The Great Divide of Cloth Diapering

A fellow blogger (Pamela from Daytontime) emailed me a link to a blog post announcing a new campaign from Huggies that utilizes “mom bloggers” as brand ambassadors for a new diaper drive.  The Drive is called “Every Little Bottom” and aims to donate 20 million diapers to diaper banks over the next 8 months.

Yes, you read that right, 20 million. And the sad fact is: that is a drop in the bucket of the worldwide consumption of disposables.

But I am not writing about the diaper drive.  There are families who truly need diapers, and food, and other things that these big companies can provide.  Do I wish these families were using cloth diapers?  Absolutely.  Is it possible for them all?  Not really. Without access to laundry facilities it is difficult to use cloth diapers.

This is what Elita of Blacktating commented on that post:

I just don’t see any way around using disposables for low income moms. Instead of pointing the fingers at poor women who don’t have many options, why don’t we ask why parents of means aren’t using them?

The first part of the comment I slightly disagree with.  Even some low income families have washers and dryers.  Many do not.  And coin laundry can become costly, transportation to the facilities hard to come by, etc.  I get it.  I want to cloth diaper the world but I have to be realistic. And the blanket statement that cloth diapers save money so we should provide those, which will last for one or more children, doesn’t always apply.  In theory cloth diapers are the best option because they last, they work for many sizes in most cases, and the families would never need to buy diapers again.  But without access to proper facilities to wash them how useful are they? Not everyone wants to hand wash diapers (I personally do not, thank goodness for my own washer) or has the time.

The second part of her comment did resonate with me.  Even though cloth diapers are the economical choice, there is no reason the upper and middle class shouldn’t or couldn’t use them.  Just because a family has “disposable income” that doesn’t mean they should literally be buying diapers that are meant to be disposed of. Families with means have access to any cloth diaper they want and washers/ dryers.  Some even have enough to hire someone to wash their diapers for them!  Why wouldn’t you use cloth diapers if you didn’t even need to wash them yourself?

Shouln’t we be focusing more on converting those who can afford either option more than pushing cloth diapers on families who hardly have the means to wash them?

Once again, before you think I am pro disposables, I am speaking of families in the modern world who just don’t have the time to hand wash diapers, or transport their own laundry and cloth diapers to a laundromat.  I still hate the thought of all of these diapers going to a landfill, but if more families who could buy a stash without blinking did so, that is better than nothing.  I know many in the cloth community see things in black and white.  There is a grey area too that should be acknowledged.

This is why I hope Operation Fluffy succeeds.  Widespread media attention is needed to make cloth diapers visible.  The Green movement is being followed by plenty of upper and middle class families.  They pay extra for organic food, natural cleaners, sustainable clothing, hybrid cars, and solar panels for their homes.  But somehow they still use disposables!  They just don’t know there are modern cloth diapers!

And for families in need who do have laundry access, cloth diapers should be the answer. This is why The Cloth Diaper Foundation helps families get started who cannot afford to buy their own cloth diapers.  There is no easy answer to the diaper dilemma faced by needy families, but both ends are trying to meet the need.

Image Credit: Jonathan Harford via Flickr
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  • Jackie

    I tried cloth with 3 of my 4, they were too difficult!, my kids seemed to always have diaper rashes, I tried 9 different types of detergent powders and liquids, and I am obsessive about diaper changes, they never “sat in them” except if they were napping and I’m sorry, there is no way I’m waking a baby to change a diaper. I switched to plain ole pampers baby dry and all my kids diaper problems were solved. I too hate the waste but there really wasn’t another option for me.
    To be fair I tried Huggies, Loves, pampers cruisers, and Seventh generation with the same problem each time.

  • Sarai

    I don’t see why it has to be a black and white “either/or”. Low income moms who need disposables because they work and that’s all the daycare will take, or don’t have adequate laundry facilities, can still keep a stash of cloth for when they run out of disposables. The working moms can save the disposables for when they need them the most, and use cloth at home to save money. Some moms can choose to just use disposables for nap or bedtime. If they use cloth the rest of the time, they will still save money. Even moms with limited laundry access can have a supply of cloth handy for when they have run out of disposables, its the end of the month, and their options are limited, and they need that last $10 to keep the electricity on. They may have to wash a few by hand IN THE SHORT TERM, but at least their baby will have a dry bottom. As a taxpayer, I don’t mind helping out, and indeed regularly donate disposable diapers, but I don’t think the taxpayers should be responsible for making buying 100% of diapers for low income folks. And if you are not working outside the home AT ALL, (as I do with 2 kids) and have running water, you should at least be willing to wash 2-3 cloth diapers a day. Come on, meet me at least part way!!!

  • I think if you can use cloth diapers and it is working for you and the baby it’s a great eco thing to do. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lollita_ai

    I am a college student and I work hard for my scholarships and financial aid. My sons father gives me a pathetic amount of child support. (i had to scare him with calling the police if he didnt!) I bought a full stash of cloth and have not wasted a penny on sposies! Cloth have saved me so much money that i can buy my baby what ever he needs! I wash my diapers how ever i was my clothes! hand or machine wash i get them cleaned! I just think OMG $30 for something im gonna use up in less than 2 weeks! The money that you save using cloth for one child will BUY YOU THE WASHER AND DRYER! Im saving for his college fund with the money i save from buying those sposies! If a 20 year oldsingle mom, who goes to college, and gets little money can do it, so can can 2 parrents with multiples kids to support! (and i have lived in poverty and very low income!)

  • Then there are families like mine.  We are typical middle-low income class family (a little closer to low right now since my husband is unemployed).  We have a washer and dryer and can easily wash and keep up with cloth diapers.  But don’t have $200 to spend at one time on having a good diaper stash for a 1.5 year old and 6 month old.  I did just go buy some at a diaper swap and can almost CD my baby during the day and do laundry each night.  We have been able to afford diapers (though there have been moments of wondering, but we’ve made it work), but I’d rather cloth diaper!  I’d love to be able to “make payments” on my stash.  Maybe a Rent to Own type program.

    For now I’m just looking for used diapers at a good deal and doing an extra load of laundry!  And when we are all out of diapers….I’ll be giving them to another mom who can use them and not stress about buying disposables!

  • Jordan Duncan

    I try to convert my friends and family to cloth as much as possible, but having used disposable diapers in the past (I have one child that I have diapered literally since she came out of the womb, since her cloth dipes were in the hospital bag, but we used to use disposables when we went out and during photography sessions) I can understand why moms would want to use them. Most people don’t know about modern cloth diapers, and some of the people who do see them get turned off by the initial investment and the amount of work that goes into them. First time mom’s especially in my opinion. Being a new mom is scary and there are already so many new things happening, throwing cloth diapers in the mix with all the new vocabulary feels overwhelming. When I first started I felt like I should have taken a college course on it. Now I feel like I have a Phd. in Diaperology.

     I am lucky enough to be able to stay home and wash and stuff and fold diapers, but moms and dads who are super busy (like many of my friends and family) simply do not have the time for some of the extra work you have to put it to cloth diaper. It takes FOREVER for me to wash my diapers because of my super crappy washing machine and hard water, and don’t even get me started on the time I had to strip my pocket dipes and it took 3 full days to scrub each diaper inside and out with a bristle brush and dawn dishwashing liquid. My husband has a job and he is in school, so he is never at home and does not help out with chores. If I had a full time too I would not have time to wash, dry, fold, stuff, and put away diapers, much less research the best brands and compare prices over the Internet to make sure that I was getting the best value. I would not be able to cloth diaper my child unless I never slept and hired a maid to do the rest of chores that need getting done around my house, since I doubt any hired house cleaner would want to wash my child’s poopy diapers. Heck, most of the time I don’t want to touch them myself, so I couldn’t bring myself to make somebody else do what I do out of love, for money.

    To tell the whole truth, I cannot honestly say that if I had known how much work it would be to cloth diaper my child that I would have decided to do it. I decided to do it because my friend told me that my daughter would never have a diaper rash, they weren’t hard to wash, and they came in cuter prints than disposables. The cute prints was pretty much the only thing I thought about at the time, since I had no idea how hard it would be to wash and strip diapers when you have the hardest of all hard water and how incredibly time consuming it would be. I don’t regret it, because now that I have learned it I love doing it and I have managed to make it fun for myself, but if I had known then what it takes to do it then I would have been too overwhelmed by all the information and I would have been scared off.

    I realize that if you want to do something bad enough, you will find a way, but there are a lot of people who have a lot going on that we might not know about. I never judge anyone for using disposables. Honestly, its none of my business. How someone chooses to clothe take care of their child is none of my business unless it obvious that that person is abusing their child. Then it still isn’t any of MY business but its DCF’s. I don’t know that person’s situation, and I don’t try to push my views on people. If people ask me about my child’s diapers I tell them, and I try to help out my friends who are interested in cloth diapering get started. I also try to keep my family informed because they have a lot of questions. But if someone doesn’t bring it up to me first, I don’t talk about it. I don’t like it when people try to force disposables on me, so I don’t try to force cloth on others. That’s not to say that I don’t think that putting the word out there or that Operation Fluffy is a bad thing, because I think its awesome, I am just saying that cloth is great for those that want to do it, but those that don’t want to shouldn’t have to.

    To tell the whole truth, I cannot honestly say that if I had known how
    much work it would be to cloth diaper my child that I would have decided
    to do it. I decided to do it because my friend told me that my daughter
    would never have a diaper rash, they weren’t hard to wash, and they
    came in cuter prints than disposables. The cute prints was pretty much
    the only thing I thought about at the time, since I had no idea how hard
    it would be to wash and strip diapers when you have the hardest of all
    hard water and how incredibly time consuming it would be. I don’t regret
    it, because now that I have learned it I love doing it and I have
    managed to make it fun for myself, but if I had known then what it takes
    to do it then I would have been too overwhelmed by all the information
    and I would have been scared off.