Q: Why doesn’t the diaper bank just give out cloth diapers, which can be continuously reused, rather than supply client with the throwaways that end up in the landfills and hardly ever go away?
A: The Bottom Line Diaper bank — a nonprofit run by the United Way of Champaign County at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District — actually does have some cloth diapers and diaper pails available for those parents that want them, according to public health Administrator JULIE PRYDE.
Disposables are more popular though, and if you think about that, it makes sense, she said.
Babies go through 10-12 diapers a day, and cloth diapers need to be cleaned properly. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises rinsing dirty diapers in cold water, then soaking them in a mild detergent solution with bleach, then wringing them out and washing them in hot water with a mild detergent.
Parents having trouble affording diapers may well lack a washer and dryer at home. And, Pryde said, they’re probably not going to have the resources to make several trips a week to a laundromat.
Another factor to consider is that many working parents rely on day care centers. And most child care centers require parents to provide a day’s supply of disposable diapers, according to the National Diaper Bank Network.
MARY NOEL STEFAN, director of marketing and engagement for the United Way, said parents should make their own choices about what kind of diapers are right for their babies. However, the agency believes the diaper bank can make the biggest difference with disposable diapers, she said.
Parents relying on the diaper bank for help live at or close to the poverty line, Stefan said. Cloth diapers require a lot of time in the washer, and for parents working two or three jobs, “that’s a lot of time in the laundromat,” she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said there are also some health aspects to consider.
Cloth diapers have improved over the years in terms of absorbency, but they don’t keep wetness away from a baby’s skin as effectively as disposables, the physician organization said. So when cloth diapers are used, it’s important to change diapers very soon after they become wet or soiled to avoid diaper rash.
According to the National Diaper Bank Network, disposable diapers can run a family $70 to $80 a month. And families lacking transportation to big box stores can wind up paying significantly more when they buy the diapers at convenience stores.