Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cloth Diaper Controversy

It's the latest controversy in our house: To cloth or not to cloth. First, a little background:

When Emma was a baby, lo those many years ago (12 1/2 to be exact) wanted to use cloth diapers. This was in the dark ages, before baby wearing (we had a crappy snugli that didn't work at all) and glass bottles and Bisphenol A-free plastic cups. So I had no fun natural baby stores or really any resources at all. I just trucked over to K-Mart and picked up a couple of packs of Gerber cloth dipes and bought a few diaperaps online. Which was a disaster. I didn't know how to use them, or wash them. And I've since learned that those Gerber diapers at the discount stores are filled w/polyfill that basically makes them anti-absorbent. They're great for wiping up cat puke, but not so great for containing baby pee and poop. So needless to say, every time poor Emma peed we had a big wet mess, and I was changing her clothes 12 times a day. So cloth diapering lasted about 4 days and we gave up.

That was 12 1/2 years ago. I didn't even bother w/Sam after that experience. But times have changed, and I was determined to give it another go. Mostly for environmental reasons. I hate the idea of throwing out all that nonbiodegradable paper and absorbent gel and crap (haha) that's in disposable diapers. Plus they're spendy. But I wanted to do it right this time. so before Molly even came home, I went to a seminar at a cute little natural/crunchy baby store in Madison and learned about everything I was supposed to be doing and everything I'd done wrong before. We waited til Molly'd been home for a couple a months, and then I bought some cute little cloth diapers (BumGenius, to be exact, although the politics at the website of the manufacturer still give me the creeps, so I'm not linking to them). They're supereasy to use and they come in cute colors. The plan was to do a "hybrid" where when Molly was at daycare or Matt was at work with her (back when he took her to work) we'd use disposables, to make everyone's life easier, and at home and on weekends she'd use cloth. So we started on this journey and everything seemed dandy.

And it was, for a while. But within a month or so, things got weird. Specifically, whenever Molly peed, the diapers started smelling really bad. They warn you about this at the cloth diaper sites and tell you that it's because of a) hard water (which is always a problem around these parts) and b) too much detergent residue on the diapers. So now I use as little detergent as possible and baking soda, and I wash the batch of diapers (I've only got 8--because of our hybrid plan) 4 TIMES in hot water--once w/the detergent/baking soda and 3 times just the water, each time to get rid of the residue. Which kinda makes me feel crappy because it negates the whole "environmental" aspect of the experiment. But whatever. The fine folks at Happy Bambino, my little local baby store, suggested using this stuff called "sport wash" which you buy at sporting goods stores and which hunters use to take the scent off their clothes so animals don't smell 'em coming, but politically and morally I can't support any product that's designed to help anybody kill another living creature, so I think that's kinda out.

So I thought things were better. But still, when she pees, it smells really strong. I think it's mostly an ammonia smell. But Matt calls it a "toxic chemical" smell. Which i think is a little harsh. I think she's just in her dipes for too long, because we're used to disposables, mostly, and we need to change them more often. I also think that I'm lazy, so I don't necessarily wash the diapers after 2 days, per manufacturers instructions, and if they didn't sit (or sit in the washer between hot washes) they'd be better. Upshot is, Molly has gotten irritated and Matt's blaming my beloved cloth diapers.

Now I am not so crazy that I will continue to use diapers if they're making my baby sore. But it seems to me that people have used cloth dipes for thousands of years and they had perfectly healthy bottoms. So I'm not ready to throw in the chinese prefold, so to speak, quite yet.

Matt has made it clear he wants nothing to do with these diapers. So that's fine. But here's my plan: I am going to buy new detergent that's supposed to be even more residue-free than the stuff I'm using (which is supposed to be pretty good, but nothing's perfect). I'm going to be a better/more consistent diaper-washer, because i fear that the sitting is perpetuating bacteria growth and that's our problem. And I'm going to try adding tea tree oil to the mix, to see if that acts as an anti-bac, too.

But it may be a lost cause. We may soon have a lot of adorable BumGenius 2.0s to sell on Craigslist, because for whatever reason, they're not working on our adorable baby's adorable bum.

Anyone w/any cloth diaper advice? I'd love to hear it.

1 comment:

Deirdre said...

Don't give up! You can make it work. Have you tried adding something like this to the wash?
Or you could put it in a spray bottle and spray the diapers before putting them in the wet bag.

Now that Sidamo is only going through two diapers a day, I only wash them every 5 or 6 days and we don't have any odor issues. Here's what we do: 20-minute cold rinse and drain, 35-minute cold soak with baking soda, super-hot wash with about a tablespoon of detergent and an extra rinse. I don't think we have hard water, though.

Good luck!