A recent New York Times parenting blog article reminded me that I never wrote an updated post to my decision to cloth diaper Baby M. You can read the article here: Goodbye to Cloth Diapers, and Ideal Motherhood.
It was important to me to cloth diaper, partly for environmental reasons, partly for health reasons, but if I'm honest, mostly for perception reasons - my perception of myself as a mother, and others' perceptions of me as well. (Not unrelated to my fervent desire to have a natural birth, even though the manner of giving birth makes absolutely no difference to what kind of a mom I might wind up being - case in point, foster and adoptive moms!)
I did some research and chose a cloth diaper system known as pocket diapers - they have an outer shell that is stuffed with an insert or two, and once that's done they function very much like disposables. They are one size, able to go from newborn to potty training. And they are very easy to find used, which is how I got most of my diapers.
I used these cloth diapers on Baby M for a little over a year since she got home from the hospital. I "cheated" by putting her in disposables for our many doctor's appointments, but I had to lug around oxygen tanks and apnea monitors and feeding tubes, and was not about to burden myself with dirty diapers as well. I went through exactly one box each of size one and size two diapers. We washed diapers every day at first, and then every 2-3 days. I made my own detergent and reusable wipes, and line-dried the delicate parts of the diapers. We had some leaks, but no blow-outs, and I was quite happy with it - for an investment of about $200, I thought I had my diaper needs taken care of for another year or two.
And then a few months ago, it just quit working. We were having lots and lots of leaks - like every diaper, every time, which meant lots of extra laundry for baby and me, and cleaning the couch, or floor, or changing sheets after every nap and in the middle of the night. It seems like Baby M had a growth spurt that made her legs a little skinnier in proportion to the rest of her, AND she started getting mobile - but she doesn't crawl, she scoots around on her butt. The combination meant that the slightest bit of moisture in her diaper got squirted out with each movement, and it was just a nightmare.
I tried stripping the diapers to restore their absorbency and tightening the elastic on the legs and a few other things, but suddenly I realized that I was defaulting to disposables more often than not, and eventually a full week went by without me even opening the drawer where I keep the cloth diapers. Disposables are not as expensive as I feared (we use a store brand which works fine) but it's still not quite how I wanted to raise my kid.
So I did a little more research, and I packed up my diapers and Baby M and went to a local cloth diaper store. After talking with the owner for an hour, and showing him my frustrations with fit and with the way Baby M's way of getting around interferes, I think we have a solution. It's a different diaper system, called All-in-Twos (AI2s), which involves an outer shell and an insert that is snapped or folded into place. The outer shell can be used several times before laundering and has a double gusset at the leg to help prevent leaks. They are one size, although the inserts are different sizes to help get the trimmest fit possible.
I bought a couple of options, both new and used, to try out to see if it's going to work better for us, and I'm excited to see if it works. (The new option had to be ordered, so I'm waiting for it to arrive - this week, I think - to give the new system a fair shot.) In the meantime, disposables certainly are convenient - except for the smelly trash we now get to take out.
I also learned a valuable lesson about myself - the way I deal with my child's waste says almost NOTHING about what kind of a mother I am. I love her and will take the best care of her possible, and there are a variety of ways to do that. I solemnly promise not to judge other moms for deciding not to cloth diaper from here on out!
If you're interested in cloth diapering, Squawkfox has a number of really handy cloth diaper tutorials - here is a good place to start: running the numbers on cloth vs. disposable. I also really like her run down of the various kinds of cloth diapers and determining which system is the best value - but if I've learned anything, it's that the best value in strict dollars and sense might not be the best system for your kid - so keep an open mind!