Alibi V.24 No.19 • May 7-13, 2015 

Letters

Diaperin’ Is Easy!

Dear Alibi,

Robert Maestas

Editor’s note: This letter has been edited for length. The week of April 23, the Alibi featured an article titled "Diaperin' Ain't Easy" where Amelia Olson looked at eco-friendly options for diapering your child. But Olson's article was filled with misinformation and only surface-level investigations into cloth diapering. Her article feels akin to saying, "You better not have a child unless you have $12,000 to spend on baby items because you'll need the best crib, the most expensive car seat and stroller, the highest-end baby clothes, that expensive high chair, etc." She lists the prices of expensive options, everything new, and at full retail cost, and makes it appear that you need to re-buy everything every few months. I have been cloth diapering my 14-month-old son since the day he was born and have only fallen more and more in love with cloth diapering. I, as well as other moms in Albuquerque's cloth-diapering community, have found this article underrepresents the true value and ease of use of cloth diapers, and are thoroughly disappointed in the representation it offers.

Where to start? Well, locally, Buy Buy Baby does carry a selection of major brand cloth diapers at full retail cost. It's a great place to go and look at them, but don't be scared of the numbers! Looking at full retail cost diapers can get scary quickly, but that's not the best way to build up your stash. Also, Inspired Birth & Families here in Albuquerque offers cloth-diapering classes for only $15 per couple, as well as a variety of other services.

Olson did not even look at the possibility of buying used, which would be the most eco-friendly way to go. Many people sell off their stash for great prices once their child potty-trains, and you can get a great, full stash for about $200. With a mineral strip and diluted bleach soak followed by a couple heavy washes to sanitize used diapers, they are perfectly safe to use. To buy used, there are a variety of ways to score great deals. For one, you can keep an eye on Craigslist. But also, Facebook is a huge avenue for the mom markets of the world where people buy and sell diapers, diaper bags, baby carriers and so much more. Locally, there is a Facebook group called Cloth Diapering Mamas of Albuquerque. There are also dozens of other national groups like the "Cloth Diaper Swap" as well as specific brand Buy/Sell/Trade groups like "Bum Genius B/S/T," "Ella Bella Bum B/S/T" and so many others where you can buy and get the diapers shipped to you. Recently though, I have fallen in love with WAHM (Work-At-Home-Mom)-made diapers because they tend to be of great quality and resell at very close, if not more, than what I initially paid for them. Plus, I can support a mom and her family through her work. Although they do cost more, I buy one once in a while to spread out the cost and know that I can resell for the same price I paid.

Most diapers nowadays are "one size," meaning they fit from around 11-12 lbs. up to 35 lbs. This is possible because a system of snaps on the diaper allow you to snap the diaper into different sizes. This also means that you only really need one stash for the child's entire diapering life, as well as being able to reuse the diaper collection for any subsequent children.

But the cost of diapers can vary far and low. With a budget of $200-$300, you can easily get started cloth diapering, and it's not too hard to spread that over the nine-month period of pregnancy.

I was intimidated to cloth diaper at first, but I quickly realized how easy it was. While baby is breastfed, the poop is completely water soluble and doesn't need anything extra. A soiled diaper went right into the pail liner, and then on wash day, the pail liner full of dirty diapers could go right into the washing machine. It’s that easy. I discovered laundry wasn't too difficult as it was only a couple extra loads a week. Since I was using prefolds and covers, no folding was necessary, as I just stacked the prefolds on one side of the changing pad with the covers stacked next to it. Since I was already cloth-diapering, I found it was harder to use disposable wipes as they went into a separate pail. I started making my own cloth wipes by buying old, cheap flannel receiving blankets and cutting them up and keeping a bottle of wipe solution I made myself next to the wipes. I also quickly learned that there was no need for "cloth diaper-safe detergent" and that it was just a crock to get parents to buy an expensive detergent. Most of the time, those detergents don't actually have anything that actually cleans the diaper. So recommendations are actually to use any regular detergent as long as it doesn't have fabric softener in it. By the time my son was 4 or 5 months old, I "broke even" through the cost of what I would have been spending on disposables.

The few times I did need to use disposables for trips, I discovered something that solidified my decision to use cloth: In cloth there are rarely poop "blowouts" like there are in disposables. On a long trip last summer, I tried three different brands of disposables in two different sizes, and I had poop blowouts. Every. Single. Time. Those infamous baby poop blowouts that get everywhere rarely happen in cloth diapers. When you have a young baby, they poop almost a dozen times a day. I was covered in more poop, touching more poop and washing more poop off his clothes than I ever had in recent months. It was disgusting, and I felt like the extra couple washings a week were worth it if I didn't have to touch the poop blowouts that happened in disposables. I also have never dealt with a diaper rash or had to buy diaper ointment with cloth. Diaper rashes are not that common with cloth diapers. It is also noted that children potty-train earlier when in cloth diapers because they are more aware of the wetness than in disposables.

When all is said and done, I have found cloth diapers so much easier than I thought, really affordable in the long run and a great investment that I can resell for later, and most of all cute!

—Alyx Hodges

Olson responds

First off, I want to thank you and the Cloth Diapering Mamas of Albuquerque for taking the time to read the article, comment and, in some cases, give specific resources. As a journalist I hoped this article would open a dialogue and that, just like anything else I write, some would disagree. The information some of CDMOA offered was really useful for me and other new families hoping to cloth diaper. I say families, because I'd like to remind you and the Cloth Diapering Mamas of Albuquerque that it is not moms alone who change diapers. Dads, uncles, grandparents, aunties and so many more are involved in raising our children.

I am especially thankful for the information you and a few others moms from the group provided regarding services and organizations that offer assistance to families who are economically vulnerable. You stated on a Facebook comment that if “while pregnant, you put aside exactly what you'd spend on disposables, you'd have more than enough money to buy a stash before baby comes." Actually many families cannot afford to prioritize saving money for cloth diapering over things like electric bills, insurance payments, rent and meal planning. To assume that all families have “extra” money to set aside, or that they have access to laundry in their home, is presumptuous. Personally, my family is lucky, and we rent a duplex with a washer and dryer. But when we relocate in a year or so, convenient access to laundry is not a given.

Several members of CDMOA alluded to laundry being easy. One commenter said, "(Throw it in, add soap, press button.) That was exhausting! (Oh machine done, switch it to next machine, press button) OMG this is SOOOOOooo hard!" If you have to walk to a laundromat, you've got a squirmy infant strapped to your chest, you have work in 45 minutes and you are a quarter short for the next load, yeah—that is hard! Also you are seriously underestimating how lazy I am about my own laundry. Ask my husband—my laundry abilities are equivalent to those of an 8-year-old.

My goal in writing the article was to find the resources my family and I would need in order to successfully pull off something we wanted to do for the sake of the environment—not our child. The article was not a broad examination of cloth diapering, but instead a specific, intimate guide to what our family wanted (and needed) in order to feel confident about cloth diapering. Is a diaper sprayer a luxury? Yes! Are prefolds a miracle? Yes! And as two out-of-home working parents—one a PhD student and the other a journalist—we need all the help we can get. The sheer fact that we have the privilege to debate what type of thing will collect our baby's poop is amazing and not something to be taken for granted. As far as used cloth diapers go, that is a very economically reasonable approach many families can take advantage of, but not one my husband and I are interested in.

One concern I have with many of the comments I received on Facebook from CDMOA was how discouraging, assuming and condescending they were. As a first-time mom, pregnant lady and human being, it was really hurtful and sad to think the first local group of moms I had the opportunity to interact with publicly were so exclusionary and harsh. I'm a journalist; people disagree with me. I write advice pieces for teenager girls at HelloGiggles.com and—believe me, they disagree with me all the time. Accepting criticism is part of my job, even very harsh criticism. But I never thought that the first public declaration of my confusion and vulnerability as a new parent would garner such nasty comments on Facebook from fellow moms.

Remember when you were first pregnant? Were you scared? Scared you weren't ready? Scared you couldn't do it? Scared you’d drop the baby? Scared you wouldn't know how to do the right stuff? I'm feeling all that right now. And according to my amazing sisterhood of other mothers in my life, I will probably always question my decisions. Luckily, the support, love, understanding and openness of my family and friends—moms and dads alike—gives me the courage to believe in my ability as a mother. It's amazing what type of sisterhood and community is possible through motherhood. I hope to be a bright, sunshiny spot of support and knowledge to new parents. Our job is not easy, and there is a lot of guilt and shaming that’s unfortunately part of the discussions we have about our children. I’d really like to change that.

I do want to take this time to remind readers that there is a local diapering service that offers pickup and delivery (at a very affordable price) called Rio Grande Diapering Services. Of all the people I spoke with about our sincere curiosity about cloth diapering, they were most encouraging and assuring.

Again, I appreciate the resources some of the folks at Cloth Diapering Mamas of Albuquerque provided. Hopefully when we interact again, we can all keep in mind that we’re all parents trying to do the best we can.

—Amelia Olson
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