Real Diaper Ripples...

In evaluating the impact of the Real Diaper Association in its first 10 years (August 2004 – August 2014), we often focus on the increase in cloth diaper usage, but the ripple effect our volunteers have on the world around them is worth examining…

As an organization that brings together volunteers from across the US and Canada (and located on military bases around the world), the Real Diaper Association uses virtual meeting tools and online materials to train our volunteers in our core values (especially Nonviolent Communication), in community organizing strategies, and in the latest cloth diaper research.  Called LEPs (Leader Education Program), these meetings happen once or twice a month and all current RDA volunteers are invited to attend.

Nonviolent Communication training

The usefulness of the Nonviolent Communication training in areas well beyond cloth diaper education and support was examined in this previous article by leader and board member Janice Roodsari, but here are some great examples:

  • Tracey Valade, a Circle Leader in Cornwall, Ontario, says she’s used her NVC training to compassionately help parents fix their improperly installed carseats in her work with SEATS for Kids.
  • For Jennifer Nguyen, who started a Real Diaper Circle on Oahu, the training in non-violent communication has been helpful in dealing with sensitive groups of people and situations in her role as Navy Command Ombudsman, enabling her to understand people more while doing conflict resolution.
  • Michelle Rivenburg, founder of the Central Jersey Real Diaper Circle also found that using the techniques from Nonviolent Communication has helped her to interact with people in all areas of her life, and is grateful to RDA to introducing her to the book.


Vanessa Tomchik, Real Diaper Circle of North Palm Beach Leader

Leadership training

The Real Diaper Association’s role in helping volunteers develop their skills, confidence, and experience provides long-term benefits to communities well beyond cloth diapering.

- Since Sara Quast’s days at leader of the Bay Area Real Diaper Circle, she has continued providing cloth diaper laundering, potty training, and natural parenting classes through the local Tiny Tots Diaper Service.  She credits her time as a Circle Leader with giving her the confidence to start and lead these community groups (and the organizational skills to handle class mom duties!).

- Ann Maclean, founder of the Northern Virginia Real Diaper Circle, loved being an activist for something she (still!) thinks was one of the most important decisions she made for her kids.  After RDA she took over leadership of a school alumni board, using her learning about volunteering to energize people to work on the projects they thought were important and were enthusiastic about, resulting in the most productive presidency in recent board history.

- Rachel Aube has taken her work with RDA as an incentives advocate and Great Cloth Diaper Change host to higher levels, now organizing a large regional natural parenting expo a couple of times a year in Niagara, Ontario. As she explains, “my relationship with RDA, since 2009, gave me the credibility, knowledge and confidence to be a community builder and advocate.”

Diapering-related training

Other cloth diaper class topics for our volunteers have included sessions on laundry science, cloth diapering fabrics and fibers, and elimination communication and cloth diapers to help increase their knowledge on diapering-related topics to better educate their communities. Business owners especially appreciate this knowledge as they establish themselves as experts in their communities.

What makes the Real Diaper Association special?

Did you know that the Real Diaper Association celebrates 10 years of supporting cloth diaper advocacy this year? We would like to celebrate this milestone by sharing more about how and why the RDA does what it does. I encourage you to visit frequently over the remainder of 2014 to learn about our Real Diaper Circle Leader training, our founders and volunteers, ongoing projects, community outreach, how being part of the RDA has helped volunteers in other aspects of their lives, cloth diaper education, other related non-profits, donors, ongoing projects, RDA fundraising and how that money has been spent to advocate for the use of cloth diapers!

I find the Real Diaper Association to be a special and unique organization. The RDA was founded by Lori Taylor and was built with the understanding that in order to have volunteers that functioned well together and could be trusted to hear the needs of those interested in using cloth diapers without alienating them or stomping on their feelings, a powerful communication tool would be needed.

Prior to launching the RDA, Lori had been asked to hold communication training by the administrators of a mothering forum board where communication had gotten out of control. We often see this happen (especially on the internet) when sensitive parenting topics come up in discussions. Parenting is a touchy subject and no one likes to think they are doing it wrong! Discussing parenting topics requires compassion, clarity, the ability to be firm without apology and without labels, so that the parent expressing a need doesn’t feel attacked or judged but, instead, understands that advocates are available to listen to their needs and find the tools parents require to meet their parenting needs.

The founding board members of the RDA knew that if they were going to send advocates out into local communities as RDA representatives, they would need to prepare them with tools to:

  • make observations (not judgments) without stomping on the feelings of others
  • hear a person’s feelings and understand their own feelings
  • hear a person’s needs and be able to voice their own needs
  • hear a person’s request – even when that request isn’t clearly stated
  • clarify needs and requests when needed
  • make requests so that mutual goals and personal needs can be met
  • and, finally, to be compassionate in their advocacy work

Janice trying on her giraffe ears (listening from the heart) at NVC training

While there are several tools available to accomplish these goals, the RDA choose to use the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD, in their training.  Did Lori and the other founding board members have any idea that using a tool like compassionate communication would help the RDA function as well as it does? Did they know that many of their volunteers would continue to be a part of the RDA long past the time their own children were in diapers because of the friendly and professional atmosphere created by such strong communication tools? They didn’t realize how compassionate communication would reach into every interaction, making the Real Diaper Association a truly special grassroots organization – at least, that’s how I feel about it!


Janice Roodsari

Janice Roodsari, is a Real Diaper Circle Leader teaching free cloth diapering classes to her community monthly. She is an RDA Board Member, wife, stay at home mother to twins, registered nurse and is currently in training to become a certified birth educator.

RDA's Yeast Experiment Update

Looking for evidence-based recommendations on how to handle your cloth diapers in the presence of a yeast infection? So are we! So the Real Diaper Association launched a series of experiments over the past year and a half to learn more.  The research is ongoing, but here are our findings so far – - and information about how YOU can help as a citizen scientist!

Step One: Getting yeast onto the diapers

Through the generosity of some Candida albicans researchers, we have a supply of yeast that we keep alive on agar plates.  We seed clean cloth diapers with yeast from the plates and let the yeast grow on the diapers (adding apple juice to feed the yeast) for four days before washing (to mimic real life diaper usage).

Step Two: Washing/drying diapers with additives for testing

The goal of the tests is to determine how environmentally-safer alternatives compare to chlorine bleach in ridding the diapers of yeast.  The constant process was the RDA wash routine,, with machine drying (to limit the bacterial contamination of our result interpretation).  Once the diapers were washed and dried, they were swabbed on agar plates.  After 3 days, the plates were read for results.

Using ½ cup chlorine bleach (positive control), no yeast grew on the plates.  Using the RDA wash routine with no detergent (negative control), lots of yeast colonies grew on all fabrics. The additives tested were added to drum after detergent was added at the beginning of the cycle:

  • tea tree oil (brand: Tea Tree Therapy, amount: 1 t*),
  • grapefruit seed extract (brand: Solaray, amount: 1t – 2t*),
  • nonchlorine oxygen bleach (brand: Oxyclean, amount: 5t)

*NOTE: These additive amounts were used in a non-HE toploader, which uses a lot of water (33+ gallons per load). Perhaps using an HE machine with less dilution would allow you to use a smaller amount, because this is a lot (1t ~ 120 drops).

Step Three: Evaluating results

Results by fabric, evaluated 3 days after drying:

Qualifying results

These results are specific to a single machine (brand: Hotpoint, top-loader) in a single location using (hard) well water in southern California. The liquid detergent used was Seventh Generation, and the brands of tested additives are included above.


While we’d love to base recommendations for washing your cloth diapers based on these recommendations, the fact is thatour results are seriously limited.  These tests were designed with the assistance of professional microbiologists and mycologists, who also trained our citizen scientists, but were conducted outside of a laboratory by volunteers.  These results are a great base for further research, but should not be considered conclusive.

Invitation: Have enough extra space to house a card table?  Time and inclination to do some extra loads of laundry and use some fun equipment like agar plates, latex gloves, Bunsen burners, and inoculation loops?  If so, please see below…

Important reminders

When trying to decide how to handle your baby’s rash, first make sure that you’re dealing with yeast by having your pediatrician test for it.  Other culprits like ammonia can often cause a rash but be misdiagnosed as a yeast infection without a positive culture for candida.  Candida albicans doesn’t form spores so if you’re seeing a rash return after bleaching your diapers (and rinsing them well!), you either have a problem other than yeast or you need to address the systemic problem that is leading to recurring yeast overgrowth.  Handling systemic Candida problems should include an evaluation of diet and overall gut health.  Once your child has been diagnosed with a yeast infection, your health professional should give you guidance on how to restore balance to your child’s system.

Our next steps

These are the follow-on tests we’ll be conducting after evaluating our initial results.

  • Try adding tea tree oil to detergent and mixing well before adding to wash to help oil disperse better.
  • Try using less (¼ cup) chlorine bleach.
  • Try using more (¼ cup) Oxyclean.
  • Switch to oxygenated bleach and try that instead of Oxyclean (such as Biokleen).
  • Test boiling diapers at 60C for 2 minutes (which should be 99.9% lethal for Candida albicans).

YOUR next steps? Verifying results…

Since our experiments are so limited, it’s difficult to verify how consistent they’d be under different conditions. These are the tests we’d like to see performed by more volunteers.

  • Retry these tests on other machines, in other locations, using other detergents.
  • Retry these tests with line drying to make certain it remains the same.

To participate as a citizen scientist, please contact us at  You can also support this work by donating to cover our materials.

Heather McNamara

Executive Director, Real Diaper Association

P.S. Special kudos and thanks go to Liam W., our citizen scientist / intern in Ramona, CA. Liam is a high school student who has learned a LOT about microbiology experiments over the past couple of years and has handled the past year of tests under the guidance of our volunteer experts.

Highlights from the Great Cloth Diaper Change 2014

On April 26, 2014 at 11 am, 8,459 babies with 8,459 parents set a new world record for the most babies changed into a reusable diaper at the same time.  The official Guinness World Record is for the “Most people changing diapers in 24 hours (multiple venues).”  It was achieved by the Great Cloth Diaper Change (USA) across 18 countries on 6 continents.

Sixteen thousand nine hundred and eighteen (16,918) babies and caregivers officially participated; most events were run by several volunteers and many featured local vendors and cloth diaper retailers and manufacturers.  Add that to the on-lookers who attended the events to support friends and family, and you have tens of thousands of people attending and supporting the Great Cloth Diaper Change in 2014.

In addition to the official Guinness World Record qualifying locations, we also had many events that came together to participate but did not meet the Guinness requirements.  The overall total was 270 events in 20 countries for a total of 9,770 baby/caregiver pairs coming together on one day to raise cloth diaper awareness!

This is a small sample of the way the Great Cloth Diaper Change increased awareness about cloth diapers.

First Timers at GCDC Events World-wide

The author interviewed six Great Cloth Diaper Change participants from different locations who changed their baby into a 100% reusable diaper for the first time at the 2014 event.

“Wait wait!” someone cried out, “we have a first time changer here!” Happy titters and giggles rustled through the crowd. We waited another 30 seconds for the last participant to finish changing her baby, then altogether we held our little ones high up into the air for the after photo… “

The author comes to surprising conclusions and calls for further actions from Great Cloth Diaper Change 2015 hosts at the end of the article.

Read more here:

Oklahoma City Breaks New Record

This post spotlights those GCDC participants who changed a cloth diaper for the first time at the Oklahoma City event and the impact it made on the participants personally as well as the potential future impact.

“Every person I spoke with began using cloth diapers after their experience at The Great Cloth Diaper Change.  That is why we volunteer our time for the event.  …there will be approximately 28,000 less disposable diapers sitting in an Oklahoma City landfill for 500 years.  Multiple that times the dozen plus “first timers” at our event and the potential subsequent people they will tell about their experience.   Significant cannot begin to accurately describe the impact made on April 26, 2014.”

To read more, visit:

Admiring the Grass Roots

The author, Executive Director of the Real Diaper Association, reflects on the volunteers at her local event and the hundreds of volunteers who help around the world to make The Great Cloth Diaper Change possible.

“For the last four years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of volunteers around the world to create an annual grassroots event that highlights cloth diapering. (Just appreciate that for a moment!)  This is the heart of the cloth diaper movement: parents spreading the word to other parents about how they can benefit from using cloth diapers…I left that day absolutely overwhelmed with how willing every single person was to help in whatever way they were able. If in doubt about the goodness of people, ask them to help. It’s truly humbling to see how much people will give when asked.”

To read more about this heartfelt reflection of volunteerism, visit:

The Great Cloth Diaper Change 2014 re-cap and reflections

The Cloth Diaper Geek discusses the impact made when even one cloth diaper is used per day.  She also discusses the importance of participation in the Great Cloth Diaper Change, how it IS making a difference and is vital to the growth of the cloth diaper industry.

“From the total newbie attendee who didn’t even own a cloth diaper yet to the seasoned veteran, each Great Cloth Diaper Change event proves one thing, cloth does matter, people do care, and we are changing the world and the future.”

To read more, visit:

GCDC Philippines’ Guinness attempt

This blog touches on a local event held in the Philippines and notes the partnerships formed with local businesses, mommy groups, and volunteers to make the Great Cloth Diaper Change possible.

“With this activity, we hope that we have put the thought of using cloth diapers in a Filipino family’s consciousness.  Every disposable diaper that remains unused and not thrown in the landfill is a step closer to a 100% cloth diapering Philippines.”

Read more about this event:

Great Cloth Diaper Change 2014

Australia had six Great Cloth Diaper Change event locations.  This blog focuses on the local event in Melbourne and has a heartwarming video attached.    My favorite part of the video (besides the adorable babies) is seeing why families in Melbourne are choosing reusable diapers.

“It was a great day, and we want to thank all the parents who made the effort to come along…”

To read about the Melbourne event and view the video:

Phillip Island GCDC 2014

Not every location qualified for the Guinness World Record total, but every location counts, and every location made a big difference to raise awareness for reusable diapers.  This video from Phillip Island Australia highlights the 24 families who made a difference and the local businesses and volunteers who made the event possible.

“Even the dolls said goodbye to their disposable…”

To view the video:

More News Coverage from Around the World

Many events received coverage in their local news outlets – both in print and on TV.  For a sampling of that coverage, visit the Great Cloth Diaper Change press page.

Looking ahead to 2015

Save the date! Next year’s Great Cloth Diaper Change — the 5th annual GCDC — will take place on Saturday, April 18, 2015. Join the mailing list on the webpage to receive event information when it becomes available.

- Elizabeth Pilgrim, RDA Board member, GCDC Organizing Committee member, Cloth Diaper Oklahoma Circle Leader, and owner of The Changing Table

Why GiveBIG to the Real Diaper Association?

For 24 hours on Tuesday, May 6th (Pacific Time), donations to the Real Diaper Association (of $25 or more, paid by Visa, Mastercard or AMEX) will be (partially) matched by the San Diego Foundation!  Please help on May 6th

Why give to RDA?

More babies in cloth diapers: The Real Diaper Association supports volunteers in advocating toward this goal in their communities and creates materials for use by parents directly, such as tipsheets for using cloth diapers in daycare or a directory to find a cloth-diaper-friendly daycare provider.

More evidence-based information to support families in cloth diapering: The Real Diaper Association worked with laundry experts to compile easy wash instructions and laundry science here:, and are continuing to conduct direct research on various cloth diapering science topics (such as washing cloth diapers in the presence of a yeast infection.)

Access for new parents to a community of cloth diaperers: Real Diaper Circle Leaders are trained in nonviolent communication (NVC) to support families with evidence-based information on cloth diapering.

The Great Cloth Diaper Change: Events celebrating cloth diapering wouldn’t happen without the Real Diaper Association!

Thank you!

Pooling our resources (time, money, skills) through the nonprofit Real Diaper Association allows us to make a bigger impact than any of us could make on our own to raise awareness about cloth diapers!

Please spread the word to your family, friends, and social networks. Here’s the link to support cloth diapering:

Admiring the grass roots...

Having just finished verifying the unofficial results from hosts to submit to Guinness to claim our NEW WORLD RECORD, I finally have a minute to breathe after the 2014 Great Cloth Diaper Change. And this post has been writing itself in my mind all week, so…

For the last four years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of volunteers around the world to create an annual grassroots event that highlights cloth diapering. (Just appreciate that for a moment!)

This is the heart of the cloth diaper movement:

parents spreading the word to other parents about how they can benefit from using cloth diapers.

These are not huge events – maybe 35 participants on average. But the impact of those events spreads far beyond the participants, well into their communities, both through word-of-mouth and, in many cases, through local news coverage.

Every year, there are reports from hosts about poorly-mannered individuals who approach the events grubbing for free gear. And the cloth diaper world has a limited tolerance for this as many small businesses and blogs use giveaways and freebies to grab attention all year long and are therefore unable to continue to feed these expectations sustainably for this growing event.  I am sympathetic to this as we need our industry to survive in order to keep the practice of cloth diapering alive.

But I can’t help but see the bigger picture of THOUSANDS of people going out of their way to make this event a success – from the babies on up! And even if each host had 5 people complain (and that’s a huge overestimate based on the many conversations I’ve had with hosts over the years), that’s still a drop in the bucket.  This year alone, we had HUNDREDS of events in TWENTY-TWO countries on SIX continents, all celebrating cloth diapers.  With that perspective in mind, it makes it easier for me to take the complaints that inevitably happen with any event.

My local experience also reflects this. Despite the one participant who was vocal in her complaints (AGAIN this year — she’s complained at past events, too!) this was another AMAZING year.

-  I’ve had the advantage of co-hosting with Julia Smith (Haute Mommy) for the last four years. (Notably, Julia has also volunteered her skills to the overall GCDC Organizing Committee for the last few years).
-  At our event this year, I arrived to find the doors just opening and five or six mothers (with babies in carriers) helping Julia bring things in from her car and set things up.
-  One of our San  Diego Real Diaper Circle Leaders, Priscilla Parra, set up a Real Diaper Association / San Diego Real Diaper Circle table and started consulting with parents immediately — nearly 20% of our 120 participants were brand-new to cloth diapering, so Priscilla was BUSY!
-  Grandma Jeannie and her daughter handled the t-shirt sales, two pregnant mamas handled the registration table, and various fathers were recruited to create the changing space with tables and ropes.
-  Our attendees contributed two enormous boxes of cloth diaper donations. (One sweet woman forgot her single diaper donation and walked a half mile back to her car with a toddler and a baby on her back to bring it back to donate!)
-  Mona Weiss (EcoNuts) volunteered as emcee.
-  My dear sister, who has no kids yet herself, volunteered for her FOURTH Great Cloth Diaper Change — this time with her boyfriend, who was critical to the checkin process happening in a timely manner.
-  Two of our four witnesses have volunteered to help multiple years – - and we had backups also willing to step in if we needed them!
-  Carolyn Russell (Padded Tush Stats) made herself generally useful all day in every possible way (including witnessing the event), and was the last to leave.

I mention all these people because I left that day absolutely overwhelmed with how willing every single person was to help in whatever way they were able. If in doubt about the goodness of people, ask them to help. It’s truly humbling to see how much people will give when asked. In fact, my recommendations for improving the event next year will start with involving more volunteers earlier in the process. People want to give — and rarely complain when they do so.

Am I tired? Incredibly so. It’s been another wild ride!  But I’m also inspired and rejuvenated by the energy of all of YOU who continue to help more families to cloth diaper.

Thank you sincerely for lending your time, skills, and energy to this movement.

Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association

GCDC SPOTLIGHT: First time host in Goodyear, Arizona

Janelle Allen-Cavanaugh is a first time host in Goodyear, Arizona who has demonstrated awesome graphics abilities and has lots of fresh new ideas. We interviewed her to see how the planning is going and what her experience with GCDC has been like so far.

About the event: It is located in Goodyear, in the far west valley in Arizona. Janelle is a first time host, hosting alone but has recruited several volunteers to assist. She is hosting under her company Rescued Rumps ( She currently has 53 preregistered participants but is hoping for 100. The event will be held at Goodyear Community Park. Nearby is the farmers market, community art walk, and splash pad so she is really encouraging the event as a whole family day. She does have some vendors at the event who are allowed to advertise but not sell products due to restrictions placed by the farmers market. She has a lot of community involvement from businesses and families.

Promoting the event: Janelle used some “You’ve been spotted with a baby” fliers and stuffed them between packages of diapers at the store. She has utilized social media through her facebook page with tags and links to supporters. She has done “sneak peeks” of prizes and offered small prizes for preregistered participants.

Why hosting is great: When asked what people are most excited about, they have responded “Meeting you and other cloth using families!” People are excited to be having an event nearby and are expressing a lot of thanks to her for hosting.

Handling sponsors: Janelle sent out lots of email blasts to companies that were sponsoring giveaways on their sites or that she thought were relevant to the event. She made sure to send the emails so they were waiting in their inbox at 6am. They are providing her with coupons, fliers, samples, and prizes. She has been tagging and linking all supporters on her facebook page. She is also planning to take pictures of winners with their prizes and send them to the companies so they can see where their products ended up. She also made a large banner and small brochures for participants highlighting each sponsors logo. She did have a deadline to be included in the brochure which encouraged early commitments from vendors.

To find a Great Cloth Diaper Change event near you, please visit the website. We need your babies to be able to break the world record – - and we promise a fun time for all!

- Megan Bost, 2014 Great Cloth Diaper Change Organizing Committee

School of Cloth Sponsor Highlight: Ju-Ju Monkey

Recently, we had an opportunity to interview Sara Moore from Ju-Ju Monkey in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Sara is an accredited Leader of the Lehigh Valley Real Diaper Circle (a free resource for the cloth diapering community), a Real Diaper Association Board Director, and Treasurer of the Real Diaper Industry Association Board of Directors.  Ju-Ju Monkey donated $500 of cloth diaper products to the School of Cloth event, much of which will be donated to charities who distribute cloth diapers to low-income families.

How important a task is cloth diaper education to your business?

Cloth diaper education is vital to Ju-Ju Monkey.  To borrow from discussions involving the RDA, what we really sell is cloth diapering - the action, not cloth diapers – the product. Of course we sell cloth diapers, however cloth diapers are not something you can take off a shelf and just use.  You need to know how to care for them properly.  A big box store employee can’t offer that type of service. However Ju-Ju Monkey and your local cloth diaper retailer can!  Also if you are having difficulty for any reason, Ju-Ju Monkey will support you to troubleshoot your issues (leaks, laundering, etc)

How frequently do you teach cloth diapering classes in your community?  What types of classes do you teach?

Ju-Ju Monkey is currently teaching about 5 classes a week for School of Cloth.  That will probably change to about 2 a week thereafter. We offer

  • Cloth 101, which is everything you ever wanted to know about cloth diapers...but were afraid to ask!
  • Wonders of Wool Workshop covers one of the easiest cloth diapering cover options available.  Wool is ideal because it’s super breathable, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, and remarkably waterproof while absorbing up to 30% of its weight in moisture.
  • Laundry Science is important because many factors come into play that cause variations in laundering for different families.  In this class we go over some basic laundry science and help you to understand how to troubleshoot your diapers when problems arise.
Do you have a favorite memory about a class or family that you taught?

My favorite memory is of a family who was so frustrated with cloth diaper laundry that they were about to give up all together.  Reason being, they couldn’t figure out what they were doing wrong and it was causes blistering rashes. The mom came to me almost in tears because the rest of the family became turned off to cloth altogether.  After talking with her and asking the right questions, I was able to give a few suggestions on how to alter her wash routine.  Within a week they resolved their problem and continued to successfully use cloth diapers until potty training 2 years later!

What's your favorite piece of advice to give NEW parents about cloth diapering?

Not to get overwhelmed in the information out there. As with everything in life, it is best to keep it simple.  There are a lot of acronyms and new words used between cloth diapering families. None of that really matters when you are starting out.  Every diaper can be broken down into two parts: the absorbent part and the waterproof part.  So when comparing diaper A to diaper B, ask yourself what makes this diaper absorbent and what makes it waterproof.  The rest is bells and whistles. If it starts to get overwhelming, just buy one of a few different variations before making a big purchase.  That way you have a better idea of what you are looking at.

Ju-Ju Monkey is a family owned business specializing in cloth diapering, babywearing and natural baby care. Our philosophy is firmly rooted in the belief that healthy lifestyle choices extend to baby and family. Today more and more people are choosing to live and eat healthy, so choosing baby products that do not contain harmful chemicals and additives is naturally the next step. With over 3 years of experience successfully matching customers with healthy natural products, you can be assured that making the right choice for your family is literally at your fingertips. Ju-Ju Monkey is committed to providing the knowledge and understanding necessary to make educated choices when it comes to your family.

School of Cloth Sponsor Highlight: Bummis

Recently, we had an opportunity to interview Betsy Thomas from Bummis in Montreal.  Bummis has made cloth diapers for the past 25 years according to their unwavering vision: "to make high-quality, affordable and easy-to-use cloth diapers, and to educate and infuse parents with our passion for them."  They also have a retail store serving their local Montreal community.  Bummis donated $500 of cloth diaper products to the School of Cloth event, much of which will be donated to charities who distribute cloth diapers to low-income families.

RDA: How would you describe your business and its place in your community?

BT: Bummis was the first attachment parenting store in Montreal – before anyone really knew what an attachment parenting store was! We run it as if our clients are invited guests in our home. It’s a lovely, comfortable space where new and expectant parents come to learn in a completely non-pressured environment about our big 3; cloth diapers, babywearing and breastfeeding. We sell really fantastic products and the staff is extremely knowledgeable about them. We don’t practice hard selling – we just try to help people to make the best choice for them. We provide lots of information and resources in a very non-judgmental atmosphere, but we are passionate advocates of attachment parenting.

RDA: How important a task is cloth diaper education to your business?

BT: It is probably the MOST important thing we do in our business. We sell more cloth diapers than anything else in our store, and so we try to ensure that people are well prepared and will be successful at using and washing them. 

RDA: Do you have a favorite memory about a class or family that you taught?

BT: I was hanging out in the store one day eavesdropping as one of my employees was teaching a lovely young couple (very pregnant) about cloth diapers. The dad was asking very precise and perceptive questions about storage and washing, and had some great and novel ideas about how to organize a cloth diaper changing station. I was pretty fascinated and finally jumped into the conversation. I said it sounded like an engineer approaching cloth diapering – and he laughed and said he was an engineer, but was currently playing music instead for a living. So I commiserated a bit with them both about combining a family with a career in music, as my husband is a musician and it wasn’t easy when my kids were growing up – late nights, travelling, the uncertainty, etc… We had a fun conversation and then I went upstairs to my office. After they left my staff called me and said they realized that I hadn’t known who I was talking to….and that it was actually 2 members of Arcade Fire (Montreal’s own, by the way!). I was SO embarrassed – haven’t gotten over it yet.

RDA: What's your favorite piece of advice to give NEW parents about cloth diapering?

BT: Take some time to get accustomed to your new diapering system, and don’t be afraid to play around with the folding and fastening, etc. If you are starting out with a newborn, put them into newborn sized cloth diapers right from the start, as you will find they fit well and are VERY easy to use. Also cloth diapers are healthy and comfortable for fragile newborn skin.  If you are making the switch to cloth diapers from disposable diapers, you may experience a period of adjustment at first. Some families find that when making this switch, mixing your cloth diapering system with disposables in the beginning (for outings or overnight) can make this transition easier. Go ahead – don’t fret about it! Take the time you need to wrap your head around this change. Most parents find that using and washing cloth diapers is way easier than they thought it would be, and quickly become avid full time users.

WE ARE RDA: A Celebration of School of Cloth Volunteers

It's been so active lately at RDA that I needed to take a break this evening while my husband was at hockey and the kids are in bed to tell you about all the amazing work being done behind-the-scenes by Real Diaper Association volunteers.  Because RDA is not some faceless entity. It's a goal to which many people are contributing. And they should be recognized for the part they're playing.  And maybe you can be inspired to add your strengths to the effort. Here's Part 1 about the School of Cloth.

When I heard about "Real Nappy Week" in England, I was, frankly, jealous. I couldn't believe they were able to pull together an entire industry - an entire MOVEMENT - to spend a whole week educating the people of the country about cloth diapers.  WOW!  As it turns out, I wasn't the only one who was so inspired.  Over the past few years, tens of thousands of people in the US - - and even around the world - - have shown their commitment to our shared goal of increasing the practice of cloth diapering in their communities through their organization of and participation in local Great Cloth Diaper Change events.  Many of those people expressed their desire for more opportunities to educate about cloth diapers.  The School of Cloth, a month full of cloth diaper education events, came from those desires, and, appropriately, it's happening with the energy of some amazing volunteers and sponsors.

I want to mention sponsors only briefly here. Many readers (like myself) might skip right over a thank you of sponsors, thinking  that it's just an obligatory mention.  However, I recognize that our donors give with their hearts to this shared mission, and the fact that they have the courage and generosity to match that gift with their wallets makes me sincerely grateful.  Their enthusiasm for and commitment to the School of Cloth really set it up for success. The volunteers below are carrying it through... 

Janice Roodsari - Janice, a Real Diaper Circle Leader from Ventura, CA, volunteered to "help" with social media for the School of Cloth - - and wound up running a major social media campaign. We've co-written some things about cloth diapering and she's so engaged in all of our conversations that she has developed into a trusted writer for an organization that is very careful with our words.  Janice is posting or organizing us in all our Facebook posts this month. Notice how active we've been? Janice knows what the Real Diaper Association has to offer the world and she's making it visible to the people who need it.

Cheri Chapman and Lisa Dunne - Lisa is a new volunteer who offered her marketing skillset toward our mission. We started talking about social media just before School of Cloth started and really solidified the vision for a social media calendar. Cheri has also been more recently engaged and her enthusiasm for a highly engaged social media presence made that vision even more grandiose - - but still do-able.  Of course, Cheri offered her assistance in executing the vision she helped to grow and Lisa will be analyzing our work afterwards to help us develop a solid, usable longer term social media plan.  Janice is thanking them both - ha!

Calley Pate and Kelly's Closet - Calley's record for ALWAYS helping when asked -- and in a big way -- remains unbroken with this project. The vision of online education to match the in-person education happening from our School of Cloth hosts seemed best coordinated through a blog ring where we could bring together all the brightest voices on the topic to really reach cloth diapering deeply into our communities.  Calley put the blog ring all together, spread the word, and continues to lead it on new topics each week.  And Kelly's Closet?  When one person (who shall remain unnamed - ahem, gulp) neglected to consider the actual costs of shipping all the cloth diaper donations out to winners and charities, Calley asked and long-time RDA supporter Bobbi-Jean Palmer immediately sent us PayPal funds.

Bloggers Participating in the School of Cloth Blog Ring -  Each of them take hours of their week to offer their best advice and wisdom to help more families find and use reusable cloth diapers.  AND to "linky" them into the ring.  The last of which I am quite certain I would not be able to do.

Amber Lawrence-Whitted and Julie Ham - Amber and Julie, co-leaders of the Real Diaper Circle of Wayne County, NC, have received the thousands of dollars of donations from our sponsors (can you imagine how much space $5000 worth of cloth diapering supplies might take up?), photographed it all, and thanked the sponsors.  But their job isn't done - - now they'll have to repackage it for winners and for the cloth diaper charities that the winners chose, package it up, and ship it all back out again.  And not lose anything.  With kids around.  This would not happen in my house.

Priscilla Román and Amy Bloss-Rodgers - Amy's the leader of the Low Country Real Diaper Circle and Priscilla is training to join her. Priscilla is taking all the host information from EventBrite (where they register to participate) and putting it into map markers so that it appears on the School of Cloth page for families to find -- then making all the required changes requested by hosts.  Amy is adding those hosts to a Facebook group and supporting them with anything they need to run new and exciting classes in their communities this month.  She adds such value in this role, sharing her experience with the wide variety of classes that she and local volunteers run in their Circle every month.

Cindi Effenberger - Another leader in training, Cindi is handling the daily intake of participant submissions to the drawing, including making sure we have safe backups.  This role is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the overall event, so Cindi's prompt attention to detail is incredibly valued.

Forty-one School of Cloth Hosts - All these volunteers across the US and Canada are planning and running classes in their community -- teaching in the School of Cloth on the ground. I can't wait to see the pictures from these events (coming soon, says Janice and Cheri!)! This is what some of us are doing together this week on one project to facilitate more cloth diapering.  Watch this space to find out what others are doing.  Join your talents here.

Grateful and energized to work with you all,

Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association