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You Are the Local Cloth Diaper Advocate
By Lori Taylor
August 2005

"Ask Me about Cloth Diapers." That's what RDA Board of Directors member Marie DiCocco's tank top said as she taught Italian Folk Dance at the New England Folk Festival in Natick, Massachusetts, in April. One of the dancers did ask Marie about cloth diapers. The dancer had cloth diapered her children several decades before, but assumed cloth diapers were no longer available. She had friends who just adopted a baby, and she wanted to tell them about cloth diapers.

Many people assume cloth diapers are no longer available. You know otherwise. But how will new parents, grandmothers, and family friends know to ask you about cloth diapers? Make yourself visible in your community. Wearing buttons or T-shirts from the RDA "Ask Me about Cloth Diapers" campaign for Earth Day is an easy way to begin. RDA members have found a variety of ways to advocate cloth diapers locally.

Make Yourself Visible Locally.

You are the local expert. You have access to a wealth of experience and information. As a member of Real Diaper Association, you also know where to go for great ideas. Make sure people know where to reach you.

When people do ask you about cloth diapers, know what you are going to say. While wearing her "Ask Me" button shopping at the natural foods co-op Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, RDA Treasurer Angelique Mullen was asked by a shopper, "I really love that button. Where on earth did you get it?" She took the button off and gave it to the shopper, telling her about cloth diapers. The shopper told Angelique she sometimes feels disheartened because no one cloth diapers anymore. But it isn't true! People want to know that you use cloth diapers for your baby.

Your baby is a great cloth diaper model. When someone sees you changing your baby with cloth diapers, they may say, "What kind of diaper is that?" Be prepared to tell them exactly what it is and where to find out more. There are other ways to make your baby visible, as well. Savannah Rogers, RDA member of Peoria, Arizona, suggests that parents put their cloth diapered babies in the local parade.

Let people know how to contact you later if they have more questions. Nashville, Tennessee, Leader Danielle Whittaker has given out her RDA business card when she has seen people buying disposable diapers.

Take Visible Action:

  • Use local media. Provide great stories highlighting cloth diapers. Make yourself the contact person. Offer to be interviewed on a local parenting program on radio or television. Write an article on cloth diapers for a local paper, including very small papers.
  • Make cloth diaper advocate business cards for yourself, and leave cards at baby shops and with mother and baby health care providers.

Reserve a booth at a local baby fair or farmer's market. Bring a variety of cloth diapers along with diaper facts for visitors to carry away.

Go to RDA:

Teach the Basics of Cloth Diapering to New Parents.

Do you remember being a new parent? You needed information. New parents want to know their options. They want to know what is best for their baby. Gently help them learn about cloth diapers so they can make an informed choice about diapers.

Where are you going to meet new parents? You could meet them casually by talking to pregnant women at the park or while shopping. Or ask a few parents to drop by. Danielle Whittaker organized an informal cloth diaper meeting at her work. She even invited a local cloth diaper dealer to show new parents the range of diapers available.

You might offer to make a presentation to a parenting class sponsored by a midwife, hospital, or community center. Find out a little about the parents beforehand, so you can tailor your approach to their needs. Are they likely to choose cloth diapers because of the lower environmental impact or because it is so much less expensive to use cloth diapers?

At a parenting class, take diapers to touch and feel. Take your baby so you can demonstrate how easy it is to use cloth diapers. Take a big pile of diapers along with a few teddy bears or dolls so new parents can try it for themselves. Prepare your remarks or an outline before you go, and test how long it takes you to cover the material. Be sure to leave plenty of time for questions.

Take Teaching Action:

  • Create your own meeting for new parents. You can often find free rooms in libraries, churches, and community centers.
  • Put cloth diapering information in new parent packs at hospitals. If you have a local diaper service, organize a pamphlet or coupon to go with a pamphlet. If you have a local manufacturer, they might even be willing to include a product sample.

Go to RDA:

Support Parents Using Cloth Diapers.

If you have made sure that new parents know how to contact you, you are likely to get more questions once they are using cloth diapers. How can I prevent leaks? Do I have to soak these before washing? They will soon have enough experience that they will help others, but for now, you are their expert and some parents will need one-on-one support. Give freely of your experience, and seek more information when you don't know the answer.

Seattle, Washington, Leader Maya Keithly has been holding cloth diapering support meetings since January. For the next scheduled meeting, about a dozen parents will learn to sew basic styles of diapers. At a future meeting, Maya plans to demonstrate washing with lanolin to condition a wool diaper cover. Maya finds that parents often need support in learning about washing methods and nighttime diapers. She also offers a diaper library from which parents can check out diapers, doublers, Snappis, or other items to see if these items work for their baby.

Those parents in Maya Keithly's diapering group are fortunate. Seattle is one of those rare U.S. cities where parents can find a variety of cloth diapering support. It is also the home of RDA business member Baby Diaper Service, who publishes Northwest Baby and Child, a monthly newspaper with extensive information and support for parents.

Whether one-on-one, through published articles, or by distributing basic information, you can easily offer your expertise to other parents who need help learning the art of cloth diapering.

Take Supportive Action:

  • If your local food co-op or baby store carries cloth diapers, ask if you can leave business cards or pamphlets with your contact information near the cloth diaper display.
  • Hold a support meeting and publicize it by city on Craig's List or another listing of local meetings.

Go to RDA:

  • RDA Advocacy Postcards, based on carefully documented Diaper Facts, are available in color or black & white in two sizes. Each postcard gives several strong reasons to use cloth diapering for Health, Environmental, or Cost reasons.
  • RDA Advocacy Sheets offer quick tips for starting local support projects, including getting cloth diapers into local stores and helping parents sew their own diapers.

Make Connections.

Are you the one among your friends who always knows the answers about cloth diapers? You are probably the person your friends ask when they need to know where to buy covers or natural diaper cream. You know the world of cloth diapers, and you know your local community. Connect them.

Are there other groups where you might make contact with cloth diapering parents? Are you a member of an attachment parenting, babywearing, or breastfeeding group? Savannah Rogers and Melissa Buck found contacts for local cloth diapering activism through a booth at a La Leche League conference in Georgia. Their booth was quite eye-catching

with diapers pinned on a clothesline against a blue sky background. Their contact list forms the core of the future Atlanta area diaper advocacy group.

RDA business member Brenda Wells of Gainesville, Florida, the local "Diaper Lady," invited her Sunshine Diapers customers to a picnic earlier this Spring. She wanted to get together with the large number of great local parents she had met, and she took the opportunity to tell those gathered about Real Diaper Association and encourage cloth diaper users to become cloth diaper advocates.

Help the people you know to know one another. Help them learn what they can to do support cloth diapering.

Take Connecting Action:

  • Ask a local store to carry cloth diapers. Offer contact information for local manufacturers or for national companies that offer diapers wholesale. Make it easy for them to say yes by anticipating their questions and providing good answers when you first approach them. RDA Advocacy Sheet "Cloth Diapers in Local Stores" offers some tips.
  • Have you met other experienced cloth diapering parents in your area? Ask them to join you in becoming local advocates. Support one another in your advocacy as well as supporting others in their cloth diaper use. The first RDA leader, Maya Keithly, told us, "I adore the satisfaction of seeing a parent become an advocate, I am amazed at how responsive the public now is."

Go to RDA:

  • RDA Local Resource Directory will show you whether you have RDA leaders or business members in your area. Help others find them and use their expertise. Offer to help.

Educate the General Public about the Benefits of Cloth Diapers.

Parents who will diaper their babies are not the only people who need to know that cloth diapers are still a great option. As new parents prepare for baby, friends and family members will also offer advice. Health care providers need to know about the effect of diapering options on a baby's health. Local waste officials need to know the facts concerning disposable diapers and solid waste. Social services need to know the best options for low-income diapering.

Local Leader Danielle Whittaker was concerned that standards for local daycare facilities were not allowing use of cloth diapers. So, Danielle decided to educate those who write the standards. She wrote to state and county commissioners as well as the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

Which issue is most important in your community? You know best what is the need in your community. Find that issue, and get to the heart of it.

Take Education Action:

  • Write a list of compelling cloth diapering facts and offer it to your town newspaper along with a list of contacts for local cloth diapering parents and businesses.
  • Make a note of all objections you hear to cloth diapering and make a solid plan of action to address them directly.

Go to RDA:

  • For general cloth diapering education, choose RDA pamphlet "Get Real" or advocacy postcard "Why Choose Cloth Diapers? Here are a few reasons." New parents need to know "how" and "how many." The non-parents in your community may need to know "why." Health, environment, and cost. Let them know.
  • When you need more information than you have access to, contact RDA. Tell us what support you need in your local work. We want to help.

 

Since early Spring, I have taken the opportunity to talk and write to many RDA members actively advocating cloth diapers in their local communities. The dedication and creativity of our members takes my breath away. The centralized organization of RDA allows members to pool ideas and build on the ideas and experience of others. The strength in cloth diapering advocacy, though, happens when each one of you speaks to others about your own experience. Please share your stories with us, and we will share the stories with other RDA members.

One of the simplest things you can do to start is to make yourself visible with a button or T-shirt. After the last Italian Folk Dance at the New England Folk Festival, Marie DiCocco reached into her "Real Diapers, Real Babies" tote bag to pull out the RDA brochures she had printed. The cloth-diaper curious dancer's main question was, How do I find cloth diapers today? Marie sent her away with several brochures and the address of the RDA website. One more person asked about cloth diapers. That's what we're here for.


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