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Retro Fluff - Cloth Diapering Thoughts from My Mother

As you may already know, I'm a holiday person. I love creating round-ups of books and activities to celebrate with. You should see my Pinterest boards for the kids’ birthdays. #imnotobsessedyouare #okayyesiam So, with Mother’s Day on the horizon, you'd think I'd be doing the same thing, right? Curveball time! I decided to share a lovely chat I had recently with my own mother (and a not-so-lovely old baby picture of myself) with the whole wide world. She raised four children (in the ‘70s and ‘80s), all in cloth. So, now that we're on our own cloth journey, I was fascinated to hear how things used to be for the original fluff families. Only One Way to Do Cloth When my mother had her first child, cloth was pretty much the only option. You know how today we go through the process of researching all the different styles of cloth diaper on the market? Back in the day, there wasn’t a choice. The only type was a flat, adhered with safety pins and covered with waterproof rubber pants. A family friend used to buy a new set for each new child that came along. It was interesting to hear that the quality deteriorated with the passing of time; they became the gauzier style that we find today rather than the thicker, easy-to-fold flats. They were harder to find, but she was able to find the better quality with searching. Diaper Care While my mother usually owned around 48 diapers of large and small sizes, she washed them daily, calling it a “labor of love.” I’ve noticed that a lot of modern-day cloth diaperers feel the same way about cloth diaper washing; it’s not as much of a drag as “normal” laundry thanks to the cutie that will be sporting the clean dipes in the end. No pun intended. So, in the days before diaper sprayers, Mom would “slosh” the diaper in the toilet, then toss into a diaper pail. However, the diaper pail would have a bit of soap and water at the bottom, all to be spun out in the washer before giving them a good wash. She never used special soaps like Dreft or Ivory (which were all the rage for babies) since they made us broke out. This is all sounding so familiar to what I’ve read on current message boards! The diaper covers (glorified puffy rubber underpants) would occasionally smell like poop even after a good washing, although she never noticed staining. And, of course, they couldn’t be dried in the dryer, but on top instead. And what about diaper rash? They didn’t have awesome cloth diaper safe products like Booty Love. Just regular petroleum jelly or Desitin, even if it affected absorbency. Numb Thumbs The thought of pinning diapers again had my mother both laughing and cringing. As a mom “you were a bloody mess,” she reminisced. In other words, to avoid pricking baby, you pricked your thumbs, leaving you with bloody and eventually numb thumbs. Ouch. Disposables Come Along By the time my sister and I were born, disposables were on the market. But, as for many others at the time (and today!), they were simply too expensive for most to afford. At the time, my father was spending a lot of time in and out of the hospital for his cancer treatments, so needless to say, money wasn’t to be spent unwisely. Mom distinctly remembers being given a complimentary package of the now defunct Johnson’s and Johnson’s brand of diapers on her way home from the hospital after having one of us. While she loved the convenience factor, she ended up leaving them at her mother’s for easier visits. Smart thinkin’. Apparently, she recalls that the first disposable diapers were supposed to be flushable(!) After many pipes all across the country became backed up, back to square one the sposie companies went. Let's call that the first red flag begging the question, "Wait, where does a disposable GO after it's used??" My Take-Away One day, her pediatrician was surprised to see that, with these new diaper advancements, she was still using cloth. He nodded, “Save your money and send the kid to college.” And that she did. Even after losing her husband in 1986, she still ended up sending the four of us to college. Thanks and Happy Mother’s Day, Mom (and, among many other very smart decisions, your choice to cloth diaper us) for the life you’ve given us all today. How many of you were raised in cloth diapers? Was this when it was the accepted norm or after disposables had become popular? We'd love to hear your own experiences. Oh, and you don't need us to remind you to thank those special moms in your life this Sunday (and give yourself a pat on the back for all you do)!   Megan McCoy Dellecese writes about her life as a mom and her family's attempts at living a realistically green life at her blog Meg Acts Out. She has a soft spot for DIY blogs, Katharine Hepburn movies, the Monkees, and community theatre. Megan lives in upstate New York with her husband, two quirky kiddos, and three rescued cats.
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