Diapers v. Pampers: A Survey of Popular Opinion

I heard the diapers v. Pampers diatribe this weekend, and didn't even mind that I was eating ribs at the time. I am quickly becoming acclimated to fatherhood. I call it a diatribe because Joel and Martin considered the pro-diaper advocates either to be utterly insane or endowed with super-human patience and vinyl furniture. In either case, Joel and Martin are convinced that the pro-diaper advocates don't share our universe.

"You won't believe how much they shit." Joel's daughter was born in October. She'll turn one shortly after our baby is born. Joel lured me to Texas from Loyola, and I've worked for him in some capacity or other for most of the last fifteen years. I'd call him my boss, but that would imply that I'm an employee, and Joel would probably have an argument against my having earned that title. Joel's my friend and confidant, and I'm going to be looking to him for advice now more than ever. And this is his Second Major Pronouncement, the First being the equally chilling You will never sleep again. His eyes are wide, and he is shaking his head, chewing a piece of brisket, grasping for the words to describe it. There are none. "They shit so much, David."

Martin concurs. "For the first year they pretty much shit and scream."

Then, in unison, "But they're incredible." This refrain inevitably follows each stanza of parenting advice. Folks want to prepare you for the enormity of the task, but everyone knows that this realization can be overwhelming. The worst is always balanced against the best. Parenthood is invariably described in the most extreme terms. Long before we decided (shut up) to have a baby, a friend described the experience of fatherhood as the amplification of pleasure and pain; the highs are higher and the lows are lower, much more so than he'd ever thought possible. And so the infinite potential for heartache is counter-balanced by the possibility of infinite joy. This is how they keep our spirits up as they try and help us brace ourselves for the shock of parenthood.

And I am grateful for the advice. I have a thousand questions, and find myself grasping for as many informed opinions as possible. I have no use for theory anymore; I want hard, empirical data. For example, and as long as we're on (or near) the subject: diapers or pampers? I'm familiar with the environmental critique of disposable diapers - the amount of space they take up in landfills, the amount of time it takes for them to decompose, the wastefulness of convenience and the righteousness of the relatively pollution-free cloth diaper alternative. Anna and I had even discussed signing up for a diaper service. I decided to pose the question to Joel and Martin. Again, in unison, "God no!" Both offered testimonials (loosely recollected here).

Martin, father of two (9, 3): We tried cloth diapers and they were a disaster. First of all, they leak. You'll have shit all over your house. You'll be walking around with the baby, trailing shit and piss and you won't even know it because you'll be numb to the smell and half asleep. It'll be days before you figure out that you've ruined the sofa. Then there's the diaper rash. They don't absorb anything - it just sits there. And babies with diaper rash can scream non-stop for eighteen or nineteen hours a day. Diaper rash is your mortal enemy. No matter what else you have to cut out of your life, do not try to save money by going with cloth diapers. Give up anything else, but not Pampers.

Joel, father of one (5 mos.): Martin's right, diapers are a nightmare. They shit so much, David. Even with pampers, you'll have shit everywhere. There is so much shit. But I don't know about getting used to the smell. To me, the worst part is the smell. Oh God, David, the smell. It's awful. And no matter where you put the receptacle or how "air-tight" they claim it is, the smell of diapers is unbearable.

I'm sympathetic to the environmentalists on this one, but Joel and Martin make a pretty goddamn persuasive case against cloth diapers. If I don't hear something really good from the anti-pampers camp, I think the decision is fairly clear.


Blogger MommaS said...

All I'm saying here is "I agree". It's amazing the amount of poo that can come out of one little body. And it is my firm belief that boys do it more than girls. Pampers all around here!


11:23 AM  
Anonymous Emily said...

Umm...I'm so behind on this one that you'll probably never read it, however...the diapers vs. pampers question is an official environmental toss-up these days. The new pampers *are* biodegradable, and diaper services use a ton of water and energy. So, unless you plan to launder cloth diapers at home in your own machine (which is too gross for words), you can rest assured that you're not a total earth hater for using pampers.

10:43 AM  

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