It is possible that I could give birth to this kid any day now, and as I am officially over the forty-week mark I’m certainly ready. In talking with experienced parents from friends to family to co-workers my husband and I have said more than once that we will not be doing this or that or allowing our kid to do this or that, so I thought that it might be interesting to post some of them here as a reference and check back over the years to see how our opinions changed.
Before I got pregnant or really even thought seriously about having children, I always knew that I would use cloth diapers. Most striking is the explicit cost to diaper a child; I checked with Ingles and EarthFare for the Seventh Generation brand diapers, and they run about $12 plus tax for 44 diapers in the infant size. Based on what I’ve read a breast feed baby will go through about eight diapers a day, which means about 5.5 days for one pack of diapers (Pampers at Ingles were only a bit less at $10 plus tax of $50, and I didn’t write down Target’s prices). An organic cotton pre-fold cloth diaper costs about $3.25 plus the $13 waterproof cover; this diaper can be used until the kid outgrows it, and then it could be used as a doubler for a pocket diaper or a cleaning rag even later. The pocket diapers resemble disposable diapers more than the pre-folds which are what my mom thinks of as a cloth diaper, and they are a bit more expensive (about $18); however, since our kid will be in day care we’ll have to use them. While we have spent a good bit of money on getting our stash set up, in the end we’ll come out on top.
The explicit costs are important, but the health and environmental costs should weigh even heavier. Dioxin is a known carcinogen, but it is used in diapers, maxi pads, and tampons to bleach the cotton or paper bright white. Then you have the polymers that are used in the soaking layer to be concerned about; how long did we use plastic before it was discovered that some plastics leach endocrine disrupters and hormone mimics? Finally the environmental cost is staggering. Not only will the diapers far out live their users, they require lots of water and oil to produce. The water is a double whammy because most diapers wind up in the landfill with the poop in place rather than having the poop emptied into the toilet for sanitary processing.
Anytime I bring this up, I hear about what an onerous choir laundry is for any baby much less a baby soiling cloth diapers. I can always safely counter with the example my mom set. She worked full time outside the home and used cloth diapers with all three of us, and my dad was absolutely no help. Although I could be mistaken based on our ages she most likely had two of us in diapers at all times. My husband is an absolute foil of my father so between the two of us I know we can make it work, and really the economic incentive is just too tantalizing to forgo.
Electricity Rate Plan
About a year ago we decided to change our electricity rate plan to time of use which encourages one to use energy on off peak times. This has easily lowered our electricity bill by about $10 a month without creating any undue hardship. We were really concerned about adding the air conditioner, but after its first month we haven’t seen an increase, even though when it was being installed the contractors were using huge lights to see in the crawl space during peak energy time. The challenge with the peak energy use is going to be the laundry because we only use our major appliances (aside from the air conditioner and furnace) during off peak hours, which are currently from 9pm to 10am Monday through Friday and excluding major holidays (they change from September to March to 6am-1pm and 4pm-9pm), but I am determined to at least try it for a few months. We can continue to do the bulk of the laundry over the weekend, and as long as the weather cooperates we’ll continue to dry most of the laundry on the clothesline.
Exclusive Breast Feeding and Making our own Baby Food
We’ve decided to breast feed for many of the same reasons that we are going to cloth diaper, and although I’ll be returning to work about three months postpartum, I plan on exclusively breast feeding for at least six months then allowing self weaning as the kid expresses interest in what we eat with the expectation that I’ll still be nursing at least once a day for at least a year. In conjunction with this resolution, we’ll be making our own baby food. Again the explicit costs of buying baby food just don’t jive with the time savings, and being the dedicated environmentalists that we are, why should the baby eat food with more miles on it than we do? Also all those little jars and containers would be one more thing to find new uses for or to recycle. Of course, we will continue to limit the amount of processed foods that enter our house. I grew up in a house free of fruit roll ups and soda, and the tradition will continue.
Neither of us were allowed to spend all day inside watching TV or playing video games, and we plan on continuing that tradition with our little one. We don’t want to ever use the TV or computer or iPod as a babysitter, and we would like to limit daily exposure to the less than two hours a day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. We both realize what a challenge this might become, especially on long road trips and as the kid spends more and more time outside of the home.
By reading each and every day to the little one, we hope to make it easier to limit the screen time as well as foster imagination and diction. Reading and books were so important to me growing up, and I still love them (although I don’t prioritize reading as much as I should).
We are both relatively frugal when it comes to material purchases, although we make up for it with our epicurean expenditures, and this is something we want to continue with the kid. Again we recognize that we won’t be able to completely stop family and friends, but there are strategies around the excesses of others. In the line of regifting, I’ve heard of parents going through gifts sent by family who refuse to stop going overboard and culling the keepers and donating the rest. Of the keepers, some go into storage to be gifted at a later time. We’ll try to give experiences over stuff, and with the stuff we’ll try to be pragmatic with some and fun with others (here’s a great idea to help). Besides our tiny little house is almost busting at the seams already with baby stuff, dog stuff, cat stuff, and our stuff.
Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated!