I have this friend who works full time and loves the idea of cloth diapers but does not love the reality of making them work when her children are going to be spending more time out of the house than in it during the workweek. My post about cloth diapers inspired her to do some serious research comparing prices of chlorine-free diapers to the regular kind, and seeing if she could figure out some deals that would make her feel like buying the more ‘spensive non-chlorine brands was easy enough on the budget to commit to it–since it’s a much earth-friendlier choice than all-chlorine all the time.

She came up with this nifty spreadsheet for starters that breaks down pricing at various stores on a per diaper cost if you use the best standard deals available (bulk, etc.). We plan to keep updating it as we poke around for more information. It’s a work in progress, but what we did notice immediately is that the price difference is not THAT great–if you are somewhat committed to the environment and making a few small sacrifices where you can to do what little you can. I think we expected it to be an “OMG it’s TWICE as much! That’s insane!” kind of thing. But it’s just not. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be if you order wisely!

Update: At some point we will expand on all this to include discussions of the other earth-friendly options, like bio-degradable diapers and “diaper-free” living (which from hereon will be referred to as: “Never-ever-leave-your-house-or-wear-clothes-that-can’t-get-peed-on” living).

Update 2: Until then, this article nearly does it for us!

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Fun with Cloth Diapers!

September 13, 2009

Before the arrival of the li’l one, we talked with some friends who were living the dream–all cloth diapers all the time. We expressed an interest in doing the same, so they referred us to this website: www.greenmountaindiapers.com–which has more helpful information than I ever really needed to know even existed about cloth diapers and the options available.

After WAY too much research about the different types/approaches (warning: for me this step was NOT simple–but perhaps that is my own personal problem with the paradox of choice, which is why I try to AVOID situations that present too many options in the first place!), I settled on a “plan.”

It involved the purchase of the following items:

2 dozen small yellow pre-folds: $48
10 infant fitted diapers: $80
5 small hemp doublers: $15
4 small super-snap covers: $44
1 dozen two-sided wipes: $13

And let’s not forget, a bottle of Charlie’s Soap for cleaning all of this stuff: $20

That’s a grand total of $220. Ouch.

But as I placed the order I told myself that I would be saving money in the long run because I would be using far fewer disposable diapers. On top of that, I would not be adding the li’l one’s toxic human waste to landfills…so there’s that eco-feel-good factor, too, of course, which is worth a small financial sacrifice on our part.

Now, to parse out the “savings” if there are any, in more detail. This becomes a fairly difficult task because it depends on many factors that vary person-to-person. For instance, do I calculate the savings based on the very cheapest diapers available (on-sale with a coupon!), or on the more expensive chlorine-free option (that of course never go on sale) that I try to buy when I can? Also, every person’s child grows at a different rate–in our case we have gotten a lot more use out of these “small” sizes without having to pay for an upgrade yet because the babe has doggedly remained in the 5th percentile all this time. Many other kids would have grown out of these in a matter of months, however, thus requiring another $100 investment in fresh supplies. Also, clearly the savings are greater if you exclusively use the cloth, which we have not done due to the kiddo starting daycare part-time at 3 mos. The only thing I hate more than inconveniencing myself is inconveniencing others, so I was not about to demand that her sitter go cloth for us.

So, understanding that any calculation is subject to quite a lot of variance depending on your situation, I will do my best ballparking here.

Let’s assume that each disposable diaper you use costs twenty cents. (That number comes from buying a carton of 200 Luvs brand diapers at Target for $40.) Let’s assume that you use an average of 7 disposables per day. That brings you to about $10/week in diaper costs. At that rate, it would take 22 weeks for you to come out even on your initial investment if you were using all-cloth-all-the-time. And that’s not considering the cost of washing/drying all those diapers, which is a whole ‘nother can of worms. If I estimate that each load of wash costs $.75 and I wash the diapers 2x/week, that’s another $6/month in cloth costs. Which means it will take until week 26 for the costs to actually meet up. By then the average person would definitely have already had to buy more diapers in the next size up to accommodate their growing child.

Of course, you could also consider the fact that you will be able to use these supplies again for subsequent children–so maybe I have not saved myself anything this time around, but by next time I will not need to spend ANY money on the cloth. So there’s that at least, as long as you’re planning on having more than one kid!

But what of the environmental value? In the past six months, you just threw 1,176 fewer diapers full of human waste into a landfill! (Holy crap, that’s a lot of diapers!) Then again, you also just did a lot of extra laundry, using up resources like water and electricity. Then again, the carbon footprint of CREATING all those disposable diapers is heavy, too.

In the end, I found this article to be fairly thorough in its weighing of the comparative and controversial costs of each–and for myself concluded that cloth probably eeks out disposable in terms of environmentally-conscious choices, if not necessarily in terms of your budget. Fortunately, the article also very kindly reminded me that HAVING A BABY in the first place was the selfish, environmentally destructive variable that truly matters most in the whole equation.

DAMNIT!!!

So baby had been home with mom almost a week, and all was going well except one thing…the breastfeeding. Now, luckily, I was totally prepared for this to be crazy-difficult, due to all my friends having gone ahead and had babies before I did. Their stories left me with no illusions of putting baby to boob and immediately having a magical, painless latch. I was not prepared, however, for the fact that if there IS a problem with the latch or the suck or what-have-you, it can get VERY dire VERY fast, as baby needs to be fed every time you turn around. So if it’s painful or stressful or traumatizing or all-of-the-above, it’s all of those things on a near-constant basis. And let’s not forget that you’re still completely physically and emotionally drained and exhausted from the birth anyway. Sweet.

When I realized that there was a problem with the process (despite my BEST efforts to match the latch in the books and videos, my kid was clicking when she sucked and leaving me with an unevenly smashed, “lipstick” nipple), I immediately called the lactation lady at the birth center where I gave birth. She recommended that I come to her breastfeeding support group, where she could check my latch and get me on track. GREAT, I thought. This is gonna be resolved in no time!

At this point, I was envisioning a calm, almost meditative-type atmosphere, much like my birth-experience, where a kind, angelic woman floats from mom to mom, gently guiding and coaxing each newborn to an effortlessly perfect, painless latch.

What I got was the floor of a dingy, fluorescent-lit conference room surrounded by no fewer than 14 other moms, most of whom brought their 3 month olds and began happily nursing away as soon as they arrived. Um, wait a minute, what are a bunch of women who already know the ropes doing at a breastfeeding support group? But I tried to keep an open mind, thinking that the more proficient moms in attendance, the more time could be spent getting the help I needed!

When the leader finally arrived and plopped herself down at the front of the room, she began going around the room clockwise, encouraging each individual mother to take the floor to “talk” about “what’s going on.” And apparently what was “going on” with all these moms is that they had been stuck at home with infants, bored out of their minds for the past two weeks, and were desperate for other adults to listen to them talk. Non-stop. About anything. Without any discernable regard for the other people in the room. Many of the topics were tangentially related to breastfeeding, but NOT ONE of the other women brought up anything having to do with the mechanics of a proper latch.

So there I was, exhausted, hunched on the floor, my 6-day post-partum butt killing me, and my poor tiny child sucking on my finger for dear life because she was starving and I was determined to wait to feed her until the consultant could come and watch my latch. Meanwhile, I’m not kidding you, the leader never left her comfy spot at the head of the room and each woman’s “sharing” time was a full ten minutes of shooting the breeze about anything that popped into her head. (“What kind of toys are developmentally appropriate for this age?” At that point, I really, REALLY just wanted to scream “WHATEVER THE HELL ENTERTAINS THE KID AND WON’T CHOKE HIM, YOU MORON!”) And even though when my turn came I said I needed help with my latch and very considerately took up only 30 seconds of the group’s time, all she could offer me was a patronizing demonstration of a proper latch using her hands, telling me to make sure the baby was getting the entire areola in her mouth. OH REALLY?! I HAD NO IDEA.

I grew more and more upset as I realized that despite her promise on the phone, she had completely forsaken me (or just plain forgotten about me amidst the exciting debate about the merits of various diaper cream brands) and the only way I would get any individual help would be to interrupt someone’s story of personal growth as a consequence of her child’s morning gassiness and demand she come over and watch my latch, which I just couldn’t do because then I would have 14 women all turning their attention to me, the inept mother who hadn’t learned how to breastfeed yet, while she was doing this.

But it gets better! The whole thing was so distressing and disappointing, AND I was still so hormonal that of course I had to go and make it all worse by starting to cry silently as I thought about what a waste of time it had been and how I wanted nothing more than to get up and leave but I was all the way across the room from the door which had about 12 strollers and two mommy/baby pairs blocking it completely. So I just had to endure the last 20 minutes or so by not looking around at anyone and not-so-subtly wiping away tears and snot from my face with my daughter’s blanket.

I’m sure every mom in that joint thought I was a crazy postpartum depression case and would be heading straight home to drown my baby in the bathtub. Which makes it even better that not one person stopped her yammering about the benefits of Baby Einstein videos (HA! I guess you didn’t read about how those things actually make your child stupider. HA HA!) to like, check on me or something. God. One woman ACTUALLY asked the leader if her baby’s polyester pj’s were less breathable than his cotton pj’s, because it seemed like they were. Even amidst my uncontrollable blubbering, I had to physically restrain a smirk.

The Lesson: Immediately upon arriving home with your first little bundle of joy, schedule a personal home visit with a lactation consultant (your insurance will most likely reimburse you). If it turns out you have no troubles, you can always call and cancel, but you definitely don’t want to have to wait even a day for personal, one-on-one, RELEVANT help with the process in case there is a glitch, which there so often is.

Epilogue: It turns out my latch was fine. My baby and I were suffering from a toxic combination of a small mouth and an abnormally fast milk let-down which caused her to pull her tongue back to try to stop the deluge, which in turn caused the painful nipple smashing. I think the official diagnosis was a “disorganized suck.” Luckily, and with the help of a GREAT lactation consultant, we have been working our way diligently towards organization ever since.

Keep it simple, stupid!

March 21, 2009

I am a simple lady. Although in recent years I have given in and started paying more than $10 for my haircuts, and I have tried to invest more time in accessorizing according to the Friday night admonishments I receive from Stacy and Clinton (my kicky Kate Spade purse has pink lining, people!), I still can be found without makeup many days of the week and I can’t ever seem to keep more than one pair of jeans in the house that I actually feel comfortable wearing in public.

I tell you this so that you have some context when I try to explain how woefully unprepared I was three years ago when I passed from the uncomplicated, carefree bliss of single womanhood into the mystical, surprisingly intractable social construct that is WEDDING PLANNING. When I had bothered to envision this momentous step of my life at all, I assumed it would go like most things in my world. My husband-to-be and I would keep it simple, map out some general plans, make a few phone calls, and make it happen. Little did I know that weddings are this living, breathing entity with a mind of their own, and that if you are ill-prepared or not paying attention (or are an overwhelmed and exhausted inner-city teacher), your low-key celebration can turn into a recipe for bridezilla mania!

This is not to say that I don’t now appreciate having a Kitchen-Aid handy and all, it’s just that if I could have a do-over, I would have invested more time and vigilance into ensuring that the festivities bucked more of the typical “wedding” stereotypes and reflected more clearly a few of my own core values. But you can’t have a do-over (well, not if you’re really into your current husband, which I am). What I realized I DID have, however, was another chance with the next BIG event in the average woman’s life—the arrival of the first baby.

This time I would be prepared! I would take charge and preemptively simplify at every step possible. I started by trading my high-stress 60-hour-per-week teaching job for some low-stress part-time desk-work (like, is this even WORK?). Then I decided the next step would be avoiding at all costs having a baby shower that would drown me and my growing belly in the tell-tale piles of boxes, bows and ribbons that to me scream, “AMERICAN BABIES MUST HAVE ONE OF EVERYTHING IN THE BABIES-R-US STORE IF THEY ARE TO SURVIVE IN A WORLD OF UNCERTAINTY! WE WILL SHIELD THEM FROM THE CHAOS BY MAKING SURE THEY ARE SURROUNDED BY AS MANY TOP-OF-THE-LINE PLASTIC PRODUCTS AS POSSIBLE!”

Thus it was that when I became pregnant, I began announcing EARLY and OFTEN to anyone who was listening or just had the unfortunate luck to be within earshot that I would only be accepting reused and recycled items as baby gifts. To ensure that my wishes were actually followed and that my friends and family didn’t think I was just making idle threats, I made a website explaining as much that could also double as a bootleg “registry” for said used items.

Nearly ten months later, and with everything ready for the new baby, I can proudly say the sum total of “brand new” supplies in my house would probably fit inside two grocery bags. Absolutely everything else has been handed-down, re-gifted, bought at a thrift or consignment store, or lent to us by friends who jumped at the chance to free up storage in their house until their next newborn comes along.

But gathering supplies was just the beginning! Now I’ve got a living, breathing, pooping-machine whose sole purpose on this earth right now seems to be generating dirty clothes and diapers faster than I can even get them off her little body. (Question: how can something so tiny emit so many fluids simultaneously out of so many orifices?!)

So, welcome to my blog, a chronicle of a first-time mom’s part-time pursuit to find cheap, simple ways to lighten her adorable offspring’s imprint on the world.