Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Cloth Diapering in Day Care (CDDC) Chronicles, Vol. 1

I love my daughter's day care provider for many reasons. For one, she's basically family. My sister-in-law took her boys there for years, and for a while my youngest nephew and my daughter were at the day care together. It wasn't until recently that S-I-L pulled the boys out of this facility in favor of something closer to home. And even still when I pick my daughter up, the owner asks about the boys. She's also so loving toward my daughter and always gives her a big hug before I take her home. But I most love her because she's been pretty good at accommodating my many parenting requests, sometimes to her chagrin. She doesn't feed her any meat, keeps the sugar at a minimum, and even made some concessions on cloth diapering. That last thing is huge, because even before we started taking our daughter to her, she was pretty adamant that she didn't want to use cloth diapers. She only agreed to use them after we showed her the pocket diapers we use and assured her she wouldn't have to use any pins. She's "old school," so to her cloth diapering meant sticking herself with pins. Nope, we've definitely come a long way since those days!

But even though she relented on the cloth diapering issue, I can tell it still doesn't completely set well with her. At least that's the feeling I get sometimes. We used to bring the baby to day care in a prefold and cover, although we always packed pocket diapers for changes. However, she later asked that we start bringing her to day care wearing the pocket diapers we normally pack. I got the sense that she wasn't comfortable changing our baby out of prefolds, so we agreed to bring her wearing pocket diapers. But yesterday she seemed to reach her threshold of tolerance.

Layla had wet through her diaper and messed up her clothing twice that day, and the owner insisted the diapers weren't working and we would have to do something different. Immediately, I knew what the problem was. It wasn't the effectiveness of the diapers. They've worked since our daughter was a newborn and have held up against some pretty serious messes. And it wasn't that my daughter was wetting more. After all, her bladder is only so big! The problem was the diapers had started to repel liquid.

Repelling is a pretty common problem with pocket diapers. When they work properly, pocket diapers are some of the most effective at holding liquid and preventing leaks. But over time and after numerous wash cycles, residues from laundry detergent (and even hard water) can build up on the fibers and severely inhibit the diaper's ability to absorb liquid. Sure enough, that's what had happened to my daughter's diapers. I tested one of them by running some water over the insert and over the shell and both times the water beaded up and ran off to the side. This meant it was time to strip the diapers.

"Stripping" is simply the process of getting the residue off the diapers. The method I like to use is running one cold cycle using Dawn dishwashing liquid instead of laundry detergent, followed with an extra rinse and a subsequent hot cycle with no detergent. Basically, you're using the dishwashing liquid to break up the residue and then rinsing over and over again to make sure absolutely nothing is left on the diapers. You'll likely have to do this from time to time with your diapers, and it's also important to use only half the amount of recommended detergent in your regular washing to prevent such build-up.

To put her concerns to rest, I told the day care owner I'd strip my daughter's diapers to get them back to normal and we'd proceed from there. Of course, she didn't know what "stripping diapers" meant, but when I picked up the baby from day care today she happily told me, "Whatever you did to those diapers worked. We didn't have any problems!"

What can I say? It's still a process, one of continuing learning and adjustment for both of us. It's my hope that cloth diapering will eventually become more commonplace and navigating these things with day care providers won't be so challenging.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Could you live a life without...

…toilet paper? What do you think? Could you do your daily, uh, “business” without that faithful roll of TP?

Right now we’re in the throes of potty-training and I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t forced to watch Elmo’s Potty Time at some point during the day. I’m thankful at least for the instructional reinforcement Elmo provides, and it could always be worse – it could be Barney! In the video Elmo teaches children the finer points of using the potty, including the all-important steps of wiping yourself with toilet paper and flushing the toilet after you’re done. There’s even a little vignette showing how toilet paper is made in the factory, complete with a rap song to explain it all. Suffice it to say toilet paper gets discussed a lot in this video. So when we sit baby girl on the potty, I try to follow Elmo’s steps to the letter. I let her do her thing, wipe her with toilet paper after she’s done, and clean her up. But as you know, she’s cloth-diapered, and when I change her diaper I always use a cloth wipe. As I was changing her diaper this morning it occurred to me, why don’t I use cloth for myself when I use the potty?

Oh, don’t look at me like that! It’s a valid question. Part of the reason for this blog is to chronicle my efforts at living a greener and less-wasteful life, finding ways to be kinder to the planet in my everyday living and parenting. Well, this is an area for possible improvement, don’t you think? A whopping 98% of toilet paper in America comes from virgin wood, according to The Guardian – that’s a lot of trees! In fact, toilet paper is very much an American convention. Take a trip overseas and most people use bidets or another form of water-based cleansing. We Americans, however, spend $6 billion a year on TP, with the average American using 50 pounds of the stuff per year (thanks for the stats, Mental Floss!). And have you gone to the store lately to buy toilet paper? I cringed the last time I saw the prices! I have a hard time paying so much for something that I’m intentionally going to desecrate. It makes no sense.

So I issued myself a challenge. Since the baby gets her butt wiped with cloth, so will I. For her, we usually keep some wipes soaked in water and a small drop of baby wash in a container. I, too, will keep some pre-moistened wipes on hand in our own bathroom. I’ll use a small wet bag from Bummis – similar to the ones we keep dirty diapers in when we travel – to store all my dirty wipes (SHAMELESS PLUG: These wet bags are available at Goo Goo Gaia).

As for washing, they’ll go right in the wash with the baby’s diapers. I’m going to try this for a week and check back in to share my experiences. I’m not saying that this is going to be easy or that it isn’t at least a tiny bit cuckoo. But it’s worth a try, right? One less tree has to die and I get to keep my money in my pocket.

So, what do you think… could you go without TP?