health of both of our boys makes it worth it to me.
Bio: Tiffany is a full-time working mother of two cloth-bum baby boys, ages 23 months and 4 months. Yes, she gets lots of wide-eyed stares when others find out her kids are 19 months apart.