Free Disposable Diapers?? I Have A Better Idea…

My husband recently sent me some information about pending legislation that would allow diapers and related supplies to be bought with grant money provided to states.  The federal program, called the Child Care and Development Fund, received $5 billion in fiscal 2011, which it distributed to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and scores of tribal governments. The program helps provide for an estimated 1.8 million children each month.

I know people fall on hard times and need a little help.  And, when it comes to kids I believe we all have to pitch in to make sure every precious life is given a fair chance at success.  However, this proposed program really irks me. Disposable diapers are very expensive.  Estimates suggest that diapering a kid from infancy to potty-training costs the average family upwards of $3,000 per kid.  However, with cloth diapers that figure can drop to well under $500, not taking into consideration that the same batch of cloth diapers and be re-used for future kids.  Why should tax dollars go towards disposable diapers when cloth is a much more economical and environmentally-friendly option?

Rather than offering disposable diapers to families in need, I propose that the government provide cloth diapering supplies and training.  Instead of giving struggling families a simple hand-out, let’s educate them on simple and realistic ways to cut expenses; cloth diapering seems like a great place to start.

How does that story go…give a man a fish, he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish, he eats for life...

If you agree with me, send a message to the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

If you’d like to learn more about cloth diapering, check out my Cloth Diapering Manifesto here:

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12 Comments for this entry

  1. ali says:

    i really like your idea, but i would add a washing machine to the list too – cloth nappies are no fun without a decent washing machine! Even with such an addition, it would still be a lot cheaper in the long run than giving away free single use diapers that end up in landfill.

  2. Thanks so much for this post. And thank you for all YOUR efforts supporting cloth diapering. I used your blog as a resource when I was first getting started with cloth and very intimidated. Your blog encouraged me tremendously. I now feel that making the decision to go with cloth was one of the best yet raising my now 11 month old child.

    I hope us cloth-diapering-parents can raise a little noise about this issue and help educate not only senators but other parents about what a great way cloth is to save money and the environment. And what a great lesson to our kids!!!

  3. Amanda says:

    I appreciate your thoughts and when I have children, I would like to cloth diaper them BUT I think you are missing a major point, as someone else also mentioned above. Many families supported by this grant likely do not have on-site washing machines and I can only imagine how someone would cloth diaper without having such facilities that many of us take for granted.

    • Maureen says:

      I appreciate your comment and feedback! Thank you!

      If anything, my suggestion is just a jumping off point to a larger discussion. Sometimes I wish legislators would think outside the box before throwing more money at a problem. As I wrote in the post, we all need to work together to give ALL babies a fair chance at a successful life. And, I also believe a little education goes a long way in making life easier for struggling families…

      I’ve lived in apartments where the laundry was outside & down two flights of stairs, and I still managed to get the diapers washed on a regular basis. It wasn’t convenient, but saving $1000 a year made it worth my while 🙂 If in a position where disposable diapers don’t fit into the budget, then cloth diapering is a logical solution.

      I do believe teaching people how to live a more self-sufficient life will, in the long run, make life easier. The whole point of my blog is to find ways to live a simpler and therefore more economical (and environmentally friendly) way of life. Cloth diapers are not difficult, and they save thousands of dollars. Until recently, cloth diapers were the only option, and the rich and poor (and everyone in between) managed just fine with them (and without a modern washing machine!).

      I’m not trying to push my own agenda; I’m just looking for creative solutions to everyday problems.

  4. Molly says:

    I love the idea, but having the opportunity to work very closely with families that would benefit greatly from this program, I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for them to access laundry facilities. For many of the families, it usually involves a bus trip with small children and laundry in tow, to the nearest laundromat. I just wanted to share this thought for everyone to consider! Thank you!

  5. addie says:

    ditto to the people above. even having to go to a laundromat that isn’t a bus ride away is already enough of a struggle. i am lucky enough to have moved into a house where we have our own laundry, otherwise i would not be cloth diapering. i appreciate your blog, and encouraging people to think outside the box, but i think you might need to think outside your own life experience a bit, too. i would say it’s pretty rare for most people in philly to have laundry even in their buildings. i’ve lived here for almost 8 years, and this is the first place that has had a washer/dryer.

    • Maureen says:

      As I’ve said, this suggestion was just a jumping off point for a larger discussion. I know some people lack access to a laundry facility – some readers have suggested including a laundry stipend or perhaps even a washer/dryer. Maybe its a diaper service? There are lots of ideas that could come together if we all put our heads together.

      Something to think about: while diapers may be .25-.40 each, which sounds like a tiny sum, if all 1.8 million kids in this program get free diapers, that amounts to $54 million every three years. There has to be a better way to make sure these sweet kids get the help they need…

      Like I said, I have no problem helping out people in need – everyone deserves a fair chance at a successful and happy life!

  6. Michell says:

    I agree with adding funding for washing machines.

    Also, the quote is from Laura Moncur, not the Bible. Source:

  7. Michell says:

    Sorry – my mistake. The quote is actually an old Chinese proverb, quoted in Laura Moncur’s book.

  8. Sasha says:

    Actually, “Give a man a fish and you will feed him a meal, teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” is a Chinese proverb. Many authors have used the phrase, but no, it is not found in the Bible, though many make this mistake.

    I just wanted to add, that all though it is far from convenient, I have washed cloth diapers in the sink, and in the bathtub. You just have to make sure you get all of the loose poop into the toilet first. If you are poor, you find a way. Cloth diapers have too many benefits to not be used because it may be difficult to clean them. I’ve known people who have gone without diapers because they refused to use cloth, and could afford the disposables, forgive me, but what idiocy! The solution is there, so many more people could be given cloth diapers with the same amount of money.

  9. Alyssa says:

    Love this article! I had this same thought when I heard about this pending legislation. Bottom line is even families in need wash their clothes. The washing issue is small considering they are receiving FREE diapers! Make sure they have several days worth of cloth and a really good wet bag!
    Education about cloth diapers would be key here too. Our legislators want to save the planet and help people, so cloth diapers is a win-win.

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