Recently, I started a local cloth diaper lending program so low-income families could obtain cloth diapers free of charge. So many community members generously donated cloth diapers. About half of the donations are used diapers in good condition. The other half are brand new diapers from families who hoped to use cloth, but ultimately chose disposables out of convenience. I want to make clear the amount of gratitude that I have for the families and their donations and to stress that I do not judge them negatively for their choice to use disposables. There is no one right way to parent, and the fact is that cloth diapers and their benefits are not going to appeal to all families. Ultimately, it is generous that the families are making sure that others will use their cloth diapers.
I’ve spoken to several of the families about their choice to use disposable over cloth diapers. In general, families decided they weren’t up to the extra work that using cloth entails. They also expressed a degree of dissatisfaction, disappointment and/or remorse about the choice to use disposable diapers.
This got me thinking about why using cloth diapers can be a hard sell. What popped into my mind was a similar situation I just encountered: I was invited join a free 6-week transformational health program with fitness, nutrition and coaching aspects. I was intrigued by the offer as health and well-being is a priority, but so many excuses and resistance came forth: 1) It’s too much of a commitment/extra work, 2) What if I don’t follow through and then feel disappointment or remorse? 3) I like coffee, alcohol and sugar and am afraid to give them up because they make me feel good in the short term.
The parallels to why people have a hard time committing to cloth diapers appeared striking. Cloth is extra work. There’s the fear of not being able to do cloth before you’ve even tried. It’s so easy to throw away disposables – instant gratification, in a way – when we know it’s not good for the environment.
We all find excuses for avoiding things that we know are good for us (and our babies).
Today, I reached out to the wellness coach and said, “Count me in.” I realized that health, fitness, goal setting, clarity, being a positive role model to my children and learning are all important to me. I decided to view the health program as a gift, rather than a chore, and my perspective shifted. Suddenly, I was excited about what could unfold from this program and at peace with the acknowledgment that rewarding things require work.
Couldn’t using cloth diapers also be a gift, if you’re open to a little perspective shifting?
Here’s a story about a friend who renewed her commitment to using cloth:
When her third daughter was born, this single mom who works full-time decided to use disposables. She just didn’t have the time or energy to add one more thing to her to-do list (e.g. launder dirty cloth diapers). Then, she went on a camping trip with her three girls, one being the infant. After three days in the backcountry, my friend was disgusted with the amount of dirty disposable diapers she was carrying out. She said it was easily an extra 15 pounds. And she thought, “This is what I throw in the trash can every three days at home. At home, I can easily forget about the waste factor. When I had to carry 15 pounds of stinky waste 6 miles out on day three of the backpacking, I said, “No way. I’m going back to cloth.”
There are so many benefits to using cloth, and I’m not going reiterate them all here. Read this article instead to learn about cloth’s benefits. I am, however, going to highlight one benefit of cloth, which is reducing negative environmental impact because I find that environmentally-minded families (in my community) are most likely to use cloth diapers.
Here’s an exercise for you: What if you put all your used disposable diapers in a garbage bag and let them accumulate for 3 days? Let them sit somewhere in your house that you frequently spend time. Don’t hide them in the Diaper Genie. Don’t worry: I’m not asking you to carry them around with you to work or to a play date. Just look at how voluminous they are. Disposable diapers are the third largest consumer item in landfills. No one knows how long conventional disposable diapers will take to biodegrade. The ball park figure is 500 years, but that’s just an estimate. Look again at your three days’ worth of diapers and waste. Multiply that times 100+ for each year you use diapers.
The average baby uses (and throws away) 7,000 disposable diapers.
It’s not a pretty picture.
But I have an easy solution for you. There are cloth diaper trial programs, such as Jillian’s Drawers and The Natural Baby where you can try out cloth for several weeks. Very little commitment, very little cost. I see these trial programs to be akin to the 6-week wellness program I just joined. Sure I have some reservations about the wellness program, but it could be a game-changer for me, much like trying cloth diapers for a trial period and finding that it is doable and aligns with your desire to make a greater contribution toward the environment’s well-being.
Then, if you decide cloth is doable or actually quite remarkable, you can conveniently purchase a full set of cloth diapers through the trial company or through your local child-focused Facebook group or eBay. The latter options will save you quite a bit on the upfront investment.
In conclusion, making a short-term commitment is one way to initiate a life-long, positive change. Cloth is always going to be more work, but probably not as much as you think once you get into the rhythm of it. Most of the things we value in life take some work, but ultimately, we find that it’s worth it. The benefits outweigh the inconvenience or effort.
Let me know what you think, about this topic, whether you use cloth or disposable diapers. Sharing your experience helps offer perspective to others. Thank you!