Monday, May 23, 2016

Flats and Handwashing Challenge Day 7: That's a Wrap!

What did I learn? Would I do it?

Hats Off to the Folks Who Do This While Diapering Full Time

Well, we’re at the end of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge and it's still hard to imagine doing this for a baby who is diapered full time.  When my baby was young, she went through at least 20 diapers per day, and at least 8 of those had poop in them.  Handwashing for EC was still plenty of extra work.  Would I do it full time?  I suppose if I had to, I would.  Doing what you have to do is kind part of parenting.  But the whole experience really makes me want to talk about all the ways you can cloth diaper for less than the cost of disposables, without handwashing.  But first I will talk about what I did and what I learned.


I used pockets for daycare, plus one tuckable cover for drop offs.  This is our normal arrangement, though normally I stuffed the pockets with prefolds instead of flats, and machine washed.  The pockets were much more annoying to wash than I expected: pretty much as much work as a whole additional flat.  I was afraid if I wrung them too hard I would damage the stitching… I could hear popping sounds when wringing, so I went kind of gentle on them, and so they took forever to dry.

I used wool covers at home and enjoyed not washing it at all, aside from one little spot cleaning job.  The commitment to only hand wash for a week was a great incentive to get serious about wool, which is always a handwash item, but does not need to be washed often.  I made 3 new wool covers for this challenge and I think I will stick with wool--and therefore handwashing covers.  I love that wool is more breathable and healthier for her skin.  She moves to the “Little Tots” room at daycare where they will (finally!) take her to the potty, so I’m hoping I can convince daycare to let me send her in the new wool trainers until they are ready to let her come in undies.


I enjoyed using my few favorite flats over and over, I enjoyed not having dirty diapers around (even though the pail doesn’t stink or anything), but I did not enjoy handwashing them.  At least not after the novelty of the first few diapers wore off.

The small Gerber flats were definitely easier to wash than the Osocozy flats.  Were they more than half as much work for half as much diaper?  Yeah, probably around that.  Maybe a little better, but that’s pretty subjective.

Would I do it?

I'm pretty radically opposed to disposable diapers, so if handwashing was the only way I could do cloth diapering, I suppose I would do it.  If handwashing was the only way I could afford to care for my baby, of course I would do it.  Would I be happy about it?  Probably not particularly.

I've handwashed on vacation before when there wasn't a washing machine available, although normally there was a machine available often enough that we didn't handwash very many diapers.

The thing is, handwashing shouldn't even be part of the discussion when asking the “cloth vs disposables” question.  If you can afford to diaper your baby at all, I would argue that you can certainly afford to use cloth diapers, pretty much regardless of your circumstances.  Hand washing can be done extremely cheaply, and it is surely the cheapest option (even if you do EC also, you will have some misses to clean up at least in the beginning, whether they happen in diapers or not), but there are many ways to cloth diaper for less than or equal cost to disposable diapering.  And if you combine cloth diapering with part time EC, the additional laundry from diapering is relatively small compared with all of a family's laundry, which will reduce costs regardless of how you are washing.

If you live in an urban area with a diaper service available, you can cloth diaper for about the same cost as disposable diapers and send out the laundry for someone else to do.  Is it expensive?  Yes, absolutely, but so are disposable diapers.

Another option is the laundromat or coin laundry if that is available where you live.  We all have laundry to do regardless of how we diaper, unless we buy disposable clothing and disposable sheets.  If you are paying for laundry by the load, it would make the most sense to own enough diapers to wash weekly or otherwise fill a load.  With flats, that could easily cost $100-$200 for a newborn, just for the diapers (no covers), but compared with the cost of disposable diapers, that really isn't very much money.  They’d pay for themselves in just a couple months, and you wouldn't have to make extra trips to the laundromat or the basement if you did them the same time you washed the rest of your laundry.  Shoot, if your regular loads weren’t quite full, it might not even require any additional loads of laundry beyond a brief pre-wash.  I know many people who pay by the load for laundry will do a quick pre-rinse in the bathtub at home, to save paying for a whole additional wash cycle, when a cursory pre-wash is all that is needed.  Some people are also able to wash weekly at a close friend or relative's house.  It’s more money to buy enough cloth to last a week, but with flats and covers, that’s 7x the cost of a very cheap stash.  Some participants in the challenge got all their materials for as little as $25.

Another option is to buy a washing machine.  A portable washing machine is less than $200.  A used washing machine off Craigslist is similar.  Home Depot has a number of washing machines available for under $500.  Many apartment dwellers don't have this option, but for anyone who does, the investment would be well worth it for diapering.  Shoot, even compared with the cost of the laundromat for regular clothing.  It could be worth it even if you put the up front costs of a washing machine and (cheap) cloth diapers on a credit card and paid it off gradually over baby’s first 2 years, you should still come out ahead that way over disposable diapers.  (Would I recommend doing this?  No, it’s not ideal, but it seems to make better financial sense than buying diapers that will need to get thrown away.)

It honestly boggles my mind that people are calling for the government to start providing disposable diapers to low income families when cloth is such a viable alternative.  For the same price as disposable diapers, the government could provide vouchers for a cloth diaper service.  A cloth diaper service would keep jobs in the community (diapers laundered locally instead of imported by a multinational corporation from overseas) and reduce strain on municipal garbage.  Or, for families with the space to have their own washing machine, provide the machine and the cloth diapers.  This would be far cheaper than disposable diapers to the government, and provide more utility to families because it would allow them to wash all the rest of their laundry at home too.

Handwashing completely aside, I think it’s a shame that cloth diapers have become so fringe that cash strapped families often don’t even stop to consider the possibility of cloth diapering.

Today's Stats

Overnight: Another night of crap sleep.  Changed twice in the middle of the night, using a total of 3 Gerber flats and 1 Osocozy flat.  All got pretty wet, and she nursed at night.  Just when we finally had her night weaned.  Ugh.  Don't know if she is waking because she is peeing so much, or peeing so much because she is waking so much and this is just the 18-month-sleep regression.

Daytime: Had a partial miss on the floor while she was pottying her baby.  Maybe we shouldn't have helped her cue her doll, but we love it when she potties her baby and it's just so tempting to start reciting from Andrea Olson's Tiny Potty, "First I potty bear... 'psss, psss, pee!'"  Had another partial pee miss and another full pee miss shortly before bed.  Daytime laundry: 1 diaper, 1 chair cover, 1 pair of pants, 1 dress, 6 wipe.  (I must have forgotten to do wipes yesterday.)

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