20 July 2010

Cloth on the road

I packed Gabriel's cloth diapers for a week's vacation in France, and although I had been told by the owners of the apartment we were staying in that there was a washer available, I did not know the details of layout and access. Turns out the washer was in their private home rather than in the apartment. They were terribly nice, and offered to take the laundry and do it for us (before they knew what it was), but as awkward as it is to show up with a bag full of your child's poopy diapers and be escorted to a cluttered laundry room, it would be even more awkward to expect someone else to handle it.

Plus, negotiating all of this in French was tricky (I didn't even know the word for "diaper," but now I do: la couche bébé). They did insist on taking the laundry out and bringing it over to us, so I was relieved when the woman told me that they had done cloth diapering for a few months when their babies were little, too. (They quit because of rashes.)

I only ended up doing the one load, though, relying on disposables for the middle part of the week, and back to cloth when we were close enough to departure to make them last until we were reunited with a familiar washing machine. Because the other thing I hadn't taken into account is that washing the diapers cuts into sightseeing time; the two hours needed by the durn European machines meant waiting around instead of heading out for the day, and in this case we had to try twice before we found our innkeepers at home.

Other trips have been fine with cloth, because we were in the homes of family or friends and could do laundry easily, and the agenda mostly included hanging out in the house. In other cases, we've brought them along for jaunts of a couple of days (Valencia, the Costa Brava) that were short enough that I didn't need to wash them before heading back. But in the future I'll think twice about doing cloth for longer trips where I'm not sure of the laundry situation, or to hotels.

Besides the travel snafus, I've really loved cloth diapering so far. It's easier than you think when you're contemplating it (the choices are overwhelming and the ick factor is bigger in imagination than in reality), and I find the little bright-colored bottom of a baby so darn cute. Plus, for me it's hugely satisfying to know that I can avoid creating massive amounts of waste, reduce the factory and transport demand of disposables, and skip all of those chemical-laden plastics and fibers next to my baby's skin. Oh, and the cherry on top: it's way cheaper!

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