Why cloth diaper?


Why cloth diaper?

Even though it has been over a decade since my kids were in diapers, I still get this question if the topic comes up.  I’ve found that the best answer, the one that is the most true for me, and also eliminates and defensiveness the asker might fall into during the discussion, is simple — it’s just nicer to use the real thing.

Then I make an analogy: what if the paper plate and plasticware industry did an analysis and concluded that the environmental impact of washing dishes was the same as using and disposing of one-time dining-ware? Gosh, wouldn’t it be easier to never to dishes again, and just use paper plates, and plasticware and just throw it away at the end of a meal?

But here’s the thing — people don’t like eating off of paper plates and using plastic utensils. Sure, we’ll do it for a picnic and once in a while, but we wouldn’t want to do it all the time? Why, because it’s just nicer to use the real thing.

We like the solidity of metal utensils — they can cut, spear, and handle any food, no matter how tough (on the flip side — ever tried to cut a tough piece of steak with a plastic knife? It’s no fun.) Metal utensils feel good and solid in our hands. They look nice. Same for the dishes. They don’t bend under heavy or wet foods. They’re weighty, solid, and we know we can depend on them.

It’s exactly the same for diapers. I always felt good putting a nice, substantial, clean, soft and absorbent diaper on my babies. I loved patting and holding that fluffy baby butt. Disposable diapers, by contrast, felt flimsy, paper-y, and… well… disposable. We used them when it was more convenient (just like plasticware), but otherwise had no use for them.

I find this approach sometimes opens the door to further conversation. Then we can talk about other cloth diapering questions like,

  • Isn’t it really hard and a lot of work? (well, I guess you could say any laundry is work, but I always enjoyed diaper laundry.)
  • Isn’t it gross and stinky? (well, poop and pee are always going to be gross and stinky at some level. I don’t think disposable diapers really help there 😉 )
  • Isn’t it expensive? (I suppose the up-front seems high, but there are inexpensive ways to cloth diaper and man, have you ever added up the cost over a child’s diapering life – it’s scary.)
  • Isn’t all that washing just as bad for the environment? (the analyses here are so biased it’s insane. A life cycle analysis has so much subjectivity to it, you can make it come out however you want. I just leave it at the plasticware argument and stop there.)
  • Isn’t it just drudgery? (here’s a point where you can give a glimpse into the delightful world of fluff and amazing handmade cloth diapers that is out there 🙂 )

Of course, the point is not to win a debate or convert a diaperer (although that’s always an amazing feeling), it’s just to approach the conversation in a way that gives a new perspective.

What about you? How do you handle these conversations?