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But often it isn't the daycare question that turns a mom or dad who works outside the home--or plans to--off of cloth. It's the laundry.
Babies add laundry. They just do. When our first was born, our (pretty minimal) water bill went up by around $5/month. Part of that may have been influenced by my postpartum 'Mommy's nightly reading break' bath habit, but I know a large part of it was extra laundry.
Extra laundry because of spit-up. Extra laundry because of diaper blow-outs (and, remember, we used disposables exclusively for the first six months--most poops were blow-outs). Extra laundry because nobody tells you this when you're expecting your first, but breastmilk sprays everywhere when a newborn with reflux pulls off mid-letdown.
So if there's already going to be all this extra laundry, is it logistically safe--and sane--to add in cloth diapers? I mean, don't they require a pre-rinse and a post-rinse? Don't some people end up having to use long wash cycles to make sure they're clean? Does it tie up the washing machine? What about drying time?
The fact is, cloth is a bit of a time commitment because the washing machine is 'tied up' for that much (but it's not really much) longer than it otherwise would have been. But there are several reasons that you'll also be saving time. In other words, the time lost is recouped, and so it's, honestly, a 'six of one, half a dozen of the other' situation. (More after the jump...)
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So Joann G., an academic coordinator for a Chicago university and self-described, "formula-feeding, stroller-pushing, cloth-diapering, work out of the house mom" of two boys who tweets @CDingGirl, tells me in an e-mail:
How's that! There are also hours (and, of course, dollars!) saved in emergency runs to the nearest store for diapers and wipes.
But households wherein both adults work (or the only adult works) are households with limited time for housework and maintenance, it's true. Many parents feel like they have finally mastered the work-life balance; they're in their groove, and they're just plain apprehensive about throwing a wrench in that with all this cloth diaper stuff. And, yet, they crunch the numbers--the financial gain of cloth over disposable, the respective environmental impacts of each, the long-term health comparisons--and they're intrigued by cloth. Really intrigued. Really longing to make it work, but really, really apprehensive about disturbing the well oiled machine that is their household maintenance routine.
I feel like it's, once again, time to consult our expert:
And her other laundry? Gets done on the off-day and on weekends. Simple enough!
So how is this achievable?
1) Make sure you have enough diapers in your rotation to get you from one laundry day to the next. Joann has 28 total, including her nighttime system. "I like to have two days' worth plus a few," she writes. "That way if there's a particularly messy day, the extras are available."
2) Write out your weekly housekeeping schedule. If you share the workload, color-code it for each responsible party's duties. Designate a time for everything, from daily tasks like making dinner, taking out the litter, and running the dishwasher to the weekly things, like bathrooms. After a week or so, you'll get a feel for how little time cloth diapering is actually taking you.
3) Be flexible when you need to be. What if an evening commitment that can't be planned in advance, like a funeral, comes up and interrupts your weekly routine? Be willing to supplement with a few disposables. Get your cloth washed when you can. You'll be ready to get back to it, believe me.
4) If you're not Clair Huxtable (or Danny Tanner), keep your clean diapers in baskets. Maybe the rest of your laundry (like mine) is in baskets, too? No shame--this is a busy, busy time, these years with little ones! Don't be afraid to not stuff, fold, or put away your cloth diapers if you don't have time to prioritize it. A cute wicker basket in the nursery can hold your clean and dry diapers straight out of the dryer or off the drying rack. This works especially well with AIOs.
5) Don't be afraid of the dryer. Cloth diapering is supposed to be easy, and cloth diapers are manufactured to be easy. That was the whole goal of the modern cloth diapering movement! High-quality laminate (waterproof) fabrics like PUL, TPU, and Nylon, as well as the high-quality elastics used by our brands, are all made to withstand some heat. Because your diapers are used, washed, and dried frequently, we recommend limiting their exposure to high heat to prolong their life. The 'low' or 'medium' heat settings on your dryer should be perfectly adequate if your dryer is efficient.
6) Catch some sun on the weekends. If you think letting your diapers catch some sun time to brighten them and erase stains sounds like a good idea to you, you can still do it! Get the kids outside on sunny Saturdays and get those diapers out on a makeshift clothes-line or drying racks. If your SAHM friends are line-drying in the sun every day, more power to 'em, but it's not a necessary part of cloth diapering at all.
Many, many working moms cloth diaper without a hitch. Next week we'll talk about where and how to find the support you may need to keep up with cloth if you do run into a problem that requires troubleshooting. You can be 'all-business' about cloth diapers and still reach out for the tools you need to make it easy again!
In the meantime, being apprehensive is natural, but if you think you want to do it, go for it!
Joann sums it all up nicely: