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Cloth Diapers: Another Reason for Moms to Feel Guilty?

Breast or bottle? Co-sleeper or crib? Stay-at-home or working mother? Cloth vs. disposable is just one more hot-button issue parents are getting worked up about.

Maybe it was simpler when there were fewer choices available. Until the late 1960s when Pampers came on the market, parents had no choice but to rely on cloth diapers which they generally sent out to a diaper service for cleaning. Then, once disposables were introduced, only the diehards stuck with cloth.

Just as there are countless choices for every aspect of parenting these days, there are new options for cloth diapers. And with the variety of options comes more choices. Choices that inevitably lead to more stressed-out, guilty moms who feel that nothing they do is right.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the internet has introduced a new generation of cloth diaper options. Among the cloth diapers parents can choose from are: pocket diapers from brands like Happy Heiny and bumGenius, prefolds and covers from Econobum, and fitted diapers and covers from Thirsties. And those are just a few of the choices available.

Then there are more questions: Are hemp inserts better than bamboo? What type of diaper cover breathes the best? Which diaper cover is the best for the environment? Which will prevent leaks?

Why bother with cloth diapers at all? For one thing, depending on your choice, they can save money.  Using disposable diapers for two years for one child would cost about $1,600, according to the California-based Real Diaper Association. Cloth diapers are generally considerably less.

When my daughters were born, friends who did their research on cloth vs. disposable told me that there was no great difference on the environmental impact because of the harsh chemicals used to clean cloth diapers (not to mention the fuel for the diaper service truck). But that has changed too.

Eco-experts no longer recommend diaper services which use nonorganic chemicals to sterilize diapers. Instead, they suggest that parents handle the job themselves. But, of course, that’s easier said than done.

In theory, it’s a wonderful idea — better for the environment and your baby’s skin. But in reality, I fear it’s just one more choice that leaves moms feeling guilty if they don’t do the absolute right thing.

Sharon Hays, a professor of contemporary gender studies at the University of Southern California and author of the 1997 book “The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood,” refers to “the extraordinary pressure of intensive mothering. Choice is supposed to be a good thing,” she continues, “but it becomes overwhelming when there is this nagging sense that you must somehow do it right.”

Will cloth diapering be yet another point of conflict among moms, with those who use them judging those who don’t as lazy or selfish? It’s a ridiculous notion since it’s a personal decision, but then so is breastfeeding or working outside the home and you see how judgmental moms can be about fellow mothers who come to a different conclusion on those issues.

Do you use cloth or disposable diapers? Are you happy with your choice?

Photo: Picasa/Samatlock

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