Cloth Diaper Advocate Learns a (Flat) Lesson from Grandma

For the past week, many cloth diapering families took the Flats and Handwashing Challenge organized by Kim Rosas, RDA volunteer and the tireless cloth diaper advocate behind Dirty Diaper Laundry. For 7 days, they only used Flat cloth diapers with covers, and hand washed and air dried them all. Many participants found this to be a reasonable solution for low-income families, or at least a legitimate option while traveling. One participant, Brooke Matherne, another RDA volunteer, shares her experiences with the challenge here. When I began the Flat Diaper and Hand Washing Challenge I never could have imagined the path it would lead me on.  It became an emotional journey back home.  Not the literal home, but the figurative home.  The place you go to feel safe, the place you go to be happy, the place you can be yourself, the place that feels like home.  Like Grandma's house, snuggling in her lap for stories, learning how to be a homemaker and for me learning how to care for cloth diapers.

Jungle Love

My cloth journey began four years ago.  I can recall showing my GG the new modern cloth diaper I had bought for my son. I new she would be happy that I had begun my cloth diapering journey.  Just a few months before she had encouraged me to use cloth. I of course had brushed it off as difficult, envisioning old fashioned flat diapers and pins. She taught me about dunking and line drying. I did dunk for well over a year before I finally got a diaper sprayer. Line drying just seemed difficult and as much as I love my memories of GG I also had memories of stiff clothes as a child that never smelled fresh, but of dog. So for me line drying wasn't an option. Funny now I am enjoying those very diapers GG once used and seeing stains fade in the morning sun. There is something to be said for the classics. They are after all classics for a reason, they work. They work for the hurried, the poor, the stay at home mom and the wealthy. They work for night, they work for play, they work for exotic travels and roughing it at campsites. They work for the newborn and the toddler, the wiggler and the patient baby. Mostly for me they work because they are a bridge to my past. They helped me finally grieve for my GG when I had been too busy with new babies and too stressed with unemployment to allow myself to say goodbye. They have brought GG back to our lives. Silly I know, but I feel she is with me while I diaper, wash and hang out the laundry. Her hand guides me as I fold the flat diaper to fit Sophia and then fold it even smaller to fit Adalyn. She steadies my hand as I finally try a diaper pin.

Sophia in a Swaddlebees with diaper pin

I feel blessed to have experienced a different life. A life many live everyday without modern conveniences like a washer and dryer. It has always been my goal as a Real Diaper Association Leader in Training to work with low income families. To help educate others that cloth diapering is possible even without a washer and dryer. I knew it was possible with little money. Diapers like the Econobum system allow you to diaper full time for less than $100! Most spend that in the first month or two of a child's life when using disposables. I must admit though I admired those that lugged their diapers to a laundry mat. I felt I would have given up if that were my life. This challenge has taught me that I can wash at home. I only need a sink, or bath tub or a fancy camp style washer. I still admire that mama I saw on You Tube hand washing her diapers. It is a chore, but like any other of our motherly chores, it gets done. A mother's day is long and washing diapers by hand does add to it, but really it isn't that much more time consuming. I even dare to say I spend less time caring for my diapers now that I don't have inserts to sort and stuff.

Washing diapers in tub with Rockin' Green

Cloth diapering isn't a passing for me during my children's diaper age, it is a passion. It is personal. I watched a child suffer from disposable diapers. I was a helpless guilt ridden mom. My goal as a Circle Leader is to educate parents that they have options. While I knew a little of flats, I really could not help a parent looking for more information on the diaper other than to say they are good for traveling. Now though I can speak from experience that flats are a workable diaper even in this time of modern cloth diapers and hybrid systems. I can appreciate the difficulties of diapering even in inconvenient times.  I already could understand some of the struggles low income families experience as I am one, but I am not the average. I have many conveniences in life and a fancy washer and dryer is one. I have fancy diapers for my children, a diaper sprayer and flushable liners. I never had to find items to use for diapering, like old shirts or towels. I am able to think out of the box now.

Sunning on the garden fence

Even if you were unable to participate or thought those that did were crazy I encourage you to find your own challenge. It could be something as simple as switching from a hybrid system to full cloth or taking the lunge and using that pin. Perhaps you have a young woman's shelter in your town or live near a disaster area and can collect "found" diapers and teach a class on flats. You may just find like me this challenge can lead you right where you need to be, home.

Rita Jo Lathrop aka GG

The above is cross-posted, with permission of the author, Brooke Matherne, from the Eden's Baby Blog.  Eden's Baby is Brooke's family's all natural mom and baby boutique in Texas.  Brooke is a mother of three and an RDA volunteer.


Happy Mother's Day

My mother has always been the kind of person who could mother her own six children, take on any number of pseudo-children (cousins, friends, neighbors) who needed mothering, and always still find time to help where needed in the community (always doing an impressive job, to boot).

On good days, I feel a little pride that I'm managing at least some of the same. On all days, though, I'm grateful to be associated with you all, who are more models of this kind of motherhood. You inspire and motivate me to continue juggling to give my family and beyond the best of who I am. My thanks go...

  • to the RDA Board who give countless hours of time working to guide cloth diaper advocacy efforts in the U.S. and Canada,
  • to the organizing committee of the Great Cloth Diaper Change who all gave time they didn't have to make this exciting event a reality,
  • to the Great Cloth Diaper Change hosts who came out in droves and put in hours and hours of their own meager free time to put on events for their communities,
  • to our Real Diaper Circle Leaders and RDA volunteers who are in their communities spreading the word about cloth diapers week in and week out,
  • to the Real Diaper Industry Association and cloth diapering businesses for having faith in reusable cloth diapers and putting your money behind it, and
  • to YOU cloth diapering parents who never fail to show off and talk about your diapers, making conversions one baby at a time.

I am proud and appreciative to be part of this community.

Happy Mother's Day!

Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association

Demand Better Earth Day Coverage of Reusable Cloth Diapers

In the leadup to Earth Day, when people are inclined to think about lifestyle changes to lessen their impact on the environment, one expects to see renewed inquiries into practices (like cloth diapering) most likely to make a difference. So Leanne Italie's AP article was very disappointing. Instead of covering the anniversary of single-use throwaway diapers, how much more relevant would a serious inquiry into reusable cloth diapers be at this time of year? How could waste reduction and "Reduce, Reuse" be appropriate for everything EXCEPT for diapers?

The very thesis of the article, that there is some "debate" about which types of diapers make the least impact on the environment, is dead wrong. There is no debate. Everyone is using the same studies. The politically-influenced (consider where the money is) conclusions to the most well-known studies (those published in 2005 and 2008 by the UK's Environment Agency) completely misrepresent the actual data found in the body of those studies. While they are already flawed in favor of disposable diapers, the data STILL shows that reusable cloth diapers have a 40% LESS impact on the environment than do single-use plastic diapers. For a thorough review of the topic, see

To address a couple more errors from the article, 
1. The Real Diaper Association and the Real Diaper Industry Association worked together to create a directory of cloth-diaper-friendly daycare providers. That can be found at While it's true that many daycare providers are initially hesitant about cloth diapers, parents in the U.S. and Canada are changing those attitudes every day by showing caretakers just how easy cloth diapers are to use. 

2. To find support with cloth diapers, or to connect with grassroots cloth diaper advocates and educators in your community, please visit the Real Diaper Association at our correct web address: Ms. Italie got one thing right. Cloth diaper advocates ARE scrappy. We are small (at least compared to Big Disposables), tough, and persistent.

On Saturday, April 23rd, hundreds of locations around the world will be hosting Great Cloth Diaper Change events. Participants will be setting a world record for most cloth diapers changed simultaneously. Why do such a thing? Because these parents have discovered that cloth diapers are better for the environment, better for their baby, and better for their wallet. Come see for yourself:  There's a source for REAL earth-friendly Earth Day coverage.

How exactly does one organize a world record attempt???

That was the Question of the Day back in January when Judy Aagard of Tiny Tots Diaper Service in California approached us with the idea of doing a simultaneous cloth diaper change. It sounded fun, and we loved the idea of tying it to longer-term cloth diaper advocacy efforts, but we had never done anything like this before. Fortunately, we're nothing if not well-connected within the cloth diaper industry! We quickly put together a core team of enthusiastic, can-do people and let the ideas roll...

The first question on the table was which type of event to do to satisfy Guinness World RecordsTM (GWR) requirements. Our options were to have different venues competing for the record (with only one winner) or to do a collaborative world record with participants at all sites counting toward the record. The problem? We needed to guarantee that we could have AT LEAST 10 (that's right, ten) sites participating with at least 25 people at each site. With a sense of taking the plunge, together we promised each other we'd get at least 10 sites organized.

Today, we're looking at more than 425 sites registered (so our initial concerns give us a little chuckle!) It turns out that cloth diaperers are a passionate bunch and were just looking for the opportunity to make a splash locally!

With such a huge turnout, managing logistics to enable success at each local event became our biggest concern. To that end, we scoured the GWR requirements and turned them into a version that was specific to our events. The website ( provides information for finding and hosting an event. On the host page of the website, we provided supporting items such as the logo, sample press releases, and a variety of evidence forms they'll need. We created a forum for discussion using a Facebook group so hosts could share information directly with one another. And we adopted a critical policy - this would be a grassroots effort. That policy steered us clear of event sponsorships (likely losing some overall endorsement funds), but empowered individuals and small businesses to drive the event. The creativity that this policy alone has unleashed could make a real difference in changing attitudes about cloth diapering.

We've had our share of growing pains, of course, as we've sought to clarify some of the minute details of the GWR requirements. To smooth the wrinkles, we gave several webinars to hosts to help answer questions and get their events properly organized. Judy has devoted much of her team at Tiny Tots to helping to handle the thousands of email messages and registrations coming in from hosts.

With a little more than a week to go until the event, it's exciting to imagine what an impact this event could have. I'm already counting it as a success for two reasons:

1. It proves that the RDA founders were on track when they decided to focus our efforts on local advocacy, with the support of local volunteers. This is where things happen.

2. It is already giving visibility to cloth diapers via the hundreds of local reporters who are in contact with local event hosts and who will hopefully witness the event.

If you're not already hosting an event, PLEASE find your nearest local event and plan to participate!

Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association

Cloth Diapering Children with Special Needs

Executive Director's Note: I've had the opportunity to work with Catherine Bolden, of The Willow Store, on several RDA projects, and have found her to be consistently willing and helpful.  I finally had the opportunity to meet her in person at the Real Diaper Industry Association annual meeting this fall.  Talking with her, I realized she had a lot of insight into a subject we don't hear much about - cloth diapering children with special needs.  I asked her to write about the subject for our blog, and she, as usual, willingly supplied this useful piece.

Cloth diapering can be a rewarding positive change for your children, the environment, and your family’s budget. The benefits of reusable diapers and training pants are quite numerous, from the soft, gentle fabrics that are amazingly absorbent and come in an assortment of fun colors to less rash and fewer chemicals your child is exposed to, there’s no shortage of reasons why cloth is the natural choice for diapering your baby. The savings alone can be astounding... When comparing the average costs of disposable diapers, you can save well over $2,000 or more per child just by switching to reusables.

What if your child has special needs?

With the frequency of things like Autism, Downs Syndrome and more on the rise, diapering children with special needs is a topic worth considering.  All of the great benefits of reusables still matter, if not more so, when working with a child with special needs. From extra sensitive skin to food intolerances and more, diapering a child with special needs can be a challenge. Adding in the cost of disposables for not just the 2-3 year average, but for an undisclosed length of time, and you don’t even want to think about how much disposables will add up to. My Ben just, finally, has mastered this potty training thing, and a week before he turned 6.

Had we gone the route of disposables, we could have bought a new car for same amount we would have spent on diapers. That’s no small change.


I am a mom to four children, and I began my cloth diapering journey more than 8 years ago. My second, Ben, was born two years later, and he has Downs Syndrome. Since I cloth diapered my first, I had everything I needed to diaper my son, which we did. Even before he was born, we knew he was going to be different than the average child. He would learn at a different pace, take longer to do things that often come easy for other children, like sitting, crawling, walking and more. Many things were a challenge for him, right from the start. We didn’t have the easiest of time learning these new things about him, and spent a lot of time in the hospital, helping him to recover from surgeries and an assortment of other health concerns.

We cloth diapered, it was natural for us, and I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t really until Ben hit that magic age of 2-3, when we would have otherwise started to potty train, that I began to understand the difference in cloth diapering a child with special needs. He was nowhere near ready to learn this new thing! Despite the ever so helpful comments from less understanding family members, I was not putting this off, and I knew my son. Ben was not at a point in his life where figuring out the potty was even on his radar, he was just learning how to walk and thinking about talking. All I knew was it was going to be a while. I couldn’t plan when, just not now. As much as I love cloth diapers, not having to deal with diapers at all is an even better option!

Now I don’t want to imply that I know everything about what it’s like to diaper a child with special needs, but I do know what my experiences have been. I know that every child is different, and will learn the potty thing at their own pace.  When dealing with a child that has special needs, whether they are physical, developmental, behavioral, or a combination of factors, learning the art of the potty is often an extended, drawn out process that may not even begin for several years after the average child has mastered the same skill.

Special Needs, Special Cloth Diapering Needs

Kids with different needs, especially developmental delays, their brains and bodies just develop at a different pace than average need kids. They often need more repetition to learn the same things. For instance, if an average child could learn how to drink from a sippy cup within a few tries, it may take weeks, or longer, of practicing for a special needs child to figure it out, let alone convince his body to listen. So with potty training, it is even more important that the child wear diapers or training pants that are easy to manipulate, that can be pulled on and off without a lot of fuss, and that they feel wetness when they go. Being consistent is crucial to building the habits of potty learning.

The biggest diapering challenge for children with special needs is the size. Also, some children have additional needs such as needing a diapering product that works with lower levels of coordination or lower muscle tone, so if the child is trying to pull up the diaper/trainer independently, it has to be flexible enough to do this, but still fit well. Some children with reduced motor control may be able to work with simply larger diapers, but the ability to snap off in case of an accident is an invaluable asset.

Given the length of time that a child with extra needs will be wearing diapers/trainers, having a solution that lasts longer than one size is extremely valuable. This is the driving force behind our One-size training pants. With special elastic for adjusting the sizing internally and hidden from curious fingers, the trainers fit from 20 to 50+ pounds, yet are easy enough to adjust to get the best fit. And with Ben, we had plenty of opportunities to test them out!  They have been a lifesaver and helped us immensely to move from the diapers for an older child stage into the independence of trainers and finally the joy of being fully trained!

Note: the time in which to start cloth diapering can be different than those without extra needs. Most parents begin cloth from an early age, in hopes to recoup the most savings. With special needs, you have a greater opportunity in which to start reusables and still save a ton of money.

Whatever your personal reasons for cloth diapering, whether you have a child with special needs or not, whether you do cloth full time or not, every diaper change makes a difference, for your child, the environment, and your budget

-- Catherine Bolden, The Willow Store, RDA member

Look out, East Coast Cloth Diaperers!

The Real Diaper Association is pleased to announce the formation of two new Real Diaper Circles, led by two great leaders.

Selina Francis, of Delaware, came to cloth diapers first as a low-income mother trying to save money. Years later, her experience as an aesthetician made her aware of the chemical components of disposables and she chose cloth diapers again for her youngest for health reasons. She has worked with several lower-income moms and a local shelter to find creative ways to use cloth as a diapering solution. She's also in talks with the foster care system in Delaware to help them adopt cloth diapers across the system, saving a lot of money for the state. With her central Delaware location, and close ties with local Holistic Moms groups, she's had great attendance success at her first few meetings, and has a good start on a vibrant, thriving Real Diaper Circle.

Megan Fernsler, of Columbia County, Pennsylvania, has some big goals for cloth diaper education in her area - - and she's already starting to achieve them! She's working with a couple of local hospitals to get cloth diaper education to their clients (and maybe into the maternity wards???), and she's teamed up with a social service organization called AGAPE to get cloth diapers into the hands of low-income families who need them. Social service clients were surveyed about their diapering needs and some of the questions determined access to washer/dryers and interest in cloth diapers. AGAPE received a grant to fund some sets of diapers for these families, and Megan is working with the organization to educate the families and social service providers on how to use them. She's also working with local daycares to make sure these clients are able to send their children in cloth diapers. She has a number of core supporters, and with the new influx of cloth diapering parents needing support, she'll be in a good position to get a busy Circle started.

Find a Real Diaper Circle near you.

No Circle near you?  Want to start one?  Here's an overview of the process to become a Circle Leader.

RDA Holiday Twitter Party Highlights

Since the party goes so quickly AND there was ANOTHER cloth diaper Twitter party going on at the same time (my cup runneth over!), I wanted to make sure our followers had a chance to catch the highlights.  First of all, thanks to our sponsors, @TheWillowStore and @FuzLife, for providing great prizes at the party!

2011 RDA 100% Reusable Cloth Diapers Calendar

1. The 2011 Real Diaper Association 100% Reusable Cloth Diapers calendar is available for sale! (Thanks for a second year in a row go to Diane Pezo of The Changing Times for designing and producing the calendar!) A portion of the proceeds goes to support RDA's cloth diaper advocacy efforts. Buy one for yourself and give them as gifts to the moms in your life. And while you're there, pick up some other great cloth diaper advocacy gear for the cloth diaper lovers in your life! (I'm getting a beer stein for my husband - shhh....)

2. The RDA Holiday Online Cloth Diapers Auction was launched. Check out the amazing items available starting at 50% of retail! But hurry, auction ends Monday, 12/13/10!  It's easy - just find the item you want on the main page, then click Register, create a login, and place your bid. You can even set it to email you when you're outbid so you won't lose out on the items you want!  Another great opportunity to support RDA's advocacy and education efforts, since ALL proceeds are tax-deductible, thanks to donations from Diaper Junction, Fuzbaby, Nifty Nappy, The Willow Store, Clean Bee Laundry in Camden, ME and Cottontails Diaper Service in Atlanta, GA.

3. The Real Diaper Association unveiled our new Cloth Diaper Users' Guide! RDA has long included cloth diapering tips in our newsletters and articles, and then more recently in tipsheets as part of the cloth diapers in daycare project and the 100% Reusable Cloth Diapers campaign. However, that information hasn't been accessible as a whole as we haven't previously focused on user support directly from the website. Our intention was to compile the information as it becomes necessary / useful / available, with the expectation that Circle Leaders will be able to use and disseminate it locally. However, with increased internet accessibility, more people are coming directly to our website looking for support. So we want to provide a new subsection of our website for this audience. (Note: this will be somewhat different from cloth diaper user guides available elsewhere in that it will be brand-independent.) While we plan to continue to add to it over time, we have a lot of good starting information from what we've published over the years that we want you to be able to access and share. We hope it's helpful!!

(edit: links have been removed as the calender is no longer available and the auction is closed) 

Baby in sheep's clothing

This post was written in response to questions over at The Mommy Blog and is cross-posted here with permission.

Emily of Mommy Made Green had the following questions to kick off this wool segment: ""The one area of cloth diapering I haven’t tried yet is wool, I would love to learn more about wool. What are your favorite brands? How easy are they to take care of? What do you use to wash them? SO many questions!"

Since wool allowed me to cloth diaper at night, I'm a huge fan of it, and was pleased to be invited to submit this guest post.

First, a little background on me.  I am the (volunteer) leader of the San Diego Real Diaper Circle, which is a group of hundreds of local cloth diapering families who support one another in finding and using reusable cloth diapers.  I do a lot of outreach, consulting with new parents to find the right cloth diapering solution for their families.

I ALWAYS recommend some wool when I'm helping to build a stash.

Next, a little background on diapers.  Every diaper consists of two parts - absorbency and moisture resistance.  You must have enough absorbency to soak up all the liquid.  But you must also have moisture resistance to keep that liquid from communicating to the outer clothing (or bed sheets!). While some diapers have put those two pieces together (like an all-in-one), many diapers rely on separate pieces for each job - a prefold, flat, or fitted diaper with a cover over it.

Covers are generally made of PUL, fleece, or wool.   If you prefer to put all natural fibers against your baby's skin, you'll naturally (hee hee) choose wool.  However, even if you're not worried about that, there is a place for wool in everyone's stash!  It is very breathable, and since wool can hold up to 3 times its weight in liquid without feeling wet to the touch, it is PERFECT for making that nighttime diapering solution bullet-proof.  (Of course, you also need to make sure you have enough absorbency underneath - we usually doubled up prefolds, fastened with a Snappi, and put a wool cover over it.)

Wool comes in a variety of shapes.

  • Wraps are shaped like PUL wraps, usually with snaps to close it.  While nice for easy on/off when diapering during the day, we looked for more coverage for nighttime.
  • Soakers are shaped more like underwear with a high waist and long leg cuffs.  They pull on and off like pants.
  • Shorties and longies are wool shorts and wool pants.  Some longies even have feet attached (called footies) so they're perfectly made for nighttime pajamas.

Care of wool is easier than you think.  While it must usually be hand-washed, it only needs to be cleaned once every few weeks or if it gets soiled.  (If your wool still smells even after it's dry, it's time to wash it).  Hand washing is simple - get yourself a wool wash bar (preferably with lanolin in it) and wash in the sink gently with lukewarm water.  Rinse and squeeze dry with a towel, then lay flat to dry completely.  That's it!

Heard about lanolizing?  You use lanolin (like is originally in wool fibers) to keep the wool nice and soft and water resistant.  But this only has to be done very infrequently (especially if you're use a wool wash with lanolin).  Use the Lansinoh most people have on hand for nipple relief during the early days of breastfeeding.  Dissolve a tiny amount in some boiling water, then put it in your sink full of lukewarm water.  Swish it around and then dunk and soak your wool cover.  Voila!  Lanolized.

While anyone can knit up a wool cover pretty easily - or even upcycle an old wool sweater (lots of directions available via internet search), we preferred interlock wool for nighttime.  Yes, it made for some BIG nighttime bottoms, but isn't a big diapered bottom part of what makes a baby look like a baby???

Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association
San Diego Real Diaper Circle Leader
The Real Diaper Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to get more babies into reusable cloth diapers. Join us today!

How to budget for cloth diapers

Using cloth diapers will save thousands of dollars over the 2-3 years of your baby’s diapering phase. Getting started doesn’t have to be expensive. Avoid purchasing everything your baby will need from birth to potty learning at the very beginning. Buy only what you need for the current stage of your baby (or newborn if the baby hasn’t arrived yet).

If you are currently buying disposable diapers, take what you spend for a month (or a week or 2 weeks, whatever your budget can manage) and buy some basic cloth diapers. Get 12 quality prefolds and 2 waterproof covers. This should cost less than $50 and can be as low as $25 if you are purchasing used. After 2 or 3 weeks of using them, take the money you have saved from not buying as many disposables and buy 12 more prefolds and 2 more covers. That is really all you need for basic cloth diapering. But you can keep building from there. As you will be saving from $50-$100 per month by not buying disposable diapers, you can use some of that money to upgrade and expand your cloth diapering supplies if you wish.

If you have only a very little amount of money, get a couple of waterproof covers first. Some clothing items such as polyester fleece pants or wool pants can be used instead of a diaper cover. Many people will also skip the diaper cover around the house for greater breathability. Very young babies can just be wrapped in a blanket over the diaper as they are changed so frequently and aren’t mobile.

Absorbency is the easy part. You can use anything absorbent as a diaper: a washcloth or small towel, cotton socks, folded t-shirt, or any other cotton item you have around the house. For increased absorbency, try microfiber towels from the auto department. Good quality cotton diapers can also be found in some automotive sections. These are often less expensive and work better than the poly-filled ones available in the baby supplies department.

Cynthia Thompson
Real Diaper Association Board President
Owner, Zoom Baby Gear

Keepin' On Keepin' On

Yesterday, we (the RDA) received notification that we weren't invited to submit a full grant proposal for a grant for which we had submitted a letter of inquiry. I spent a few hours sobbing over tea and some overly sweet cookies. Okay, I didn't do that, but I was pretty bummed - I had thought we were a perfect fit for this grant! When I told a friend, she reminded me that we had a GREAT letter written on behalf of a really worthwhile cause and organization. And she's right. We're not giving up. Finding and applying for grants isn't easy and it takes time (which is in high demand). But we have no doubt that there are donors out there who want to support an organization working to reduce waste by promoting healthy, economical reusable cloth diapers. Now it's just a matter of connecting with them...

Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association