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Baby of the cloth

September 1, 2008

No, we don’t have the Rev. Munchkin babbling from the pulpit — we have him doing his Business in cloth diapers. I don’t keep granola in the pantry, but we don’t have a diaper genie, either. We’re not radical — it’s just how we roll.

I learned pdq that when you’re pregnant, unsolicited advice from friends, coworkers and strangers is fair game, as are skeptical and sarcastic responses to your best-laid plans that they’re confident will go awry. That makes it all the more satisfying, then, when you have the baby and make good on your intentions. Of course, I’ve had to confront my own mistakes (Yes, I now see the merits of the Pack ‘n Play. And the FIVE carriers we now own are almost all thanks to my desperation.). But it’s also been exhilarating to prove them wrong: Epidural-free birth? Check. Life without an infant seat/stroller travel system? Just fine. Cloth diapers? Yes, we can.

Aside from the whole no-drug delivery thing, which I spoke of only when asked but somehow still invited the boldest feedback (another mother-to-be turned around during our tour of the hospital, wrinkled her brow and laughed aloud when I was the only one to identify myself as one planning a natural birth, and one coworker said “Yeah right” every time it came up), cloth diapering was the surest conversation and argument starter. Popular reactions spanned curiosity, confusion, disbelief and compliment. Lots of parents shared that they, too, had planned on cloth — before giving it a go and realizing their mistakes, that is. I had to sneak down the hall one day when two happily opinionated colleagues got into a heated debate that resulted in the childless one yelling “You’re giving your grandchildren cancer!!” after the other, who uses disposables. I sympathize with both of them: It’s hard to be the person who feels they must be forceful with others about what they could/should be doing for the greater good, and it’s hard to to get pressured out of your favorite conveniences.

But for us, deciding on cloth diapers was easy: We were starting from scratch (child No. 1) without any favorite conveniences. My mother used cloth diapers for all five of her kids, so I grew up with that norm. We like saving money, and we’re always trying to reduce and reuse. So here we are, armed with soft cloths, sharp pins and a high-efficiency front-load washing machine, going on six months of cloth diapers with no complaints (other than a tiny bit of whining over the staggering variety of cloth diaper “systems” out there. If you’re wading through it and care to read about how I got through, feel free.)

The truth is, whether you’re using disposables or washables, sometimes you’re going to get your hands dirty. (And your clothes, and the changing table, and the couch, and the floor… .) Tossing a dirty diaper into a pail lined with a laundry bag rather than into one lined with a trash bag just doesn’t seem that inconvenient to me, whereas dragging two extra bags of garbage to the curb (or out to the highway, in our case) does. Sure, cloth diapering takes a little bit of extra effort, but for me it’s not enough to qualify it as an inconvenience – though we use disposables at night and when we’re out of the house.

Even my teenage sister, who is your typical eye-rolling, text-happy 16-year-old in nearly every way, doesn’t complain about diaper duty. Most of our friends are just not ready to go there. But I’ll be happy when they acknowledge that “there” is not so out there.

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