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Family Values, Planet Wise

For me to poop on: How cloth diapering changed how I look at a lot of things.


Dealing with poo is one of the running gags of parenthood. Going in, it’s intimidating at best. Parents-to-be often look at this very necessary part of child rearing with considerable trepidation, opting for the most hands-off of available approaches: the disposable diaper.

We certainly researched the alternatives heading up to the birth of our daughter, but the siren song of ‘sposies was strong. Not only did they keep our hands (relatively) poo-free, but our local green bin program took them, which meant they were planet-friendly.

Sadly, the day came when we realized that, despite our best efforts, our daughter was prone to rashes– and those rashes were a caused by the simple fact that her skin didn’t like being closed up in what is, apparently, little more than a plastic bag.

So we looked deeper. By that time, we had learned that baby poo– while messy and quite stainy– wasn’t nearly as terrible as we’d feared. We opted for a half-way alternative and signed up for a weekly cloth diaper delivery service. We loved it, and to our glee it was no more expensive than disposables.

Then, due to reasons we won’t get into, the financial crunch hit, and we couldn’t afford the luxury of having someone else clean our kids pooie diapers any more. For the same as it cost us for one month of delivery, we bought 24 toddler sized cotton prefolds and began washing them at home.

A rocky road did follow, featuring about 6 months of trail and error as we fumbled our way to discovering the right washing technique. Now, with our second child along for the ride, we are firmly ensconced in the cloth convert category.

Along the way, noticing how much more comfortable our daughter was in cloth diapers, I looked into the menstrual version: cotton pads for ladies. Again, once you get over dealing with your own bodily fluids in a way that hasn’t been popular for several decades, you really don’t want to go back. Ever.

We also learned that, while the local green bin program does except those used disposables, only about 15% of the diaper gets actually processed into compost, and the rest is landfill. Not as green an option as we had believed.

So where are we now? With a few subtle variations, we’re pretty much exactly where parents were about 100 years ago. I knit diaper covers rather than buy them. We use cotton prefolds, but almost bought the big flannel squares from yesteryear (the only reason we didn’t is because they would have rendered our existing toddler collection moot, which seemed silly). We wash our own diapers. We even make our own butt cream. In fact, it’s kinda hard to find a trace of “the man” in any of our diapering.

We are also looking more closely at our recycling and green bin programs. Reading the fine print there has led us to some startling findings.

And what is more important, I think, we’re not taking anything for granted any more. Just because something is generally done one way doesn’t mean that that’s the best for us. And to say the very least, some of the better options out there are the ones lying just under the surface of the status quo.

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