The Real Diaper Association in 2010, a Message from the Executive Director

I recently attended a screening of The Story of Stuff followed by a talk by its creator, Annie Leonard, hosted by the San Diego Grantmakers coalition. She spoke to a room full of environmental funders about obstacles faced by the movement and she gave them suggestions about where they should put their money if they want to make a difference.

First, if you haven't already seen the movie, go see it now - it's only 20 minutes long, but it's pretty powerful.  (While you're watching, think about diapers, then come back.)

In her talk, Annie Leonard said that there are a lot of great organizations out there doing work to improve the quality (health and safety) of what we consume, but very few of them which focus on reducing the overall quantity of what we consume - and that is absolutely critical.  Here's some good news - the Real Diaper Association (RDA) does both!  By advocating for reusable cloth diapers, we help people choose better quality diapers (for babies and for the planet) AND use a lot fewer total diapers (which can be reused hundreds of times on multiple babies).

Annie Leonard went on to emphasize that the current materials economy doesn't make people happy, and that studies show that the top things that make people happy are:

- quality of social relations

- coming together with others toward shared goals

- working for something bigger

In light of this, the structures at the core of RDA, our grassroots Circles, are perfect.  It actually makes people happy to participate in a Real Diaper Circle and work together to help parents and caregivers find and use cloth diapers.

Environmental funders were listening to this advice.  Now it's time for us to show them how well RDA is prepared to succeed with our mission.  We have a clear and important message and a huge audience still to reach.  We have a stable, viable organizational structure and active, dedicated volunteers.  In order to continue and expand our work, we need funding.

  • We have over a hundred volunteers in training to create Circles around the U.S. and Canada.  We need help guiding them through the training process and helping them create Circles to advocate locally for cloth diapers.
  • We need to update and expand our compilation and analysis of diaper research to keep our often-referenced Diaper Facts current.
  • We need to continue our outreach campaigns, such as the I Support 100% Reusable Cloth Diapers for All Babies campaign, which is compiling comprehensive advice on overcoming obstacles to using cloth diapers for distribution to parents and caregivers, and the Cloth Diapers in Daycare project, which we are conducting with the Real Diaper Industry Association to facilitate the use of cloth diapers in daycare.

These are just some of the reasons why we named fundraising one of RDA's major goals for 2010.  We're looking for active Board members with experience with fundraising and /or research to help us.  We're also looking for someone to help with training volunteers to create Real Diaper Circles and to then help accredited Circles succeed with local advocacy - and our hope is to define this role clearly enough to obtain the funding to turn this position into a paid one.  Are we looking for you?  Can you help?  Will you?

Heather McNamara Executive Director,

Real Diaper Association

Meet Mr. Mike - Dad, Singer, Cloth Diaper Advocate!

mrmikegraphicblue A couple of months ago in our weekly Monday night cloth diapers Twitter chat, a person called @MrMikeSings appeared, talking enthusiastically about the cloth diapers that he uses on his child. In the six months or so that I've been attending these chats, I have seen VERY FEW men participate, so, even though these chats sometimes happen at warp speed, I took note and began chatting with him. (Frankly, he was probably overwhelmed at the welcome since I was not the only person there wooed by his male presence.)

As it turns out, Mr. Mike is originally just Mike, but picked up the title after working as an early childhood educator. His background in guitar and songwriting combined with that experience and led him to record and release a kids' CD, which led him into the Twitter universe to talk with parents like him who might have children like his who might want to hear his CD. And there our worlds collided.

Someone suggested that Mike write a song about cloth diapers.  After a little research about why people choose cloth diapers, he worked up a lyric and some music, and VOILA - "I Use Cloth" was born!

"I love the idea of this song because I feel like it hits on the reasons why people use cloth, some of the feelings behind the cloth diapering movement, and a few inside jokes while, at the same time, appealing to folks looking for a cute, upbeat, catchy song." - Mr. Mike

With a new anthem, cloth diapering is set to storm the planet!  Thanks, Mr. Mike!

RDA 2009 Wrap-Up

I met with the Board of Directors of RDA on Friday to talk about the past year and to make plans for 2010. We actually meet via conference call every week to keep on track with our ongoing projects, but like to devote time every year to acknowledging what went well in the previous year and to revisit our mission and strategy and set goals for the coming year. I'm proud of what we've done so want to share it with you!

First, RDA decided 13 months ago that it was time to hire an Executive Director, which they did in February 2009 (me!). We also added one new director, Angela Imes, who is now Treasurer. Angela is a CPA as well as the Plano Area Real Diaper Circle Leader.

Last year at our annual meeting, we set three major goals, all of which we met.

1) Welcome Member Packets were scaled back because of expenses, but we are sending out an RDA calendar magnet to all new and renewing donors. This is ongoing.

2) Leader Support Packets were created and distributed to all existing and new leaders. They include a Circle Leader Handbook, a CD of electronic support documents, and the Consider Cloth demo kit donated by RDIA.  We will continue to send these to Leaders as they're accredited in 2010.

3) Collaboration with Real Diaper Industry Association on Daycare issues is in process. Our project plan was created and approved by both boards. We have compiled and published a tip sheet for using cloth diapers in daycare, and are currently working on a directory of cloth diaper friendly daycare facilities. More information on the cloth diapers in daycare project can be found here.

We've also made progress on a number of ongoing projects.

  • We have accredited 6 new Diaper Circle Leaders (Angela Domenichelli of the Waldo County Real Diaper Circle, Elizabeth Wickoren of the Real Diaper Circle of the Twin Cities, Angela in Plano, Katrina Pavlik of the Chicago Area Real Diaper Circle, Michelle Rivenburg of the Central Jersey Real Diaper Circle, and Marissa Evans of the Emerald Coast Real Diaper Circle).  We implemented a new tracking system for the training of Leader volunteers, and hope to see a good number of the 80 more Leader volunteers accredited in 2010.
  • We conducted our first photo contest and created a calendar from the photos as a fundraiser.  We hope to use what we learned to make these efforts even more successful in 2010.
  • We prepared and started a campaign to support 100% reusable cloth diapers.

We also improved the general well-being of the organization in several important ways.  We conducted an overall organizational health inventory which helped us define plans to improve some of our governance processes.  We got our print and e-newsletters back into production to better communicate with our members and constituents, and we've become more active via social media.

I'm proud of us!  Thanks for letting me brag!

Heather McNamara Executive Director,

Real Diaper Association

100% Reusable Cloth Diapers Every Time

As an organization, Real Diaper Association supports the use of 100% reusable cloth diapers.

We are concerned about the waste created by disposable products, no matter whether that waste is sent to a landfill for 1000 years, flushed and disposed of through wastewater treatment, or composted and disposed of as yard waste. Reusable products do not create waste.

We know a lot of our donors and volunteers work hard to find ways to keep babies in 100% reusable cloth diapers all of the time, and we want to recognize you.  We also want to use your expertise to create support materials to help you in continuing your advocacy and support work.

Announcing the 100% Reusable Cloth Diapers Campaign

The Real Diaper Association announces the 100% Reusable Cloth Diapers Campaign to help parents choose reusable cloth diapers every time, all the time. For the next year we will ask the experts for advice on overcoming any difficulties cloth diapering parents may face.  Then we will compile that advice and provide it to parents and caregivers who need support.

Who are the experts? They are experienced cloth diapering parents willing to share what they know with new parents, health care providers, and others.

You are the experts! Parents who find 100% reusable solutions in every cloth diapering situation have valuable tips and techniques to share with those who are struggling to succeed.

Yes, You Can Participate! Spread your knowledge and experience face-to-face in Real Diaper Circles, with friends and family, or online. Help parents and caregivers overcome obstacles to using 100% reusable cloth diapers.  Every few months we'll focus on a different major obstacle, so stay up-to-date via this blog to continue your support for our year-long campaign.

Are you using 100% reusable cloth diapers on your baby all night? The first area we're focusing on is nighttime cloth diapering.  RDA is looking for your tips to succeeding with 100% reusable cloth diapers all night. Tell us what works for you with nighttime diapering. As a thank you, you can download the RDA All Night Badge! We will compile your answers into a tip sheet for parents new to or struggling with nighttime cloth diapering.

Do you support 100% reusable cloth diapers in other ways? RDA wants to hear how you support parents and caregivers in using 100% reusable cloth diapers. Are you an advocate? A business owner? A blogger? Tell us what you’re doing to help parents choose 100% reusable cloth diapers every time. We have a badge for you, too! Get your own RDA 100% Support Badge.

Read more about the campaign and get your support badges now.

New Real Diaper Circle on the Emerald Coast!

I am excited to announce that the Real Diaper Association has a accredited a new leader from the Emerald Coast of Florida!  Marissa Evans of Growing Green Bums has finished her leader training in Nonviolent Communication and is implementing her vision for advocating for and supporting parents and caregivers in using 100% reusable cloth diapers.

I'll allow Marissa to introduce herself:

"Marissa is a stay at home mommy to Hudson and loving wife to an Air Force man! She has a passion for the environment and the art of living simply, naturally and consciously. She is the owner of Growing Green Bums, a natural parenting store. She loves organic/whole food eats, nature, gardening and living "green"!"

After switching to cloth diapers when her son was 4 months old to continue her quest to reduce his exposure to toxic chemicals, Marissa wanted to help others find their way through the online cloth diaper marketplace to benefit their babies as well.  Marissa has been holding classes at a local hospital and a health food store to spread the word in her community about the ease and benefits of cloth diapering.  She loves working with new moms and families and is excited to provide an outlet where parents can come to support one another.

I "met" Marissa this summer on Monday night's #clothdiapers Twitter chat.  I still see her there every week where she is always quick to try to help parents with their cloth diapering challenges.  She is friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, and the Emerald Coast community will greatly benefit from her efforts.

The first meeting of the Emerald Coast Real Diaper Circle will be in March at the Pensacola Ever'Man's Natural Food Coop.  Get immediate online support and find out about upcoming activities by joining the online group.

Heather McNamara Executive Director,

Real Diaper Association

Find a local Real Diaper Circle.

Tips for getting your cloth diapers into daycare

For our family, finding a daycare provider willing to use cloth diapers on our baby would be an absolute requirement. Any reasonable daycare provider would either accept our diapers without question or be willing to learn to use them even if they had never seen them before. If they were not reasonable on this matter, I would be concerned about how well we'd work together and about whether they would respect our parenting decisions on other matters as well.

Having said that, I haven't used daycare for my children, so when it came time to put together recommendations for the many parents who contact us about information to use in daycare selection conversations, the best sources were the moms who had done it. The Real Diaper Association (RDA) conducted a survey on the use of cloth diapers in daycare facilities. We received over 250 detailed responses. The responders were largely parents who had talked with daycare providers about their willingness to use cloth diapers on their children while caring for them. We culled the best advice they had, and came up with this tip sheet for using reusable cloth diapers in daycare.

The tip sheet includes practical advice about finding a daycare provider and talking with them about your diapers, and specific options you could consider to make it work for both of you.  It also has links for parents to inform themselves about state daycare regulations and about proper sanitation practices for changing diapers in a daycare facility.

This tip sheet represents the first step in a joint project by volunteers from RDA and RDIA (Real Diaper Industry Association).   Follow ongoing efforts to facilitate the use of cloth diapers in daycare at the RDA website or on this blog.  Many thanks go to Ann Maclean, Northern Virginia Real Diaper Circle Leader, and RDA volunteers Angie Gregory and Ada Vaughan for all the work they did in putting it together.

Calendar magnet thank you gift from RDA

In discussions this summer with the great group of volunteers who were helping with the RDA Real Diapers Real Babies Photo Contest, someone suggested using the winning photo on a one-year calendar magnet. The full-size 12-month calendar of winning cloth diaper photos makes a great gift for all cloth diaperers and is available at our store. The suggestion for a calendar magnet, though, was a good one, so we made it happen. New and renewing RDA members will now receive an RDA calendar magnet to display in their home proudly advertising their love of and support for cloth diapering!* Join us in our mission to spread the word about cloth diapering now! Donations are, as always, tax-deductible. Thank you for your support!

RDA Calendar Magnet for members

RDA Calendar Magnet for members

*while supplies last

Walking in a Leader’s Shoes

This week, I attended a class on nonprofit volunteer management. I’m part of a local charity working to clean up my state’s dirty air. During the class, I sat next to the organization’s brand new, first paid employee—our Volunteer Coordinator, Erin.

At the beginning of our class, each person talked about their organization and their volunteers. I told the class about Real Diaper Association’s Real Diaper Circle Leaders. The virtual coordination of volunteers gave an interesting contrast to most of those in the class who are coordinating volunteers in person for delivery of social services. Plus, I’m really proud of the program we’ve created, so I like to tell people about it.

During lunch, Erin and I were meant to work on the website for our organization. As we looked at how different websites manage volunteers, Erin told me, “I need to talk to you about diapers when we’re done.”

Doesn’t this happen to you, too? It always comes up in conversation if the conversation goes on long enough. Someone is bound to ask “What else do you do?” and there they find cloth diapers. “Let’s talk now.” We dropped websites completely. Wouldn’t you?

Erin hasn’t used cloth diapers before, but she is completely committed to using them for her new baby. She wanted a low-cost, low-impact diaper that she could wash successfully in her top-load washer.

After we talked through some of the possibilities, I suddenly realized I was sitting in my class on nonprofit volunteers demonstrating what RDA volunteers do.

“You wanted to know what my volunteers do? This is exactly what Real Diaper Circle Leaders do. They meet face to face with parents to talk through cloth diapering possibilities.”

As the President of Real Diaper Association I don’t spend much time in face-to-face demonstrations, but I really appreciated the opportunity to walk in the shoes of our volunteers this week. Having this experience as I was considering how best to coordinate volunteers has helped me to be clear about the real needs of RDA volunteers.

Lori Taylor


Real Diaper Association

Cloth Diapering on the Jersey Shore

RDA is proud to announce that Michelle Rivenburg has been accredited as the Leader of the Central Jersey Real Diaper Circle.

Mother of two girls, Michelle is also the owner of Snooty Booty Diapers, and the blogger behind Cloth Diapers Made Simple. She also guest writes for other blogs and publications and exhibits at local fairs, all to spread the word about cloth diapers. Having introduced many people to cloth diapers, she is following up with the next step - providing a Circle where those people can continue to get and give support to one another. Michelle's enthusiasm for cloth diapering, and her tireless efforts to find the right cloth diapering solution for every situation for her family and for others will make her an excellent RDA representative. The Jersey Shore is lucky to have her as a Leader!

To find local support near you, check the RDA's local resource directory.

Heather McNamara Executive Director, Real Diaper Association

Learning about Flats Locally

If I were to say the word “flat,” what would be your first thought? Flat tire, flat bread, or that the Earth was once thought to be flat? Would a flat diaper EVER cross your mind? I bet it wouldn’t. It sure didn’t cross mine a few weeks ago. But with all the talk lately about them, we thought it would be a grand topic for our most recent Real Diaper Circle meeting. It was a wonderful turnout for the San Diego Real Diaper Circle (SDRDC)! We had quite a few Mamas show up (13) and we were outnumbered by our little ones (17), though a few of the children were old enough to learn the folds alongside their moms and practice on their dolls!

“So, what is a flat diaper?” you say. To keep it simple, it is a large single layer piece of absorbent fabric used to diaper a baby. “It’s a prefold, then, right?” Not really, but close. A prefold is several layers already sewn together, with the thickest most absorbent area right in the middle. It is sort of limiting on where one can place those absorbent layers on a baby. A flat, on the other hand, leaves the door wide open for different folds, so one may fold that absorbency layer wherever it is needed most (for example, a side sleeping baby may need it over to one side a bit.)

Flat diapers are becoming more popular lately for a number of reasons. The benefits of using flat diapers (besides not wasting money on disposables and keeping them out of landfills) are that they are inexpensive, easy to wash, ideal to travel with, and can serve purposes outside of cloth diapering. Since they are so easy to wash, traveling could never be easier with cloth diapers. No more wondering where you are going to find a Laundromat since they can easily be hand washed and will dry overnight. They fold ultra thin, so storage space isn’t a concern in your luggage either. Some other purposes that flats can be used for are swaddle blankets, dusting rags, and even to strain yogurt (I overheard a Mom mention she had done that!) Possibilities are endless with flats! img_0410

Several of our Circle members use flat diapers regularly, so they led the demonstrations. There are many different kinds of folds someone can use with flat diapers. In my opinion, the Origami, AKA Chinese Fold, would be the most efficient, however, the fold is quite intimidating to learn in the beginning; but well worth it! Some other folds include the Jo Fold and V Fold, both of which are very simple. The Newborn Fold is the easiest to do and can be folded one less time for a larger baby. Diagrams of these folds can be found here, at Little Lions. (Note: Little Lions and the SDRDC provided a flat diaper and pair of pins to all attendees of the meeting, which made it easy to do hands-on practice with people who knew what they were doing.)

There are a few different fabrics that can and are used for flats, just like with other diaper styles. Some types of fabrics used are bamboo, hemp, flannel, gauze and of course, birdseye cotton! My personal fave is a hemp/cotton combo or bamboo/cotton combo for that extra absorbency they can provide.

Absorbency can be added, as with almost any diaper, by placing either another flat, prefold or insert inside the folded diaper. (However, please do take care to NOT place microfiber directly against your baby’s skin, as it will dry your baby’s bum out!)

“Okay, how do you fasten said flat diapers?” Well, that’s easy! Just like most other diapers that require fastening. Pins, Snappi’s or just a snug fitting cover (probably with Velcro for the best fit.) I did discover that a flat could even be TIED to fasten it! I found that out by using my trusty diaper model, Curly the Bear - my 2-year-old isn’t very cooperative trying on diapers for Mommy anymore.

So, bottom line from me, flats are going to be giving prefolds, along with every other style of diaper out there, a run for their money! Flats are becoming increasingly popular now, so you can probably find them at any one of your favorite retailers. Now…I’m off to place that order for my store.

Rachel Dove, Owner, Sweet Baby Bottoms, San Diego Real Diaper Circle