Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cloth Cost

There are a hundred websites at least that can break down for you the cost of cloth diapering versus disposables, but sometimes the reality is somewhat different.

Prefolds are cheap and actually not all that difficult, but as your baby gets older, it can be difficult to get them on and off of a squirmy baby. The all-in-one kind are pricier but they don't necessarily last and washing can be more complicated.
Washing gets more complicated if you use anything with synthetic materials. We use cotton terry diapers so we can even bleach them if we need to (which was nice when we came down with a nasty bout of thrush and yeast rash last fall). But I also have 4 pocket dipes that we use when we are out and about sometimes, since Boogie is at the "I will do whatever I have to to move in the opposite direction of what you would prefer," stage. A two-piece system is just a little more difficult on those silly fold out changers in public restrooms.

So what's the real cost? We spent about $600 all together, not including the ongoing washing-related expenses, which I find to be somewhat irrelevant. I don't notice the difference, really. And I usually fill the load with wipe up towels, burp rags, kitchen rags, etc. We try to use as many cloth towels instead of paper towels in the kitchen as we can, so I always have other things that can go in with the dipes.

At about $10 a pack for disposables, that's only 60 packs or roughly 30 weeks. Although, I don't really know how many disposables most parents go through in a week so maybe that's optimistic, or pessimistic? I realize that you can get most name brands or even store brands for less than that if you are vigilant, use coupons, etc. but those diapers make my son break out in a really nasty rash. So we use chlorine-free/dye-free/fragrance-free Earth's Best on the occassions when we need disposables (like on a trip to NJ last month when we really couldn't fly our stash with us) and they run about $13 a pack here, so I'm extra greatful not to be buying diapers.

The real cost to me isn't just in what you pay for disposables. You actually would need to spend a lot on top of the line cloth diapers before you would spend more on than on disposables, especially if you then use disposable training pants...plus you can't re-use disposables for the next baby, etc. and so on. And if your kid is like mine, you'll be spending plenty on rash creams, too.

The real cost is health. Like I said, my son breaks out terribly with "conventional disposables" (if that isn't a contradiction in terms). But he didn't always. From the time we brought him home from the hospital, he was in disposables off and on for about two months. Our diaper system was too big for him at first. I had a dozen prefolds, so we did use those after about 3 weeks, and then we sowly transitioned into cloth full time over about a month.

The problem started when we hadn't used the disposables in a while and put one on him to get pictures made in a onesie that no longer fit over a cloth diaper. For maybe 10 minutes he was in that diaper. MAYBE. And when we took it off (okay, wasteful to take it off when it was dry but I don't like the chemical exposure more than I care about the environment), there it was - a bright red angry rash covering every single inch of where the diaper touched his skin, even down to the papery bits that hang off the elastic around the legs, and all the way up to the top the whole way around, even over his legs. And he hadn't even peed in it. 

So the question isn't why my son broke out like that. Obviously, it had something to do with the chemicals and fragrances in the diapers that he wasn't used to. The real question is why don't other babies break out when they start out in disposables and live in them for 2-3 years? The answer lies, of course, in the month or so that my son was not exposed to disposable diapers at all before that photo session.

So maybe your baby doesn't seem bothered at all by disposables. Maybe s/he never even gets diaper rash. I can't tell you how many disposable diaper using mamas have warned me that cloth diapers cause diaper rash, and have been then shocked to hear me tell them we just don't have that problem. In fact, he has never had it aside from a bout of thrush, except when he has been in disposables.

But do you want to just assume that it isn't affecting your child because there are no outward signs? Personally, I don't like to assume that because I can't see something, it isn't there. Only I had the opportunity to see it, know it is there, and be greatful that I was already doing something about it. It took about a week for that rash to clear completely. The pictures are cute, but they weren't worth it.

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