A Better Diaper – A Better World

The day I became a father, my life changed dramatically, and I would assume that to be true for virtually all but the worst of parents. Priorities change, motivation changes, and the budget changes. I can say that with all honesty, that the change that most grinds my gears, however, is the change itself…yes, the diaper change.

Oh my, there is just so much poop! An infant will regularly go through 9-10 diapers per day, slowing a bit as they age, but still prolific. I always thought that the excrement would be the thing that got to me, not being one with an iron-clad stomach for bodily things. Lo and behold, it turns out I have little issue with poop, puke, boogers and the like when they are coming from my own flesh and blood…it’s the diapers that get me.

See, from the second your child is born, the hospital has you wrapping their smooth newborn bottoms with nothing other than Pampers or Huggies, depending on who has the strongest salesman in that area, I suppose. During those first days in the hospital alone, you will probably go through 20-40 diapers depending on how long you stay. The first time through, like so many other things, I thought little of this, until we got home, that is, and started to drag out bags full of the crap-filled bundles.

During yet another trek down the hall to dump my son’s little gifts to the world, I thought to myself, “wow, how many other people in our building alone are dumping diapers at this rate? How many in all of Chicago?” So, being the inquisitive one that I am, I looked it up. The answer is, a lot!

In the United States alone, we dump 50 million disposable diapers every day into our landfills! OK, stop and think about that…50,000,000 disposable diapers every day. That is 3.5 million tons of poop-filled goodness every day entering our landfills. Annually, again in the United States alone, as many as 23 billion, yes, that is 23,000,000,000 disposable diapers are sold, and presumably, used. The most conservative estimate for how long it takes a single disposable diaper to biodegrade in a landfill is 200 years, and in reality, probably closer to 500 years…not that they have been around that long yet to physically observe.  That means that every single disposable diaper that the world has ever used is still sitting around somewhere on Earth (unless we have secretly jettisoned some out into space during a shuttle mission, of course), a number too large for my measly iPhone calculator to display. Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer items in landfills, and represent 30% of all non-biodegradable waste in America. Additionally, every single traditional disposable diaper contains about a cup of crude oil. That is a lot of oil…something we could stand to use far less of.

Those numbers alone made me shudder, simply knowing what about 12-18 of the little suckers could make the trash can smell like after a few days. I, being the self-proclaimed environmentalist that I am, spoke with my wife, and found out that she was thinking along the same lines I was. We did what we had to do, and started looking for a good alternative to the Pampers…and we had already ruled out Huggies, of course.

Now, let me be clear, disposable diapers are the bomb! I am in no way denying the convenience and ease of wrapping one on, then removing and rolling it up for an easy 3-point shot into the garbage. Cloth diapering along with the endless washing it would involve didn’t sound like something we were up for, so were hoping that wasn’t our only alternative. Fortunately for us, it was not…there were actually better disposable options available – for a price.

X-Man in a gDiaper

X-Man in a gDiaper

Well…it’s mostly great. Personally, I love the gDiaper option. It is almost as easy to use as a normal disposable, but without the nasty after-effects. The “gPant” is offered in a variety of colors, and now patterns, ensuring your kid will have a well-dressed bottom, even when going pant-less. The only drawbacks (and they are drawbacks) are as follows:

  1. The gDiaper is definitely less absorbant than a normal disposable diaper, and is more prone to leaks and seepage, though just as efficient as disposables with the handling of the solid stuff.
  2. Already expensive, you end up using a couple more per day due to the above deficiency, so price is a factor.
  3. Disposal, should you choose the flushable option, can be a little messy at times until you get the hang of it.

All in all, I would choose this option always, but as with many other things, we have compromised here in the Hilgart household. See, one of the other great benefits to being careful with our diaper decision is that we found our son’s skin to be much healthier once we switched from the “traditional” disposable to the gDiaper…funny what removing solvents and chlorine bleach from constant direct contact with your child’s skin will do. Diaper rash became rare at worst, mostly completely gone. But the cost and leaking were getting on Mom’s nerves, so option number two, the biodegradable, and chlorine-free disposable diaper.

Seventh Generation diapers

Seventh Generation diapers

After a couple of trials with a few brands, we seem to have settled on the chlorine-free disposables by Seventh Generation.  Functioning in essentially the same way as any Pampers or Huggies option, Seventh Generation tout “soft, cloth-like comfort, with premium absorbency”, in addition to being hypo-allergenic and fragrance & latex free. Though probably still a burden on the landfill (more so than the gDiaper anyway), these are produced without petroleum products or the dioxins that have been frequently linked to reproductive problems and cancers. Additionally, we eliminate the solid waste into the toilet before rolling and tossing the diaper to ensure as best as we can that we are keeping the landfill safe from fecal contamination. Yes, this can be messy as well.

We still use the gDiaper, though only during the day…always to bed with the Seventh Generation, or we’ll be washing sheets as well. If you are a parent with kids in diapers, and if you are, bless you for taking the time to read my blog, consider using either of these diapers. Definitely check out the gDiapers before deciding you can’t afford it. If you are going to continue rolling and tossing disposables as we have done, try a bleach-free, dioxin-free, petroleum-free option, and flush the poop, seriously, you will be doing the world some good.

As always, please leave comments as the urge grabs you, after all, who doesn’t like a good discussion about poop?

Be well!

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Vaccinations — TMI!

So, today I was browsing the blogosphere and literally stumbled on the following article/link:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/07/06/jenny-mccarthy-spreading-dangerous/

For those of you unfamiliar, and if you have any children 5 years old or younger this would be unlikely, Jenny McCarthy has a son who is autistic. She has made it her mission to, at worst demonize the vaccinations that are given to children in the United States today, at best call for more research to be done.

Let me just warn you right off the bat that this post is not intended in any way to choose a side and argue with empirical evidence for either. My point today is that one must be careful in the age of the Internet to do one’s own careful research, and come to one’s own conclusion.

I mentioned some of this in my first post on this blog, but the issue of immunizations is HUGE with parents of young children today. I took my time and read almost all of the comments on the link above, and all it did was frustrate and anger me. Why is it that we (and by we here, I mean specifically Americans — please forgive the generalization) are so incapable of saying “I don’t know”?

When faced with the first couple of rounds of immunizations on our son Xavier, my wife and I admittedly had not done any homework on the issue. Kerry was the first to question what we were doing after the 2nd month checkup when Xavier was given 4 injections plus an oral rota-virus vaccine. He was irritable for a couple of days, and ran a mild fever for one night, but on that night he had a short burst of terror inducing crying, the sound of which thankfully has faded from my memory. Kerry had heard some stories about other parents refusing to get their children vaccinated on the recommended schedule, or even at all, and was seemingly leaning that way.

I am naturally skeptical when I listen to debates between the unknown and science, so I decided to do some homework so that we could make an informed decision about our son’s health. This is where the frustration immediately began. There is so much “information” out there on this topic, and so much steadfast assuredness of individual beliefs that it caused in me information overload, and I mean brain shutting down…period!

It became quickly apparent that if I chose to vaccinate, I was buying into the government system of lies and deceit, and was poisoning my child. On the other hand, if I chose not to vaccinate, I would be considered a new age quack, and would very surely endanger my son’s health, AND eventually his ability to go to school. So, what is a parent supposed to do? I can only tell you what we did, and ask you to honestly share your own decisions here for others to use to form their own opinions.

Kerry and I discussed it (sometimes endlessly), and chose to continue the full immunization schedule, but on an extended time frame to avoid multiple injections at the same visit. Our pediatrician, one who we are very happy with, advised to stay on schedule, but seemed more than happy to respect our wishes and slow down the barrage. We have continued this decision with our new daughter, Hayden, and all is well with both children thus far.

You see, the fact is that there is not a good answer to the question, “is the current immunization schedule the best thing for our childrens’ health?” I hate to use a movie as an example, but I will anyway. In the first Jurassic Park movie (c’mon, who didn’t like that flick?) Jeff Goldblum’s character was explaining the inherent flaw in the scientists self-assuredness that by only breeding a single gender, they would avoid massive dinosaur re-population on the Earth. “Life finds a way,” he explains while spinning a yarn about some frogs that are able to change gender spontaneously in order to procreate and continue their species.

My point is that we must be very careful to avoid hubris in thinking that because we have tested something with the scientific method, it is surely correct. On the other hand, we would be completely irrational to refute the scientific evidence we have discovered as so much crap. I do not need empirical evidence to suggest that the world’s population is exploding right now due to births significantly outnumbering deaths. This is due to any number of factors from advances in sanitation and treatment of clean drinking water to yes, advances in medicine…including immunizations.

Let me go on record as saying that we know what our children don’t get sick and die from as a result of immunizations, e.g. measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and more. There is very solid evidence as well that we have diagnosed far more children today with autism than we did 30 years ago. These two things need not be related. It would seem that enough work has been done to suggest that there is not a causal relationship between the current immunizations and the increase in autism cases, but does that mean we should not better understand why there is such an increase in autism? I have heard it suggested that the increase in autism can be at least partially explained by our increased knowledge of the disorder, and therefore increased diagnoses in individuals determined to have something else in the past. I have spoken with too many parents who are choosing completely different paths to consider this a case closed, and if it will take more research to put people’s mind’s at ease, then we should fund that research.

Is there more I am not aware of? If so, then I’d love to hear it. In any case, I hope if nothing else, I have created a place for an intelligent discussion of this matter, and very much welcome your participation.

Be well!

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Terror in the Kiddie Pool!

I have just spent the last 5 days in Burlington, IA visiting Kerry’s family.  It was a pleasant enough week as the weather and hospitality made for a relaxing time.  I got to play golf twice, practice once, and had plenty of home cooking to fill my too-ample belly.  Today was getaway day, and being July 3rd, I set Noon as our departure time in order to beat the crowds headed into downtown Chicago for the fireworks.  Of course, the kids wake us up between 7 and 8, so we needed an activity for those 3-4 hours before we left.  Kerry had the winning idea…Huck’s Harbor!

Huck’s Harbor is a surprisingly large water park that makes up only a portion of a huge family entertainment complex called Fun City, and is plopped right in the middle of the strip malls and fast food joints that lie on Roosevelt Ave. just north of Highway 34…yes, the same 34 that we in Chicago call Ogden Ave.  In addition to Huck’s Harbor, Fun City features a resort/hotel, a children’s/young adult “arcade”, a bowling alley, at least 2 dining options, AND a casino.  Not bad for a town of about 30,000 people.

So, we were off to Huck’s Harbor.  The drive over from my mother-in-law’s house was all of 5 minutes…tops. The cost for two adults was $12 for the entire day, and the two kids under 3 were free.  We purchased a “swimmers” diaper for Xavier for $2, changed into our rarely used swim gear, and moseyed on over to the indoor kiddie area.  It was a pretty great setup with a gradual ramp to wade into the 1 ft. deep water which held an array of miniature water slides, a few of which were in the shape of such aquatic denizens as a frog and a fish.  There were two of those mushroom/umbrella things which you could stay dry under, but got wet as you entered.  There was also a bridge-like structure in the middle from which various styles of 2-3 foot high slides exited in every direction .

Xavier has been swimming twice in his young life before today…in back-to-back days down in Florida when he was 7 months old.  He liked it then, but that was a long time ago.  Xavier loves taking baths, but is not fond of the shower.  He abhors getting water in his eyes, a boy made for the desert, I suppose.  I, on the other hand, was a fish as a child.  I have nothing but fond memories of swimming as far back as I can remember, and was quite proficient at it as well. Having children that like to swim (or at least know how) is important to me.

So, once we got Kerry and Hayden settled at a poolside table, I took Xavier’s hand, and we moved to the wade-in point. As we wandered in, I was relieved to feel the bathwater temperature of the pool…at least we wouldn’t be dealing with blue lips from the chill.  Xavier handled this part pretty well, and strolled around the pool with me for several minutes. At some point shortly thereafter, we stopped, and I sat down in the water next to him, and started to lay back to show him that we could swim just like in the smaller bath back home. This did not go over well. Xavier’s lower lip began to quiver, the eyes squinted, and the crying began followed quickly by near screaming.  I sat back up, of course, and held him, reassuring him that I was OK, and he would be too.  I then picked him up and we strolled around the pool, stopping at every drenching opportunity to soak daddy’s head to demonstrate safety and fun.  He was having none of it, but I didn’t want to give in so easy lest I foster a fear of water in him.

By this time, Grandma Kay showed up to watch Hayden, so Kerry came in for an assist.  It was a fruitless effort however, as Xavier only continued to cry and plead to get out.  At one point he even told Kerry that he pooped, and that we needed to go back to Grandma’s to change him (he didn’t — clever boy).  We chose next to walk outside in the sun to warm up a bit, and check out the other attractions.

Aha! The Lazy River…surely an easy way to introduce him to the water.  I grabbed an inner-tube, and sat him right on my stomach so he could slowly ride above the water around the complex. Well, he did stop crying, and even enjoyed himself for a brief moment as Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” played loud enough for me to mock dance with him. About halfway around, he had enough however, and wanted out.  He held it together through the end of the circuit, but that was enough of Lazy River.

Next, we tried letting him watch me swim a couple laps in the adult pool.  This he seemed to enjoy, though it did not make him want to get in the water any more than before, and reminded me how difficult lap swimming is when you haven’t done it in years.  Once I caught my breath, we decided to attempt the kiddie pool once more before abandoning ship.

I carried Xavier in, and we moved to the corner of the pool right next to Kerry, Grandma Kay, and Hayden with a rope netting serving as a barrier between us and them…it didn’t go any better.

Get me out!

Get me out!

So, still not 100% ready to give up, I sat down and held him again.  I moved back away from him slowly and asked him to follow, which he did.  I then told him that if he walked all the way out of the pool and over to the table, all the while holding my hand, we could go back to Grandma’s for lunch before we left for home.  He sucked up his last few tears, and made me proud…it’s the little victories, y’know?  Kerry quickly wrapped him in a towel before he and I went to the locker room to change back into our street clothes.

I'm spent!

I'm spent!

So, I am not terribly concerned. I think he just needs more exposure to swimming. I am going to try to get him into the next session of lessons at our local pool to help warm him up to the idea of swimming.  He is 2 years and 4 months old now. What are your experiences with your kid’s early attempts at swimming?  Have we done any damage or missed a key entry point? Any sound advice, or just entertaining stories of commiseration are welcome!

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