(Is this too predictable? It seemed careless to publish a new post on Independence Day and not acknowledge the whole 'freedom' motif. What good American wants to read about laundry routines or 'prefolds vs. pockets' when it's the Fourth of July? Freedom is where it's at.)
Recently a French feminist philosopher wrote a high-profile book deriding American mothering trends of the last decade, which are finally having some influence in France. In her book and in the subsequent magazine articles surrounding its release, Elisabeth Badinter criticizes the modern cloth diaper consumer movement, claiming that both cloth diapers and breastfeeding enslave women to the 'environmental cause' and to their own biology.
But by and large, cloth diapering families disagree with her assessments, at least about cloth. Cloth diapering--and going paperless in the kitchen!--provides certain freedoms that can't be gained by using the disposable alternatives. Many of these benefits and freedoms are obvious to families who have already incorporated cloth diaper laundry into their day-to-day routines, but if you're on the fence and just can't imagine how cloth can fit into your lifestyle, this little list may help tip the scales:
1) Cloth frees up money. In fact, this is probably the #1 reason that anybody chooses cloth. Even a "fancy" stash will save you considerably. Compare an $800 (very high!) estimate for an upfront investment in a large stash of "fancy" diapers to the "slow leak" effect that $2800 will have on your bank account over three years of diapering one child.
2) Cloth frees up time (and even more money). This one may have you thinking, "What?!" But it's true. Hear me out: unless you're super on-the-ball about scheduling disposable diaper deliveries (and you always remember to change your standing order when your baby moves up to the next size), you're going to be running out to the store to buy a pack of diapers from time to time.
If you're an Admirably Frugal Couponing Mom (TM), you're going to be hunting for a coupon, printing or clipping it, and trying to find a store with a sale to match it up with. Then you're going to see what other sales they're running in case you can also get a good deal on toilet paper and paper towels, so that you can make a large enough purchase to earn lots of rewards points. You pull out your coupon binder and find the appropriate coupons while the kids take turns trying to shove each other out of the car attached to the front of the buggy and the baby screeches and wriggles and claws at your chest in his sling. You stock up on all these paper goods while they're on sale, because that's smart shopping, and there goes $40. You manage to bribe the kids to stop shoving with the promise of ice cream, and you buy the sale brand neopolitan. That's another $3. You scored a pretty good deal and saved well over what you'd have paid at regular retail, but you could have spent nothing and spared the time it took to prepare for and accomplish the shopping trip.
And if you're like me and not-so-on-the-ball, you're going to be running out to Wal-mart at 9 pm, leaving a sleeping baby with your husband. You're going to be in such a hurry to get the errand done before the next feeding that you forget what coupons are altogether. You're going to remember that you haven't eaten since breakfast, when you ate your toddler's wasted toast crusts, so you pick up Subway while you're inside. You stop by another couple of aisles in the baby section and choose at least one gimicky item that you don't need because it has a cute owl on it and, frankly, you're enjoying being out by yourself for a little while. THEN you pick out a package of diapers, which you'll pay full retail price for. On your way to check out, you dig through the DVD bin for a couple $5 flicks to pop in during the upcoming six-week growth spurt. Then you toss a few potted plants into your cart. And a rump roast. And those cake donuts that were marked down in the bakery at the end of the day. Then a treadmill and running shoes. And before you know it, you've spent $400 (enough to purchase a very nice stash of cloth) at Wal-mart. How do they always do that to us?*
Cloth diapers, on the other (what is this, the third?) hand? It's just laundry. It's another household chore to put on your big kids' chore chart, another basket to live out of when life gets hectic.
3) Cloth diapers contribute to chemical-independence. This is an obvious one. If you're reading a cloth diaper blog, you probably know about some of the sketchy stuff in disposable diapers, like dioxin and the superabsorbent polymer known as sodium polyacrylate, aka "sposie beads," aka the cause of tampon-induced Toxic Shock Syndrome in the 1980s. Going chemical-free is a daunting task, but more and more families are taking it on. Cloth diapers and clean-rinsing, cloth diaper-safe laundry detergents are an obvious first step in giving the gift of a chemical-free babyhood.
4) Cloth frees up your baby's fashion options. You know what? Cloth diapers are cuter than much of the clothing available for babies. The color palettes and prints offered by the major manufacturers are fashionable and often not as "baby-ish" as your average baby bodysuit. I know I've always preferred to let my daughter's cute diaper peek out from beneath a dress rather than worrying about keeping track of bloomers, and in the summertime, both of my babies have worn a t-shirt and diaper until they were 2. Not only was it adorable, but it was a great way to introduce cloth everywhere we went!
5) Cloth frees us from landfill-dependence. Or, as one of my friends puts it, "It frees you from the guilt of having to throw crap away all the time. Literally!" Our kitchen was already paper-free when we began cloth diapering. We found that once we began, we were only having to take our trash to the road every other week! This felt nice and provided a boost of confidence. Now that we recycle and compost, we rarely have trash to contribute to a landfill. While we're not as green as some people, it feels good to be able to say we're not adding to the waste. These are the kinds of habits that we hope to impart to our children as they grow. And you know what? It wasn't that hard. It feels like we took a few baby steps, like switching to cloth diapers, and suddenly we were there!
6) Cloth frees you from diapers sooner. At least this has been the experience of many. And while we all know that my oldest (cloth diapered from six months) child waited until he was 3.5 to potty-train, my younger child, who has been in cloth diapers since the morning she was born, has been using a training potty every now and then since she was 14 months old and is acutely aware of when she is wetting, probably because she was able to connect the sensation of urinating to the feeling of wetness in her cotton prefolds even as a small baby. I plan to attempt hardcore potty-learning before her second birthday.
The American Experiment was one of independence--and also inspiration. Be inspired this Fourth to take advantage of our FREE shipping (and, yes, it can be combined with the FREE FuzziBunz deal!). Make a choice to bring your family some freedom! You won't regret it.
*This story never happened to me. Please. A treadmill?