It might sound selfish to say it but, before I became a mom, I hadn’t thought too closely about my relationship with the environment. Sure, I used a recyclable cup and did my best to cut down on food waste. But something about having a baby really makes you scrutinize the choices you make. Not only are we living in a society that is struggling to cope with our current actions; parenthood means we’re suddenly thinking about our children’s future and even their children’s future.
It was with this burden that I decided, like many, to be as environmentally-friendly as possible with my parenting choices. The thought of hundreds and hundreds of diapers piling up in landfill left me feeling incredibly guilty so when I heard about cloth diapers at a prenatal class, they seemed like a natural fit.
My mother, who had accompanied me to the class, seemed less impressed. As a mom of three, she’d used a lot of cloth diapers in her time, since reusable diapers weren’t always the affordable and accessible option they are today. “Why would I want to bother with all the washing when I could just throw a disposable diaper in the trash and grab a brand new one?” she asked, completely missing the point. I was quick to reassure her that the cloth diapers now were completely different: there were hundreds of different styles, safety pins were a thing of the past and besides, now I could get them in cute prints like unicorns and llamas. Who wouldn’t want to dress their baby in a llama-themed diaper?
So, my mind was made up: Reusable diapers were in, and disposable diapers were out. And, although it was tough at first and my mum and husband still didn’t quite get it, I seemed to get into the swing of things when my son arrived. I learnt about styles (all-in one or two piece?), inserts and choice of materials (hemp? bamboo? charcoal?). I joined Facebook groups where people shared tips, tricks and entered fierce bidding wars over limited edition diapers (yes, they’re a thing!). Once I’d mastered the basics, I got into a routine of washing, drying and alternating diapers. Sure, packing a bag was a little more bulky and it would have been easier to toss a diaper in the trash rather than carry a soggy one around all day. But it seemed a small inconvenience compared to the changes we were making.
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Like anything, my first mistake was to take a temporary break (didn’t I remember that habits are so much harder to start up again once paused?). Because of my health condition and weakened immune system, when rotavirus jabs came around, my doctor advised I didn’t change his diapers for two weeks as a precaution. This task fell to my husband and son’s grandparents who, being less on board, switched to disposable diapers temporarily. I was just grateful for the help but should have insisted they stuck with reusables. Then it got colder and the convenience and appeal of being able to quickly dry the diapers on the line vanished too…
Determined, eventually I found my way back to reusable diapers but there was another challenge: absorbency. It’s thought reusable nappies get more absorbent over time (due to being washed more) but as my son slept for longer stretches, we found the opposite. I experimented with different styles and inserts and scoured the forums for ideas but it seemed inevitable that my son would end up wetting his pyjamas and sometimes even the bedsheets overnight; doubling our washing load (which, of course, brings its own environmental implications).
And then came the final blow: Weaning poop! I thought I’d mastered nappy changing but weaning bought additional changes:with bowel movements really erratic and frequent. Later on, my son was diagnosed with egg and milk allergies; leading to lots of diarrhea which made reusable nappies even more difficult to use. I seemed to spend my day washing stains out of diapers because they weren’t solid enough to empty down the toilet.
The thing about the cloth diaper tribe is that they’re really, really passionate about them. So while I wanted to ask “I anyone finding them too tough?” I didn’t dare. I’d learnt my lesson once about asking about if there was any disposable wipes I could use in an emergency that biodegrade easily. So, to my shame and real guilt, I stopped. And yes, I admit, disposable nappies are so much easier but it doesn’t mean I feel good about it. And if you do still use reusable nappies, I have so much respect for you.
I tried to make up for it in other ways-sticking to using mainly reusable wipes (which are easier but sometimes only a wet wipe will do!) and looking into options that biodegrade better (there aren’t many!). When I did get around to talking to friends, one confessed that she too, to her shame, stopped ages ago: ‘They just couldn’t handle the amount when she got bigger, I was having to change her whole outfit up to three times a day!’ she added.
Of course, both of us haven’t admitted to giving in completely, telling ourselves it’s only a temporary measure. My stash still sits upstairs and now my son’s digestion is starting to settle down again, I contemplate trying a few days here and there. I could sell them (you’d be surprised at the price of a second-hand reusable nappy) but that would mean admitting I’ve stopped for good. ‘I feel guilt and I have them in a box convinced I’m going to try again when she’s potty training but I’m not sure…’ my friend shared.
So for now, disposable nappies are in fact very much in. I don’t feel great about it but I ask you not to judge me if you can. At the moment I’m dealing with a 13-month old who won’t stop teething and is desperate to take his first steps so motherhood seems hard enough without scrubbing at poo stains. I hope that I will return to reusable nappies at some point in the future but deep down I suspect that like my friend, that ship has indeed sailed.
If you, too, prefer disposable, no judgment. Here are the cutest disposable diaper prints you can buy.
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