One thing I came to find during these travels that I did not expect to learn is the value that cloth diapers have played thus far in my son's time earthside.
You see, we started our cloth venture primarily for three reasons:
1) Money. The amount that would be needlessly spent on plastic throw-aways is monumental compared to the investment we made on our pocket diaper stash.
2) Cuteness Factor. Is there anything more adorable than a chubby little baby running around in a soft colored diape?!
3) Tree Huggerness. My husband and I (more so myself - although maybe he'd say the same) have a hard time not recycling anything and everything that can be recycled, so the thought of throwing away mountains of chemical-laden, feces-filled plastics each year to just sit and sit and sit and sit and clog up the earth just a bit more... I'm not sure I'd be able to stomach it.
So for those reasons, we procured our little stash of Blueberrys, Wonderoos and Dilley Dallys and happily EC/cloth diapered our way through the months, never giving much thought to how friendly this method also was to our son's sensitive bum.
I've heard the horror stories from parents of plastic-clad kids - the awful chemical rashes that seem to spring up overnight. The blistering bums. The rash filled genitals. The nonstop painful crying when nothing is working to heal a baby's ultra sensitive skin - because a disposable is a disposable is a disposable. They are all filled with much the same toxic thing, even those that make an attempt to be a little more 'green.'
Reuters recently wrote about P&G facing a backlash from parents who find their infants with chemical burns and rashes due to plastic diaper technology. But could it really happen as quickly as everyone says it does?
One member of the Facebook page, Pampers bring back the old Cruisers/Swaddlers, submitted pictures after wearing a Pampers' diaper on her knee for 90 minutes:
But still, I never thought it would happen to my little diaper-free/cloth-diapered babe. Until we started this trip. We packed some of our cloth stash and planned to use them at various locations where wash machines would be available. However, as time crunches were made and our adventures got rolling, it seemed easier to suck up my environmental concerns and plastic up my little guy.
Still not thinking much of it, except for the $9 I did not really wish to spend on garbage (that is where they are headed, right?), I was slightly surprised to find after just 2 changes my son had redness on his inner thighs and bum area where the diaper sat. I pulled out our trusty Calmoseptine (which I'd recommend to anyone, for just about anything) and we slathered it on.
Day two - my son brought me the Calmoseptine from the bathroom counter in our hotel room. Never had he done this before. He wanted me to put some on him. Yikes. He went diaper free the rest of the day during the hours we could manage to do so (slightly more challenging away from home).
Day three - and still no easy access wash facilities - I slathered on the Calmoseptine which had done wonders the day before, went diaper free as much as possible, and reluctantly placed another disposable on his skin during the hours it was necessary.
Day four - more of the same, still red. But we'd be in a new location soon.
Day five - His sensitive little areas were redder than I'd ever seen them before. My poor baby. Could 'nice' disposable diapers really do this much damage in this short amount of time? How does any baby handle it? My son signed to me that he 'hurt' down there - something he has never before experienced. I was surprised (again). And rather appalled. We got out the cloth diapers (and he lit up to see them), slathered on some more Calmoseptine, and made our way to our next destination - with laundry facilities.
We only had enough of our cloth stash with us for 2 days worth, but we made it work. My son never 'hurt down there' again. And I now have a reason #4 for doing a mix of EC and cloth diapering - the health and 'happiness' of my baby's skin and his comfort.
I'm fairly certain I will never look at plastic chemical diapers the same way.
MAY 2011 UPDATE:
Pampers Diapers are now being changed after thousands of babies have been reported as getting blisters from the "Dry Max" diapers formula. According to a Procter & Gamble representative, thousands of parents have complained to U.S. and Canadian safety commissions about rashes, sores, and chemical blisters on their youngsters after using the "Dry Max" diapers.
As a result, P&G has said they have lost many customers over the past year, and all the while the price for disposable diapers is increasing. Pampers and Huggies manufacturers have both made statements about their expectations that parents will be willing to spend more on a more "quality" diaper. "The task has become tougher as parents look to save money in the face of rising food and gasoline costs, and as a slower U.S. birthrate puts pressure on the diaper category," says one P&G rep.
An idea? You may want to put your money into a reusable, re-sellable, non-chemical investment instead and get some good cloth diapers. Tips on making the switch to cloth, and ideas for selecting what is best for your family can be found in the related articles at the bottom of Diaper Days: Our Cloth Stash.