Tuesday, March 25, 2008

He got paid to write this?

Parents' Magazine published a story last month about a man who attempted to use cloth diapers, only to suffer an Epic Fail in the attempt. I'm utterly amazed at the "journalistic" standards that this gentleman used, as he showed what can only be described as a complete and utter lack of research or common sense in his pursuit. I've spoken about cloth diapers, before, particularly here. Look, I understand that, when your magazine is heavily sponsored by Pampers and Nestle, you need to steer people towards their products; but, this is ridiculous. Anyway, on to the article...

Page one: Why Give Cloth a Try? Okay, problems: "I wasn't familiar with all the arguments of the cloth-versus-disposable debate, but stuffing the earth with Isaac's dirty diapers didn't seem like a good idea." If you're writing an article about using cloth diapers, wouldn't you think that the arguments for and against would be the very first thing to look up? I guess I could accept the excuse that he wanted to keep an open mind, so he didn't research the arguments. But, the editor should then not have used the article's tagline, "What are the trade-offs when you give up disposable diapers? Are you helping the environment? How much laundry will you have? One dad conducted a hands-on experiment to find out the pros and cons." When you don't know the arguments, when you haven't researched the total costs, then you can't really evaluate the results. The next problem: he goes to the store and asks for cloth diapers, and THEN goes home to look on the internet for instructions on how to fold them. The only analogy I can come up with is: I go to the store to buy an HDTV, bring it home, and then ask the cable company if they have HD channels. Not very intelligent. When The Wife brought cloth diapers up to me for the first time, she had already spent several weeks discussing it on the Mommy Boards and several days doing serious research about what to buy.

Page Two: Safety Pin Trouble. Yes, we own a set of diaper pins. We used them for the sum total of two days before we found a better solution - the three-tipped claw thing that holds the diapers together. He gives up after only five tries and jury-rigs a diaper fold that it destined to fail grandly. Maybe I'm just persistent; I will try 35 or 40 times to try my bow tie before I get it right. Maybe I'm just coordinated; it only took me twice before I got a decent fold on the first day. Oh, wait - I forgot. I'm the guy that's not allowed to use power tools for fear that I'll staple my foot to the ceiling. I'm the guy that can't paint a wall without splattering paint out the window and down the block. I'm utterly shocked that this guy can walk upright without falling. Folding a diaper is not difficult, folks. He then uses a roll of painter's tape to hold the diaper together, and THEN lets the kid wander around with a cover on the bare cloth.

You have GOT to be kidding me. Really? Painter's Tape? You're letting tape get in the hands of your infant - because you know he's going to go for the colorful stuff around his waist - because you are incapable of following simple directions? And then, to top it off, to let the child run around without covering the diaper is SCREAMING to have poopy stains on the carpet. Common sense; research; asking questions. This guy is the reason why we have directions on boxes of toothpicks. Yes, the diaper gets wetter, faster. You'd know that if you did one second's worth of research on the internet.

Page Three: Dealing With Dirty Diaper Laundry. Germophobia is a serious mental condition. Howard Hughes locked himself in isolation because of it. Without sarcasm, if he truly suffers from that condition, then I feel very badly for him. I don't suffer from that; as a woodwind teacher, I'm used to touching things that have been in kids' mouths for hours at a time. It's not a big deal. Blood freaks me out, but spit / pee / poop / puke doesn't affect me. I don't have any problem handling a dirty cloth diaper when I take it off The Boy, and I don't have any problem handling it later, when I'm dumping it in the washing machine. I don't like it when it's been sitting in the diaper bag over night, but who would?

But, really - swished the diaper in the toilet bowl? Okay, I can see where you'd get the idea. My wife just bought this, which I'm going to hook up into the bathroom this week; my father, the mechanical engineer, said that it would take anyone - even me - around 20 minutes to hook up. It's a sprayer that is used to hose the poopy into the toilet bowl. Flushed three times? I don't flush three times when I drop a #2, and suffice it to say, I get a LOT of fiber in my diet. I don't relish the idea of touching toilet water, either.

Laundry time - well, we do diaper laundry every third day. It takes one minute to put the diapers in for the first cycle, including walk times. It takes 45 seconds to put the diapers in for the second (soaking) cycle. It takes a minute and a half to move them into the dryer, and another minute to bring them upstairs when dry. We don't always fold them; about half the time, we pluck out diaper parts as needed until we need to wash them again. Sometimes, when The Boy is in a good mood, he'll sit in his crib and play with his toys while we fold diapers. It takes ten minutes, if I'm talking on the phone at the same time. Not a big deal. Most of the time I'm watching tv while folding. How is that difficult? It doesn't take THAT much time, and - while we're out of having to wash The Boy's clothes every other day - it does give the excuse to throw a load of our stuff in, once the diapers are done.

Page Four: Trying the gDiaper. After admitting that he finally got the good diapers - likely similar ones that we're using in our house - he moves to a different brand, the gDiaper. For honesty's sake, I don't know anything about them, but I do remember my wife talking about a cloth diaper with a disposable insert. We considered it briefly but decided to go with the Bum Genius. But, the man who is a self-confessed "germophobe" is going to allow himself to use a stick to tear apart an insert floating in his toilet bowl, or - worse - just flush it down and cause occasional sewage backups? This doesn't seem entirely consistent with anything except his lack of research. Plus, 40 pads - which would be, um, like 4 to 6 days, depending on the kid - cost $15. That's ridiculous. That's a lot of money. I don't spend that much on comic books, and that's my big addiction.

Also, please note that two total paragraphs are spent on the cloth diapers with which he had a good experience. That's it. And, cursory descriptions, no reaction from the child or the mother, no word on laundry... just a mention, two paragraphs in five pages of article. Sorry, but that's crappy journalism. Listen to the description of the gDiaper: "The gDiaper is what might result if cloth diapers and disposable diapers had unprotected sex." What? Really? Wow. He does note that the disposable inserts for the gDiaper are biodegradable. That's a plus, I suppose.

Page Five: Do Cloth Diapers Really Help the Environment? Here, he speaks of a study by the British Environmental Agency that states that, because of the energy cost of washing and drying cloth diapers, cloth has an equal negative environmental impact as disposable diapers. He provides no literature citation and no internet links, here. For me, a 30 second search on google didn't find the abstract of that study, which would be necessary to evaluate it; as our author indicates, the opposition said that the study was flawed because of sample size - sample size and selection are REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT for studies to be relevant. Want an example? Okay. Chris Woodward enters the regular baseball season batting .407 in spring training - higher than Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Johnny Damon. Wanna bet that Chris Woodward isn't a .407 hitter in the big leagues? I'll take any odds you like, for any amount of money. With a small enough sample size, ANYTHING can happen. Looking on Wikipedia - never a truly reliable source, but decent enough for this case - the diaper section reports five studies that contradict the one study that this author "cites." To be honest, I find Wikipedia to be more credible in this case - it has the citations, while our favorite author has none.

Also, please note that I sacrifice no time with my son while folding diapers. Mostly, it's done by one of us while The Boy is asleep or playing with the other - or they're just not folded at all.

To sum up, I have rarely seen a shoddier excuse for journalism. Maybe I've become more sensitive from reading people mocking crappy journalism on Fire Joe Morgan, but I am shocked and surprised that a reputable magazine actually let this see print. I can write articles that are rings around this hack - at least, I can write articles that have at least thirty seconds' worth of research and reading done before writing. Parents' Magazine has a lot of explaining to do; while I'm not currently debating about canceling my subscription, I probably won't renew once it runs out. I can't actually believe that this guy got paid to write that article. What a sad commentary on the state of the American man!

EDIT #1: Also, this doesn't address the cost of disposable diapers by the pack. This article also doesn't address the fact that disposable diapers are made with lots of toxic chemicals that are absorbed into the skin, AND the fact that many babies with sensitive skin experience painful diaper rash because of those chemicals. Like my kid - he breaks out in a rash if the disposables touch his skin.


Paul D. Keiser said...

We just bit the bullet and bought the cloth diapers designed like the disposables with velcro tabs. No thinking or real folding necessary. Ya put a thin disposable liner to catch the majority of the poop, flush that, and wash the rest.

We ended up about 50/50 with our cloth/disposable usage, but even with the fancy diapers costing quite a bit more and limited in their usage (they're outgrown rather quickly), they still saved us money and were easy to use.

Yea, this guy's a hack and we're none too fond of Mothering Magazine's placating to their sponsors at the expense of journalistic integrity.

the mol said...

The beautiful thing about the bumGenius pocket diaper is that it snaps to change the rise of the diaper in addition to velcro-ing to change the waist/leg fitting.

I prefer the pocket diaper to the all-in-one because it is quicker to dry, since you separate the parts.

Great critique--I think you covered just about everything that sucked about this article.

the mol said...

Also, with regards to safety pins, those aren't diaper pins. I guess the person at the store didn't know her merchandise. Diaper pins are much larger and more effective. Sometimes I still like diaper pins for The Boy's no-pants time because the Snappi (the pronged clawed thing) can sometimes snag on things if left uncovered. But again, I can fold a diaper. And I'm about as dexterous as a person with 4 fingers trying to play the bassoon.

Gabs said...

thank you! I also couldn't believe the ignorance this moron was admitting to. his lack of research was shinning as bright as day. bravo parents magazine, another well written article. will they even address the issue? i think not. it's a mainstream magazine, what else can you expect from their biased opinion being powered by their sponsors? a while back they had an article about natural birth that left me with my mouth open

Gabs said...

mol I agree, I own both diaper pins and safety pins and the difference is night and day. folding a diaper takes as much skill as buttering toast, which is easy enough to do with these RA hands of mine. but what can one expect from a biased magazine with such agenda as satisfying their mainstream sponsors? cloth diapering is gaining territory, good way to do "damage control" to undecided parents.

i'm very dissapointed in this mag, and like you after my 5 years of being a faithful reader will not renew my subscription. i'm going with mothering magazine instead!!

SimpleCloth.com said...

I couldn't belive it when I stumbled upon this ridiculous excuse of an article and I'm glad to see that you've taken the time to address it so thoroughly! I started out using disposables and I feel that articles/magazines like this are partly to blame for my initial misunderstanding of cloth diapers. Once I finally took the time to do a little research on my own, I couldn't believe what I found!

Modern cloth diapers are not only SIMPLE to use and care for, they're also clearly more comfortable for baby and better for baby's skin. Not to mention the thousands upon thousands of disposables that are kept out of landfills by just one family using cloth. We like them so much that I started my own business selling them and have never looked back.

Maybe if I had the marketing budget that Proctor and Gabmle has (Pampers, Luvs), articles like this would have a different slant in mainstream magazines.

Sarah R said...

Ah, I just found this post now. Very well written! I couldn't agree more. I, too get Parents magazine, and I read the article. It's almost like taking an idiot and having him right a paper on what it takes to be a rocket scientist. The article in the magazine (to me) came off biased. First off, why would they only have one person's take on cloth diapering? Secondly, why would they have someone so sarcastic and closed-minded do the article? It really bugs me. Then I got to thinking...how many disposable diaper ads are in Parents magazine? Uh huh. And how many cloth diaper ads? BINGO! My opinion is that Parents wants their readers to keep on using 'sposies. It's much better for their ad business after all.

For the records, I use BumGenius 3.0 diapers. We switched to them a little late (Andrew was 9 months old), but we haven't looked back. They are AWESOME and incredibly easy to use. My hubby is a stay-at-home dad like you, and he finds them just as easy as disposables. He is even more tree-hugger than me, and occasionally, he will collect the gray water from the washer and use it for watering outside! :)

Sarah R said...

OMG, I just noticed an error in the previous post.

"Write" not "right" (I know this and have no idea why my mommy brain wrote the wrong one).