Awhile back, I read about the results of a Yale study that examined low income women and how poverty affected their mental health. One of the neat tidbits that came out was that about 30% of these mothers stated that they could not afford diapers for their babies and admitted reusing diapers.
We didn’t need a study to tell us this, or that low income mother are stressed out and prone to depression. Like, duh.
When the study came out, cloth diapering advocates and parents posted the article time and time again on social media with head shaking and finger wagging. “If only they used cloth diapers.”
I’m a huge fan of cloth diapering. I’ve wrapped all of my babies butts in cloth ,and although I really,really like The Earth, my main motivator was the cost effectiveness of cloth diapering and not the environmental benefits. I have been incredibly fortunate when it comes to acquiring cloth diapers. I got many for gifts. Several times I was able to claim a nice stash on Freecycle, brand new. The parents had decided not to cloth diaper after all and decided to pass them on to someone who could use them. Also, I can sew and make my own.
I love cloth diapers and think they’re awesomesauce. I encourage everyone to use them….when and if they can.
I was amazed at some of the really stupid commentary from the cloth diapering community when that study came out. Some people did not understand why low income women wouldn’t just do the “smart thing” and use cloth diapers. Of course, when people don’t understand the reasons why someone does or doesn’t do something, then you get the inevitable judgement and even outright shaming that “those people” don’t know better or do better.
I have known quite a few families who would like to cloth diaper but they don’t have access to a place they can buy cloth diapers. Not everyone has a bricks & mortar store near them that sells cloth diapers. Not everyone has a credit or debit card to purchase them online,either. Accessibility can be an issue for some people,depending where they live & their situation. Then the initial start-up cost of diapers. Wowza. We’re talking about $50 for 12 diapers + covers .
Even if you point out that many people do not have washing machines in their home (or maybe they live in a region that has severe water restrictions) or maybe they can barely afford to do laundry at the laundromat and that JUST one extra load makes it even harder, know what the reply was from some?
“That’s no excuse. There’s always handwashing”
(Actual comment. Sadly, echoed by others)
I’ve done that before and I have no reservations about saying it outright: Handwashing sucks. At the time, I worked at home. If I had worked outside the home, there’s no way I would have added that stress to my day. Poor women are stressed and depressed already. Handwashing shitty diapers isn’t going to improve anything. I wasn’t even stressed (or poor) at the time but it didn’t do wonders for my psyche.
To people who have a profound disconnect with poverty, when some poor person doesn’t do something they can do, it’s an excuse or a poor choice they’re making. If a parent who is not poor makes the same parenting decision, it’s just a choice they made , not a poor one.
Feels like this is just another post from me, asking others to try to wrap their brain around an aspect of someone else’s life they never considered before and find some compassion, so I’ll wrap this up with some ideas on how to help and links.
How To Help Low Income Families Cloth Diaper
- My old washing machine sat in my driveway for awhile before I could have it hauled away. A couple knocked on the door one day asking if they could have it. I told them the drum was cracked and leaked. They still wanted it. This couple collects broken appliances and fixes them specifically to donate to low income families. If you’re handy and have some spare time (and a truck would be helpful), this would be a nice project that could help people in your community.
- If you have sewing skills, consider sewing up some cloth diapers to give to a family OR even better, teach others to make them and make it a group project. Youth groups could easily get involved.
- Pick up used sewing machines and sewing supplies to donate to families who are interested in making their own.
- If there’s a cloth diaper bank program in your area, maybe work together to fundraise laundry expenses for families without a washer at home.
These are places you can donate diapers, both cloth and disposable, for low income families.
The National Diaper Bank Network, a nonprofit that has donated more than 15 million diapers to free distributers across the nation, helps connect struggling families with local diaper banks.