Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cloth or Disposable?

Pregnancy was among the most exciting times of my life. Not only was my body doing the most amazing things hacked, but suddenly, I was thinking about things I didn't know could be thought.

While researching and buying things to get before baby arrives, I came across the various methods of diapering. All my life I assumed that babies use disposable diapers till they're old enough to be potty trained I don't even want to think about how I'm going to get E to use the lavatory. But then a friend told me about how his sister used little muslin squares folded Furoshiki-style around her newborn's bum because this was better to prevent diaper rash.

Plans altered, my mother procured the muslin squares and was learning how to fold them into diapers when I discovered the reinvented and reimagined cloth diaper.

A diaper with options - unlike any other! *creepy mustachioed salesman does thumbs up*
As soon as I read about these, I wanted to know if they were available in India. Available at amazon.in, flipkart.com, and firstcry.com, I found the best range to be on amazon.in. Of the three brands that were then available on Amazon.in (Charlie Banana, BumGenius 4.0, and BumGenius Elemental), I chose Charlie Banana and BumGenius Elemental.

Charlie Banana

Cleaner and smarter than our traditional folding-a-cloth-in-a-funny-way-plus-securing-with-a-nappy-pin-or-weird-knot method of cloth diapering, the Charlie Banana diaper comes in interesting colours and patterns and can even be worn without pants as E did in the summer.

Each diaper can be adjusted to 6 sizes 2 each of S, M, and L in exactly the same way as one adjusts a bra strap; and is packaged with two inserts - sizes small and medium. Instead of being secured by sticky tape like disposables, the Charlie Banana and the BumGenius have multiple snap-on buttons that can be used to create a customised fit for baby. Like the BumGenius, these diapers are one size and are meant to fit babies from newborn to whenever it is that they get out of diapers.

Gluteal cuteness.
The cloth on the diaper is soft and wicks moisture away from baby's bottom and onto the insert, which will hold the moisture from multiple pees but will make baby feel wet after just one pee. As inexperienced parents, this was great for us because we quickly learnt what her my-diaper-feels-icky cry was.

Unfortunately, there was some discolouration after a few uses but nothing that a good rinse in a tiny amount of Vanish detergent didn't fix. There are some staunch advocates of cloth diapers on teh gr8 interwebz, and many will tell you how to wash these diapers (1 hot rinse with detergent +1 cold rinse without detergent + 1 spin).

The only issue with these diapers is the extensive laundering required that while the inserts are dryer safe, the outer diaper will need to be line dried (resulting in a waiting period of one day for clean diapers).

Bum Genius Elemental

There are three differences between these diapers and the Charlie Banana reusables:
  1. Bum Genius Elementals are made of organic cotton;
  2. The inserts are stitched into the diaper, which means less time loading each diaper before use; and
  3. The entire diaper can be chucked into the dryer, which means a clean reusable diaper within 4 hours from soiling.
Unfortunately, the fact that these diapers are one-size is a little too obvious especially at the newborn stage. Because the inserts 2 of them! are stitched into the diaper, baby's legs are uncomfortably splayed apart. Eight months on, they are still a little too bulky for her and clearly, she finds them uncomfortable (she cries easily when wearing these even if she hasn't soiled them). My hope is that as she gets bigger, the diaper will fit her more snugly and we will be able to use it better when she is being toilet trained.

Even though the entire diaper is dryer safe, it actually takes quite a while to dry, whether line dried or in the dryer. Also, poop stains on the inserts are very persistent and require a day's soaking plus a day in the sunlight I did not know that the UV rays of the sun work better than bleach to diminish.

Cloth or Disposable?

When E was a newborn (meaning the 0 to 3 month age range), we used the Charlie Bananas during the day and disposables at night so that I could get some sleep without having to change her every 30 minutes. As a breastfeeding mother, I had no way of telling if E was being fed adequately. The cloth diapers were great to ascertain how many pees and poos she was having in a day and thereby to know that she was getting enough milk.

Another great plus point for these diapers is that because baby is changed frequently (after each pee), her bottom is never exposed to the corrosive elements of urine and as such, will be less susceptible to diaper rash. This was great for us as a family, because E learned how to communicate her nappy-changing needs early on.

This is exactly what happened.
Unfortunately, it was the amount of laundering required to maintain a supply of clean diapers that eventually put me off using cloth diapers regularly. My breastfed newborn pooped after every feed - this added up to a lot of dirty diapers. First, the diaper changer the husband was to wash the poop no nose crinkling, and big, excited cries of, 'golden treasure!' for E off each diaper with a health faucet bum shower; then each diaper would get chucked into this giant pail of water+liquid baby detergent+Dettol to soak for least 6 hours before wringing and being put in the washing machine to wash.

Once washed, each diaper and insert would be line dried because sunlight has some amazing disinfectant qualities and because it was summer and it was sunny everyday in Bangalore. In E's first month, all this laundering didn't feel like a huge chore due to a lovely lady who come in everyday to bathe her and do her laundry.

After E was a month old, the husband and my mother took over. We soon realised how much work it is to actually wash, dry, and put away 12 to 15 diapers each day in addition to all the other baby-related activities. The husband was in charge of getting all diapers into the pail, changing the water each day, and making sure each diaper got washed; my mother was in charge of getting the diapers dried; and I was in charge of loading each diaper before use the next day.

At the end of E's second month, my mother had left, the husband was back at work, and I was suddenly alone with an increasingly awake 2-month old. Still, I continued for another month because I was convinced I was making a difference to the environment, and more importantly, to E's bottom.

I gave up when we started sleep training with E. I was just so tired and in pain from all the shushing and rocking that the work involved in cloth diapering just didn't seem worth it. Moreover, I needed to eliminate a dirty diaper as the reason for her nap-time crying so we silently switched to disposables. In time, I completely stopped using the cloth diapers.

The Verdict

Cloth diapers are great for the newborn phase and fantastic thereafter if you have someone to help you with the whole soaking, washing, and drying cycle that these diapers require. With disposables, you won't need more than 7 or 8 per day but with cloth, you will need close to 15 diapers per day, so plan and buy accordingly.


Cloth diapers aren't cheap. I got mine for around INR 1200 a pop under a special offer. In comparison, I get 92 disposable diapers for less than INR 1000 with no additional laundering headache. I do occasionally feel bad about all the waste I'm generating but then again, running two loads of laundry every day isn't exactly environmentally friendly either is time consuming. I like to think that I'm done with E for at least 5 hours after she goes to bed at night. I do not want to be doing her laundry at that time.

I fished them out again recently hence this post in preparation for potty training. Hopefully, I'll eventually have the time and inclination to make and stick with a commitment to cloth diapering.

Sometime soon on Headbath: 10 Ways To Make Your Toddler Help With Laundry!

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