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Denise Punger MD FAAFP IBCLC
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Which one Huggies or Pampers? The one on sale? The one I got a coupon for this week? I am going to pass on both. The brand names names are so popular we don’t even call them diapers anymore.


When I was pregnant with my first baby, we acquired everything under the sun. The only thing I did not have was cloth diapers. I had, but did not need a playpen for the living room, a cradle in the master, a crib off in another room. I never used any of it. I did not need a bouncy seat, or a big round jumping saucer, AND a swing.  We had a mobile, a hanging play gym (actually two different ones), and black and white patterns for improved eye sight. As a thriving breastfed baby he rejected a rubber pacifier. The first time around I thought my baby would miss some important developmental goal if I didn’t have it all.


Why everything, but no cloth? My relatives told me how horrible cloth diapers were, “When I left the house, with a baby, I had to take a big sack for clean diaper and a big sack for dirty ones and lug both everywhere.  Paper diapers are the best thing that ever happened for mothers.” I, relieved to have babies in a modern decade, toilet trained two boys never owning even one cloth diaper. I wasn’t aware of anyone using cloth.


By my third pregnancy, five years later, I had gotten rid of all the “stuff” that is useless in raising babies. Babies have been raised for millennia without all of that.  “Modern babies” babies still preferred their mother’s breasts and cuddling. One well-intended relative, in response, to my third pregnancy announcement, said, “It is a shame you don’t have any of your stuff anymore.” Without a thought, “Please don’t replace it!” Not only did I not want the clutter, but now I had two older siblings to help, hold, cuddle, provide visual stimulation, entertainment and even stickyy fingers for the newest member to suck on.


Being the third, there had to be something I could get this baby that would be unique. The only baby gimmick I lacked was cloth diapers. Since I considered myself a parent educator, I thought that I might as well try it. I searched on the Internet to see if I can get a hold of some of these old-fashioned cotton diapers. Over a thousand sites came up searching  “cloth diapers!”  Many were owned by stay-at-home mother. It was confusing to see names like prefolds, fitted, diaper liners, night time diapers, diaper doublers, flannel, terry cloth, and cotton. I was overwhelmed at first, but with this many sites and choices, I concluded that cloth diapers must not be as out dated as I thought. To start I purchased six all-in-one-diapers (AIO) off the Internet. When I got the diapers by Fed-ex a few days later, I thought, “These look so huge.” I found out that cloth diapers generally are bulkier then what we are use to with cloth. You need the layers for absorbency. After a few days of using cloth, I decided I liked them. The flannel on the inside felt soft. Previously, I didn’t know there was flannel. I just knew about cotton. Washing diapers turned out to not be so bad.  Instead of bringing bags of garbage outside I just dumped it in the washer. Like everything else, you get into a routine and it gets easier. Making the effort to carry a bag for dirty diapers was not that big of a deal either. Beats accumulating rolled up dirty diapers under the car seat.


I read on the Internet that the advantage of cloth diapers saves money and cuts back on land fill space.  Web site stores showed comparisons if you bought cloth verse disposable over two years. The initial investment makes it seem hard to believe. As a first time buyer of cloth you might also tend to over spend trying to figure out what type of diaper works best for your baby. As I was adjusting to the new loads of laundry, I couldn’t help wonder if loads of laundry (using up water and electricity) were greener then landfill space. What really reconciled the green issue for me was when reading about endangered animals with my middle son, an animal lover. The orangutans in the story were endangered because we were cutting down their homes.  They had no trees to leave in. I imagined that if I bought all the Huggies I needed today to diaper my baby for the next 3 year, how many orangutan homes would be destroyed, unnecessarily. I could picture in my mind the boxes stacked up to the sky.


Also, the sites talk about the chemicals in diapers. But think about the chemicals in wipes! If I bought the diapers with the first baby it would have saved much more money in the long run because each baby could use the same. Even if I didn’t know about the advantages of cotton, it just felt good about putting cozy flannel next to his skin.


And I have even found reasons to recommend cloth diapers as a medical benefit. The treatment for congenital hip dysplasia is double diapering. That would get really expensive with paper. The cloth is also bulky and can be folded in a way to be “double.” Also with babies with urine output problems such as poor milk intake or a congenital kidney problem it is easier to count wet cloth diapers. Paper diapers have so many chemicals in them to absorb urine; it is hard to tell when they are soaked.



The biggest drawback of cloth is that, they are not in stores. And because it may be hard to find someone else using them, you have to “wing it” when shopping for them by Internet. So now my son David Stuart and his toys, Domino, Ernie, and Mother Rabbit model them in my office.

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