Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Dissertation on Modern Day Diapering

I have two kids under two. For those of you without children for reference, this means two kids in cribs, two kids who need to be carried and cuddled, two kids to push in a stroller, and two kids in diapers. It is amazing how many times in a day they need their diapers changed simultaneously and so I've quickly gone from a childless cloth diaper advocating day dreamer to a self-proclaimed aficionado grabbing whatever is in arms reach. I am reporting live from cloth diaper trenches and the news is surprisingly sunny.

I knew while pregnant with my first that I would like to save money and landfill space by using cloth diapers. I figured that generations upon generations (in fact, every single generation before us) did it, so how hard could it be? It's not like I'd be washing them by hand. In fact, before we moved into our current house I used to have to go outside and around the house to access our washer and dryer and so I even used a cloth diaper service for a few months the first time around so I never had to schlep wet diapers up and down our stairs in the rain. So really, how hard could it be?

As with many things in life, it turns out it's not hard at all, it just requires a little effort. I began by taking a cloth diapering workshop - no joke - and while it was informative I found it exceedingly overwhelming. I was right back to being the bumbling West Coast anglophone in my first Quebecois university level French class except the new language included all-in-ones, fitteds, prefolds, wraps, covers, snappies, soakers, flushable liners, and the ever-daunting pocket diaper. I also discovered the substantial upfront financial investment involved in buying cloth diapers. I left that 2 hour session with handouts that I never once looked at again and a sudden desire to commit to EC-ing (that is, elimination communication, aka: diaper free or natural infant hygiene) - a whole other blog topic for another day.

Fortunately for me, I soon received two large collections of lightly used cloth diapers including many brands and styles and over the past nearly 20 months of diaper mayhem I have my formed opinions and recommendations.

Today's cloth diapers can be broken down into three main categories:
  • All-in-one diapers (that is, diapers that have an absorbent insert sewn together with a non-removable cover) are a nice idea and the most like a disposable but not worth the money. Pocket diapers are a type of AIO. These are the most expensive diapers and you need a lot of them; every time you wash the diaper the whole thing goes in the wash as the insert and cover are "all in one". The waterproof-ness does not last as long as separate covers as they get washed a whole lot more often.
  • Fitted diapers are my preferred option. With this system you need two parts: cloth diapers and 1/3 as many removable covers. I've got something like 18 diapers to 4-6 covers per child; I wash diapers every 3 days and always have a clean cover to use. With this method you put the soiled cloth part in the diaper pail and assess the cover at each change, only washing the cover if it's dirty. Not only do the covers last longer being washed less, but you don't need to buy one for every corresponding cloth component.
  • Prefolds are closer to the old-fashioned diapers that my generation were diapered in. They are rectangles made up of layers of fabric with more layers in the middle for absorbancy. They can be folded into a cover or held on with diaper pins or the modern-day, no-prick version of pins called a Snappi. While these are the most affordable option I haven't found them to be as leak-proof as a fitted diaper and they're more confusing for alternate care givers, though they're easy enough once you're in the swing of things.
Bummis super whisper wraps in celery dot
Within each of these varieties there are a multitude of brands offering numerous styles; there is no need to own one of every type. I find it better to have one or maybe two options. My personal favoritecombination is Mother-ease one size diapers (bamboo, cotton, organic, whatever) in Bummis super whisper wraps. Having a limited selection is less confusing for anyone else who might change a diaper in your house and makes it easier to always have all the components you need at hand and not stuck downstairs in the dryer. If you're hesitant, you should try out cloth diapers by using a diaper service before making the investment.

As a side note, I must also confess to appreciating the convenience of disposables and understand why so many parents who might not love them end up using them. I myself use disposables overnight (1 per child per night is a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to wake up a baby to change him), as well as when traveling or when I feel the need to fit my kids' big cloth diapered butts into cute little outfits for special occasions. You do, as a cloth diapering mama, need to find which brands of baby clothes are sized to accommodate whichever style of diaper you choose.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Digital Dust Bunnies II

Introducing the mysterious Mr. Dickinson, one of my favorite photo subjects.

Vancouver sea wall
Trout Lake, Vancouver, BC
Galiano Island, BC
Thomanby Island, BC
Tofino, BC

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Who Doesn't Love Letters?

But when was the last time you actually wrote (and sent) one? And don't get me started on love letters; will the next generation have any collective memory of the ribbon-bound mementos prized by spinsters for centuries prior to our own?

Receiving mail is one of the best day to day surprises in life. The physiological impact of seeing your name in print on an unexpected envelope is similar to but substantially greater than the elation felt when opening an email, and the latter, unlike the letter, is sadly lacking in tangibility.

As with many children of the ante internet era, I had a pen pal. I wrote letters to my parents from summer camp and to my camp friends (and a few notable camp horses) during the school year. I collected postcards and foreign stamps and I even owned scented stationary at one time. It has now been years since I wrote a proper hand written letter, unless you count Christmas cards which I tend to fill with text to make up for my lack of "real" contact the rest of the year; despite the great utility and convenience of email, it just doesn't cut it. Don't get me wrong, emails have made me laugh and cry when composed with enough heart by a loved one, but if a letter is a thoughtful gift, an email is a ten dollar bill in an otherwise empty envelope.