Cloth 2

Emily completed her research project on reusable protection She saw the options as

  1. A pull-up or snap plastic pant over a pin-on or velcro cloth diaper, as I wore as a teenager.
  2. A PUL wrap over a cloth diaper.
  3. An all-in-one – a plastic pant with an absorbent lining sewn in.
  4. A pocket diaper – a plastic pant with a pocket to hold a cloth diaper.

I steered her somewhat based on my own experience.

She immediately rejected a pin-on or velcro diaper. It didn’t bother her that it was like a baby diaper. But it seemed inferior to the other options.

She initially liked the idea of an all-in-one. I steered her away from that. I had a pair in high school and liked it, but they are hard to dry and the plastic wears out before the sewn-in lining.

I have started wearing a PUL wrap (rather than a stretch pant) over the pad. (More on that in my next post), and I like that option. PUL is excellent – waterproof, but breathable, light and comfortable against the skin. The wrap holds the pad in place even better than the stretch pant, and catches the occasional leak.

However, Emily settled on the  Super Undies pocket diaper, because it was was simpler and held the diaper in place without pins or velcro. They fit well and completely contained her only accident so far.



Emily, my oldest (11), wants to try a reusable pant. She is only wet a few times a month, and thinks it’s silly to throw out a dry disposable most mornings. She is also worried about the environmental effect.

She doesn’t have any psychological aversion to cloth. When I was a teenager, I initially had an instinctive revulsion: It’s a diaper, for goodness’ sake! I am not a baby! But I was secure enough in my maturity and practical enough to understand that I wasn’t an infant and that cloth was the only adequate protection. Emily is mature enough not to have that reaction at all.

The main argument for disposables – convenience – isn’t that big a difference. A little more laundry (in a household with plenty of hot water whites to wash) is no more burden than disposing of disposables. There’s no need for the stink of a diaper pail if I launder wet things the same day. That’s what I did when I was a teenager, and I’d do that today.

My main worry is the capacity. The bedwetter pants my siblings had in my childhood wouldn’t be capable of holding Emily’s floods. I’m afraid that an adequate product would be the sort of diaper I had to wear.

So I gave her the project to research it.

Jake, my son, hasn’t wet in a long time. He still wears a pullup to sleepovers, out of his own choice. He’s not so much worried about the likelihood of an accident as he is about the consequences. If Emily goes to a reusable pant, perhaps he could wear one when he goes on a sleepover.

Emily’s project has seemed like such a logical idea that I’ve even thought of trying cloth myself when I get runs of dry nights. I’m not going to tell her to include my size in her research, but availability in my size might be a factor in the ultimate purchase.

My main reason for not wearing cloth is discretion. I don’t want my kids to see a big diaper in the laundry. I don’t want my kids or J to see (or hear) me wearing a diaper. The pads I wear are so thin and quiet that no one would notice. That isn’t true of an adequate cloth diaper and plastic pant.

The disposables are also more comfortable than I remember cloth diapers. Even the hourglass diapers Mom made me were a more uncomfortable bulk between the legs. Also, the quality disposable products keep urine away from the skin. That is not only more comfortable, it also reduces the risk of rash or irritation.

I’m not convinced of any ecological or other advantage to cloth. Cloth advocates do a good job of isolating only some of the benefits and costs without taking into account the entire range. Suffice to say that costs of manufacturing, use and disposal are well enough integrated in all forms of protection that I am skeptical that there is any hidden advantage. However, the equation changes if one is throwing out a dry disposable most mornings, and not having to launder a dry reusable.


Recently, my daughter (11) invited a friend for a sleepover. The friend’s mother called to tell me that her daughter wore a pullup when she slept away. She wanted to be sure that the mattress was protected against a leak. She asked me to give her daughter an opportunity for a discreet change in the evening and the morning. It was unlikely that the daughter would wet the pullup, and even more unlikely that she would wet the bed, but the mother asked me to give her daughter cover if she did. If that was all OK, she would let her daughter know that she could rely on me.

She was comfortable making the call. Her daughter is popular, outgoing and friendly. She has probably been to many sleepovers. The mother had made this call before.

I assured the mother that her daughter would be in good hands. I told her that her call was thoughtful – both for me and for her daughter – and refreshing. She had a good laugh when I told her that our beds were well protected, and that we could provide her daughter with a pullup from our own inventory. I was touched that she thought enough of my discretion to share the embarrassing confidence. She said that she always called before sleepovers, and parents were always discreet and helpful.

We had a little more talk about the subject. Our attitudes and approach were the same: Neither of us was (as J would say) fussed. It’s not a big deal.

I cannot imagine my Mom or any other mother of her (or any earlier) generation doing that. I can’t imagine them discussing this with even their closest friends. It was a shameful secret. Although I don’t think either of my sisters would have cared whether Mom discussed it with other parents, it would have mortified me that someone outside our family – and, worse, a parent of a friend! – would know.

Maybe I’m more old-school than I thought, because I’ve never made a call like that. I’ve never even thought of it.

Maybe it’s a sign that parents are accepting bedwetting for what it is: a delay in one (minor) element of physical development. It isn’t an emotional or intellectual defect.

And maybe parents are also confident that other parents see it the same way.

Improvement in options is probably the major factor. Life is a lot easier for a bedwetter and her mom than it was when I was a child. Today, the unpleasantness of adolescent and teenage bedwetting is insignificant, at least compared to my childhood.

A pullup is discreet. It disappears under pajamas. Even if someone else sees it, it doesn’t scream, “Bedwetter!” or, worse, “Baby!” It’s as comfortable as underwear. It prevents all the awfulness of a wet bed. It doesn’t stink. In the morning, you toss it in the trash.

The old days were uncomfortable, smelly and obvious. They required laundering. They required a hot, sticky plastic sheet, not a breathable and comfortable bed pad.

It’s easier now to accept it, and even to ask other parents to accept it.

On the other hand, the friend’s mother and I agreed that we’d never have that conversation with our mothers-in-law.


I’ve always had a few dry nights a month, sometimes two or three in a row.

Lately, I’ve had dry weeks. Last month, I had two dry stretches of over a week each.

When I was in high school, I had a similar pattern. After a few years of chronic wetting, I wet only a few times a year. I thought that I was finally done with it. But it came back. The cause was (and is) still there. There’s no current or likely treatment for it. Even if I stop wetting for a while, it will probably come back.

Still, it’s nice to wake up dry.

The kids are outgrowing their bedwetting. Except for a few isolated accidents, Emily has been dry for months. She’s taken pullups to camp again, but that and sleepovers have been the only times she’s worn them in a long time. Jake hasn’t had an accident or worn a pullup, even to a sleepover, in over a year. Megan is getting some dry nights. Maybe by this time next year, I’ll be the only bedwetter in the family.

Ugh 2

Jake and I had a chat. I told him that I loved him no matter what he did. That it didn’t bother me that he wet the bed, and it shouldn’t bother him, either. That it didn’t mean that he was a baby. That it wasn’t his fault, it was just an accident of biology.

However, he had to take responsibility. He had to get his wet sheets and pjs into the wash, wash himself and get into clean sheets and pjs. And that he had to do it just as soon as he knew his bed was wet. If it was during the night, he should wake me up to help him. And he shouldn’t try to hide it, because that was not going to work.

Jake was horrified that I’d discovered his secret. He was embarrassed. His excuse: He didn’t want me or his sisters to know he wet the bed. And he didn’t want to have to go back to wearing diapers (his word).

I told Jake that he didn’t need to wear a pullup (my word), especially if he were only having an occasional accident. I said that he might change his mind if he wet the bed more often. I told him that I knew how awful it was to wake up in a wet bed and, if it was me, I would wear something if there was a chance I would wet the bed.

I told him that wearing a pullup didn’t make him a baby, or change who he was. After all, his older sister had worn one when she was his age, and she was turning out OK. (He would never admit it, but he does think that Emily is a lot more than OK.) He would have to wear protection when he was away from home, but he had to do that even before this accident. He wanted to know how long he would have to do that, but I just said, “We’ll see.”

When we were done, Jake seemed relieved and happy. He promised he’d take care of things if it happened again, and I believe that he will. I promised that I wouldn’t tell his sisters.

He was dry last night.


Jake wet the bed. A real soaking. He wasn’t wearing a pullup.

It doesn’t bother me that he wet the bed. It doesn’t bother me that he wasn’t wearing a pullup. We decided last summer that his accidents were infrequent enough that he didn’t need to wear one at home.

What bothers me is that he didn’t do anything about it. He didn’t strip his sheets and put them (and his pjs) in the wash this morning. He just pulled his covers up to hide the wet spot. He even stuffed his wet pjs under the covers so I wouldn’t see them.

And – assuming that he wet the bed in the middle of the night – why sleep the rest of the night in a body-length puddle? Why not get me up for dry sheets and pjs? My goodness, Jakie, you have more sense than that!

I’m not sure what he was thinking when he hid it. Was he planning to get back into wet pjs and a wet bed tonight? (Ewww!) Did he think I wouldn’t know? (Did he think it doesn’t smell?)

I understand that he was embarrassed. I understand that he doesn’t want his sisters to know.

But he’s smart enough to know that I will know. He knows that I won’t be mad or think less of him. And he knows that he is responsible for his wet things.

We’re going to have some tough talk when he gets home from school.


I should have followed up about Emily’s sleepaway camp.

I had some trepidation about this. Girls can be ogres at age 9. If one of her cabin mates found a pullup, or saw (or smelled) a wet sleeping bag, it could be a disaster. Even if nothing happened, the stress about the risk of exposure might ruin it for her.

It was a smashing success.

To start, Em is a tough, smart, personable kid, mature for her age. She makes friends easily. She doesn’t care if she’s in or out of a clique. Even if the truth leaked out, she could probably handle it.

She was prepared. Her sleeping bag has a waterproof liner. She had enough pullups and Ziplocs to last her the two weeks.

She also has been to sleepovers, where she has gotten adept at discreetly changing in and out of her pullup, getting it in a Ziploc, disposing of it and cleaning herself up. One difference, though: For a sleepover, I can pre-position a pullup and Ziploc in the bottom of her sleeping bag. Camp would require her to handle that herself, and do it every day.

We had a heart-to-heart when she first told me that she wanted to go to camp. We had another heart-to-heart the night before she left. She wanted to do it, and was determined not to worry and to have fun.

I suggested to Emily that she might want to tell her cabin counselor, but she was against it.

In the event, everything went brilliantly.

She had no problem getting a pullup and Ziploc from her duffel to her sleeping bag. Getting the pullup on after lights-out was a breeze. She woke up in a wet pullup a few times, but got it off, into a Ziploc and disposed without anyone the wiser.

Em came home from camp more self-reliant and confident. Camp itself – being away from home and parents, being to a greater extent on your own – probably does that for most kids, and did for Em.

But there was something more. Em dealt with something important (and having seemingly great potential consequence) with discretion, careful planning and execution. And she did it on her own.