You can verify this with Chad: I am obsessed with diapers.

I liked the idea of cloth diapering. I thought it would fit my values well, especially after researching some, as I am wont to do. You can argue all you want about the environmental impact of disposable versus cloth, but for me it comes down to these two things: 1) I am not throwing out tons of plastic and poop into landfills, and 2) I know EXACTLY what I am putting up against Elinor’s cute little baby butt.

So I decided to try them. And they are not difficult, especially since Elinor is exclusively breastfed right now — everything is water soluble at this point, so I don’t even have to rinse the diapers. Cloth diapering does take some time, and there is definitely an art to folding a diaper, but I have found that the entire experience of changing Elinor’s diapers is beautiful and intimate and — dare I say it? — fun.

This process, of taking care of the most vulnerable part of my daughter, of attending to her in the best way possible, of providing for her as I will provide for few others, is heart-warming and poignant for me. A true hallmark of independence is being able to take care of your nethers and your excretory functions, and until Elinor is able to do this, she needs me. Every time I place her on her changing table or the floor, every time I disrobe that chubby little baby, I remember that I am her caretaker and that I must make sure that she is healthy and happy. It’s also a few minutes for both of us to just take a break from whatever we are doing and hang out with each other. I cannot multitask while changing her diaper; it’s me and Elinor, mama y bambina, and we have lots of fun as I sing silly songs to her and raspberry her perfectly round belly. Chad has changed many a diaper, too, and views it the same way I do — bonding time. There are studies that the more a dad changes diapers, the more his kid will turn to him when distressed. Makes sense.

That’s my philosophical justification for being obsessed with diapers.

Because, as I said before, I am obsessed. More with diaper covers than anything else. Cloth diapering entails two parts: something absorbent to move liquids off the baby’s butt (a diaper), and something waterproof or repellent to keep those liquids off me and anything else (a cover).

The first part — a diaper for absorbency. I use prefolds, which are squares of pure cotton or hemp, with an extra layer in the middle for even MORE absorbency, that you wrap around the baby and pin or snap together. Cotton and hemp are highly absorbent, which keeps the urine from leaking or remaining against the baby’s skin as much as any material can. But then, in order to keep that urine from getting on my shirt or the rug or her daddy’s tie, you must also swathe that baby in a diaper cover.

When I researched and bought my supplies, I was keeping it simple. I bought some cute polyurethane laminate (PUL) covers that can adjust size to fit the baby as she grows. Not too expensive, they come in cute colors and are easy to use. That might be another reason I am obsessed with diaper covers — they are so cute! And a baby in a cloth diaper with a cute cover — those dufflebutts are adorable.

As I began to love those covers, I researched some more — and found wool. Ah, wool. If you remember my obsession with sheep and camelids, this continues it. Though PUL is great at keeping moisture off my clothing and furniture, it just keeps it there — in the cotton diaper. And, the longer it stays in the cotton, the longer it remains near Elinor’s butt. This can lead to irritation, though if you change diapers frequently, that’s not a problem. But there are times when you don’t want to change diapers frequently. Elinor began sleeping long stretches at night fairly quickly, and I began to worry about her tush. And wool presented itself as a solution.

Did you know that wool is nearly perfect? That even if you think you are allergic to it, you are more likely allergic to the processing that manufactured wool often goes through for typical consumer use? Did you know that wool feels relatively cool against the skin in summer, but warm in winter? Did you know that wool can absorb 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling wet? Lanolin, the substance that those afore-mentioned chemicals strip away, is actually a wax that helps sheep waterproof themselves — and is naturally hypoallergenic? Lanolin left on, or added to the wool of a diaper cover, will neutralize the ammonia in urine. That means that you can use a wool cover that’s been lanolized over and over and over and it will stay, essentially, as clean as it was at the beginning until that lanolin is used up — or until poo gets on it. Lots of people make shorts and pants (shorties and longies) from wool that can double as a diaper cover AND pants. How cool is that? I pick Elinor up after eight hours of sleep, and the wool cover is damp — but the moisture stays with the cover.

I got some wool covers and soakers (what a great term — the cover gets soaked and nothing else gets very wet), and I was hooked. I even love the care you must give them, which is what drives most people away from wool. I love that you must handwash the covers, and I love that you must, every once in awhile, add lanolin to them. I do that once a month, and the process brings me this calm joy. All of that sheephair and sheepwax, prepped and ready for my baby and her wonderful nighttime sleeping.

So now, in these late-night extravaganzas of my personal time, or during Elinor’s infrequent naps, I cruise craigslist and diaperswappers and ebay and etsy for wool covers. They are so beautiful, and, sadly but understandably, so expensive …. I love them. I would buy millions if I could. The best ones are made in Germany and Sweden, or in the homes of WAHMs (WorkAtHomeMoms). There is an entire lingo for cloth diapering, a whole world unto itself, with acronyms and benchmarks and many more people like me!

Isn’t this just artwork? Artwork for a baby’s bottom that costs at least $30 …. :

This is a Wild Child Woollies, from etsy.com.

Another:

These are shorties, a cover that doubles as shorts for a baby, from littleleafboutique on etsy.com.

These are the creme de la creme of longies:

That is not my baby, but those are longies from sustainablebabyish.com

But instead of buying and buying and buying,  I am trying to make them. I have begun to take my old, hole-y sweaters and handstitch them together into soakers for my baby. If I had a sewing machine I would probably use it, but for now I enjoy the slow process of needle, thread, and wool.

NB: In middle and high school I liked to handstitch little things. I had plans to make a patchwork doll after I read _The Patchwork Girl of Oz_, but that was an eensy bit too ambitious for my 12-year-old self. Instead I made tons of pillows and, during high school, made obese mice for Emily, Aubrey, and Brett (you know, the obese mice from scientific experiments? there was a great picture in my high school psych book, and from there — history).

Example of an obese mouse. Mine were brown and white. Amanda arcana.

My first attempt at a soaker, with reinforced “wet zone”:

That's black cashmere. Bootylicious.

On Elinor:

She is always so surprised by the camera ....

My second attempt, which I haven’t put on Elinor because I just finished it 30 minutes ago and she is in the midst of one of those precious naps:

Lavender cashmere with black cashmere legs. I'm getting better.

I never expected to have so much fun with diapers. If you have unused or hole-y pure wool sweaters you want to send my way, feel free. I’ll send you a picture of Elinor’s butt.

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