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Denise Punger MD FAAFP IBCLC
Discovering Cloth Diapers
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The cartoon print across the front of the disposable diaper was what made me seriously consider switching to cloth; the picture was of a baby lamb drinking out of a bottle. Every third or fourth diaper that I pulled out had the print. I didn’t remember this with the first two boys. But now I wasn’t interested in dressing my third breastfed baby with an icon normalizing formula feeds. I wonder if the formula companies had anything to do with getting this design on the diaper; just one more subliminal message to brand-new moms that bottles are “cute” and “acceptable.” 

    While my first two boys were in diapers I did not know anyone who used cloth. I thought they were dated. About the only thing I had heard about cloth was that they were a burden to tote around. They are bulkier because they don’t contain little absorptive chemical-laden beads. Then you have to store and carry the dirty ones home. My mother told me that disposable diapers were one of the greatest inventions for advancing motherhood. Now that I think back, perhaps a washer and dryer to expedite cleaning the soiled garments would have helped her more. For me washing a load of diapers turned out to be easier than carrying them to the trash can and buying them weekly. Our collection only came once a week, so it also meant that the diaper odor accumulated!

     By the time my third son was born, I actually knew two Super-moms who had used cloth diapers. “I can, too,” I thought. The first cloth diapers I ordered were “all-in-ones.” The waterproof liner is a part of the outer diaper and they have Velcro tabs similar to the ease of disposable. In other words, no pins. They are shaped to fit. I ordered six off the Internet, without having seen them in person. When they arrived I was surprised at how big they looked compared to the disposables. I was very impressed with the soft flannel lining that would be against my baby’s skin. I put one on him. The dipes looked comfortable.

     We went through the six diapers really fast. (It made me realize how much waste is put into the environment!) I was hooked on the softness. I washed them right away. The next round I did the wash after five so I would not have to put the paper diaper on him. Then I ordered twenty more. I couldn’t wait to get them because I was doing way too much laundry. They are about $12 each. My husband flipped that I spent $300 on twenty six diapers but he thought cotton diapers was a good idea. It seemed like a lot all at once but economically the investment was sensible.

     Someone heard I was using cloth and gave me a lot more. Her babies were toilet trained. She didn’t know anyone else who would use them. I used cloth wipes and warm water to clean. No running to the store for diapers. No weekly expense of $30-40 for them. I received a wide variety of diapers from this mom.

     She gave me pre-folded rectangles and covers with Velcro. It was ten months before I needed to purchase anything else. When I did need bigger covers, I could still use the rectangles. You never out-grow these. To be more economical, you can start with rectangles and covers from birth and just replace covers as your baby needs a larger size.

     Most babies and toddler can’t last in a regular cotton rectangle all night. There is not enough fabric to absorb the urine, so they leak and have rash; a common reason moms give for using disposables. The advertisers of disposable exploit this. Among all the hand-me-downs were thick terry cloth rectangles diapers. They are appropriately called “thick-n-thirsty”. They are good for nights. They also seem to pull the wetness away from the skin so the baby isn’t exposed to the urine all night. I am fortunate that someone shared this tip with me. With the wide spread use of disposables the art of cloth diapering has been lost. Another relative was concerned about rash caused by wetness. She actually thought paper diapers were healthier because they “pull wetness away.” With proper use and washing cloth is healthier by being less irritating and chemical-free. Daytime diapers should be checked every hour and changed at least every two hours or immediately if soiling occurs. Two hours comes fast. If you are use to disposables you probably don’t change and throw a diaper out that fast. You do your errands with the comfort that a diaper will last until you’re done and won’t be bothered with diaper changes while you’re out. With cloth you do have to estimate how many hours you will be out and prepare.

     It took a few weeks to get into a changing and laundering routine. I’ve had some challenges in staying all natural. For example, I traveled out-of-town with my baby. But I had the fore thought to think when I would be near a washing machine. So we made it ten days traveling in cloth. I was on crutches for two weeks. It turned out to be much easier to wash the diapers than go downstairs and down our sloped driveway to take bags of garbage out. People warned me when you start work or when he starts eating solids you will tire of the cloth. I have started working outside the home and he has started eating solids. And I am not tired of the cloth. In fact my baby gets to model off his dipes at work so he can show other moms that this is do-able and fashionable. We even keep a small supply of extras for demo so other moms don’t have to guess what they are buying off the Internet like I did.

     I have piece of mind that I am doing something good for my baby and the environment. I now have people calling me Super-mom because of cloth diapers. What a good feeling! All because of cloth! I don’t want my baby days to end!






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Denise Punger MD FAAFP IBCLC
4640 S. 25th Street
Ft. Pierce, Florida, 34981
Copyright 2005