I was previously an aspiring crunchy mom that really, and I mean really, wanted to cloth diaper. So it may surprise everyone that I ended up a tried-and-true disposable diaper-using mom. I mean, I know it would surprise pre-baby me. It was an accident, though! I swear! It's not like I meant to go through the stages of accidentally transitioning to disposable diapers. A new, sleep-deprived, exhausted mom doesn't necessary plan for these things.
Although I don't recall every detail of why I wanted to cloth diaper, I'm pretty positive that one of the reasons I felt so strongly about it is I thought it would be better for the environment. It turns out, however, that the environmental benefit of cloth versus disposable diapers isn't that clear cut or obvious. As the Washington Post reported back in 2015, a lot of studies are finding that cloth diapering has about the same environmental impact as disposable diapering. Who knew, right?
Whatever the reason, I was committed and then, eventually and unusually, not-so-much committed to cloth diapering. Sometimes I feel a twinge when I see a cloth diapered baby, as if I should've done more to make it happen. Then I have to ask myself, "Is it really that big of a deal?" So with that in mind and whether you want to avoid the accidental switch, or usher it in intentionally, here are the stages of eventually transitioning to disposable diapers:
Stage One: Have A Baby In The NICU
Yeah, the medical staff doesn't let you put cloth diapers on NICU babies. In fact, NICU parents have little control (depending on their baby's situation) over more than a few things, so diapering is just one of the many things you don't get a say in when your baby is in the NICU.
Stage Two: Try Cloth Diapers At Home
If your baby is anything like my first, I put that first cloth diaper on after five days of disposable diapers in the NICU, and the baby pitched an absolute fit. Can you really blame the baby? They were used to thin, soft, dry swaddles for the first almost week, and then I wrangle them into a lumpy, bulbous, hot, ultimately wet sack. That can not be comfortable.
Stage Three: Your Parenting Partner Can't Figure Out How To Work Them
My partner, bless his heart, did not understand the multiple stages of cloth diapering. He couldn't figure out how to fold the insert so that it stayed in the cover. Inevitably, every time he tried to put a cloth diaper on our child, he took so long he got peed on. In one particularly traumatizing situation, he got projectile pooped on. In the face.
Stage Four: Live In A Studio Apartment
Have you ever tried cloth diapering in a studio apartment? Sure, the wet bag is supposed to be smell proof, but when your partner has the nose of a bloodhound it absolutely will not matter.
Stage Five: Have A Communal Laundry Room
Ever tried washing your cloth diapers in the basement's communal laundry room of your apartment building? I have. It's gross, not to mention embarrassing. I kept waiting for someone to shame me about it, and even though it never happened, the stress of waiting for someone else's judgment was unsustainable.
Stage Six: Use Disposables "In The Meantime"
When we realized that the communal laundry room was not ideal, the wet bag was in fact not smell proof, and our super skinny baby hated the cloth diaper bulge that didn't allow them to lay flat on their back, we decided to wait until the baby was a bit bigger and the laundry room a bit more, well, ours.
Stage Seven: Go Back To Work
I had to go back to work six weeks postpartum because, like most new moms in the U.S., I didn't have any paid maternity leave. The salary of a new rape crisis therapist doesn't actually pay enough to save for pizza, let alone maternity leave.
Stage Eight: Have Partner Stay At Home
My partner was an over-the-road driver when our first was born. Not only was that job not conducive to parenting, but what he made wouldn't even cover the cost of day care for a newborn. So, we decided he would stay home. Remember how much he loved cloth diapering? Well, in case you forgot: he didn't.
Stage Nine: Move
"It'll be fine," you say. "Move to a house with a laundry room," you say. It turns out, however, that moving with a 2 month old is incredibly stressful and exhausting. I barely had time to change a disposable diaper, let alone rinse a bunch of cloth ones.
Stage 10: Have Your Washing Machine Break
Have you ever tried cloth diapering without a washing machine? OK, OK, so everyone in my mother's and grandmother's generation did it, sure, but I had absolutely no interest in, or ability to, spend my entire day laundering dirty diapers. So when our washing machine broke I finally gave up my cloth diapering quest once and for all. My baby hated it, my partner hated, and, increasingly, I hated it.
Disposables, here we come! My partner and I have had two kids since, and we've never, ever, looked back.