When I was pregnant with Donovan I briefly considered trying out cloth diapers. Then I looked at our tiny European washer, and our total lack of a dryer, and knew it just wasn't gonna happen. So, we used disposables and didn't really think about it much (it did alleviate some guilt to know that Switzerland incinerates its trash, so at least they weren't going into a landfill. Let's not think about what the chemicals in disposables do when they're burned, though....).
By the time we moved back to the US I'd already known about gDiapers for a while and was itching to ditch the Pampers and try them out. I loved the idea of a cloth/disposable hybrid diaper, one that didn't require as much waste or landfill space. Cloth still didn't seem a good option for us, so this was a great compromise. Our toilet couldn't handle flushing them, but we soon started a compost pile in our backyard and threw all the wet compostable inserts into it, which worked really well.
Then when Zach left his job and started the job search, and when we realized there was a good chance of us needing to move from that house we stopped adding to the compost bin to help it "finish" as best it could before moving. Suddenly, our trash output increased by a LOT. And I started feeling guilty every time I tossed one of our biodegradable, compostable refills in the trash can. Sure, in theory they'll biodegrade, except they're going into a landfill, and inside a plastic bag at that, meaning in the end they probably won't fare much better than a regular plastic-filled disposable diaper. My eco-guilt started getting the best of me.
Then I came across an article called The Diaper Dilemma published in Mothering magazine (you can now buy the digital re-rpint of the article here for $2). It explained all about cloth diapers, the different kinds available today, all the advances, and dispelled the myth that they involve a bunch of extra work and hassle. It also talked about all the not-so-nice aspects of disposables, like all the chemicals used in them, the environmental impact, the potential damage we may not be aware of that they could be causing kids (one study showed that rats who wore disposables developed asthma-like symptoms compared to a control group. Yikes).
Huh. It got me thinking. gDiapers had released their own brand of cloth inserts for their diapers not too long ago. We're already used to their system, it would be easy to buy the cloth inserts and try them out, right? However, anytime I even mentioned the idea of using cloth to Zach he'd look at me like I sprouted an extra head. No way, was his answer. Not gonna happen.
Then he saw me reading the article on cloth diapers. And I guess he got curious, and started reading it himself. And when he was done he looked up at me and said, "Ok, maybe we should try the cloth."
I ordered 2 packs of the gCloth inserts the very next day, before he could change his mind on me. ; )
That was about 3 weeks ago, I think. I know, I know, was I crazy to try out cloth diapering right in the middle of a hectic, stressful move? Honestly, it really wasn't much extra work, and it was kind of a fun, exciting project to distract me from the stress of the move. I have 12 gCloth inserts, which has been enough to last for 1-2 days (we've been washing about every other day most of the time). I have also been using Kushies diaper liners (looks like toilet paper, but is thicker) to line the diapers. The brilliance of this is that when D poops, all or most of it stays on the Kushies liner, which can then be pulled right off and tossed in the toilet, leaving the diaper poop-free meaning less mess in the diaper pail. So far I've been putting the dirty diapers into the wet bag I used to use for swim class (am going to set up a better diaper pail system soon...), then tossing the whole thing in the wash. Washing itself has been pretty simple-- hot wash, add an extra rinse at the end, dry in the dryer (you do need to be careful about what kind of detergent you use-- I've been using Dropps packets, which I actually got as a free sample months ago from I don't even remember where). I do need to be more vigilant about changing his diapers-- can't let it go longer than about 2hrs, but then again that's probably a good rule of thumb anyway (we do still use a 7th Generation disposable at night, for the better overnight absorbency).
In a way I felt a bit silly going cloth now, when I'm hoping to potty train D this summer. But, I also wanted to "try it out" and figure out a system now, so I can feel confident about using cloth with the new baby when s/he arrives in a few months. For now I'm pretty happy with the gDiapers system, but am curious about trying out other cloth diapers... might look into this diaper trial offer to get a chance to test out a few different diaper types/brands without having to buy them.
D hasn't seemed to notice much about the change or mind one bit. I'm loving all the trash we're not producing. And Zach? He's totally on board now. He was even supportive of us using cloth while on vacation in Tahoe. ; )
UPDATE (8/11/2010): Now that we've been at it a bit longer, I'm made a few tweaks to our diapering routine and figured I'd post them here. First of all, after a while I noticed that the gCloth wasn't as absorbent as I'd like. I was changing D every 2 hours, and the insert would be fairly soaked a lot of the time, and leaked a few times. Then I found out about g-flapper inserts sold at The Nappy Shoppe, which are made to fit gDiapers but have more absorbent layers sewed in. I ordered 5 of the hemp/microfiber/microchamois inserts and have been very happy with them. I also ordered a few half-inserts (I like the microfiber/microchamois ones). I've found that when 1 gCloth insert + 1 half-insert work nicely together (the half-insert gives the gCloth that extra absorbency "boost" they needed). She makes both g-flappers and half-inserts in a variety of different materials, and even has a chart rating the absorbency of the different types of cloth/inserts.
I've also adjusted my washing routine a bit. Maybe because of the combination of having a front-loading washer and hard water, I've realized we're prone to having stink issues with the diapers so will probably have to strip them about once a month or so (aka washing, then rinsing several times on hot with no detergent to get rid of detergent build-up, which is what causes diapers to stay stinky even when clean). To wash I now do a cold rinse, then hot wash + extra rinse, then do a 3rd rinse for good measure (I've found my washer tends to suds up a lot even when I use tiny amounts of HE detergents, so want to make sure to rinse it all out to help avoid build-up). If I'm washing during the day, I'll dry them for 20 minutes in the dryer then hang them out to dry the rest of the way in the sun (the initial dryer time keeps them from getting stiff, the sunlight saves energy and helps whiten the diapers).
Now that I think about it, it's been 2-3 weeks since I added the extra pre- and post-rinses to the wash routine and I haven't had any diaper stink yet, so that may help me not have to strip the diapers as often.
I converted D's old diaper pail/trash can (an old trash can with lid) into a dry diaper pail. I bought 2 Kissaluv's antibacterial diaper pail liners, so I can wash one along with the load of diapers and replace it with the clean bag right away. I used to not really believe people when they claimed their cloth diaper pails didn't stink the way disposable diaper pails do, but it really is true. Part of it may be that we flush almost all the poop (thanks to the Kushies liners), but still... even when poop gets on the actual diapers and they sit in the pail for a day or 2, there's very little smell. I don't understand it, but I do love it. ; )
When I write it all out like this it kinda sounds complicated, but really it hasn't been. I wash diapers about every other day. It's a little extra effort, sure, but not enough that I really notice. And, I think the extra bit of effort is totally worth it. I used to think I'd switch to the flushable inserts whenever we left the house, but instead I've been carrying my small wet bag and continuing to use cloth and it's been no big deal. It's nice knowing we're producing so much less trash. And even with the extra washing, since we have a front-loader the water usage is still relatively minimal.
I'm starting to build up my stash of small-size gPants and g-flapper inserts for when the baby comes. With D's diapers, since we already had the pants I only had to buy the cloth inserts to get started on cloth which came out to about $100 or a little over. They've already more than paid for themselves. With the baby we'll need more inserts (more diaper changes/day), and the pants, so it'll be a larger initial investment (probably about $200-$300) but even that will probably only take a few months before the investment pays off. And, we already have the medium/large pants and inserts for when he's bigger. It's nice knowing we'll save all that extra cash. ; )