Up Close and Personal at the Great Cloth Diaper Change 2011

For generations advertising has whittled away at moms’ confidence in cloth diapers, convincing them that disposables are a gift from God. I don’t think so! And neither do all the folks who turned out for the Great Cloth Diaper Change 2011, held Saturday, April 23, at 400 locations world-wide.

As of Monday, the count stands at 4, 928 cloth diapers changed simultaneously in six countries – Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States – for the purpose setting the world record.

The big change happened at exactly 9:00 a.m. EDT.

“Parents have been told disposables hold more liquid, but a diaper needs to be changed when wet!” said Morgan Harris, owner of the Green Bambino, Oklahoma City’s first cloth diaper retail outlet and mentor to moms who want to make the switch to cloth.

I had a chance to talk with Morgan at Science Museum Oklahoma, the venue for the Oklahoma City event.

With disposables, parents don’t have to get “up close and personal” with their child’s waste. “They think, ‘Eww, poop!’ and miss key clues about their baby’s health,” she said. “What comes out of our body tells us about our body, and we need to know that.”

What are some of the clues? Discolored urine, blood in the stool, diarrhea. “All can be seen more closely with cloth,” she said.

We’ve heard the commercials: Disposables are convenient, the ads say. And now, with better moisture-wicking properties, babies stay drier. The new disposables are thinner, more environmentally friendly.

Never mind the hype. Morgan said it doesn’t make a difference in the amount of money – or diapers – being thrown away.

Lucky for cloth diapered babies, they get their bottoms changed more often; about ten more times a day than babies in disposables, estimates Karen Prior, Chapter Leader for Oklahoma Birth Network.

Diaper changes are an important opportunity for parent-baby interaction, including gentle touch, eye contact, smiles and vocal expression, all of which help the baby’s development. But why bother changing a baby whose diaper “feels” dry?

Kim Rosas reviews diapering products on her blog, Not long ago I interviewed Kim by email. Here’s what she had to say: “We aren’t trying to say (disposable users) are wrong. Disposables have been virtually the only choice for quite a while. Cloth has been around forever, but only recently have companies introduced these easy-to-use cloth diapers.  We are just trying to let moms know that there is another option, and one that is better overall for the earth and the wallet.”

According to data provided by The Real Diaper Association, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a cultural shift back to cloth diapering and sponsor of  the Great Cloth Diaper Change, 92 percent of all disposables end up in land-fills, amounting to four percent of all solid waste.

“Our mindset is that of ‘out-of-sight-out-of-mind,’ when in reality that waste is going straight to a landfill and sits there for 500 years,” said Rosas. Cloth, on the other hand, can be reused up to 200 times.

The popularity of disposables convinced manufacturers Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark Corp. that parents were willing to pay the price. But cost is a factor that many families can no longer ignore.

A family using disposables can expect to spend $1,500 or more before the child is fully potty trained. By comparison, reusable cloth diapering systems can be purchased for around $300.

Advocates of disposables say that cleaning cloth diapers uses more energy and water. But “the amount of water used per week to wash cloth diapers at home is about the same amount consumed by an adult flushing the toilet four or five times daily for a week,” according to

A recent skirmish in the “diaper wars” involves Pampers Cruisers with Dry Max. Introduced last March by Proctor and Gamble, the new line is supposedly 20 percent thinner, and keeps babies two times drier, locking in wetness for up to 12 hours.

“I call them evil diapers,” said Dani Tobey, owner of Baby Cotton Bottoms in Colorado Springs. “Some diapers on the market are not meant to be changed all day long. But babies should be changed the same amount if using disposable or cloth; it shouldn’t matter what kind of diaper you pick. If a baby is wet or soiled, the baby should be changed.”

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