For my first two children I used Pampers. I put absolutely no thought into diapers whatsoever. Everybody used Pampers, so I used Pampers. I liked the smell.
I knew that there were people who used cloth diapers. I met some moms at La Leche League who were using cloth. Their babies had really big butts and their toddlers looked funny when they walked. I liked the look of my sleek, skinny babies.
I had signed up for email newsletters from Pampers when Anna was born. Occasionally Pampers would send me coupons, too. Anna was consistently using the toilet or a potty by 26 months old, but since Holly was still in diapers I continued to subscribe to the newsletters and coupons. At 18 months of age, one morning Holly yanked off her diaper and never wore one again. She was done. So when I received an email from Pampers saying "Anna is 40 months old! Is she ready for pull-ups yet?" it was both a light-bulb moment and a serious kick in the ass. Pampers didn't want my children to ever stop needing their products.
I credit Pampers with making me switch to cloth diapers. Before Jasmine was born I found a great website run by a mom in the GTA that sold lots of products for natural mothering. I spent about $400 to get set up with cloth diapers and covers and liners and a diaper pail and natural laundry soap. About six months later I spent another $250 on larger prefold diapers and covers which I used until Jasmine was diaper-free at about 22 months old. I've estimated that I spent about $1200 on diapers for Anna and about $800 on diapers for Holly, so spending $650 on diapers for Jasmine that I have subsequently used for Julian has been a pretty good deal. And it was more effort to find a place to stack my clean diapers than it has ever been to wash and fold them.
There are tons of articles and information on the internet about the benefits of cloth diapers. I started at Parenting by Nature to learn about why people choose cloth over disposable for environmental or health reasons. I didn't bother trying to figure out the cost of washing my own diapers versus using a diaper service versus buying organic disposable diapers. None of that had anything to do with the reason why I switched to cloth.
I switched to cloth diapers because I wanted to love my baby with diapers. That's right. Love her with diapers. Pampers gave me a convenient, mindless way to deal with my baby's elimination. But I am not mindless and my babies have never been convenient. Wrapping their precious little bums in unbleached organic cotton has given me another way to love them on days when I am tired or sick or tending to the needs of another tired or sick older sibling. I love it when I pick up the baby and I can smell that he's wet and needs changing--that subtle infant urine smell is actually so much nicer than the perfume smell of a disposable diaper. And changing his diapers more often (which one inevitably does with cloth diapers) gives him a little more attention in house where three other children are also needing attention.
Cloth diapers matter the way homemade meals trump takeout. The way homemade cookies trump Oreos. The way a walk in the forest trumps watching a movie. Cloth diapers matter because being mindful matters. The way we mother our children matters even more than the effect of disposable diapers on the environment or on our health.
If we are going to undertake the role of mother then we better be mindful about it.
PHOTOS: Julian in cloth diapers in August 2010.