The Blog

Can We Talk About Cloth Diapers for a Sec?

Here's what befuddles me: How did cloth diapers go from being a way to contain a baby's excrement to a lifestyle choice? What's with the fluffy bottom fetish?
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Well, not the diapers themselves. I don't have much of an opinion about them. Well, one opinion: I think it's kind of weird to give a brand of diapers the name "Thirsties," because I picture semi-sentient diaper-shaped lifeforms that are literally thirsty for baby urine. But that's my issue, I think.

I didn't cloth diaper my kids, but I get that there are a lot of good reasons to do so. I've known people who found that switching to cloth helped with their baby's eczema or otherwise sensitive skin. And I get the environmental thing. Sure, I've read the studies that show that cloth diapers aren't a ton better for the environment than disposables, but less in the landfills is less in the landfills. Cloth diapers certainly aren't worse and they have the benefit of not being made of petrochemicals.

So, it's not the cloth diapering itself that wigs me out. It's the existence of cloth diapering communities. Like, why are there cloth diapering meet ups? What happens at those gatherings? Is one parent all, "So, do you have a sprayer attachment for your toilet?" and then another parent is like, "I do!" And then they're both like, "Yay! Twinsies! Let's be friends!"? Because I'm pretty sure that's not enough to build a friendship on.

At some point, maybe about an hour into the meeting, does the room go silent and one parent just says, "fluffy bottoms" and then everyone else is all, "Yeah, fluffy bottoms." Because seriously, what is there to talk about? A baby craps, then you change the diaper, and then you wash it instead of throwing it out. How complicated can all this cloth diaper stuff be?

In the interest of answering my own question, I just went to the mighty arena for competitive homemaking known as Pinterest and did a search. And now I see: Cloth diapers are very complicated. You've got your DIY hand-sewn wet bags for diapers soiled on the go, your homemade cloth diaper detergent, your Snappis and lots and lots and lots of Q&As. But seriously, how steep could the learning curve for cloth diapers be?

Steep, I guess. Because why else would there be bloggers who use monickers like "The Cloth Diapering Geek," and "The Cloth Diaper Whisperer." You see, when a parent is wondering how to deal with cloth diapers while on vacation, the answer is not simply, "Use disposables for the trip." There's so much more to it! After all, hotels don't have sprayers for solid waste and... Oops. I just lost interest.

Hey, hey, you wanna hear something funny? It turns out that one of the ways that cloth diapers lose their environmental superiority is because of the water it takes to wash them, something that can be offset by using a high efficiency washer. But funny joke: High efficiency washers suck at getting the stank out and are generally not recommended by cloth diapering gurus. Derp.

OK, here's another one: To increase the environmental benefits of cloth diapers, one could recycle them, say by selling them second hand once a child is potty-trained or swapping them at one of them cloth diapering meet ups I don't understand. But here's the thing: 90% of the cloth diapering chatter online is about the many different kind of diapers you can buy, all of the people who make them by hand and sell them on Etsy, and the countless accessories that one needs to cloth diaper like a boss. It's not uncommon for self-described "cloth diaper fanatics" to amass prodigious collections of several different types of diapers. Getting new shipments of cloth diapers is so fetishized that there's even lingo for it: "fluffy mail."

Here's what befuddles me: How did cloth diapers go from being a way to contain a baby's excrement to a lifestyle choice? What's with the fluffy bottom fetish? I mean, how do all these cloth diapering fanatics find the time? Not the time to do the cloth diapering, because I understand now that that can be "fun" and "easy," but how do people have to time to go to cloth diapering Twitter parties and enter cloth diapering giveaways and write blogs solely devoted to cloth diapers?

Why is there a cloth diapering subculture? There might as well be subcultures for people who prefer to carry their kids rather than use strollers, or people who forego store-bought baby food, or people who breastfeed. Oh wait. All of those things have their own subcultures. And ironically, though they're all pitched to new parents and being about support and togetherness, they secretly double as ways for parents to separate themselves from the herd.

When I was in third grade, I had to have snap bracelets. See, Lindsey already had eight of them and Melissa had twelve -- including four furry ones! Boy, did I get me some of those right quick. Then in fourth grade, everyone had Kerokerokeroppi pencil boxes, but mine was just plain old Hello Kitty and you better bet I hounded my mom until she took me to the mall to get a proper Kerokerokeroppi box. And then when I was 28 and became a mom, everyone had the coolest cloth diapers with, like, the cutest prints bought from this amazing Etsy seller who embroidered each one by hand. For a second I was like, "Wow! Want!" but then I remembered that I was a grown-ass woman and I didn't care what everyone else had.

OK, I do understand it a little bit. When people become parents, they're often very abruptly cut off from their old friends and pretty much their lives as they knew it, at least for a little while. It is a shocking change, no matter if you're a teen parent or just getting the fecundity ball rolling in your forties. At least this is how I justify my new-mom obsession with collecting baby-wearing devices. But what if instead of segregating ourselves into these little Internet-defined klatches of babywearers, Ferberizers, attachment parents, swaddlers or cloth diaperers, we just found a way to gather with other parents and talk about how hard and weird and scary and wonderful all this parenting shit is?

What can I say? I'm a dreamer.