My children were born before I was a doula, before I ever taught new and upcoming parents about breastfeeding, newborn care, baby wearing or cloth diapering – I knew very little about any of this when I bore my own babies. But I was environmentally conscious, I considered myself to be anyway. Pregnant with my first, I was certain I would breastfeed with ease, I’d be a chill, laid back mama with all the time in the world to firgure out what I needed, get some cloth diapers, take care of my baby with love (surely the skills were just lying dorment in me, awakening at the moment of birth like magic). I guess I knew that people struggeled sometimes with getting the hang of parenting, but I was convinced I’d be a natural. I attended a class, I was ready.
The birth was super, best case scenario really. I birthed with midwives at the hospital, had a very short pushing stage and no postbirth complications. I was home that same evening in my own bed with a perfect baby Violet. So why didn’t I get the cloth diapers?
I always had planned on using cloth diapers. Not because I thought about the massive garbage each child produces, or the toxic chemicals that go into its making, not because I considered the health of my poor baby’s bum, 24/7 in a disposable diaper. I just thought I should do my part a little bit to be a good neightbour, better to the earth. It was weak, I’ll admit it but i can forgive my 27 year old self. Yes, she made a lot a of garbage. But you know what? Having a baby is fucking hard. And I had an uncompicated vaginal birth, healing was standard for me, and I had a lot of family help around me, I wasn’t isolated as I lived with the dad and had daily interaction with close friends who also had infants. And I live in a city, close to all amentities, nothing else was contributing to making my life hard. I was on a paid maternity leave for a year, finances were okay and I had a job to go back to, no stress factors there. No, just newborn care. It was hard. Sleepless. She cried all the time. Breastfeeding was not intuative, my baby was dehydrated after a week and I became obsessed with latches, milk, sleep cycles, nutrition for breastfeeding – ALL THINGS BREASTFEEDING. It was terrible, I don’t recommend anyone obsessing over anything the way I latched on to obsessing about breastfeeding. I was determined to make it work. I cried a lot. A lot. My partner and I fought a lot. A lot. He would be trying to help me with a feeding tube that gets positioned at the nipple and you try and fool the baby that she’s sucking just from the breast, but she’s getting fed a little extra through a tube fed into a bottle of milk (forumula in my case, some people pump breastmilk – I didn’t pump very much for this option.) Having a dude explain what you’re doing wrong when trying to learn breastfeeding is a recipe for a fight. Those were tense times. I kept at it for 5 months and then quit one afternoon when I was trying to feed Violet at the Royal Agricaultural Winter Fair. She was so frustrated at my breast and was flailing and rejecting the breast. It was a relief to stop breastfeeding her and I greived it for a long time.
What does all this have to do with diapers??
I really thought I could just wait until the baby was born and then just call up a diaper service and bam, we’re in cloth. I could have done that too, not like it’s not an option. The truth is, I didn’t research any companies, it wasn’t at my finger tips. Phones were still stupid then and it wasn’t so easy to google with a newborn. And it just wasn’t top of mind. We had been gifted a bag of newborn disposable diapers, so I knew I would be set for the first week, with one week’s time to set up the cloth service.
But then the first week of Violet’s life was so hard and it just slipped my mind. Or if it did come to mind, was low on the priority list. I was so tired, so frustrated, sad, in pain from cracked nipples and I was cabin fevered! I wanted to go out, get back to it, to life, to sunshine! Then days turn to weeks, turn to months and the routine was set and I never did use a cloth diaper. Do I feel bad? Yeah, but we all do what we can to get through the newborn period. And I learned some things. These are the things I impart to other about to be and new parents.
Set yourself up before your baby is born. Buy the cloth diapers, book the service (most bring you a supply in the weeks before your expected birthing time), figure out what you want to do and get the stuff you need ready. Maybe that means disposable – do your research, use the brand you feel good about putting on your baby’s skin. They are not all made the same, feel confident about your choices once you’ve made them! Next level is to look into Elimination Communication. This is common practice in other parts of the world and I had the pleasure to witness in action recently in Toronto with one amazing eco-wonderful parent.
I do feel bad for lots of things I’ve done or haven’t done as a parent, I try not to dwell on them too long. Today, I co-host a workshop on Cloth Diapering, a taste for pregnant people to see, touch and hear about different ways to cloth diaper, full or part of the time. We’re now responsible for diverting an estimated 40,000 diapers from landfills, based on feedback we hear from parents who took our workshop and successfully encorporated reusable methods for diapering. I can’t take back the diapers I contributed to the earth’s garbage pile, and I’m not perfect now either – but I aspire to live zero-waste and plastic-free, I’m getting closer everyday. And along the way, I’m bringing as many people with me as I can 🙂