It doesn’t take a genius to know that disposable diapers are not a good thing for every reason except convenience. They take up to five hundred years to decompose in landfill (yuck!) and cost parents in the neighbourhood of $1,000.00 per year per child (yikes!). Those reasons alone are enough to discourage the use of disposables but the convenience factor still outweighs the downside. There has to be a better way.
This morning as I was reading the paper I spotted something that caused my jaw to drop and I burst out laughing. An organization called People for Trees is sponsoring a workshop (yes, it’s true) called “Using Cloth Diapers, It’s Easy as A-B-C” at a local library—somewhat ironic considering libraries are also a massive consumer of trees, but that’s another issue. There was no information about whether these diaper lessons involved the new kind shaped like underwear and take forever to dry (another expensive waste of energy) or whether they’re taking it a step further and using the old-fashioned flat white squares of flannel or cotton. Since it’s been several decades since the latter have been used by mothers, some instruction would definitely be required.
Most Boomer Broads can remember using the old-fashioned white cloth diapers when we were babysitting or changing younger siblings. As a fourteen-year-old who regularly looked after a neighbour’s baby girl, I remember folding stacks of diapers, the white flat, square kind. It always reminded me of a kite—side corners folded in toward each other, top down, and so on. But that was at the front end. The finishing end of the diaper was not so pleasant. It involved pulling off smelly rubber pants over the diaper, that generally chafed and irritated baby legs and bottoms by holding the moisture in. If the diaper contained urine only, it was dumped into a lidded-diaper pail until wash day but if there were any solid nasty bits (well, baby version of solid which is not particularly), then the diaper had to be rinsed in the cold water of the toilet bowl first, squeezed (yes, by hand) and then into the diaper pail. Ivory Snow was the preferred detergent as it had a reputation for being the most gentle on baby bums. Affluent city folks also had the option of using a diaper supply service that dropped off and picked up cloth diapers at your door several times a week. Needless to say, that wasn’t an option where I came from.
I’ve read that in parts of China and other countries where any kind of diapers are not an option, mothers simply train their babies from a very young age to eliminate on their schedule or go commando. After waking up or eating, baby is placed on the pottie chair and left there (with a little handcuff bracelet thingie) until business is complete. Or the mother holds the baby over the toilet. Although I have no personal experience with these methods, they must have some merit as they’re still widely practised.
Another downside of disposable diapers is their amazing technology. Because the wicking properties are now so advanced, toddlers don’t feel wet and uncomfortable. Therefore, they are more difficult to potty train. It’s not uncommon to see four-year-old boys still wearing some type of disposable diaper. At this rate they’ll be starting university in pull-ups which does not bode well for their sex life. Although as “party pants” they could be a real asset at drinking parties.
Should I ever become pregnant (don’t laugh, we’re still trying) I think I’ll try a combination of the above methods of potty training. And, fortunately as seniors we could also practise these techniques. Just think of all the money we’d save on Depends that could be spent on wine instead—which ultimately sets the whole process in motion, again. Cheers!
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