So. I’ve been avoiding the issue and it is time to come clean. I’ve been experimenting with the cloth diapers. I am sad to say that it didn’t work for us. Here’s what went wrong:
After some research into cloth diaper brands I decided to buy six diapers I saw good reviews on from the U.S. I planned on buying six more of a local brand which looked similar, but used Velcro instead of ‘snaps’ (which is the same as those hard metal things on baby-grows [onesies] that parents are tortured with while baby is having a meltdown. The snap is normally impossible to press together, and baby soon loses patience. Someone, PLEASE make me a baby-grow with a zip!) These ones are plastic though, and not difficult to ‘operate’.
The issue with the Velcro fastenings was that apparently they don’t age so well, and I am in it for the long haul. I got myself a diaper that the manufacturer claims can be used from birth up to potty training. Not only do I want to lessen my contribution to landfills, I was very keen on saving a bit of money as well. Monia explained quite succinctly in her blog post about the economic and other benefits of cloth diapering are here. Amongst other things, I also do not appreciate the chemicals being used to make these disposables. If you smell a disposable diaper (before use!) it is positively noxious. Can’t be good for tiny bums!
The use of disposable nappies is so commonplace here that we really got a few raised eye-brows when we intimated that we want to give the washable ones a go. What about staining? We were asked. (The answer is to let damp nappies dry in the sun, a natural bleaching agent, and it saves electricity on drying too!)
What about soiling? We were asked again. Well. Luckily we also had some super excited (and strangely practical) friends who gifted us with a hand held sprayer that gets fitted onto the toilet cistern. All ‘solids’ get the spraying treatment and ultimately flushed away.
Isn’t it a drag to wash nappies every day? Well. It is if you don’t have enough nappies to begin with, (we only have six yet, remember?) but if you have the recommended 12 -18, you will probably only wash it every 2nd or 3rd day. I find myself doing laundry more regularly now anyway with Hannah going through outfits like it’s a fashion show (she’s such a girl!), so it’s not really an extra burden. If you make sure that your washing machine has a good energy rating (A to C) and doesn’t overdo it on the water, it is definitely an alternative to adding to all those landfills.
So, now for the crunch. We tried it a couple of times during the day, still opting for the disposable at night so that it can last the whole night. I knew that we would have to change the nappies more regularly, so that didn’t bother me at all. The problem was that sometimes (more often than not) the nappies ended up leaking. I was pretty determined though, and just resolved to change her as soon as I think it was needed. Then Mark pointed out that Hannah doesn’t seem to kick her legs so high up when wearing her nappy. You see, for the nappy to be a ‘one size fits all’, it gets folded over and clipped on at the front. We had to fold over so much cloth that she was practically in a diaper straight jacket, not being able to pull her legs up toward her when lying on her back. This seemed to be the deciding factor, and so we gave up and reverted to disposables.
I was quite disappointed about this, but took considerable heart after reading Monia’s post about her experience with cloth diapers. It turns out that size matters, and now at 5 months old her daughter and the cloth diapers have ‘found’ each other again and it is working like a charm.
So for now we are waiting for Hannah to fill out a bit and grow into her diapers. She is a particularly small baby, only weighing 5.3 kilos (11.6 pounds) at 4.5 months, so I also don’t blame the diaper manufacturer for the project failure. I think I will buy the local diapers next, when we get more. I realized that it is important to support the local businesses, Velcro or not.
I still think it is worth it: even with the few days we did use the cloth ones I felt a little bit like the girl who tossed the starfish back into the ocean. Just that one disposable diaper that did not get used made a small difference.