An Open Letter to the White House on the Diaper Divide

An Open Letter to the White House on the Diaper Divide

Today the White House published a blog post titled the “Diaper Divide," calling attention to the fact that many low income families struggle to afford the high cost of diapers for their children. While we were pleased to see this discussion raised by the highest branch of government, we were also disappointed that cloth diapers were not mentioned.  Cloth diapers are economical, safe, and convenient, and they can bridge the Diaper Divide. 

We know that for many families, the cost of disposable diapers can be prohibitive. Our RDA Circle Leaders have heard firsthand stories of low income families forced to choose between purchasing food, or diapers.  Often economic necessity causes these families to stretch the use of their disposable diapers beyond what is sanitary or safe for their babies. It does not have to be this way!

Cloth diapering is a viable and reasonable choice for families, especially for those that struggle to make ends meet.

Cloth diapers can be significantly more affordable than even the cheapest disposable options. The White House blog post estimated a cost of $936 annually per child in disposable diapers. Considering that babies are typically in diapers for at least two years, this adds up to almost $2,000 just for diapers for one child. That is a lot of money!

There are many different cloth diapering solutions that are considerably more affordable.

For example, a full set (2 dozen) of economical pre-folds, water proof covers (6) and fasteners can be purchased for under $300. This money saving system can be used throughout the entire diaper period for a child, and can also be reused for subsequent children.  

For families in extreme need, reusing textiles such as a cotton t-shirt, or simple flour sack towels, in place of pre-folds can lessen this cost even further. While it may seem outrageous at first to suggest this as a viable option, please keep in mind that every diaper, whether disposable, or cloth, consists solely of a waterproof layer, and an absorbent layer.  Knowledge of a simple folding method, coupled with a waterproof diaper cover, can provide families with an effective, and exceptionally economical, diapering solution. Our board member, Janice Roodsari, RN, recently demonstrated this simple method in a video which you may find interesting:

The benefits of using cloth diapers are not only economical.

We know that natural fibers are better for infant skin, and cloth diapers are a sustainable and green alternative to the waste of disposable diapers, which remain in our landfills for many hundreds of years. Far too often low income families bear the additional burden of excessive toxic pollutants in their communities due to their disadvantaged economic status. Lowering exposure to chemicals is a benefit to all children, but it is especially important for low income children who are often over-exposed in comparison to their more affluent counterparts.

Recent political efforts to pass diaper subsidy legislation is a good first step.  In California, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, (D-Chula Vista)  recently introduced two diaper subsidy bills aimed at reducing the economic burden of CAL-WORK participants. Unfortunately, just like the White House blog post today, cloth diapers aren't even mentioned. The Real Diaper Association (RDA) and the Real Diaper Industry Association (RDIA), the trade association for cloth diaper businesses, are working to get cloth diapers included in the language of these bills

Advocating for economical diapering options for low income families without including cloth diapers in the discussion, limits money saving opportunities for the families who need it most. 

The Real Diaper Association has many resources available to assist families from all walks of life to successfully use cloth diapers. Families interested in trying out a cloth diaper can attend their local Great Cloth Diaper Change event on April 23, 2016 and see for themselves just how great cloth diapers are. We have tip sheets on laundry troubleshooting, advice for families who use laundromats, hand washing guides, resources for cloth diapering on a budget, upcycling textiles, using cloth in daycares, and much more! 

As the White House rolls out its Community Diaper Program, we call on the administrators of the program to include cloth diapers in their strategy to expand access to diapering solutions for low income families. The RDA is eager to assist in that effort as well. 

~Michelle Dominguez

Executive Director, Real Diaper Association


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