after my money-related freak-out earlier this morning, i spent practically all day researching cloth diapers. even before i got pregnant, i imagined that i would cloth diaper whenever i had a kiddo. while i am not necessarily gung ho 100% all about every facet of attachment parenting, & have in fact amused myself on a regular basis poking fun at hardcore hippie moms (who are generally way into attachment parenting), there’s a lot about it that appeals to me. breastfeeding, baby-wearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping…i don’t want to make bold proclamations about how i definitively will parent because i just won’t know until the baby is here, but from what i have read & seen with friends who have kids, all of these choices look ideal to me.
& i’m not gonna lie: a huge part of what appeals to me about these things is the financial savings involved, & the fact that these parenting strategies are space savers, as a general rule. a brand-new budget crib is still going to cost over $100, & in my little 600-square foot bungalow (that’s probably a generous estimate), it would be difficult to find space for it. if jared & i co-sleep with the baby, all we’ll need is a bassinet or a small co-sleeper–& a lot of co-sleeping parents don’t even use those anymore once the baby is big enough to roll around. they just keep the baby in bed with them. breastfeeding takes up way less space than boxes of formula & bottles & bottle cleaning brushes, & it’s far cheaper as well. if we want jared (or a sitter) to be able to give the baby the occasional bottle & take the pressure off me for all the feedings, we can keep a handful of bottles on hand & rent a breast pump. the cost of strollers is terrifying to me–they can easily cost a couple hundred dollars, particularly for infant strollers (you can’t put a newborn in an umbrella stroller because they’re not old enough to sit up yet–they need a stroller in which they can lie down). & if you’re choosing a stroller that is larger than an umbrella stroller, like a travel system that includes a car seat, they can take up a lot of space. a sling, on the other hand, can be wadded up & stuffed in a drawer or closet when not in use. & it can enable all kinds of hands-free parent activities while baby stays engaged & snuggled when it is in use.
but cloth diapers. oh man. of course jared was pretty much on board with cloth diapers from the start, mainly from an environmental perspective. he’s an environmental historian specializing in waterways, so of course the idea of contributing an average of around 7500 disposable (but largely not biodegradable) diapers to landfills before our child is potty-trained doesn’t especially appeal to him. one could make an argument that cloth diapers take a toll on the environment in their own way, needing to be washed & using water & electric resources, but i figure–we’re going to be using the washer anyway. why not wash some diapers while we’re at it?
i looked into the different kinds of cloth diapers on the market & was pleased to see that the cloth diaper market has expanded a lot since i was a cloth diapered baby in the late 70s (flat diapers affixed with pins; my parents were given a year of diaper service as a baby shower gift, apparently). i am most drawn to all-in-ones, which are basically washable cloth versions of disposable diapers. they are already shaped into diapers, with elastic in the legs, & you just snap or velcro them shut. easy peasy! there are also pocket diapers, which are a similar principle, with a pocket in the gusset to place an absorbent insert. the benefit of pocket diapers is that the soaker insert comes out & therefore the whole package dries more quickly. there are also cloth diapers that can be adjusted with a system of snaps to grow with the baby, meaning that a single set of cloth diapers can take the baby from birth to potty training. no having to upgrade from newborn sizes to 3-6 month sizes to 6-9 month sizes, etc. i decided that these were the diapers for me, as a cloth diapering novice.
from my extensive googling, it seems like the two most popular brands of one-size all-in-ones or pocket diapers are bumgenius & fuzzibuns. new, one of these diapers retails for $15-$17. that’s kind of major sticker shock considering that you need to lay in a stockpile of at least 24 to really have enough on hand to avoid doing laundry every single day. that’s a minimum expenditure of around $400. it’s really nothing in the greater scheme of things, considering how much it costs to buy disposables (a brand like pampers averages about 25 cents each–so a new fancy cloth diaper would pay for itself in about sixty uses, which would only take a few months if each diaper is being washed & used again three or four times a week). but still!
so i hopped on ebay & discovered that there are chinese cloth diaper manufacturers that make one-size pocket diapers & all-in-ones in cute colors & patterns & sell them for $5 or $6 each, including free shipping. we could lay in a whole supply of enough diapers to do laundry only twice a week for under $300. i looked up some reviews, & some people complained that the chinese diapers didn’t fit as well as
bumgenius, or the colors faded too quickly, but mostly, the reviews seemed comparable.
the only real realm of contention was the fact that these diapers are made in china. never mind that other popular american cloth diaper brands are also manufactured in china–the fact that these discount diapers were being made & sold by chinese companies really bothers some cloth diaperers, who think the priority should be supporting american companies & keeping our cloth diaper dollars in the american economy. but what if supporting american-made diapers is going to soak me for three times as much? it’s all well & good for a solidly middle-class family, but we’re doing this baby thing on less than $30,000 a year.
there are other cloth diapering options, like using flats (which intimidate me–i am willing to pay a bit of a premium for the convenience of a diaper that is shaped like a diaper), & buying used. i have no problem with used cloth diapers, but even used bumgenius & fuzzibuns generally sell for about twice as much as new chinese diapers. & there are so many other brands out there, each of which has its own quirks in terms of pocket opening, lining, snap placement, etc–i could pretty easily stock up on used cloth diapers at the baby consignment store near my house, where they sell for between $5 & $10 each, but i’d have a lot of different brands of diapers (unless i was very choosy) & i’m afraid it would be confusing for jared & me.
i know this is a topic where there’s a learning curve, & by the time my baby is a few months old, i’ll probably be a pro at cloth diapering & so many of the things that intimidate & confuse me now will seem really basic. but unfortunately, the baby is going to need diapers as soon as it’s born, so i’m stuck guessing, using my best judgment, & taking advice from more experienced friends to get me started. the whole “support america” argument really bothered me because…i won’t say that it’s not financially possible for some people to only use american-made cloth diapers, but people are entitled to prioritize their limited resources, & some people might prefer to spend only half their cloth diaper budget on diapers & use the other half for all the other baby expenses that crop up, like a children’s health insurance plan, a car seat, or just paying the bills so the baby will have a place to live. one person said that they would be happy to walk new moms through flat diapers if they can’t afford to lay in a supply of american-made pocket diapers & all-in-ones, but maybe a new mom would rather have a physically convenient diaper experience than an american-made one. i think that’s where i’m at. i don’t especially make any effort to buy exclusively american-made for myself; why should i bother with my baby? i don’t know.