The guy waiting for me has his one-year-old daughter in one arm. In the other hand, he’s carrying a single disposable diaper and a svelte pack of wipes. My baby is fussing on the ballpark restroom’s changing table as I wrestle a giant diaper bag, wet wipes, dry wipes, a clean diaper, a wet bag and soggy diaper I can’t throw away because it cost $20.
I get Champ’s clothes back on, strap him back into the BabyBjörn, cram all my supplies back into the diaper bag and shoot the cool dad anapologetic look. Being the most flustered dad in a men’s room full of drunk Brewers fans was a low point in my cloth-diapering career.
Two months later, this is how we spend a good chunk of Mother’s Day weekend:
Over time, ammonia compounds and hard-water residues can build up in the diapers, giving them a nasty smell and decreasing absorbency. Boiling them gets rid of that junk, and that’s what Mom wanted for her Special Day.
Cloth wasn’t my idea. I resisted, but my wife beat me to the baby registry. People started buying us FuzziBunz One Size diapers. I wanted to throw them away and get some Pampers. But I’ve come around. I don’t hate cloth diapers.
Convenience issues: First of all, the vast majority of diaper changes happen at home. Champ gets a clean diaper before we go to lunch, to the store or on a hike. We’re usually home before I need to change him again, which mitigates the on-the-go convenience of disposables.
When we do change on the road, it’s easy to contain the smell. I once changed a poopy diaper in the forward lavatory of a 737 at cruising altitude. The whole mess went in a wet bag, which I stuffed in the diaper bag under the seat in front of me. Never smelled it again. Today’s equipment is high-tech.
Water worries: I also worried cloth diapers would be a huge waste of water. We have a high-efficiency washing machine, but every load of diapers takes three cycles to get clean. And here in Phoenix, there’s not a lot of water to go around.
Many cloth-diaper advocates cite the Landbank Consultancy’s analysis of a 1991 Proctor & Gamble study, which concluded disposables use 2.3 times as much water as reusable diapers. I’ll trust my water bill instead. Since we brought home a cloth-diapered baby, there has been no significant increase. In fact, this month was about $7 less than the same time last year.
Let’s get smug: I did the math. Even if we had paid for all our cloth diapers (some were gifts), we would have spent more on disposables after Champ’s fourth month of life. Right now, we pay next to nothing for diapers, and that helps offset my lack of a paycheck.
Even better, I’ve never had to make a panicked run to Walmart because we ran out of disposables. In your face, spring-training guy.
Best of all, Champ seems to prefer cloth. Once we put him in the FuzziBunz, he cried going back to Pampers. He’s had some mild cases of monkey butt, but no full-blown diaper rash. And these diapers have held in some insane amounts of poop.
Washing and reassembling the diapers takes a couple hours of work a week. It can be a little tedious, but it helped me discover a hidden talent:
That’s right. My wife says I’m good at stuffing inserts back into the clean diapers. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about self-esteem, it’s never to question the things your wife says you’re good at. Liek whan sh say I rite good in blog. my
So, happy belated Earth Day. And Mother’s Day. I don’t look down on anybody who uses disposables. Dealing with daycare and less time at home would make diaper maintenance much harder. Heck, I still use disposable wet wipes.
I just want anyone brave enough to consider cloth to know that it doesn’t suck. With a little extra effort, you can make a big difference for your baby, the planet and your bank account.
You’ve signed up to spend years cleaning excrement off the nether regions of another human being. You may as well feel good about it.