Real Diaper News
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Networking and Advocating for Cloth Diapers
by Lori Richardson
Summer 2006

I’ve been cloth diapering my son since he was born nearly 26 months ago. Soon after learning I was pregnant, I was scouring the far reaches of the Internet researching the benefits of cloth diapers and building up my supply of cute newborn diapers. I was over the moon for them! I was in awe of how much they had changed since the flats, pins, and vinyl pants of my childhood. Modern day cloth diapers had become innovative and high-tech.

Cloth diapers were a natural choice for me considering my education in environmental science. However, while researching, I was completely shocked to learn about the health benefits of cloth diapering and also the toxic chemicals lurking within each piece of plastic backed paper shell in a throwaway diaper. Using disposable diapers was not an option for many reasons.

Thank heavens for the Internet. Without it, I would have been limited to using those horrid, cheap prefolds filled with polyester batting, plastic “novelty” diaper pins, and basic vinyl-lined waterproof wraps, all of which can sometimes be found at drugstores and superstores across the United States. I couldn’t understand why large chain stores couldn’t carry reputable cloth diapering supplies. No wonder more people didn’t know about the modern world of cloth diapers. The only way to learn about them, it seemed, was by committing to countless hours of sleuthing in the Internet underground. First, you had to find them and then, you had to piece together the information you found. I vividly remember feeling very overwhelmed.

Having a point of contact, supporter, mentor who had done it successfully before me would have helped tremendously. If more people knew how far cloth diapers had come and how incredibly easy they were to use, I mused, surely more people would choose to use cloth. Parents needed to know that they had equally effective options when it came to diapering their babies. I have noticed that most parents I talk with still believe that cotton flats, diaper pins, and vinyl pants are the only cloth diapering supplies available, perhaps because they were the only cloth diapering option when they were babies and that’s what is available in the chain stores. If only they knew how far diapers had come, with stay-dry linings, snap or touch-tape closures, and adorable prints, they would fall head over heels in love with them like I had.

A need for education outreach was obvious. We needed media coverage! We needed cloth diapering commercials! We needed billboards! We needed Public Service Announcements! Without the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to do this, I sat on the idea. I vowed that if I ever won the lottery (a long-shot, since I don’t even buy lottery tickets), I would pour a bunch of money into public outreach and research not funded by the huge disposable diapering conglomerates.

Real Diaper Association was founded in August 2004, three months after my son was born. I was ecstatic when I found out about the organization because it meant that my dream of spreading the word about cloth diapers was becoming a reality and that many others had the same dream I did.

I soon realized that the only way for me to begin a shift in thinking was to spread the word wherever I could about cloth diapers. I wanted to teach but didn’t know how to get started. Where would I teach and how much would room rental cost? How would I advertise? I began talking to friends and family about my desire to teach and educate the public on how far cloth diapers had come. In order to dispel any myths regarding cloth, I started responding to every cloth diapering question I could find on the online parenting boards I frequent. I also included photos of adorable cloth diapers in my online profile as an educational tool for parents interested in cloth diapering.

With that, the magic of networking began. A friend of mine started up a traveling maternity sale and resource center and asked me if I’d like to have a cloth diapering booth. I jumped at the opportunity. I had “cloth diapering advocate” business cards printed with my name and email address. At the booth, I handed out my new business cards and Real Diaper Association brochures that I had printed. I also displayed examples of various cloth diapering systems. A few months later, this same friend asked if I wanted to teach a short workshop on cloth diapers and host another cloth diapering booth. I was becoming a “cloth diaper expert” in my local community.

Two months after teaching the workshop, I was having lunch with a coworker. Somehow, the topic of me teaching about cloth diapering came up and she said, “Lori, you need to meet my friend! She cloth diapers her baby and just bought a local baby resource center geared toward natural parenting. I’m sure she’d love to talk to you about teaching some classes.”

As it turned out, I had met her friend at one of my cloth diapering booths and we had even exchanged several emails a year prior when she was still pregnant and had questions about cloth diapering. She emailed me and told me all the details of her new business and said she had wanted to contact me about teaching a class. We couldn’t believe what a small world it was.

Since then, I have taught several cloth diapering classes in her natural parenting resource center. I am constantly refining my teaching technique and now have my class whittled down to 1.5 hours long. My teaching focus is on the “how-to” but I also provide some basic information on why using cloth diapers are a better choice. I basically provide a quick overview on all the diapering options available. It is a lot of fun and I am meeting lots of parents who are as passionate about cloth diapers as I am.

I have also learned that some of the parents on the parenting boards I regularly visit have converted to cloth diapers. They later told me that they’d never considered cloth diapers until they saw one of my posts referencing cloth diapers. Now they say they can’t believe how easy it is and wonder why they didn’t do it sooner. These same parents have recently become cloth diapering advocates on the boards. Now all of us reply to the same posts asking for information about cloth diapers. I am proud to know that I helped introduce others to cloth diapering and now they are advocating for it, too.

I have been amazed at what the power of networking and spreading the word can do for educating the world about the benefits of cloth diapering. The people you educate will go on to educate many others. Consider all ways in which you can educate, whether it be by writing a letter to Oprah urging her to do a segment on cloth diapering or leaving informational brochures in pediatrician’s offices. Become a point of contact as someone who has been there, done that. Advocating for cloth diapers is limited only by our imaginations.

Advocacy tips:

1. Know your facts so that when you hear comments like, “I’ve heard that cloth diapers and disposable diapers are environmentally equal” or “I just can’t imagine having to dunk diapers in the toilet,” you have the perfect opportunity to educate.

2. Be subtle. Appearing too passionate can come across as being pushy or crazily preoccupied with diapers.

3. As a general rule, don’t talk about cloth diapers unless asked. Otherwise, you run the risk of appearing pushy. There are exceptions, though!

4. Change your baby wherever you can with your cutest diapers, wet bag, and wipes. This is a great way to pique interest and get people asking questions.

5. Establish yourself as an expert in your local or online community.


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