Still, I've determined that an all-cloth approach would be doomed to failure. We spend a lot of time outside of our home, and I couldn't haul back a messy cloth diaper with the groceries. Remember, we're avid pedestrians, and the basket under the stroller is only so big.
So we would use Seventh Generations when we were out, or in a pinch during laundry loads. But the rest of the time? Cloth. Why not, I figured? We have our own washer/dryer. We could always put a soaking bin in our large master bath, steps away from our daughter's changing table. And I'm not fussed by getting stains out of laundry - I've potty trained the World's Most Reluctant 3 y.o., after all.
And yet, it seems like this is harder than it should be. Here are the obstacles:
- Cloth diapers aren't cheap. Sure, they are if you use the old-fashioned squares with diaper pins. But that would be a recipe for failure - I know how easy it is to velcro on all those lovely, disposable tabs, after all. I'm considering using bumGenius diapers, which cost about $200 for a dozen - which seems like the absolute minimum to get through a day and create a load of wash. We'd need to use each of the cloth diapers at least 60 times to save money compared to Seventh Generations.
- Cloth diapers aren't all that easy to launder. Apparently, they can't go in with the regular laundry, even the regular baby laundry. That means either a) running partial loads, upping the eco-impact or b) having dirty diapers around until we've collected a full load. They sometimes require a re-washing, and sometimes need to be set out in the sun to bleach. We could do that - our laundry machine is right next to our townhome's roof deck - but again, if we've got them sunning themselves on the Ledo Deck, they're not available for use.
- Cloth diapers aren't accepted by our childcare center. And I completely understand their reasoning - they already regularly store soiled baby togs, and with space limited, it's tough to contemplate keeping all those diapers on hand, too. Plus, we'd have to buy a second set of diapers to have on hand for changes at childcare. They don't mind if we send her in the morning clad in cloth, but she'll be coming home in disposables.
And here's one last consideration: I'm terrible with my hands. You wouldn't know it to see me type, but that's the only place where I have anything that resembles manual dexterity. The rest of the time, I'm a mess - fiddly, clumsy, sloppy. All this argues for using the sized cloth diapers, which are basically just like disposables except, well, not. But that cuts down on the odds that our cloth diapers would ever be a good financial investment.
My husband worries that we're taking on too much to cloth diaper - he remembers the early daze of having a newborn at home. And while we're better positioned this time - less clueless about infant care, closer to family, supportive neighbors at the ready, I'm not working outside the home, he was four weeks' paid paternity leave - it's still gonna be a slog.
He also points out that successfully breastfeeding and making our own baby food, coupled with using greener disposables, would be a big improvement on our last go-round as time-stressed, crazed and clueless rookie 'rents.
Still, we could afford $200 for diapers. If we don't break even, it's not the end of the world - we'll have kept garbage out of the landfills, and that's consistent with other choices we've made, where we accept greater expense in the name of the greater good.
And so it really comes down to this: when the only benefit that I can identify is the Green Factor, making the choice becomes so much harder than when it's Green, Frugal and Simple.