If you’ve hung around cloth diaper websites for a while, you’ve seen the occasional blog post or toolkit on how to be a cloth diaper advocate. Teach people how modern cloth diapers work, dispel myths, etc. For The Rebecca Foundation and other diaper banks that provide cloth, cloth diaper advocacy is about education and awareness in the setting of diaper need. Many of the same points are there. Our audience, however, is somewhat different.
Part of our mission to help ensure cloth for all includes advocating potential loan recipients as well as social service organizations such as WIC, women’s clinics, religious charities like Catholic Social Services, and more. One of our most significant hurdles is often convincing the agencies that work with low-income women and children that cloth diapers are an option for many families of all backgrounds. We’ve worked hard to dispel some of the mistaken beliefs such as laundromats not accepting cloth diapers or low-income families not having washers and dryers. People seem to be finally getting it, and we’ve noticed more local diaper banks including cloth diapers in their program.
Nonetheless, it is a justifiable challenge to advocate for cloth diapers in the backdrop of extreme poverty. It doesn’t matter if you have a washer if you can’t afford detergent or if your water was turned off because you can’t pay your bill. It’s not helpful if your laundromat accepts cloth diapers when you don’t have a car to get there. Anyone else eager to ride a bus with a bag of dirty diapers? In these circumstances, it’s always important to know your community as well as you can since there may be many more hurdles to cloth diapering than you can imagine.
So what is cloth diaper advocacy not about? First, just because a cloth diaper advocate is pro-cloth does not mean they are anti-disposables or believe families should only use cloth. Cloth diapers will never work for everyone, and among those families that choose to use them, they may never work all the time for them. There will always be a place and need for disposable diapers.
Cloth diaper advocacy is also not making comments like “just use cloth diapers! I did!” after online articles about diaper need. If cloth helped you make it through tough financial times that is fantastic. But without knowing a family’s circumstances, you can’t just make that blanket statement for everyone unable to afford disposable diapers. It’s close-minded and makes us all look bad.
And finally, cloth diaper advocacy is not assuming you know what’s best for a family and not judging them for their choices. Any diaper that can help a family experiencing diaper need is a good diaper. It’s vital for us to give people the information to let them decide what will work best for their situation. It could be disposables, it could be cloth, or it may end up being a combination of the two. Any of those three options are okay. If you’ve provided awareness and education about cloth, you’ve done your job as an advocate. Remember: the endgame is a clean, dry diaper for every baby.