I’m partaking in Dirty Diaper Laundry‘s week long Flats and Handwashing Challenge instead of machine washing my son’s cloth diapers. This challenge is getting me back to basics, taking inventory of what is really necessary, and thinking about why and how to promote cloth.
Yesterday was the final day of the ‘challenge’ and I just hung up the last batch of t-shirts to dry. While exhausted last night, I contemplated writing something incredibly meaningful about the larger message of this event. It all seemed silly and inadequate to give advice while trying to walk in someone else’s shoes. Here’s my take home message:
Handwashing flats is TOTALLY do-able!
Babies pee A LOT.
Not to be overly optimistic, like anything baby related, there are no breaks. You can take a day off, but then your pile of laundry is bigger. I 100% believe cloth diapering can save you money if you need it to, even without a washing machine. I didn’t spend any money on the diapers themselves, t-shirts, scrap fabric and a receiving blanket were perfect. You’d need a cover if you want your child out and about, but at home, you don’t really need one except for naps/bed time. It made me wonder why I spent money on prefolds. Aesthetics? Does a child really need something nice and pretty on their tush? It gets pooped on for goodness sake! And if you’re tired, there’s no harm in just throwing a free t-shirt out. Which reminds me, no disposable diapers means we were able to cut our trash collection costs in half! Utility bills (water/electric) haven’t changed much either and we use the same detergent for our clothes.
Handwashing flats doesn’t take long.
There was surprisingly little time involved in the washing process. I washed twice a day for 10-15 min. active time, 30 min. total each time. My hands are sore, probably from gardening though. See the post from Day 4 on my washing routine.
Ask questions and get some help.
Any extra help makes things easier on Mom. Getting set up with some time-saving hand washing setups or a box fan would be a first step. A few donated covers or purchased second hand to get started. Goodness, you could even use a plastic shopping bag (under supervision of course!), fleece jammy, or old wool sweater wrapped around the flat. As with anything, it helps to have someone you can ask questions and troubleshoot with. Your child may get a rash or your flat fold may be leaky. There are a ton of options and solutions, many of them free or inexpensive.
A great source for getting started is Giving Diapers Giving Hope. Check them out. I also believe that many daycares will work with you to use cloth. If done right, it is just as hygienic as a disposable. Which brings me to my final thought, kind of high horse if you’ll permit me.
*gets up on horse*
Babies Pee A LOT
In the age of super absorbent diapers, it’s great you don’t have to wake your sound sleeper for a midnight change because their diaper will last 12 hours. You could do the same during the daytime. There, you only need 2 diapers a day. I’ve seen this mentioned in forums explaining that disposables don’t cost much at all. This feels wrong. If you use only 3 diapers a day, your baby is sitting in pee (or heaven forbid poo) all day long. It’s gross enough to think about what we all do with our babies at night, they at least deserve a reprieve during the day.
Super High Horse
Our modern plumbing society has enabled us to live without many diseases carried by waste. I believe that is where my baby’s poop belongs, being treated in a sanitary manner at a sewage treatment plant or septic system, not packed away in a landfill for another generation to deal with. We use disposable items because that’s just how it’s done. I challenge anyone to question that norm.
I think I will continue to use flats and handwash, especially on vacation. They get super clean and I use so few washing as often as I did, that there is less clutter around the house. I may make a few hand-saving adjustments (gloves!), a better wringing-out method, and pull out the box fan for indoor night time drying. I swear it takes less time than using the washing machine. Having the washer free this week was a blessing because my cat is sick and I’ve been cleaning up after him. I throw EVERYTHING in the washer! (almost everything!)
Consider yourself challenged! Try a t-shirt on your baby for an afternoon, just once, for me?
Poor little guy is starting the week sick & cuddly.