Why We Chose: Cloth Diapers, Part 1 (or, "Idealism, meet Realism")

It's "Why We Chose" Wednesday, my little spot to talk about why we do some of the things we do...what we love, what we regret, and other little details about our journey as a family. Up this week: Cloth Diapers!

Let me first, for the record, admit that I am far from an environmentally concerned citizen. Sorry, Earth, I mean you're pretty and awesome and all, but it has never really been my thing to make huge decisions based upon my carbon footprint. I recycle, yes. And garden. And take public transportation and carpool to and from work. But I also use copious amounts of paper towels and plates, and we own a ginormous (and OLD) gas-guzzling pickup truck. So while I would definitely say I like the earth an awful lot, I wouldn't say I'm out there huggin' trees, though God bless you if you do.

So when we decided early-on in our pregnancy to use cloth diapers (more on this in a moment), it was really not for save-the-Earth reasons. Rather, it came down to one big thing and a handful of littler (yes, it's a word) things. The big thing: we're cheap. And we were not digging the crazy big price tag that came on things that were just going to get pooped on and then thrown away. I had read about the potential cost savings and was blown away by the bottom line. Some of our smaller reasons for choosing cloth included:

  • not having a stinky bag of poo laying around our un-air conditioned house in the middle of summer;
  • the prospect of fewer diaper rashes;
  • not wanting to have weird chemicals pushed up against our new little baby's bottom;
  • and let's be honest here...cloth just seemed, well, kind of cool, and they came in such cute colors and patterns.

So first, I should correct myself here. *We* didn't initially decide on cloth. *I* decided to use cloth. Sean took much, much more convincing. And telling our parents and some of our friends, well you would have thought we had chosen to not use diapers at all (after all, they had used them and it was a big, gross, toilet-swishing mess).

But over time, as I researched the idea of cloth, I became more and more convinced that this was the way to go for our little growing family. It just sort of became a non-negotiable.

At a childbearing essentials class at The Midwife Center for Birth and Women's Health, I learned about Pittsburgh Cloth Diapers. I gave them a call and one of the owners, Lilli, set up an appointment for my mom and I to stop by and get a cloth diaper orientation (Lilli owns the store with her husband, Adam). It was awesome! Lilli spent about 2 hours with us, running through all the basics, answering tons of questions, letting us practice on a baby doll, and even helping answer questions I had about breastfeeding. She's just this amazing, confident, laid-back woman who has a real gift for sharing her passions. By the time two hours had passed, my mother was 100% on board with cloth diapering, and we left with a few of the very cutest products as well as a strategy for converting my husband.

Sean jumped on board fairly quickly after the orientation (Lilli's a master at winning over the hubbies), so we registered for a lovely stash...

...and went about prepping them and prepping everything else for our iBaby's arrival.

Jump forward a month or two.

When I first brought the munchkin home from the hospital, everything was so new to me. I had never really cared for a tiny baby before. Never fed anyone from a bottle, much less my breast. I couldn't set her down. She'd break, right? I didn't know what her cries meant. I was a hormonal mess, sore, exhausted, overwhelmed. BLAH! So I pull out a cute little cloth diaper and the baby immediately poops all over me while I'm trying to get it on. Second try yields hands covered in baby pee. Third try I just cried when I realized her butt was too tiny for most of the diapers I bought. I panicked. I'd wasted our hard-earned money and Sean was going to be mad and I was a failure.


I emailed Lilli at Pittsburgh Cloth Diapers. She almost immediately shot me back the most encouraging email. And I swear to this day if it weren't for her and my breastfeeding teacher regularly talking me down off the ledge, I'd be in a rubber room somewhere and my hubby would be Mr. Mom. Anyway, Lilli's email said something to the effect of "When you're a new mom, it's hard to feel confident and competent about anything. Take a break, put on disposables and try again in a few weeks." So that's what I did. And in a few weeks it wasn't so bad. Baby girl's butt had grown a bit and I had enough rest and energy to be able to practice. And thus began our love affair with actually using cloth diapers, not just thinking about them.

We've got a lot more to share about our journey with cloth diapering. It's funny how it's really become kind of a lifestyle choice for us. In the next part, I'll explain why we continue to use cloth, and will talk more about my love affair with Pittsburgh Cloth Diapers (now The Happy Baby Company).

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