On a recent "baby visit" with a CBC employee and her architect husband in downtown Toronto, I watched as they changed Daya, their four-month-old. What was shocking was not the contents of the diapers (been there, done that), but the fact that my very feminist, modern friend was using cloth.
"At my postnatal yoga classes," says Tessa Sproule, Daya's mother, "almost all the women have cloth diapers in their diaper bags. Yes, we are environmentally aware, but also Daya never gets diaper rashes."
I had to pinch myself. This is 2006, right?
Why, in an age when we do business from our BlackBerrys at the dinner table, are women embracing a way of life redolent of barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?
I'm the one behind the times.
"I've been in this business for 16 years," says Renee McKay, who operates sweetcheeksdiapers.com from her home on Vancouver Island. She ships out thousands of cloth diapers each month.
"There's no question the marketplace for cloth diapers has been getting bigger and bigger in the last couple of years. There's always been the crunchy moms. But that underground network has changed since the Internet. Now, the cloth craze is more accessible to the mainstream."
McKay started her cloth-diaper business after stabbing her son, now 16, with a pin while diapering him. She developed a line of cloth diapers that use Velcro and snaps instead of pins and have super-cute covers. "I wasn't going to let that happen again!"
Google "cloth diapers" and you will find hundreds of sites and forums (Comfy Bummy, Tiny Tush, Diaperpin). As a result, a new wave of diaper snobs is emerging.
"There are cloth diapers that range in price from $10 to $50, made with elite fabric," says McKay, whose diapers sell for $10 a pop.
In Montreal, one of the hottest baby stores is Bummis (bummis.com), the retail branch of a Quebec manufacturer, where they sell more than 200 dozen diapers a month. In Toronto, in Bloor West Village, Diaper-eze is the place to go.
"Most of the clients are new parents and have done their research," says Dana, who works at Bummis. "Some have been told to use cloth by friends. Some already have children and did the disposable thing last time, and some come in with their mothers, who tell them they have to use cloth like they did. But everyone is always like, 'Where are the pins?' "
Sometimes, to be with the times, you have to go back in time.