What’s Old is New Again: Cloth Diapers

Home Brooklyn Life What’s Old is New Again: Cloth Diapers

Six women sat on comfy couches and massaged their bellies. They spoke about sleeping habits, organic food and midwives. They introduced each other and instead of giving an age, they proudly talked about how far along they were in their pregnancies. Faced with the plethora of products for their babies, the group of pregnant Brooklynites decided not to go with Pampers, Luvs, or Huggies. Instead they opted for an old-fashioned option:  cloth diapers.

Last Saturday, the expectant parents took the opportunity to learn about diapering with cloth at a free seminar held at Caribou Baby, a children’s clothing store Caribou Baby in Greenpoint.

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Sarah Longwell-Stevens, a preschool teacher and Post-Partum Doula from Clinton Hill showed how to use a cloth diaper. (Photo: Izabela Rutkowski/ The Brooklyn Ink)

“It’s not really complicated,” said Sarah Longwell-Stevens, a preschool teacher and Post-Partum Doula from Clinton Hill, who conducted the class. “It’s just not familiar to us

While the mechanics of cloth diapering may not be familiar, more and more young parents are moving from disposable to cloth diapers.  One cloth diaper service in Brooklyn, for example, reports that it has three times more customers than it did when it started four years.  “Over the years we lost many families due to potty training, but we definitely have more new customers,” said Liz Turrigiano, the owner of DiaperKind. She said at the beginning they only had 100 customers. But today they service over 300 families.

“I take yoga classes, and everybody there, talks about cloth diapers,” said Hieral Bhardwaj, 34, a Park Slope resident expecting her first child. She came to Saturday’s class with her husband, Anuj. “I thought it would be a good economical option for us.”

On its website, the Real Diaper Association, a national advocacy group for parents interested in cloth diapering, claims that the cost of cloth diapering is about one tenth the cost of disposables. In New York, a cloth diaper service that offers the cleaning of 40 dirty pre-folded diapers and supplies 40 clean ones each week for $35. The start-up pack of 80 diapers together with the sign up fee costs $50. A single   disposable diaper costs about 30 cents.

Bhardwaj, one of the parents at Saturday’s seminar, added that she heard from some mothers that they saved about $2,000 per child when they used cloth diapers instead of disposable ones, after deducting the cost of washing the diapers. A load of dirty diapers requires two washing cycles and a longer drying time, she said.

Cost is a draw, for sure, but some future parents attending the diapering class offered by Caribou Baby did so for other reasons.

“More people are looking into cloth diapering as an eco-friendly option,” Turrigiano said.

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Matt Strawn and Olenka Rojowsky are expecting their first child and consider cloth diapering as an eco-friendly option. (Photo: Izabela Rutkowski/ The Brooklyn Ink)

The Real Diaper Association reports that disposable diapers contain traces of dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process.  The Environmental Protection Agency lists dioxin as the most carcinogenic chemical. According to the diaper association’s website, it’s banned in most countries but the United States.  Then of course there is the generated garbage.

“It takes 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose,” said Matt Strawn, 34, a father-to-be from Greenpoint. “[Cloth diapering] seems more natural.

On Saturday, the couples, whatever their motivations, learned the ins and outs of cloth diapers. Sitting on a carpet and using a large doll as a model, the instructor, Longwell-Stevens, demonstrated various types of cloth diapers from those with pre-folds that require special snaps to hold the fabric in place to hybrid diapers that have waterproof covers and a removable diaper pad made of reusable cloth or a disposable insert for more convenience. The new parents also learned about wool covers that allow for airflow so the baby’s skin can breathe and diapers with adjustable snaps that grow with the child.

Besides talking about the types of diapers, Longwell-Stevens also told parents how to store the dirty diapers, how to rinse them before washing and how to organize a diaper change away from home. In the end, both disposable and cloth diaper users have one more problem:  disposing the waste.

“If you’d use a disposable diaper, you’d be still cleaning poop out of stuff,” Longwell-Stevens said.


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