The Diaper Debate

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A long time ago, when I was pregnant for the first time and we had many lofty ideas about our own capabilities, my husband and I talked about cloth diapers. We pretty much decided we are going to use them, for the sake of frugality, sustainability and baby’s skin health. It just seemed the right choice all around, until one day, when I was getting pretty big, we had the following conversation.

DH: “But where would we wash the diapers?”

Me: “What do you mean, where? We put them in the washing machine.”

DH: (wrinkling his nose): “What, you’ll put poopy diapers in the same machine that we use to wash our clothes?”

Me: “Not in the same cycle. We’ll wash them separately, you know.” 

DH: “I still think that’s gross. Think of all the bacteria that will be left over.”

Me: “Well, what do you suggest?”

DH: “My Mom always washed our diapers by hand.”

Do I have to tell you? We’ve been using disposables ever since. And at times I’ve been feeling guilty about it, too, especially when I haul out a big garbage bag full of almost nothing but diapers and think about it adding to some tremendous landfill.

It wasn’t just the gross factor that put us off; we’ve had plenty of poop in our washing machine anyway over the years, what with newborn blow-outs and all. There were periods when changing a poopy diaper equaled changing a whole baby outfit, every time. We’re still all alive and well.

It was also that conveniently made cloth diapers are a pretty hefty initial investment, one we hesitated to make, and I’m not up to sewing my own. And, of course, there’s the convenience; at times, I’ve been so overwhelmed by laundry (especially not having a drier, on long rainy weeks in winter) that voluntarily adding more seemed an effort of will beyond my capability.

As a compromise, I have tried doing early potty-training, with babies running around bare-bottomed around the house on many a summer day. The little tushies got a pleasant breeze, we saved some money on diapers, and I felt better about the ecological aspect of it all.

In the place where we live now, we have frequent electricity and water shortages, up to the point that everybody living in the neighborhood often gets requests to save on electricity and water as much as possible by trying to minimize the usage of air conditioners, ovens and, of course, washing machines. An extra load of diapers every day or two just doesn’t seem feasible in such conditions.  I actually believe that in Israel, where water is a precious commodity, bio-degradable diapers may be more eco-friendly than cloth.

There had to be, however, a compromise: green and convenient; eco-friendly but disposable. So lately I’ve started looking into the option of switching to bio-degradable disposable diapers, such as these. I’d love to hear from any of you who care to share your experience. Cloth? Bio-degradable? Plain ol’ Pampers?

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6 thoughts on “The Diaper Debate

  1. Disposable diapers are not only more convenient, but they are healthier too– less chafing baby’s skin and less fungal “diaper rash.” Considering the burden of using more water & electricity to wash cloth diapers, the disposables may actually be the “greener” way to go. Remember the term “non-degradable” only applies when thinking anthropocentrically.

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    • “Remember the term “non-degradable” only applies when thinking anthropocentrically.” I’m not sure what you mean by this, Tim, but I’d love it if you care to explain. Half my life I’ve been hearing that non-degradable is the Supreme Evil.

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  2. It struck me funny that your husband worried about “germs” in the washing machine. Does he believe in the properties of hot water and soap, or not? And washing the diapers by hand means you have poop in the bathtub, does it not? Some how, I think I’ll take my chances with the washing machine!

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  3. When I was cloth diapering my boys, I’d line the diaper with a half-size cheap paper towel. When poop happens, you can just sort of peel it out with the paper towel and flush. Still some residual poop, but not awful, usually. And I sewed my own diapers from the flannel receiving blankets I had a thousand of but were all too small to be useful as actual blankets. Bonus to cloth diapering: early potty training, because of the wet feeling. You can sew prefolds or fitteds out of old flannel shirts, tshirts, whatever you have on hand, and then you just need to buy a few diaper covers.

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    • Gracie, thanks so much for your insight. It really is useful to be able to sew! I look up to anyone who cloth diapers. Don’t think I could have done it, unless forced to by circumstance.

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