A comment rather than a question on your "Great Diaper Debate" answer in Sierra magazine. A benefit you didn't mention for cloth is that those same diapers work for the next kid too. After two kids, about half my supply of prefolded cloth diapers was still in good enough condition to give to an expecting friend, and the rest made great cleaning rags.
The non-prefolded kind are the world's best multipurpose cloth, especially for backpacking: You can use them as head coverings for sun or wind, emergency arm slings, tight wraps for a strained knee, face coverings for dusty trails, quick-drying bath towels, cleaning rags, and so on. My youngest is now 24 and I'm still using and enjoying a few of those diapers!
–Jan in Clovis, California
Thanks for advancing the cause of cloth diapers, in the best tradition of reduce, reuse, and recycle. I didn't have room to note this benefit, but reusability and immense longevity does go a long way toward offsetting the environmental stress caused by growing cotton for the diapers. Unless you're afflicted with empty-nest syndrome, there can be an inexpressible joy and a sense of release in deploying diapers on an outdoor recreational jaunt instead of on—a baby.Some readers even advise doing away with diapers entirely, though they may be suggesting more "communication" with baby than many of us stay-at-home parents can handle. However, because there’s an obvious environmental upside in backside alternatives, we offer the following description of diaperless baby management from a reader who advocates it:
"All over the world, people employ knowledge and techniques that allow their babies to wear few or no diapers at all. This process of dealing hygienically with babies' waste is variously called 'elimination communication,' 'EC,' or 'infant potty-training' by people who are relearning this ancient art of baby care. Elimination communication involves observing a baby's signs and signals, providing cue sounds, and can be done with or without diaper use. Another bonus, besides reduced diaper costs and laundry: no potty-training necessary, since baby hasn't been diaper-trained in the first place! EC can be practiced full-time or just occasionally, started at birth or at 9 months or older. The best part: learning to communicate with your baby is fun, something that changing poopy diapers really isn't, whether they're plastic or cloth. For more information and resources, visit www.diaperfreebaby.org."