Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is the upfront cost of cloth diapers prohibitive for most?

This question could be very difficult to answer as it really depends on ones personal financial situation, and the local economy.  But, I think it is a topic worth investigating.  We as cloth diapering advocates constantly tout the economic benefits of cloth diapering, which is all good and well, but, the truth of the matter is the cost savings benefits of cloth diapers are more long-term (over the course of about 1 yr) rather than an immediate one.  In today's world of credit, this isn't necessarily a problem for most, but it could be for some.

If you do the math, (or visit any random website that has already done the math), cloth diapers are truly the most economic choice.  Disposables will cost between $2,000 and $3,000 per child from infancy to potty-training toddlers.  A sufficient stash of cloth diapers numbers around 2 to 3 dozen.  This of course depends on your lifestyle and system preference.  But let's say, in general, one could get by with about 36 diapers.  On average, the more convenient the diaper the more expensive it cost, so an All-In-One (AIO) or One-Size diapers could run anywhere from $20 to $25 per diaper.  So for someone to fathom having to purchase 36 AIO diapers at $20 a pop, that's $720 right off the bat.  Not to mention accessories such as wet bags and detergent, could add another $50 to the deal.  Now when you do add the utility costs over time of washing the diapers yourself, it is far cheaper than disposables.  And the fact that you can extend these savings when you reuse the diapers on subsequent children is phenomenal.  But what about the folks that can't afford the $720 we just estimated?

Here are some solutions:
1) Go online or to a local workshop and figure out what cloth diapering systems you want to use, and put them on your registry!  This is the best option for moms carrying their first child because you know your family wants to help you out and would be more than happy to buy you the diapers of your dreams.
2) Buy used.  There are many diaper swapping websites and forums with people who want to "destash" and are willing to sell their used diapers at a deep discount.  There's nothing wrong with this, but, be cautious.  Cloth diapers are very sensitive and require a lot of care and maintenance.  If the owner didn't care for the diapers well, or the diapers have already done its duty with several children, the construction of the diapers may be compromised or the fabrics may no longer be as absorbent, i.e. as effective, as when they were new. So, be sure to scrutinize every diaper before you  make that purchase otherwise you may have to start over.  As my Trinidadian friends say, "good things don't cheap, cheap things don't good".
3) Don't feel pressured into buying all 36 diapers at one time.  If you are under financial constraints, start off with some inexpensive prefolds.  Prefolds are the least flashy diapers out there, but, they are a tried and true staple and they are super cheap. Prefolds are, in my opinion, a great way to begin your cloth diapering journey.  Newborns, though they pee frequently, don't pee in as high a volume as an older child and prefolds are very absorbent.  They get more absorbent the more you wash them too.  Another great thing about prefolds is that when your infant outgrows the infant size prefolds, they can be used as doublers for your future pocket diapers.  So, if you can deal with folding the prefolds and using Snappis, I'd buy anywhere from 12-16 prefolds (infants need to be changed 8-10 times/day) and 2 covers.  I say 2 covers because, when one is dirty you'll have another to use.  I recommend 1 cover to every 4-5 prefolds or fitted diapers, so, this 2 is just a starter for the budget conscious mom. So, 16 prefolds @ $2/prefold, plus 2 covers @ $12/cover (on average) = $56.  Add in a package of Rockin' Green @ $14 and we're at $70.  These are the BARE necessities for cloth diapering.  So if you're willing to go old school and use some prefolds you can theoretically begin your cloth diapering journey with $70 (+tax and shipping).

As the months wear on, you become more confident with your cloth diapers, washing routine, etc. you can use the money you may have budgeted on disposable diapers on adding to your stash, getting a couple more accessories, etc.  Let's say you budgeted $60/month for disposables.  You could over time use some of your diaper budget every month and add one or two covers, some different types of diapers to accommodate your growing child and busy lifestyle, maybe a wet bag or pail liner, some cloth wipes each month until you have everything you need.  If you have this type of budget, you'll have everything you need in far less than a year. And besides the occasional top-up of detergent every 3-4 months, you'll be done.

So, is a $70 initial cost prohibitive for most?  I sure hope not if you're planning on raising a child :)

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I've heard cloth diapering is easy, but, what's the scoop about the poop?

The poop factor is definitely in the top 5 reasons that people shy away from cloth diapering.  I must admit, that was my first question when I began researching using cloth.  And I definitely thought I'd be totally grossed out by having to deal with poop.  But, the more I learned about cloth diapering, the less squeamish I became about this concept.  Also, actually having the baby sure helped me get over myself.  I think every mom-to-be is totally grossed out by the thought of the birthing process and baby poopy and spit-up... and as soon as they become moms, they get over that apprehension very quickly.

So to answer the question, what's the scoop about the poop? First of all, breastfed babies' poops is water soluble, so the poop can go right in the washing machine with the diaper, and it will wash right out.  Breastfed poop can tend to stain the diapers, so, put your trust in the sun to eliminate the stains from the fabric - if you didn't know, the sun is a natural disinfectant and stain remover. 

What about when baby is drinking formula and eating pureed food and you get that peanut-buttery sticky stuff?  Or better yet, when your little one begins eating solid foods and the poop is solid?  Well, there are ways to mitigate this issue also:
#1: Solid poopy is way easier to deal with than the peanut-butter stuff because you can just dump it into the toilet, and wash the diapers as usual.
#2: If you're still in the peanut-butter stage, or just would rather not deal with the poop in general, there are these awesome things called flushable diaper liners .  They are about the thickness of a dryer sheet and come in several sizes depending on the manufacturer.  I especially love the Sage ones because they're pretty big, and can get through about 2-3 washes in the washing machine before they fall apart.  So, you lay the liner on the diaper when changing baby.  If they pee, you just throw the liner in the wet bag with the diaper and wash as usual.  If they go poopy, you just lift the liner with the poop and all, and flush it down the toilet.  The liners are 100% biodegradable.  Love them! 
#3: Another option is using a diaper sprayer.  They look just like the sprayer you'd use at your kitchen sink.  Just hook it up to the toilet - doesn't take long, let hubby take care of it.  And when you have a poopy diaper you can just hose it off.

The option one decides to you is totally subjective.  Some folks can't leave home without their sprayer, while others think it's just too messy.  As usual, it's all about personal preference.

The next poopy question people have is, "Ew, so poop is going to be in the washing machine I'm using to wash my clothes? What about my clothes?" My answer to that is, you're washing the diapers in HOT water.  I don't mean kinda hot, I mean between 140-150F.  This ensures the diaper gets clean, it's killing all kinds of bacteria.  So, your clothes will be fine. 

What I really don't understand though is, Americans pick up tons of doggie poo every day.  If you can pick up stinkie doggie poo, then what's the big deal about your baby's poo?  I tell you, I was way more grossed out about having to pick up my dog's poop (the dog my husband just HAD to have) than I was about dealing with my daughter's poopy diaper.  In Jamaica we don't pick up dog poop... but when in Rome.  Now, please don't send me angry e-mails about animal rights or whatever, it's just a cultural thing.  And no, I'm not in any way trying to compare your bundle of joy to your family pet... I'm just talking about poop.

So, I am proud to say I no longer fear poop!  I think that fear left me once I stuck my finger down the back of my baby's diaper, foolishly, to see if she was wet... and oops, she was more than wet.  (teehee).  So to you, dear friends, who are considering cloth... don't worry about the poop... it's temporary, and if you include some liners and/or a sprayer in your diapering program, you'll do great!