Everything You Need to Know About Diapers, Part 2

See Part 1 here.

Disposables are big business. They’re convenient for parents but not cheap, except in Norway and Target, and potentially awful for the planet. What about reusables? Inspired by Pampers and its competitors, cloth diapers have come a long way. They have fasteners now, velcro and/or snaps; they are both more sophisticated and easier to use than their forebears. Sales have grown accordingly, especially in the last decade or so, when the Internet played a huge role in their resurgence: “The Real Diaper Industry Association, a group that represents makers of cloth diapers, says a survey it did found a 30 percent increase in cloth diaper sales between 2000 and 2007.”

Great! But. Um. 30% is the let’s-be-real, probably inflated number the lobbyists are giving us, and that’s not even that big a number. The truth is, not that many people use them. Lots of people, like me, intend to! At least at first. (Spoiler alert?) Part of the reason is that they are expensive, at around $18 each, new, and you need so many of them. I had thought, naively, that if you buy liners, you could swap out a messy liner for a clean one and keep using the same shell. No. Ha! No. It turns out that pee, like water, goes everywhere, and baby poop, which is like its own subgenre of alien species, even more so.

Remember, your baby needs 10–12 changes in 24 hours. That means you need 10–12 cloth diapers, for a total initial cost of — let’s say you get some kind of bulk discount — $180, just to get through a regular Monday. That assumes you are then going to wash and dry the whole load to get it ready for Tuesday, and you will never do that, that’s insane. So really you need more like 25 ($250) at least, plus the liners, which are still necessary to keep the diapers from turning into a swamp. Even with a bare minimum of 25 shells, you have to do laundry constantly, or pay for a service. And you cannot go to a laundromat that often or it becomes your job.

Even once you figure that out — buy as many of the shells as possible second-hand from other people who have failed at motherhood decided to try something else, for example, which is what we did — you run into problems like, what do you do when you’re out and about with your baby and they decide to go all Sir Poops-a-lot on you while they’re wearing an $18 cloth diaper? You can clean them up and switch them to a different adorable $18 cloth diaper, but you’re still left with a smelly clump of cotton and human feces you then have to carry around in your purse until you get home.

Well, you can buy a waterproof bag and carry it around with you for just such an occasion. I did! For a while. Or you can start making compromises: you’ll do disposables when you’re out. And at night, because as absorbent as the inserts and the liners and the diapers themselves are, nothing so pure can stand up to eight-to-ten hours of infant elimination. No, for that you need the deal-with-the-devil disposables. (Do you know how heavy a night-of-pee-sodden diaper can be? It takes on the mass of a softball. You could probably brain someone with it.) And when anyone else is taking care of your child for you, because you can’t expect them to deal with the whole messy cloth thing, can you? If you ask, they’ll probably never offer to babysit again.

Soon you’ve spent a lot on cloth diapers and a lot on disposables, and you’re washing onesies constantly and running special separate loads for the diapers using special diaper detergent lest you encounter the dreaded residue, and you start to feel a little Republican about the environment, like maybe it can pull itself up by its bootstraps for a change. And that’s before we even get to the best part: the DIAPER PAIL.

Many diaper manufacturers offer a full range of diapering accessories, including a range of options for a cloth diaper pail. Modern pails feature locking lids and built-in features that provide odor control.These safety features are extremely important for parents who prefer wet-pail methods. A curious baby can drown in just a few inches of water. Of course, a dry pail is preferred by many as less noticeable, not to mention safer for children in the home. Handles are convenient on a diaper pail. Soiled diapers can be heavy and cumbersome, so easy lifting is always a benefit when shopping for a cloth diaper pail. Things like a 5-gallon bucket or garbage pail is used by some parents, but they do not have special accommodations. They will probably work, but not as well as a commercial diaper pail designed to accommodate diaper washing.

Washing a soiled cloth diaper pail isn’t a chore that many people enjoy. Real moms, however, have developed useful solutions to this unpleasant task. Diaper pail liners fit into your pail much like a garbage can liner. However, instead of disposing liners after each use, liners can be placed in the washing machine with your diapers. This keeps the cloth diaper pail cleaner and reduces physical contact with solid waste and germs. Diaper pail liners are usually made with one layer of waterproof material- either nylon or PUL. Because there is a lag between washing the previous batch of cloth diapers and changing the baby, two cloth diaper pail liners is recommended. This allows parents to always have a clean liner on hand.

Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I’m not what Kelly’s Closet would consider a “real mom.” But at some point, especially after I went back to work and especially after Babygirl started eating solids and the poop went from adorable to something more like real human feces, I just thought, life’s too short. We kept some of the cloth diapers around for emergencies and started buying bulk boxes of Pampers via Amazon Subscribe & Save. And then Luvs. And then, yes, the Target brand, because frankly they work fine. The only kind that hasn’t worked was the Walgreens store brand. Sorry, guys.

In comparison to the cloth diaper routine, using disposables feels like hedonistic selfishness. Maybe I will answer for that choice in heaven. But I will enjoy the hell out of it now.

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