Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cloth Diapering and Freedom of Movement

I am absolutely committed to cloth diapering our child.
There are tons of reasons to do it – long term reduction in cost (especially over multiple children), being less wasteful, avoiding chemical exposure to sensitive baby skin, faster toilet learning when that time comes... it just makes sense. Plus we're going whole-hog Montessori, and cloth diapering is part of that, mostly for the last two reasons.
Of course there are going to be barriers – such as the high start up cost of cloth and the fact that although we have our own washer and dryer in our apartment, they are coin operated. Which means I can't control the cycles or the wash time, and it makes it a lot more expensive unless I plan to wash them by hand, which I don't. (Here's a great resource for apartment laundering options, by the way.)
But those factors are not my main concern, despite the anxiety dreams I recently had about drying all those diapers. What I'm concerned about is the bulk of cloth diapers inhibiting movement. Another blogger wrote about the same concern here and a lot of people got kind of angry about it.
Let me be clear, I have not read ANY research to validate my concern, and Montessorians definitely advocate for both cloth diapering and freedom of movement. No one in my training or Montessori experience has expressed any concerns about one inhibiting the other, although my trainer did recommend switching to cloth underwear around the time an infant begins crawling to reduce bulk. It really came up for me when I saw standard prefolds used on toddlers, and they looked bulky even on those big two-year-olds. What might that do to delay a baby's development?
There is absolutely evidence that children whose movement is frequently inhibited by “containers” reach basic milestones later, and this is not so different, in my opinion.
You might think that my concern about possibly delaying milestones is misplaced – after all, what harm does it do for a child to start rolling over a few weeks later? Well, actually, since cognitive development depends in large part on exploration of the environment, it could make it harder for the baby to reach his or her full capacity of intelligence. Although new research shows that neural plasticity allows for some brain development even in adulthood, infancy and early childhood is when it comes most easily.
So what's the solution? Not disposables, I know that – not for us. Please note that I'm not judging you if you use 'sposies! I just know that it's not the right route for our family... or at least that it's important to me to use cloth, despite the extra work and my movement concerns, for all those reasons I listed at the beginning of the post.
So I'm starting with the premise that trim and well fitting diapers are a necessity, planning to add in plenty of naked time, and practicing elimination communication (EC) as much as possible. And, for the record, I do plan to switch to thick underwear around six months or so, so we won't be using the diapers as long as most people do. Please note that this does not mean forcing our child to potty train at six months old – I am hoping that EC and cloth will have a positive effect on toilet learning but the switch is intended solely to aid the development of movement.
Unfortunately, we won't be able to see how any of the diapers fit on our little one until I actually give birth, so we have to depend on trial and error while we're actually in the trenches.
Since cost is a major factor for our budget, I'm planning to make some newborn sized prefolds and flats out of my flannel stash. I imagine the sheer quantity of fabric in the regular ones is what causes the bulk, and I'm hoping a newborn won't need as much absorbency as an older baby since a newborn stomach has such a small capacity. Making them smaller should address the bulk without compromising functionality... at least, that's my goal and my hope. I'm also researching which diapers are the trimmest, for when the newborn diapers no longer fit, and those are the ones I'll be adding to our registry.
So hopefully I'll update you all on which diapers worked for us and which didn't... but I don't have a great track record on keeping up with blog posts now, and I'm sure you all know how busy parents of newborns are. I'll do my best; wish me luck!

P.S. - I also write about my personal life a little more freely on my other blog, Megan's Nest, and reserve this one for information specifically relating to Montessori and child care/development. If you're interested in hearing about our quirky apartment and other stuff, feel free to head on over and check it out! 

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