Registered: December 2008
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I have always been a conservationist and done what I can in my every day life to help save the environment. I switched all the light bulbs in my home to CFL’s. I recycle and compost religiously. I even made a summer job out of getting people to sign a petition to shut down the nuclear power plant Vermont Yankee so that the state could move on to cleaner, more renewable sources of energy. Taking all this into regard, when I found out I was nineteen and pregnant, it was only natural that I leaned toward the “natural” items. While pregnant, I bought all my produce at the farmer’s market and homemade majority of my meals. I switched only to all-natural, toxin-free, bio-degradable cleaners. All this was leading up to the birth of my baby – which just happened to coincide with the time I found out about the Nicodemus Wilderness Project Scholarship. My love of the environment combined with the opportunity for a scholarship pushed me to do what I should have done anyway: to save the environment through raising a more natural baby. I laid out my plans and decided to start with a timeline of the first two months, and if I felt like things were going well, I would continue on past that.
There were a few different ways in which I set out to be a more “natural” mother. The first was to breastfeed exclusively, in which I would reduce the plastic used in bottles and the environmental costs to ship formula. Another one was to spend time each day with my baby skin-to-skin. By placing my naked baby against my bare chest, it would help her regulate her temperature. With body heat to keep her warm, I could keep the thermostat in my apartment lower and save energy and gas that would normally be put to creating heat. I also vowed not to buy clothes new – friends that had older babies contributed most of my daughter’s clothes. What I couldn’t get from friends, I scoured yard sales for. By reusing clothes, I cut down on the amount of waste that would be thrown into landfills and lowered the demand for new baby clothes in stores. The best part was that when I was done, I found I could pass them on to someone else having a baby.
Perhaps the biggest decision I made in natural parenting was to use cloth diapers. Fifty years ago, disposable diapers did not exist. Now they rule the world and cloth diapers have become obsolete. Disposable diapers are ten times more convenient than cloth diapers. Being a single mother going to college and working part-time, I knew I would not have a ton of time to devote to laundry. However, I would also not have much money to spare for diapers. Torn between saving time or money, saving the environment was the final straw and I made the decision to cloth diaper my baby.
At first, cloth diapering was very hard to understand. There is a lot that needs to be initially invested in. You need to buy the diapers, and choose between pre-folds, all-in-ones, or “pocket diapers.” All-in-ones are ready to put on the baby when you get them. “Pocket diapers” have a pocket inside the diaper where padding is inserted to absorb wetness. Pre-folds are a rectangular piece of material with thicker padding in the middle to absorb wetness. They come in lots of different materials – unbleached cotton, organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo to name a few. The material of the pre-folds is soaked through when a baby urinates, so you also need to purchase diaper covers. These are waterproof covers that Velcro around the baby’s diaper to prevent the baby’s (and mom’s!) clothes from getting wet. Each brand of diaper cover varies, making it necessary to evaluate what you want in a cover and what you can do without.
Because all-in-ones and “pocket diapers” required the entire diaper to be washed once it was soiled, it was apparent that I would have to buy a larger stock than if I were to go with pre-folds. Since I was on a limited budget, I chose unbleached cotton infant pre-folds. I bought thirty-six of these and five Bummis brand covers. All natural laundry detergent is essential for washing your cloth diapers, as many detergents cause film to build up on clothes and ruin absorption. Your choice of diaper crème is also limited because anything containing animal oils will have the same effect on the material. I finally settled on Charlie’s Soap for laundry because it worked the best at taking out stains, and Balmex for diaper crème because it soothed my baby’s skin the quickest. In all, I spent just under $200.00.
Once my daughter was born, we started putting the diapers, covers, detergent and crème to good use. I was glad to discover that Charlie’s Soap did not run out as quickly as I had originally thought because it was one of the more expensive items I bought. However, being a redhead like myself, my baby has very sensitive skin immediately showed signs of diaper rash. I went through more tubes of Balmex than I’d like to admit in the first two months. I was very pleased with my choice to use a more popular, commercial brand of crème in this case.
I feel confident in my decision to cloth diaper. When asked, I am proud to say that my baby is cloth diapered and every time I see a friend change her baby’s diaper, I think of what I am doing to save the environment. Not only does this make me happy, but the savings in money has made it possible for me to pursue my education. The $200.00 I initially spent should be paid back to me in roughly another month and a half. If a jumbo pack of diapers costs ten dollars, it would be used up in five days. That means I would be spending around sixty dollars a month to buy disposable diapers, and by three and a half months of age, I would have spent $200.00 on disposable diapers for my baby.
It is important to remain environmentally conscious so that our children will have a place to live. We also need to teach them to think about their actions so that generations for many years to come will be able to survive on the planet using renewable natural resources. Babies are one of the most fragile beings on this planet. I felt very good about steering away from unnecessary chemicals so as not to introduce them to my daughter’s body. Yes, cloth diapering took a little more time and required more laundry, but knowing what I was doing to help made it worth the extra effort. Disposable diapers attribute to a large portion of waste in the United States. If disposable diapers were less popular than they currently are, we could avoid all those dirty diapers being thrown into landfills. The technology to change this pattern of convenience over conscience exists, but parents need to become advocates to spread the word and encourage others to save the environment by using cloth diapers.