Monday, January 4, 2010

Babies and Saving the Planet: Part Un

Working with preschool children-infants and their families has definitely changed the way I think of motherhood. Working as part of a multidisciplinary, family centred child development centre opened my heart to a glimpse of parenthood at it's most difficult times to witness something beautiful.

After over a decade of saying I'd never have children, something shifted. I'm starting to see that it is possible to have a child, remain a feminist, keep my SELF and career. And I've started to collect little bits of information-thoughts-ideas from my 8 hours a day of infant-child life (i.e. work).

Although there are so many uncertainties, I've decided one thing: my baby will be an earth baby. Alright, well I guess what I should say is I am going to TRY my darndest to have a low-impact baby. One way will be.. CLOTH DIAPERS. (applecheeks diapers- made in Montreal Canada)

Yep, sounds crazy, I know. Prior to working as an SLP I pictured cloth diapers as being messy, gross and ugly. Little did I know that children do the messiest and grossest things and we still love them. I've had children pee, poop, vomit and snot in my office. I had no idea that kids eat their boogers with relish, or that little boys go through a stage of SELF discovery, or that as soon as you become a parent you become a diaper smeller. Yep, pull to face and sniff, don't believe me?? Trust me, I have yet to meet ONE parent who doesn't. I adore each and every one of my clients.

I have been informed that once you become a parent, your own child's poo and pee becomes old hat. As in, no longer gross, or at least compared to child birth- not a big deal. I'm really mentally preparing for a life of poop, boogers, pee and vomit. Sounds great huh? Thank Goddess it's a few years away yet.

While in British Columbia, I had the pleasure of working with two colleagues who were cloth diapering; an Occupational Therapist and a Behavioural Interventionist (ASD program). Their experiences are what really tipped the scales on my "eww gross cloth diapers" theory (well that and I apparently will no longer think baby poo-pee is gross).

During a post-birth baby shower at the child dev't centre for D., I asked her how cloth diapering was going.... and took a peek at her baby expecting to see some old, safety pinned diaper. I was shocked to see a cute, poofy, cloth version of a regular diaper! Complete with snaps and elastic leg fittings!! COOL. She reported that it was great- no biggie at all, easy to use and easy to clean. When I asked about the amount of washing her reply was: 'when you have an infant you wash stuff all the time anyways, it's not like you won't be doing laundry. We wash in cold water and it's fine.'

Awesome. I am SO doing this. Andrew balked a bit, but I've been mentioning them offhand here and there and hopefully by the time (gulp) we're babyfied he'll be mentally ready hah.

Follow this up with my Behavioural Int. friend (S.) who soon after became pregnant. While sipping coffee she confided that this whole cloth diaper stuff was STRESSING her out. Apparently there was a LOT to consider and everyone had their own opinion as to what is BEST for your baby. I suggested she chat with D. and a few weeks later she reported that D. helped immensely.

In the past few days, preparing for this post, I've been searching online and through my eco-books for some info. Now I completely understand S.'s reaction. Holy crap, cloth diapering is intimidating as hell! Seriously. My eyes started to cross after the first website. I'm only going to give you a quick run-down so as not to freak everyone out and some great links I've found so far.

First- WHY cloth diaper??
1. Environmental Impact
Do you KNOW how many diaper changes an infant needs on average?? 14 per day. I feel guilty about our TINY kitchen sized garbage bag every two weeks, I cannot imagine how I'd feel with 14 plastic diapers a day. On average each parent buys and disposes 5000 to 7000 diapers per child, which is about 1.8 BILLION plastic diapers a year in Canada alone (Ecoholic, 2006). 

In Toronto, diapers are allowed in compost, but the plastic still gets separated and tossed into the landfills to add toxic synthetic chemicals to our lands and lakes.
Of course there's the petroleum that's created and used in order to make the forever plastic and the 250 000 trees that are cut every year to make the cellulose filling.

2. Health Benefits
Disposable diapers are like menstrual pads... in that they have similar synthetic chemicals to absorb wetness. Synthetic chemicals and perfumes that have potentially asthma inducing side-effects and polyacrylate which causes toxic-shock syndrome in tampon wearers. Finally, all that stuff is bleached white... and touches your baby's sensitive skin. Ick.

3. Financial Savings
Five thousand diapers is a LOT of money. Most sources claim that you can save around 2000$ using cloth diapers.

Alright- those are the basics as to why... and the how can get a bit complicated. A quick search reveals there are a LOT of different options; from prefold, to pocket diapers, to all in one, to hybrid... with several options for each option! Follow this up with company differences, material differences (organic, hemp, wool, bamboo, cotton) washing systems and cloth wipes and we've got a lot of overwhelming going on.

If you'd like, I could post tomorrow with a general run-down of what the basics are with those links I promised (that one is great).

D.'s advice to S? Don't worry about it, diapers are diapers. 

What I've learned is that when it comes to babies EVERYONE has an opinion, often strong, passionate well-meaning opinions (especially professionals!). However, each child is different and each mother and father are unique. What will work for one family, may not work for yours. Choosing regular cotton over organic cotton will NOT make you a "bad" parent and when your child has grown their defining moment will not depend on what kept their poo in check.

The majority of my clients expect some sort of pontificating professional when they walk through my door, and maybe that's an unfortunate reality for most parent-professional experiences these days. They are disappointed, as I rarely have the answers, only guidance. What I've learned, parents are the experts of their families and child.

Know that YOU will make the right choices for your family. 

Many Blessings!

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. It's amazing how little you start to care about poo and pee once you find a kid in your life - even if you're just an auntie. I've learned that "smelling the butt" is the best way to know if there's a diaper that needs changing. Everyone in our family does it to my nephews.

    My sis has even eaten poo, once - by accident, of course. She thought her child was offering her a bit of chocolate she had given him for dessert, not realizing he had stuck his finger in his diaper and was trying to tell her he needed a change. Think Baby Mama, if you've seen it! Yuck!

  2. I look at it this way. My ma and thousands of generations of women before her used cloth nappies. Why should our generation think we shouldn't? Besides cloth nappies are much easier to use than they were.

    Anyway, I reckon the world has enough problems without me adding my dodgy genes to the pool so I'll just get back to sourcing biodegradable cat litter! :)

  3. everyone talks about cloth diapers but what i'd love to learn more about are using green cleaners in the context of cleaning up after children. my boyfriend is so anti- green cleaning when it comes to cleaning up after dog messes (he thinks bleach is needed) that it's made me think about what kind of cleaners are best to use around children and cleaning you and the baby after changing those cloth diapers ;-) i'm sure there's some fine line between using antibacterial but possibly toxic products and milder, greener products but still needing to make sure the risk of germs/infection is low.

  4. Thanks for this! When my friend decided to cloth-diaper her baby, I did some research and was amazed at how far we've come since the days my mom (who is an OT, by the way, so I have love for SLPs) diapered us with those big safety pins and contracted with a diaper service! Plus, the environmental impact of disposable vs. cloth is obvious. Living with a dog has pretty much already desensitized me to the unholy pee-poop-vomit trio! I'm gonna have a crunchy eco-baby too :)

  5. THANKS! I love your take on the issue. Also, I love this line:

    What I've learned, parents are the experts of their families and child.

    Some choices are so personal - from when to get married to when to have children to how to raise them. Everyone has such different opinions, but the reality is you have to do what's right for your family.

    Love it!

  6. My mom used cloth diapers on my youngest sister, and it was fine! Hers had velcro on them, and she wore something that looked like a rubbery pair of underwear over them so that she didn't soak through. I'm 11 years older than her, so I was doing quite a bit of diaper duty, and they were super easy. I don't know what people are so scared of!

  7. Thanks for this one - it is one of many thoughts that have been echoing through my head at this point in my life.



  8. You may have covered this already in other comments pages, Eco Yogini, but I am curious, did you formerly think that it WASN'T possible to have a child and be a feminist and be your self? Why do you think you thought that?

    My biological clock is also chiming LOL so I'm interested in how you view this transformation.


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