Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ode to a Baby Wipe

    I was really lucky at age 12; my parents gave me a little baby sister. I loved having a baby around the house.  I didn't know then that it would be a thirty-five year wait to have my own baby around the house. Not only did my skills with infants get really rusty in those years, but the baby product market has completely changed. I've been re-learning just about everything. Back then, nobody used car seats.  Magic markers stained everything they touched, and disposable diapers were so primitive that they were used mostly for traveling. New to me also were: Sippy cups, breast pumps, pack-n-plays...the list of new products goes on and on.
      But the thing I think about more than anything is the baby wipe..... There was no such thing in 1975. We used a warm wet washcloth back then. I'm serious! And if we were traveling, we had paper towels or something that we had to dampen with whatever water source we could find. It sounds so archaic, but back then it was pretty much standard procedure. It wasn't until a few years into my little sister's life that a new product called "Wet Ones" came on the market. I remember the first time I saw that plastic canister with a little round snap top from which you could pull out a brand new moist towelette one after the other. Neat! It was designed for general use, anytime you needed a quick clean up. As I am with so many other things that have become phenomenally successful, I had my doubts about Wet Ones ever finding a lasting market. I thought they were too expensive and, well, wasteful. I couldn't see people paying money like that for something you're just going to throw away. What did I know. I was young and sheltered.
      One thing that did cross my mind way back then, though, was their use for babies while diapering on the go. I guess because, well, we had recently had a baby around the house. They weren't marketed that way at all, at first. You'd never know that now, unless you remembered. For at least 20 years babies' bottoms have been their primary target, and every company that has anything to do with babies has their own line of wipes. Whole aisles are dedicated to every kind of baby wipe imaginable.  I shouldn't be surprised that nobody uses anything else, ever. But silly me, I never take that as a reason to do anything. When we got a new baby in the spring of 2010, even though we were fostering, he was in our care, and we were entrusted with parenting him as we saw fit. We figured out how to install a car seat. And yes, I went against some better judgements and bought disposable diapers. But by God, I grabbed a washcloth when it was time to change a diaper. Afterall, I wasn't babysitting here, taking directions from this child's mother, I was mothering, and this is what made sense.
     Can you imagine that I've been going to the sink for warm water and washing Zysean's behind with a washcloth several times daily for almost 2 years now? No, I can't imagine that either. I caved eventually, but not because every mother I know uses them. And not because every daycare on the planet uses them or that the proper use of disposable wipes are taught to every student getting infant/toddler certified.  Not even because when I casually mentioned my practice to Zysean's social worker she smiled quietly as we do when we discover someone has a tragic mental illness. These are never reason enough for me to change a practice that feels right to me. What ended the washcloth was that I was given a half-used pack of wipes along with the baby himself. It was part of his "layette" that came with everything else that was taken from his birth mother. I felt if I didn't use them they would go to waste.
      I put them in his diaper bag, and used them, at restaurants or at friends' houses. And when it ran out, I bought another pack, only for the diaper bag. Then sometimes, I would grab the bag at home and use the wipes out of know, just because I was in a rush, and the diaper was a really messy one. Slowly, one dump at a time, I started taking the kool-aid. Lulled into the convenience, knowing full well that none of them are particularly biodegradable, reusable, or in any way "green."
      I've learned of myriad off-shoots of the wipe that serve a mother, too. Not only the sensitive skin, the thick "premium" and the anti-bacterial wipes, but there are "paci-wipes", with a cleanser that babies can safely put in their mouths. There are "boogie-wipes" made with a saline solution and pull the mucus straight out of a runny nose. There are "toddler wipes" for those being potty trained. And to get that warm, wet cloth feeling, there are baby wipe warmers. Surely no baby-mama reader is a stranger to any of this. You may also know about some initiatives made like .bamboo-based wipes that are flushable (biodegradable) and chlorine-free. They all come in plastic containers, but to take on the job of completely barring the plastic that flows into the home of child can be more than full-time. I could miss his entire childhood!
      So, despite my personal resistances, I have learned to embrace the baby wipe and all the ingenuity that lies behind them. I continue to buy what's on sale and hold a wide dream that one day baby wipes will be as environmentally friendly as leaves falling upon the earth. I am eager to learn of any ideas from readers toward this end. In the mean time, I wipe on, conservatively.

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