Cloth diapers. We're been using them since F was four weeks old now, so we now have a good 5 weeks experience, making us practically veterans :). I previously blogged about us deciding to go this route (and I thank you again for the great, helpful input), but I wanted to follow-up on our experience so far.
In short, it's been GREAT. Much easier than I ever expected, and with only one tiny negative point: they're bulky so F needs to wear clothes one size bigger than she would without them. Except for that, it's been so easy and seamless that I really wonder why they aren't more widespread. That's just to say how strong and durable negative perceptions are; when I mention we're doing them, I can see a hint of disgust in most people's faces, as if they were still smelly, rough squares of cotton you needed to tie with pins and rub by hand in a poop-laced basin.
I have 18 of them, and wash them about every other day, when I see that I have between 2 and 4 clean ones left. So the only real impact they have in my life is three loads of laundry a week. We have an HE front loading machine, so the water needed is minimal, and the energy is optimized.
The brand is Easy Fits by Tots Bots.
Here's how it works. I chose all-in-one diapers, so you put them on just like you do a disposable one. They have Velcro fasteners and snaps that adapt to the baby's size (they're supposed to fit until F is potty-trained). The only difference is that I add a disposable liner, which looks like a dryer sheet. When it's time for a change, you take the liner out, so the diaper itself is minimally soiled. The liners are flushable, but our changing station is far from the toilet, so for now I don't bother and just throw them out. You then fold the diaper in two to "close" it, and put it in a pail. The pail is dry, and is covered with an especially made plastic-lined fabric bag, which keeps the pail clean and can be thrown in the wash as well.
When it's time for a wash, I grab the bag and simply put it in the machine; I don't even handle the diapers at this point. I do a rinse cycle first, then a normal wash with detergent. Then they go into the dryer for a full cycle. Once they're clean, it takes me five minutes to refill the absorbent material inside, put liners on them, and stack them open in a box, ready-to-use.
I guess the two things people fear the most are getting your hands dirty, and the smell. But first, what I realized is that whether you use cloth or disposable, you need to clean up the baby just the same. And that's the part that's a little gross, not what's in the diaper itself, which you never even touch. As for the smell, right now there isn't one; F is exclusively breastfed. This will change when she starts eating solids, but I don't expect it to be different than disposables, either. It's the same thing to put your diaper in a wastebasket or a pail; the diaper and its smelly content usually still stay around for a while. I don't think many people take out the diaper-filled trash bag several times a day; with LP anyway, we would usually do it every second day or so, and I can assure you our house didn't smell...
They are much cuter and softer than disposables, and very absorbent (F sometimes sleeps 6 hours stretches at night these days, and so she has stayed in the same one for about 7 hours without a problem. We have had some leaks, but these happen with disposables as well in newborns -or maybe we're just really clueless). And what I like best about them: knowing I will only likely need to buy one package of disposables per size until we're diaper-free for good. Yes, they were a substantial initial investment: about $500 for everything. But our city gave us a $150 rebate; a lot of them do, so it's definitely something that's worth checking out. I can imagine that if someone is short on money but still wants to use them, it would be easy to put them on a baby registry...
Disposables cost $60-$80 per month, every month, for about 28-36 months. Each child wearing disposables will create about one ton of waste in landfills. During the month we were using them with F, it simply blew my mind how many we were dumping in the trash, sometimes after even just a few minutes of use. And they will then each take about 500 years to break down! Additionally, without giving in to panic, disposables are treated with bleach and dioxin; do you think it makes sense for these to be in contact with our babies' genitals at all times for years on end?
My biggest regret is not having used them with LP as well; clearly it would have been even better for the environment and more cost-effective. I wanted to, but everyone discouraged me, and it just seemed so steep of a commitment, so off-putting... Things were quite different even 4 years ago; what I would have needed then is someone telling me that it's really OK! That it's completely doable, and neither gross nor time-consuming... No domestic martyrdom involved whatsoever.
Hence this post.