Monday, May 23, 2016

The Diaper Debate

A long time ago, when I was pregnant for the first time and we had many lofty ideas about our own capabilities, my husband and I talked about cloth diapers. We were pretty much decided we are going to use them, for the sake of frugality, sustainability and baby's skin health. It just seemed the right choice all around, until one day, when I was getting pretty big, we had the following conversation.

DH: "But where would we wash the diapers?"

Me: "What do you mean, where? We put them in the washing machine."

DH: (wrinkling his nose): "What, you'll put poopy diapers in the same machine that we use to wash our clothes?"

Me: "Not in the same cycle. We'll wash them separately, you know." 

DH: "I still think that's gross. Think of all the bacteria that will be left over."

Me: "Well, what do you suggest?"

DH: "My Mom always washed our diapers by hand."

Do I have to tell you? We've been using disposables ever since. And at times I've been feeling guilty about it, too, especially when I haul out a big garbage bag full of almost nothing but diapers and think about it adding to some tremendous landfill.

It wasn't just the gross factor that put us off; we've had plenty of poop in our washing machine anyway over the years, what with newborn blow-outs and all. There were periods when changing a poopy diaper equaled changing a whole baby outfit, every time. We're still all alive and well.

It was also that conveniently made cloth diapers are a pretty hefty initial investment, one we hesitated to make, and I'm not up to sewing my own. And, of course, there's the convenience; at times, I've been so overwhelmed by laundry (especially not having a drier, on long rainy weeks in winter) that voluntarily adding more seemed an effort of will beyond my capability.

As a compromise, I have tried doing early potty-training, with babies running around bare-bottomed around the house on many a summer day. The little tushies got a pleasant breeze, we saved some money on diapers, and I felt better about the ecological aspect of it all.

In the place where we live now, we have frequent electricity and water shortages, up to the point that everybody living in the neighborhood often gets requests to save on electricity and water as much as possible by trying to minimize the usage of air conditioners, ovens and, of course, washing machines. An extra load of diapers every day or two just doesn't seem feasible in such conditions.  I actually believe that in Israel, where water is a precious commodity, bio-degradable diapers may be more eco-friendly than cloth.

There had to be, however, a compromise: green and convenient; eco-friendly but disposable. So lately I've started looking into the option of switching to bio-degradable disposable diapers, such as these. I'd love to hear from any of you ladies who care to share your experience. Cloth? Bio-degradable? Plain ol' Pampers?


Lady Anne said...

I've never seen those diapers before, but they certainly do seem to be a good compromise. When my eldest was a baby we didn't HAVE disposable diapers, so there wasn't much choice. With a wringer machine and a clothesline, no less. I did have the option to hang the diapers in the basement in bad weather.

When the twins came along, Chux had just come onto the market. They were not really intended for full-time use, but they were a life-saver! I bought a case, and used them until I was down to the last two dozen, which I saved for visiting and such, and then back to cloth diapers.

Doing them all by hand? I don't mean to insult your mother-in-law or your husband, but I'm not sure if that's insanity or sainthood!

Elena said...

I have a 15month old daughter, and im expecting a son next month. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was sure I wanted to use cloth. My mother and aunts had used cloth with all their children, eventhough disposables were already common, and for me it was a no brainer. I told my grandmother and she said: "of course you are using cloth!". And that was that.
My husband was not on board, and still isnt, and neither was/is my MIL. However, as Im the one in charge of the house and Im the one who washes and changes the diapers, the discussion was over very soon!
I wash the diapers in the washing machine and dry them outside. We live in a flat in Madrid, Spain, so during wintertime drying time is a bit long. I use flats and prefolds, as they are cheaper and dry super fast. We spent about 300e in our stash, and we are going to use the same diapers with our son, so we are saving quite a lot of money. I also bought a few AIO for my husband and MIL, so that they can change a diaper whenever its Necessary.
I thought about using biodegradable diapers, but I cant justify the cost, particularly now that we have enough cloth diapers!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Lady Anne, while my MIL was raising her children, disposable diapers were as yet unavailable in Israel up until the time when her youngest was just out of diapers. My FIL, not knowing the feat of potty training was just accomplished, bought a package of disposables for his wife, and it was actually given away unopened! As for doing them by hand, she was just too grossed out to put them in the washer. My MIL still washes underwear and socks by hand because she thinks it's disgusting to wash them with regular clothes.

Elena, no doubt if you spent 300e for diapering two children you're saving a lot of money along the way, but still, shelling out 300e all at once is kind of a lot if you're not sure cloth diapering would work out for you at all. Around here cloth diapering would periodically make me get stuck with loads of smelly diapers until the power, or water, or both get fixed. In Madrid of course this wouldn't be an issue.

Lady Anne said...

My mum always washed the dishcloths, tea towels, and napkins first, in HOT water, "all by their pristine selves", to use her expression. So this was seven each cloths and towels, plus four napkins - eighteen items! - as a complete load.

This is the same woman who pitched a fit if we used more than two inches of water in the bath tub.

Ah, well. Someday, they'll talk about us.

Anonymous said...

Here is exactly as I did it , and my mother before me. I am from Michigan the "water, winter wonderland" so my experience may not be useful to you ! I kept a 5 gallon bucket half filled with (at first HOT) soapy water , any diaper was swished in the clean toilet bowl , and if poopy, VERY thoroughly swished , there was NO POOP left on the diaper maybe a slight stain , then wrung out and put into the soapy water and the lid snapped back on . This would hold a couple days worth of diapers at least , fairly smell free and soaking . Always swishing the newest addition into the bottom of the bucket .Some people would empty the full bucket into the washer , run the spin cycle and then a hot water wash and rinse . I always wrung out the diapers and put them into the washer and emptied the bucket water down the toilet , I do not know why , because my mother told me to do it this way !!! Then I hot water washed and double rinsed and hung them on the clothes line weather permitting because my Mom said the sun would sterilize them ...I did find something called "diaper liners " for awhile , that were like the thin first cover of a disposable diaper , it could be lifted out of the cloth diaper and worked well for more solid poops, worthless for blow outs !.My cloth diapers after 1 year of such treatment were nearly as white as the day I bought them . After a year I switched to disposables because by then the amount was more than the diaper could handle.....I could see where this may work with 3 buckets possibly , you'd have to have lots of diapers, but need to run one full load twice a week maybe, and not stinky to store. Using any left over water to flush the toilet when the power is out ? And no poop in the washer . Hope this either helped , or caused you to laugh at my excessive water useage , which I call conservative !!Karen Jones

Anonymous said...

I used little lamb bamboo nappies for the first 2 girls, the complete kit costs 300 pounds, and since we could afford the investment, I think it paid out in the long run. These were awsome. They worked as well as they claim on the website. And honestly, they weren't much more trouble than the disposable ones (given that I always had reliable access to my washing machine). By the time I used 10 nappies, the other 10 would have dried on the line (in a not-too-warm and humid climate, too).

Then by the time my son was born, the nappies had started to wear thin (bamboo is not a super-resistant fibre). I didn't feel like spending another 300 pounds, so I tried some little lamb (cotton) terry squares instead - you can get 10 for just 20 pounds (size 3). If you don't have a pre-existing stash of nappies, you would probably need to buy 20 squares, instead of 10. Also, cotton is less absorbant, so I also bought 10 bamboo triple layer boosters (also from little lamb). Together, these work perfectly! I use a simple triangle fold, add a booster inside it, and roll in the edges, and have never ever had an exploded nappy. I wish I had been brave enough to opt for terry squares in the first place, it would have saved me some money.

Since we're living in Sweden at the moment, I also use the Swedish biodegradable nappy brand, Natty, for traveling times only. They are more expensive, but I feel it's worth it.


Anonymous said...

I used cloth pretty exclusively for four of my kids. The fifth kid, I actually asked to use disposables (and fortunately, my church gave us a diaper shower!), b/c we don't dry our clothes in a dryer (it ups our electric bill $35/month), and having 5 kids, I already wash about 12-15 loads a week. Doing diapers, homeschooling, and etc. was just too much. However, he (#5) is now 2 and all these months of dishing out the cash for an item I am just throwing away was getting harder and harder. So i finally pulled out all the cloth diapers, mades some new wrap covers and we are back in cloth business! We are on a tight budget for a family of 7 and already I am struggling to stay within the budget on food, let alone diapers! So I do a load every other day or so and the sun really does bleach and sterilize the diapers (vinegar in the rinse is good too). As far as washing and water, it might not be too bad if you did a small load every day and if it grosses you out to do them in the washer, you could fill 2 five gallon buckets with hot water and use a clean new toilet plunger to agitate the diapers (with just a dab of soap!), and transfer to the clean water to rinse, then just dump the whole thing in the washer to spin out. But as you say, when water is minimal, something else must be done. Good luck!

Gothelittle Rose said...

I totally used disposable for all three (and am now using disposable pull-ups for my youngest in potty training), even though I have a good climate for drying diapers and water and electricity are in abundance.

Maybe I should be guiltier about it than I am.

But I'm not.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Gothelittle Rose, I get what you're saying. Realistically speaking, I don't know how I would have used cloth without compromising a great deal of my time/sanity/energy - though many love their cloth diapers! But I do think that bio-degradable alternatives can be manufactured more cheaply if there's more demand.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Gothelittle Rose, I get what you're saying. Realistically speaking, I don't know how I would have used cloth without compromising a great deal of my time/sanity/energy - though many love their cloth diapers! But I do think that bio-degradable alternatives can be manufactured more cheaply if there's more demand.