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"The need for diapers is 'practically infinite'"
July 30, 2013 5:58 AM   Subscribe

There have been days, since her son Ezekiel was born 11 months ago, that Los Angeles mom Beth Capper has gone without food to keep up her supply. One friend was arrested for stealing some. It's not drugs or alcohol or even baby formula that has put her in such a bind. It's diapers.
posted by the young rope-rider (335 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I first noted this yesterday linked somewhere under a title of "Mothers struggle to keep babies in diapers". I've just read the article linked here, and indeed there's a lot of gendered language in the article: keeping a kid in diapers is only a concern, a job, a duty for women.

Must be nice to be a man and not have such worries.
posted by Dashy at 6:10 AM on July 30, 2013 [35 favorites]


Get some reusable diapers?
posted by nathancaswell at 6:12 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this...
posted by bpm140 at 6:13 AM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've just read the article linked here, and indeed there's a lot of gendered language in the article: keeping a kid in diapers is only a concern, a job, a duty for women.

I thought it was because the fathers either weren't around or expected to help much, or because poor women have to take on more traditional roles.
posted by discopolo at 6:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


DeLauro's effort failed, in part because of opposition from critics such as Rush Limbaugh, who told his radio audience that "this gives a new meaning to the term 'pampering the poor.'"

Oh dear God.

I think its great that there are some schemes to help families who struggle with the cost. But the cost of disposable nappies* is a lot higher than cloth ones. Disposables in general aren't great, in terms of the environmental impact etc, although I'm aware that they save people a lot of time, and its easy for me to say as a child-free person. Maybe some awareness raising around the alternatives might be helpful?

* Sorry, I can't bring myself to type 'diapers'.
posted by billiebee at 6:16 AM on July 30, 2013


From the article:
Cloth diapers are often not an option because they require frequent and expensive trips to the laundromat.
posted by needled at 6:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [171 favorites]


Plus, cloth might work out cheaper in the long run, but the initial outlay is a lot more. I'm guessing that if you're struggling to pay $18 for a week's worth of disposables, you're going to struggle a whole lot more to come up with $100-$200 for a set of cloth alternatives.
posted by Catseye at 6:19 AM on July 30, 2013 [60 favorites]


If only there were some way to clean a cloth diaper within the household. Perhaps some form of liquid that could be brought into the home. Maybe municipalities could look into a piping system of some kind.
posted by crazylegs at 6:20 AM on July 30, 2013 [28 favorites]


So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this...

Dropped in for the snark about disposable diapers being a luxury. Was not disappointed. Stay awesome!

The level of support for early childhood care in the US, which has been in a "save the beautiful, angelic blobs of fetal tissue" frenzy for decades now, is shameful. It isn't just diapers. It's the entire spectrum of social support for new families which other advanced democracies have no problems providing but which, in the US, is seen as an impossible indulgence.

It's almost as if we'd prefer the children of poor and lower middle class families to grow up deprived and in fear so that the brutal logic of our capitalist system can be realized, concretely, in their bodies.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:20 AM on July 30, 2013 [245 favorites]


Cloth diapers are often not an option because they require frequent and expensive trips to the laundromat.

Yeah, I haven't rtfa yet, but this was my immediate thought upon reading all the comments. If you don't have laundry facilities in your home/apartment, how on earth do you keep up with the cloth diaper maintenance?
posted by phunniemee at 6:21 AM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


If only there were some way to clean a cloth diaper within the household. Perhaps some form of liquid that could be brought into the home. Maybe municipalities could look into a piping system of some kind.

Yes, but doing diaper laundry by hand is almost impossible. If you don't have a washing machine, then all the running water in the world isn't going to do you any good.
posted by anastasiav at 6:22 AM on July 30, 2013 [47 favorites]


If you don't have laundry facilities in your home/apartment, how on earth do you keep up with the cloth diaper maintenance?

In whatever way humans managed for the millennia before the invention of Pampers?
posted by billiebee at 6:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's also worth noting that daycares often do not allow cloth diapers, making them literally not an option if daycare is necessary for your economic survival.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [135 favorites]


Well! It's those poor people's fault for not using cloth diapers! Glad that's settled.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:24 AM on July 30, 2013 [101 favorites]


In the article, it suggests that cloth diapers need frequent laundering, involving trips to the laundromat, which are expensive. But I do wonder if that is a function of how we are losing our skills to do things inexpensively, possibly due to advertising by corporations.

Cloth diapers are often marketed as a rich-people thing, better for the environment. And I think they're not often marketed as "cheaper". But they really, really are.

When I was a girl, we had a washboard and a clothesline. A little detergent goes a long way - and cloth diapers are actually really easy /and/ cheap to make. You can run a clothesline indoors. Cloth diapers get rinsed in the toilet, then could be washed in the sink with a little bleach.

I don't think mothers should be shamed for not using them - but I think they should be encouraged to do so.
posted by corb at 6:25 AM on July 30, 2013 [32 favorites]


It's also worth noting that daycares often do not allow cloth diapers, making them literally not an option if daycare is necessary for your economic survival.

Ok, that makes sense, thanks.
posted by billiebee at 6:25 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


If only there were some way to clean a cloth diaper within the household. Perhaps some form of liquid that could be brought into the home. Maybe municipalities could look into a piping system of some kind.

And to rebut this, are you going to come into my neighbor's home and hand clean her poopy diapers for her? Because she's got at least two kids in diapers currently. This is a lady I see three times a week bringing a HUGE heaping cart-load of clean laundry back from the laundromat--at 7:30am when I leave for work, meaning she's been up and doing laundry since at least 6am.
posted by phunniemee at 6:25 AM on July 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


Disposable diapers are were invented in 1948.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah put me in the "if you're not prepared to get poop all over yourself, don't have a kid" camp.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Didn't see the preview: that is a real and shitty concern (daycares not allowing cloth diapers). Any idea when this started happening? Is that a law, or do they just not want to keep the bags/do the work?
posted by corb at 6:27 AM on July 30, 2013


If only there were some way to clean a cloth diaper within the household. Perhaps some form of liquid that could be brought into the home. Maybe municipalities could look into a piping system of some kind.

OK, man here, no kids, almost certainly will never have any or have any cause to diaper a baby. On the other hand, I do vaguely remember the tail end of my younger brother's diaper use, and it was a lot of work for my mom, who, as far as I can tell, probably was dealing with kids in diapers pretty much continuously for the better part of a dozen years. I gather the cloth diaper process was fairly time intensive (as well as smelly and a bit grueling), and my mom had the advantages of a) being a stay at home mother, b) living in a house with some room, and c) having a husband who was, despite his faults, pretty good with baby stuff like diapers and cleaning up vomit.

I do not imagine cloth diapers for a working single mother (especially if you read the McDonald's budget thread and followed some of the scheduling shenanigans that go on in fast food) are a "simple and obvious solution." Maybe some of the snarkmeisters in the thread know better than me. I admit I am ignorant; correct me if I am wrong.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:27 AM on July 30, 2013 [38 favorites]


bpm140: "So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this..."

I am glad it has already been pointed out by needled why this might not be a great option for all people, and this is going to be especially true where all the adults in a family are already stretched for time just making ends meet.

But even if your characterisation was correct and the woman was doing this because she was some kind of intense immense prima-donna, you realise that it's the kid that has to wear the nappies and deal with the consequences, yeah?
posted by curious.jp at 6:28 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am trying to imagine anywhere in my apartment where cleaning multiple dirty cloth diapers would be sanitary and even plausible (no tub, no backyard) and I'm coming up short. But I thought maybe I was missing something, so I tried looking up tips for washing cloth diapers by hand-- and found a blog post by a very pro-cloth diaper mother who created her own backyard washing machine with a 10 gallon bucket and plunger. Her routine involved a long period of time with a lot of rapid arm movements (something like 100 plunges per tiny load of diapers) plus the cost of hot water. I can see how that would be hard, even impossible, for a 41 year-old single mother with a disability. I can see how that would be really hard, even impossible, for a lot of people.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:29 AM on July 30, 2013 [52 favorites]


Cloth diapers and breast milk! Having a baby is practically free!
posted by rocketpup at 6:30 AM on July 30, 2013 [65 favorites]


In whatever way humans managed for the millenia before the invention of Pampers?

You've never actually tried to wash heavily soiled laundry by hand, have you?

Look, I get what you're saying, but prior to the invention of the washing machine there were other tools (washboards for one, ringer for another) that were used for doing heavy duty laundry by hand. You can't just rinse diapers out in the sink and let them dry. It's heavy, physical labor to move all that wet cloth around and scrub it and wash it in hot enough water to get it truly clean and sanitized.
posted by anastasiav at 6:30 AM on July 30, 2013 [33 favorites]


Ok, again, for the jerks: knowing how to make, clean, and maintain cloth diapers is not a skill people are born with. It isn't self-evidently obvious and it creates significant difficulties in multiple areas of a new parent's life. So it isn't the case that being unable to afford disposable diapers has a self-evident alternative solution.

If you would like to snark further about poor people not wanting to 'get poop' on themselves, please offer a concrete suggestion about how the skills and logistical difficulties of switching to cloth diapers for poor people could be addressed.

Thanks.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:30 AM on July 30, 2013 [121 favorites]


I put my kids in cloth nappies at a time I really struggled to buy food and other necessities. In order to afford the nappies I bought them one at a time from a factory that made them (they were seconds so they were cheaper). The factory was about a two hour car drive (one way) from my home, or about four or five hours one way via public transit (...with a newborn...fun) that cost about $40 for the trip. I had to buy three different sizes so I was hit with that upfront cost three times. Because I could not afford a large supply (and sometimes the nappies would wear out/rip (they had defects because they were seconds)/or an epic shit would destroy them, they were a larger expense then most people think.

I had about a days supply for the first year or so of my first daughter's life. I was working from the time she was a few months old so she was in daycare and I had to make sure she had enough nappies to last the day at daycare. This meant every day after work I would make dinner then troop down three flights of stairs with the sodden nappies and the increasingly heavy baby to the laundromat about a fifteen minute walk in the Annex. I would wash and dry the nappies, taking about an hour and a half each night, often hungry as she nursed away and my food budget fed those machines. Sometimes I would wash the lightly soiled ones in the bathtub at home and try to dry them in the apartment but as drying times were so long (these were prefolded) this resulted in damp nappies being put on her at times. At home I often kept her naked, with towels under her to catch anything flying out her bum, to save the precious supply of nappies for the child care. I understand that cloth nappies SEEM logical and cost effective but they do come with a steep monetary and temporal cost unless you are already starting out in a privileged position with time, money and equipment people living in poverty do not have.
posted by saucysault at 6:31 AM on July 30, 2013 [214 favorites]


Bootstraps can be woven into a very personally-responsible child waste catching device.
posted by dr_dank at 6:32 AM on July 30, 2013 [58 favorites]


Cloth diapers are very labour intensive, and would take forever to dry indoors (I'm assuming that all you people who think that they can be washed in the sink will understand that a lot of people don't have dryers in their apartments yes?). A damp diaper will cause rashes, and bad rashes can lead to infections. Diapers are basic baby care and the lack of them is a health issue, not a laziness or lack of resourcefulness issue. I'm really disappointed by the comments here so far-- how can it be so hard to understand that diapers are a necessity, that washing and drying them is a huge job requiring equipment that may be standard in middle-class homes but certainly is not in a rental, and that having to reuse diapers is a very bad thing for a child for health reasons?
posted by jokeefe at 6:33 AM on July 30, 2013 [40 favorites]


Yes, but doing diaper laundry by hand is almost impossible.

I'm sorry but that's so not true. We use flat cloth diapers and wash them by hand. A bathtub, plunger and some Tide and you're good to go.

I think the real problem here is education about cloth diaper options, most people think they're expensive and hard to wash and some types are, but not all of them. I wish there was some sort of widely available resource for pregnant women to teach them about cloth diapering. For now I just give to Giving Diapers, Giving Hope when I can.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:34 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, my son grew up in cloth diapers-- and I paid every month for a diaper service. This is not something a person on social assistance could afford.
posted by jokeefe at 6:35 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow the amount of blame the poor going on in this thread is amazing yet kinda predictable.

The truth of the matter is that cloth diapers simply aren't an option for most working poor. A large number of working poor rely on laundromats to wash clothes and the option of running to the laundromat multiple times a week to do soiled diapers really isn't realistic. Hell I'm not even sure most laundromats would put up with it.

Cloth diapers also have a big upfront cost and like others have said aren't necessarily realistic for people that rely on childcare for their kids because most childcare facilities aren't going to deal with sorting soiled diapers into take-home bags.

Yeah if you live in a community where you can put your wash out on the line to dry and have a washer at home this is a great solution but for better or worse most urban poor don't have a stay at home parent anymore and don't really have the resources for doing clothes at home cheaply.
posted by vuron at 6:35 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


My wife and I looked at the environmental math of cloth v. disposable diapers, and it doesn't actually look like cloth diapers are better for the environment. The environmental cost of heating and purifying the water to clean the diapers is higher than the environmental cost of dealing with disposables. If you use a diaper service for cleaning the cloth diapers, it just makes it worse.

As a nation we could make changes that would effect this: we could stop using landfills and start burning our garbage for heat, or we could enforce a massive washer/dryer efficiency campaign. But given present conditions, it's better for the environment to use disposables. (And it's better for women, on whom this work traditionally falls.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:36 AM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Surely the irony is that disposable nappies were invented in part to save time and work for women, but they've become a burden in their own right? The problem is economics, not the type of nappy used. If you have enough time and money you can have as many disposables as you want, or take as many trips to the laundromat as you want. I realise this story is really about the economic reality of having a child, and the impact of that on (particularly) women on low incomes. I totally appreciate the work involved in cloth nappies, although I am also aware of the environmental impact of disposables. There is certainly no judgement on any person's real-life choice. I was just suggesting considering an alternative, but I get that it's not that easy.
posted by billiebee at 6:36 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry but that's so not true. We use flat cloth diapers and wash them by hand. A bathtub, plunger and some Tide and you're good to go.

How do you dry them?
posted by jokeefe at 6:36 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]



So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this...


It just so happened that I lived with a friend who was using cloth diapers and was...well, let's say, Very Broke. She could use our washer and drier for free at any point, so she didn't have the "deal with the laundromat" issue. Babies go through a lot of diapers. You need a diaper pail, which is extremely smelly (and caused our cat to freak out - "o god why is there human waste here!!!???!!") and you need the time to run lots of laundry every day. (Or at least she did.) If she had been paying for every load, I don't know how she would have made it. If she'd had to haul a stinking diaper pail to the laundromat without a car (and we have a laundromat about 3/4 mile away)....well, that would have been very hard. And very expensive, because it would have meant two bus trips as well as the laundromat. And fitting all that in around a lousy minimum-wage gig with a big bus commute and irregular hours? Also very tough.

Now, I'm not saying that it can't be done - by an exceedingly tough, healthy, determined person who is both lucky (good laundromat nearby, comparatively regular work hours, regular buses) and very emotionally resilient, of course - but we know by now that treating these rare exceptional people as the norm by which everyone else should be measured doesn't work. A few people bootstrap themselves out of poverty; a few people can lose large amounts of weight and keep it off; a few people can recover completely from intensely traumatic events; a few people go through really bad shit in war and don't get PTSD or other health problems....and when we try to set policy by saying "everyone could be like the exceptional, awesome people if they only tried harder" then everything falls apart*.

On another note - look, my friend is a pretty smart person with a lot of skills. If we're saying "ha ha, no subsidized diapers for you, you can spend the next couple of years in immiserating shit work [literally]" then we're also saying "you will use all your intellect and skills just to keep your baby in clean diapers, not to go to school, not to volunteer, not to get in a position to do the skilled trade at which you are talented - we are so anxious to punish you for having a baby while poor that we will deprive ourselves of your actual talents".

*And yet, mysteriously, we don't run other areas of life this way. For example, hey, I'm a quick reader with a large vocabulary and I'm a fairly glib writer and speaker. When I was in school, no one said to the other kids "now, Frowner is the normal kind of reader, writer and speaker - if you all tried harder, you could be reading at an advanced level and working on a [terrible] novel". Similarly, no one said to us, "Jim [the football star, all-round athlete and guy with a gymnastics background] has the normal kind of physical skills, and the only reason you all aren't like him is because you are lazy and soft." No, the only time we get into this "you must be like this extraordinary person or you are a Failure" is when admitting that normal people need help in difficult circumstances would cost money and require some effort.
posted by Frowner at 6:36 AM on July 30, 2013 [278 favorites]


I'll withhold my instinctive snark and ask a serious question. My mother had a baby in 1959, another in 1960, skipped 1961 then made up for it with twins in 1962, then had me in 1963. She never used disposable diapers. My father probably helped from time to time but it was pretty much her. How did she do it? In early 1964 she had three babies in diapers along with a four year old and a five year old to take care of.

Me, I spent $300 on a vasectomy in 1990 and my life is very quiet and orderly.
posted by crazylegs at 6:37 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot about how we (as a society, as metafilter) talk about and frame discussions about how various kinds of people (races, classes, ethnicities, etc.) cope with difficulties.

By and large, we seem to presume that middle class and wealthy people (and corporations) are forced into difficult circumstances by systemic issues. But poor people? Their difficulties all come down to being lazy and/or ignorant. It's not a question of infrastructure, or a systemic set of barriers that they face; it's because the poor are not taking personal responsibility.

Gross.
posted by rtha at 6:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [88 favorites]


Did your mom work outside of the home, or did she spend all her time taking care of kids?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


Well, this isn't Metafilter's finest hour, is it?

Meanwhile, America's slide into the third world continues, complete with a marching band led by a guy in a big hat waving a baton.
posted by Naberius at 6:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


Afaik it's not illegal or against licensing standards to use cloth diapers in daycares, but local and state laws vary widely so I'm not confident.

Cloth diapers are against policy at many, many daycares, presumably because of a mix of stubbornness and genuine sanitary concerns (no toilet easily available for poop dumping, bags needing to be stored separately and out of reach of the children, etc).

Poorer women have fewer options for care, sometimes literally no option besides the one daycare that takes the subsidy and has a spot for their child. Or their hours vary and they work nights and only one at-home daycare can accommodate it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:39 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I was a girl, we had a washboard and a clothesline. A little detergent goes a long way - and cloth diapers are actually really easy /and/ cheap to make. You can run a clothesline indoors. Cloth diapers get rinsed in the toilet, then could be washed in the sink with a little bleach.

When I tried this in a house without central air-conditioning, we had a lot of mold in a very short time. And my kids were older so I had fans placed all over the place, you can't do that with toddlers. (The fans just spread the moisture around anyway, they didn't prevent mold.) I raised 2 kids on my own while working full-time plus picking up freelance work whenever possible, and even I have a hard time grokking the nonstop obstacles that stand in the way of poor parents.

If you think "just wash them at home" is the answer, you do not understand poverty. In fact, anytime you're about to respond to someone else's problem with "just..." anything, then you probably do not understand their problem. So just don't.
posted by headnsouth at 6:40 AM on July 30, 2013 [108 favorites]


How do you dry them?

We hang them to dry in front of a box fan and if they aren't dry in the morning I iron them. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've had to iron them in the last year, but I'm a very good hand wringer so YMMV of course. Also we don't have central heat and air so I imagine if you did it'd be even easier to air dry them.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:40 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this...

The article also mentions that the woman is on disability. Perhaps bending over a bathtub to clean cloth diapers isn't an option for her.

I just bought diapers for the first time the other day to donate them to a local charity via my church. I was able to buy them at Costco, and it was about $40 for 160 diapers (size 5) or 25 cents per diaper. Babies go through, what, about 8 diapers a day? That's $2 a day, $60 a month. That's a big chunk of a small income, and that's based on the ability to get them at Costco, which the article said is often a problem because of the large upfront cost, not to mention paying for a Costco membership. So I'm going to guess that it's actually more expensive than that.
posted by booksherpa at 6:40 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would guess $80/month was the most we spent on disposables for our daughter, but when she was really young and burning through them the quickest we were still getting lots of diapers as gifts. The big problem with big boxes is when your kid outgrows a size and you have most of a box left. So frustrating.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:43 AM on July 30, 2013


I should stress:

This is absolutely not about poor people making bad choices. This is about systemic campaigns to make poor people into consumers - just like when we told poor women that formula was better for their babies than breastmilk.

When we do that, they lose the skills they already had. They lose the skills of doing things cheaply, because the advertising says they are wrong and bad or bad mothers or Not Really American if they do that. Like the idea that handwashing is done only in third world countries - it is reductive and wrong.

I wonder if this is something that existing education organizations could take on, to reteach the skills our mothers thought they were not supposed to pass on? When I had my baby (young, single, poor) La Leche League really helped me get started on nursing. They helped me figure out how to make it work with my job too. Maybe offering literature at hospitals or offering classes would be helpful. And perhaps advocacy organizations could reach out to daycares.
posted by corb at 6:46 AM on July 30, 2013 [28 favorites]


crazylegs: "My mother had a baby in 1959, another in 1960, skipped 1961 then made up for it with twins in 1962, then had me in 1963. She never used disposable diapers. My father probably helped from time to time but it was pretty much her. How did she do it? In early 1964 she had three babies in diapers along with a four year old and a five year old to take care of."

Did she work a full time job at the time? At least 40 hours a week? If so, what was her commute like? How much time did it take round-trip? Did she have the ability to dry the diapers outside on a clothesline? I would be willing to bet that she spent a TON of time dealing with laundry, alone. Laundry detergent and bleach are not cheap, either when you're washing half a dozen to a dozen diapers per day.

I have twins (who are thankfully out of diapers) but when they were at that stage we went through diapers at a very, very rapid pace. We shopped for them (and formula, and wipes) in bulk and when the kids expanded their diets to solid food we made their food from scratch, which turned out to be a significant savings. And that was just with two kids. I can only imagine what three would have been like.
posted by zarq at 6:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


They can't help themselves.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:47 AM on July 30, 2013


I washed all my daughter's cloth diapers and even frequently hung them on the line to dry, and from that experience I can tell you, until there is large scale cultural and political change on this issue, it is not a realistic option for most people.

Many day cares won't accept cloth, it requires a big up front investment (or hand-me-downs, but for that you need friends who also use cloth), a reliable washer and dryer, spare time, and support from friends and family and your pediatrician and whoever wants to make comments at the park or grocery store. Even my hippy friends gave me weird looks about it at times.
posted by latkes at 6:49 AM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


I work in a nonprofit childcare where many of our families struggle to afford diapers. There are several reasons why a preschool might disallow cloth diapers.

We are also NAEYC accredited and up until a few years ago NAEYC (sort of the gold star of accrediting bodies and considered a mark of extremely high quality) would not allow us to do cloth diapering. The reasoning being that asking teachers to handle soiled diapers was a health concern and also asking a lot of people making $10 an hour. Now it's allowed by NAEYC with added stipulations:

For children who require cloth diapers, the diaper has an absorbent inner lining
completely contained within an outer covering made of waterproof material that
prevents the escape of feces and urine. Both the diaper and the outer covering are
changed as a unit.
Cloth diapers and clothing that are soiled by urine or feces are immediately placed
in a plastic bag (without rinsing or avoidable handling) and sent home that day for laundering.


So now we can have cloth diapers but I know my teachers hate dealing with them. The problem is that because of health codes we cannot have teachers washing bodily fluids and feces off of diapers into our hand washing sinks. Which means if cloth diapers are sent to school when you pick up your child you also literally take home a sack of shit. It makes the room smell. The cloth diapers also (generally) tend to leak more which means extra sanitizing of the room. When you have 8 infants to care for having to spend an extra 15 minutes of housekeeping loses valuable time for caregivers to interact meaningfully with children.

We are also required to change diapers every two hours and our average child stays at school for about 10 hours. Which means we need a minimum of 5 diapers at school each day. And if your child runs out of diapers we are calling you at work to ask you to bring some because we can't afford to provide them. (We do provide wipes, diaper cream, formula and table food but diapers are SO expensive.)
posted by Saminal at 6:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [37 favorites]


I expect that many of these folks resort to buying diapers at their local corner market, where they are no doubt buying small packages and thus getting creamed on the cost per diaper. Even if the local shelters, churches, etc were to charge parents for diapers, their ability to buy in bulk would seem to make the cost much more reasonable (though perhaps still not reasonable enough).

As far as cloth goes, I think many of you don't realize just how many times a kid can soil a diaper in a single day. Add one or two more kids into the mix, and you probably need to carve out a solid hour every night washing the things. That's an hour many working poor don't have.

The big problem with big boxes is when your kid outgrows a size and you have most of a box left. So frustrating.

Donate those bad boys!
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


By and large, we seem to presume that middle class and wealthy people (and corporations) are forced into difficult circumstances by systemic issues. But poor people? Their difficulties all come down to being lazy and/or ignorant. It's not a question of infrastructure, or a systemic set of barriers that they face; it's because the poor are not taking personal responsibility.

Isn't it very condescending towards low income people to assume that they can't take personal responsibility?

I think your point is a good one, and I agree with it. But the fact is that, in a system where poor people are getting screwed (which, frankly, includes most systems ever devised by humanity), you'll probably get farther solving your own problems than asking society to do it for you. This may not be "right", but it's reality.

I don't think it's right to blame people for being poor. But I also don't agree that people with little money should never be judged. This "nobody should ever judge anybody else for anything" attitude is not productive.
posted by crazylegs at 6:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I agree 100% with Corb. I don't understand how anyone who has been here for more than a few weeks can think MeFites would blame the poor for not making the right choices.

This is about depriving the poor from tools that would make their lives easier for the sake of consumerism and profit. It is perfectly feasible to wash and dry diapers at home with a sink and a rope. Also to feed your baby with the equipment nature gave you. We just make people believe this is not good enough. They need to buy stuff and it doesn't matter if their children suffer or they are in debt as long as we break a profit.
posted by Tarumba at 6:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Since it's thr LAT, I expect vague reporting. How does Ms. Capper keep her own clothes clean? Where's the father? She doesn't work because of an unspecified disability--so how does she manage a baby? Typical of the paper--all the questions asked by commenters here and there are pretty logical, but the reporter and editors just skip over those pesky details that might threaten the story.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is about systemic campaigns to make poor people into consumers - just like when we told poor women that formula was better for their babies than breastmilk.

Spot on. Except that the mass shift from hand-labor to manufactured goods only worked as long as there was a functioning middle class around to buy all those domestically produced goods. Start shifting those jobs overseas and have only extremely low wage service industry jobs as an alternative, and the system becomes immediately perverse.

Something is going to have to give. Either a large increase in the minimum wage, or the development of a robust social welfare system. I'm not optimistic on either score, but you can only stretch poor people so thin before real dysfunction starts to become endemic.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:51 AM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


For all those suggesting washing cloth diapers by hand and stringing up a clothes line inside...I have lived in more than one apartment where that was a violation of the lease and grounds for eviction.
posted by sio42 at 6:52 AM on July 30, 2013 [30 favorites]


Isn't it very condescending towards low income people to assume that they can't take personal responsibility?

I'm not assuming that.
posted by rtha at 6:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm low-income. I use disposable diapers. It's possible to get them inexpensively using the right coupons, the right sales, etc, etc. Like most things I do to be a Morally Upright Responsible Poor Person, it takes time.

I'm an at-home parent of two kids. I have plenty of time. In my experience this is emphatically not the case for most parents at my income level.

This thread is depressing and I'm going to the playground now.
posted by gerstle at 6:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [53 favorites]


I don't understand how anyone who has been here for more than a few weeks can think MeFites would blame the poor for not making the right choices.

I don't understand how anyone reading this thread can think that Mefites are innocent of poverty-shaming.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [88 favorites]


Now, I'm not saying that it can't be done - by an exceedingly tough, healthy, determined person who is both lucky (good laundromat nearby, comparatively regular work hours, regular buses) and very emotionally resilient, of course - but we know by now that treating these rare exceptional people as the norm by which everyone else should be measured doesn't work. A few people bootstrap themselves out of poverty; a few people can lose large amounts of weight and keep it off; a few people can recover completely from intensely traumatic events; a few people go through really bad shit in war and don't get PTSD or other health problems....and when we try to set policy by saying "everyone could be like the exceptional, awesome people if they only tried harder" then everything falls apart*.

This, this, a thousand thousand times. When I read comments like the following:

This is about depriving the poor from tools that would make their lives easier for the sake of consumerism and profit. It is perfectly feasible to wash and dry diapers at home with a sink and a rope. Also to feed your baby with the equipment nature gave you. We just make people believe this is not good enough.

I can't get much farther than a huge WTF. North American society is actively hostile to children in many ways, but it always surprises me to see it laid out so baldly. I suppose I shouldn't be, but what can I say.
posted by jokeefe at 6:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


Here's one option for helping. I was thinking about how a charity cloth diaper service might work... probably best in a large city. The infrastructure would be tricky and you'd need a combination of volunteers and cash.
posted by selfnoise at 6:56 AM on July 30, 2013


> My wife and I looked at the environmental math of cloth v. disposable diapers, and it doesn't actually look like cloth diapers are better for the environment

I did similar research a few years ago, when I was pregnant, and as I recall the studies that show what you're saying were done by the disposable diaper industry.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:57 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Cloth diapers are a low-cost option if and only if you have the time, equipment, know how, physical ability and property owner's permission to clean them yourself. That's it. That's the argument right there.

Is there anything left to talk about, other than how disgustingly entitled MeFi can be?
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [51 favorites]


People, people. Stop the cloth versus disposable debate. The obvious solution is to go diaper free!
posted by Epsilon-minus semi moron at 6:59 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


A lot of women don't breastfeed because it is literally economically impossible for them to do so.

Again, educating people about what you think is best for them does not help them find childcare that will accommodate cloth diapers or a humane work environment where they can pump.

Marketing affects behavior to be sure, but many of the purchasing decisions of the poor are rational. More rational than knee-jerk "cloth diapers and breastfeeding are the solution to abject poverty" kinds of ideas.

In fact, I imagine that poor people are less subject to irrational decisions based on marketing because it's so much more vital to their survival than it is for people with safety nets in place. But that's just a guess...
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:59 AM on July 30, 2013 [41 favorites]


Plastic pants. When my younger sibs were in (cloth) diapers, 40 years ago, we also had to have plastic pants -- that phrase is drummed into my consciousness, but I've not heard it in 40 years, I bet. Because cloth diapers leak like the dickens. I dunno if "plastic pants" were actually plastic, but they had elasticized legs (like disposables) ... that would wear out within a month from all the washings. I bet they weren't cheap.

Then there's the poop. A vision burnt into my brain is my mother, on her knees in front of a toilet, seat lifted, both hands in the toilet with a poopy diaper ... most baby poops don't drop out neatly into the toilet for flushing. Blergh.

And she *had* a washer and dryer. And stayed at home.

It's much harder to sterilize cloth diapers than most folk here suggest; even if the difficulty of cleaning cloth diapers is propaganda by the disposables industry, are you going to test this theory on your infant?

I'll be over here, trying to bleach my brain. Baby poop. Yeeach.
posted by allthinky at 6:59 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Uh, there should have been a link there. Diaper free movement. Google it.
posted by Epsilon-minus semi moron at 7:00 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


as I recall the studies that show what you're saying were done by the disposable diaper industry.

One of the first studies was industry-funded, yes. More recent studies have not been. (And my wife has the ability to do an independent evaluation and came to similar conclusions, but she's not a Mefite so I don't want to involve her as some sort of appeal to authority.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:00 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cloth diapers are a low-cost option if and only if you have the time, equipment, know how, physical ability and property owner's permission to clean them yourself. That's it. That's the argument right there.

Yeap. With most low income mothers working insane hours plus taking care of the new babies, the system is pretty much set up so you must depend on plastic disposable crap.
posted by Tarumba at 7:01 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was a girl, we had a washboard and a clothesline.

And you probably also had a back yard in which to hang that clothesline. What does a clothesline do for the woman in a tenement apartment where the landlord says she can't put anything on the fire escape?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


Diapers.com helps me a great bit; knock knock at the door and a lower price than anywhere local. The diapers, they price like Orange Juice; smaller the quantity larger the price ... 60 from a local big box store price out near what 160 cost to have delivered.
posted by buzzman at 7:01 AM on July 30, 2013


And if you don't think there are still tenement apartments out there, I'd like you to have seen my own apartment on the Lower East Side.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


are you going to test this theory on your infant?

I am, but then again I come from a third world country with 30 million people who mostly survived using cloth diapers washed in a nearby river.
posted by Tarumba at 7:03 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


North American society is actively hostile to children in many ways,

Not exactly. Society is hostile to the poor, which includes poor children, because they have less to offer its large corporations as consumers. But as far as I can see, middle- and upper-class children with their endless expensive cross-branded electronic toys, disposable diapers and antibiotic wipes and soaps, SUV-sized strollers and modular car seats -- these children are absolutely beloved of society.
posted by aught at 7:03 AM on July 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


Diapers.com helps me a great bit; knock knock at the door and a lower price than anywhere local.

And what does Diapers.com do for people who don't have computers?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:03 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


And what does Diapers.com do for people who don't have computers?

I'll avoid going to diapers.com at work to see for myself, but another question: is there a toggle to read it in Spanish?
posted by phunniemee at 7:04 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Uh, hopefully between the Children's Institute and some variety of social services; Capper is able to jump into the year 2010 or so.
posted by buzzman at 7:05 AM on July 30, 2013


When we do that, they lose the skills they already had. They lose the skills of doing things cheaply, because the advertising says they are wrong and bad or bad mothers or Not Really American if they do that. Like the idea that handwashing is done only in third world countries - it is reductive and wrong.


I mean, I suspect a lot of it is structural, too. Most of the apartments that I've had have had no bathtub or weird old, busted bathtubs. I wouldn't trust the plumbing to get up to a sanitary temperature, nor would I trust the plumbing to hold up to the refuse. Many of them have had no areas for drying clothing outside (which I actually love doing) or have had rules against clotheslines. I've been lucky enough in the past to mostly have central air, but I've lived in places where hanging clothing up to dry was a recipe for mildew and general mold. My apartment currently has old, beautiful wooden floorboards. When I hang clothing (from our washing machine) up to dry on a rack, I have to put down towels and other kinds of barriers to make sure that the floor is going to be okay. (Even aside from the amount of time this kind of laundering presumably takes.)

I do think that some of the cultural barriers can and should be eliminated, like putting clothing out to dry, or sanitary washing with bleach. But honestly, I think the problem goes much deeper.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:05 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


> What does a clothesline do for the woman in a tenement apartment where the landlord says she can't put anything on the fire escape?

Not just tenement apartments. Many HOA's forbid hanging out laundry to dry outside.
posted by needled at 7:06 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Never mind computers or a command of English, how many have credit cards or bank accounts. (screams)
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:07 AM on July 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


Isn't it very condescending towards low income people to assume that they can't take personal responsibility?

Maybe a good start would be if we stopped defining "personal responsibility" as synonymous with behaving according to the exact shibboleths and unexamined assumptions of the sort of upper-middle class person who shops at Whole Foods and listens to NPR?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:07 AM on July 30, 2013 [66 favorites]


I am, but then again I come from a third world country with 30 million people who mostly survived using cloth diapers washed in a nearby river.

About 22,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from poverty-related diseases. One of the most important of these causes is contaminated water supplies. There's a real cost to washing human waste into the river, maybe not for your community, but for the one downstream.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:08 AM on July 30, 2013 [35 favorites]


The obvious solution is to go diaper free

As I mentioned, I often had my kids naked at home (plus yesterday I borrowed my neighbour's one year old with a rashy bum and had him pee all over my new floor again) so yeah, that can work ... at home. I haven't seen a child care centre that supports diaper free though, have you?
posted by saucysault at 7:09 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I'll avoid going to diapers.com at work to see for myself, but another question: is there a toggle to read it in Spanish"

I called; they have Spanish speaking operators.
posted by buzzman at 7:09 AM on July 30, 2013


About 22,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from poverty-related diseases. One of the most important of these causes is contaminated water supplies. There's a real cost to washing human waste into the river, maybe not for your community, but for the one downstream.

Not to mention a second problem with the "I come from a third world country where people washed diapers in the river" argument - what about the poor families who don't live by a river?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:12 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


the sort of upper-middle class person who shops at Whole Foods and listens to NPR

I was thinking more along the lines of making stuff yourself, fixing stuff yourself, and using your own ingenuity to come up with solutions. These are all skills that are extremely valuable for anyone, but especially low income people. One's level of involvement with Whole Foods or NPR is entirely irrelevant.
posted by crazylegs at 7:12 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


My theory is that if you've never changed a diaper you don't need to have an opinion on this subject. And your opinion, if you have one, ain't worth shit.

Especially if you use any disposable products yourself you could do without with just a modicum of effort.

Changing diapers and feeding babies is the most important job on earth, equalled only by growing food. It ought to pay well. But since it doesn't for many people (most of whom are women), of all the people to begrudge a little convenience, why not start with, I don't know, nearly any one of the dozens of disposable products that don't need to be disposable used by most Americans with middle class incomes, let alone the useless toys of the well off.
posted by spitbull at 7:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [41 favorites]


corb: "When I had my baby (young, single, poor) La Leche League really helped me get started on nursing."

Slight derail here. Apologies.

That's great for you, but LLL isn't always a good option for new moms. Our preemies refused to latch on. The nurses in the hospital made her feel like an unfit mother for not breastfeeding. (Note, my wife wound up *pumping* so the kids were actually getting breastmilk, just not directly from the nipple.) And then around three months demand began to outpace production. When my wife called La Leche League to ask for help and advice, they not only told her that pumped breast milk wasn't good enough, but one of the consultants actually said she was being selfish for not doing everything in her power to breastfeed from the nipple. Because what every overwhelmed mother of infant twins needs is someone telling her she's failing to be a good mom to her children.

Lactation consultants are great. They do good work and more power to 'em if they do it with kindness and compassion. But the pervasive attitude that some apparently hold which says a mom who doesn't feed a baby directly from a nipple is doing their kid harm and that formula should never, ever be considered a viable alternative to breast milk no matter the circumstance, is complete bullshit.
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [50 favorites]


smaller the quantity larger the price

But isn't that part of the problem? Larger quantities are cheaper per item, but not everyone can afford the initial costs of buying larger quantities. Also, I would imagine that not having a credit or debit card could be an issue.
posted by amarynth at 7:16 AM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


anotherpanacea, my point was I intent to try it, I am not planning to wash anything in the river. Infant mortality in my country isn't particularly high, either.

One way people are convinced to resort to things like plastic diapers and baby formula is fear instilled in them. People fear bacteria, seeing breasts, not being able to sterilize diapers to insane standards. What I am saying is many of those requirements are not necessary to bring up a healthy child. They are things they make you believe that in the long run contribute to children growing up with weak inmune systems and mothers working their butts off for to buy goods they do not need.

Also, way to not shame the American poor but shame the poor in 3rd world countries. How can they not care about the environment? If only they followed the US's environmental standards!
posted by Tarumba at 7:17 AM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


gerstle: " It's possible to get them inexpensively using the right coupons, the right sales, etc, etc. "

Pampers used to send us monthly coupons in the mail. $1 off a box. $5 off a box. We signed up for both kids. Saved us a ton of money over time.
posted by zarq at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dropped in for the snark about disposable diapers being a luxury. Was not disappointed. Stay awesome!

There was recently a post about the country that did "baby boxes," and how they have changed over the years. They started with cloth, went to disposable, and are back on cloth because of environmental issues and parental preferences.

In this article, I don't see how disposables can be considered a luxury, but rather that cloth is a necessity.

As for the laundering...from my limited experience, you can do this without the washing machine. I grew up poor, had poor relatives, and am old enough that some people still used cloth because that's what they've always done. I could be remembering things incorrectly, but seemed like a lot of the people I knew used cloth. They way I remember this being done was that the diaper was emptied in the toilet. You sloshed it around until you got the big stuff off. Pop the diaper in a bucket. Repeat until you have enough diapers to do a load. After you have the large stuff off I can't see why you couldn't wash them by hand in the bathtub or a sink.

Maybe it's a matter of scale that I don't understand, but seems to me cloth would be the way to go. Not sure why proposing this as a solution is somehow an attack on the poor?

Here's a diaper timeline.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


About 22,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from poverty-related diseases. One of the most important of these causes is contaminated water supplies. There's a real cost to washing human waste into the river, maybe not for your community, but for the one downstream.

I'd love to hear your suggestions for people without running water in their homes then.
posted by elizardbits at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The poor families I know who depend on disposable diapers do not have any "fear of bacteria."
posted by spitbull at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


My mother had a baby in 1959, another in 1960, skipped 1961 then made up for it with twins in 1962, then had me in 1963. She never used disposable diapers. My father probably helped from time to time but it was pretty much her. How did she do it? In early 1964 she had three babies in diapers along with a four year old and a five year old to take care of.

is this actually a serious question? do you realize how different life is in 2013 than it was in 1959, especially for mothers/women? you mention your father - so even if he didn't help much, i assume his salary paid the bills? did she work? did she go to school? what time did she wake up? what time did she go to bed? how much time would you say she got to spend a day on herself? did she have family close by to help or ladies from church?

how a mother got along in the 60s matters little to none to how a mother might get along in 2013.
posted by nadawi at 7:19 AM on July 30, 2013 [47 favorites]


> Diapers.com helps me a great bit; knock knock at the door and a lower price than anywhere local.

Honestly I suspect that unless diapers.com accepts EBT cards and/or weekly installment payments for quantity drop shipments, they're going to be out of reach of most people who are at the point of having to choose between feeding themselves and diapering their kids.
posted by ardgedee at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


In third world countries, poor babies go diaper free. They shit on the floor or in the yard and if no one cleans it up they step in it. They also die of infectious diarrhea at 10x the rate of the industrial world.

This "cloth diapers are the equivalent of breast feeding -- natural and free!" notion is nonsense.

Why do poor people complain about the cost of milk? Get a cow and the milk is free!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


making stuff yourself, fixing stuff yourself, and using your own ingenuity to come up with solutions

And a working single mother of a baby has so much time for this? In the time period I mentioned above, I got up at 6am and spent all of my time working, commuting with baby, caring for my child, creating meals, housework and laundry, nursing (multitasking by doing chores) until I fell into bed around eleven (and up twice in the night for feedings). Yeah, I didn't really have the energy for ingenuity when my brain was continuously balancing my budget and trying to figure how to stretch a pay cheque that could ony pay for ten days of food when there was fourteen days between pay cheques. I didn't have the money to buy tools to fix things let alone a safe place away from the baby to dissemble anything mechanical.
posted by saucysault at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2013 [21 favorites]


When people snark "Well, what did we do for thousands of years?" when it comes to suggesting "low-cost" alternatives to consumer products, like diapers, I wonder if they're thinking about the human and time cost of those "low-cost" alternatives.

The washing machine was a big deal when it was invented. This is because people--no, let's be real here, women--would spend literally hours of hard manual labor every day doing laundry. Those were hours they could not spend working, building a career, interacting with their kids, and basically building a better life for themselves and their families. Those were hours that forced them to stay in terrible marriages and partnerships because they couldn't spend those hours working themselves. Those were hours that kept them in the state of subservience that women have existed in throughout nearly all of human history because the burden of childcare and housework has historically fallen on women.

It is impossible to understate the effect that modern appliances has had on the number of hours of housework reduction and the subsequent freeing of women's time to do basically anything else. You can make a strong argument that the washing machine, and to some degree other basic appliances, were an integral part of the women's lib movement.

Yeah, people made it for thousands of years without disposable diapers. They also made it for thousands of years without birth control. And the human cost was women's independence. When you snark "Well, just spend hours washing diapers every day, NBD BRO" you are essentially saying "Well, as if these impoverished women have anything better to do with their time, welfare queens etc".

Now, are you also the person who looks at programs that provide computer access for the poor and says "We existed for thousands of years without computers, why would you need one"? Do you say the same things about cars? About electricity? Do you argue people without refrigerators don't have it so bad, they can just dig deep pits in the ground and cover them like people used to do in order to keep their food cool? I would hope not, because you recognize one of the benefits of our modern society is that we are able to use new technologies to improve our lives wholesale. You might even recognize that our societies evolve around these technologies, creating new expectations and social mores that carry the implicit assumption that all members will have access to these technologies. And members who don't exist at a serious disadvantage because our culture is no longer set up to accommodate people who don't use these technologies (e.g. nobody goes door-to-door selling blocks of ice you can put into your cold food pit in the summer).

Disposable diapers, whether you like it or not, are one of those technologies. If you're arguing technologies that facilitate infant maintenance are not integral towards enabling parents to continue to be productive members of society, then you clearly have never been a parent who has to deal with the number of diapers and messes kids make every day. If you want poor people to be able to improve their lives then don't begrudge them the technologies that enable them to do so.
posted by schroedinger at 7:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [315 favorites]


I am constantly surprised my MetaFilter on topics like this.

MetaFilter is one of the few places where I know that many users are very aware of the plight of the poor in this country. My mother worked in welfare for a long time and I have heard her stories about people struggling to break free of a very broken system. I have worked with people who couldn't accept a raise because they would lose a disproportionate amount of benefits, if not all, that the raise would not cover.

And then we have threads like this where people so glibly suggest cloth diapers, which are as expensive as fuck since you cannot buy them used anymore via eBay. Sure you can make your own, but those covers with the snaps and stuff are really much better and less messy.

And then to suggest further that these same working poor, who we all so frequently discuss on here as working multiple shitty jobs where they need to rely on mass transit, are to then perform further backbreaking labor by washing these cloth diapers by hand in their home.

Have you ever scrubbed soiled clothes on a washboard in a sink? I have. Would I be confident that what I was doing was sufficiently removing all the germs and bacteria that I would put it back on my baby? I doubt it. An infection would be one more thing a poor, uninsured person can't afford for their child (time off work for dr visit, medications, travel costs).

Frankly, I am just appalled at a lot of the commentary in this thread. For a place that can be so goddamned fucking compassionate sometimes, this is just too much.
posted by sio42 at 7:24 AM on July 30, 2013 [99 favorites]


"Pampers used to send us monthly coupons in the mail. $1 off a box. $5 off a box. We signed up for both kids. Saved us a ton of money over time."

... Oh yes for sure. I have in front of me four $5 off coupons for formula; and I used a $10 off of two cans yesterday. Pampers, Huggies, , etc; will send $$ of coupons each month. I think Target actually gave us a free can, 360 free wipes, and a 78 count box of diapers, and a six pack of 2oz formula just for checking in with them with our new child.
posted by buzzman at 7:26 AM on July 30, 2013


Usually my response to "boohoo having babies is hard" is often "let's educate the poor for free so they either wait to have babies until they're in a better situation or don't have babies at all", but come ON. How could we not have invented, in 20freaking13, some third option that's more advanced than gross cloth diapers or hideously unsustainable disposable ones? Seriously, America, get ON THAT SHIZ.
posted by Mooseli at 7:28 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and using your own ingenuity to come up with solutions.

I'd say using currency earned by working generally terrible jobs to purchase consumer goods to take some (but not all) of the "manually scrubbing human waste out of cloth" component out of child-rearing in poverty a pretty ingenious move.

You can catch my latest article on the disruptive technology of "buying things to make life slightly easier" in the latest issue of MAKE magazine.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 7:30 AM on July 30, 2013 [28 favorites]


Usually my response to "boohoo having babies is hard" is often "let's educate the poor for free so they either wait to have babies until they're in a better situation or don't have babies at all", but come ON. How could we not have invented, in 20freaking13, some third option that's more advanced than gross cloth diapers or hideously unsustainable disposable ones? Seriously, America, get ON THAT SHIZ.

I'm pretty sure the options for "poop containment device" are gross and disposable; I'm not really seeing a third space there.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:31 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's worth pointing out that the invention of the washing machine really was a watershed moment in human freedom. Doing lots of heavily soiled clothes by hand is very, very, very time-consuming. Regularly hand-washing a baby's worth of poopy diapers is very different from washing your socks in the sink.

Yes, throughout human history, people were obviously able to raise babies without disposable diapers or washing machines, but the ensuing chores were also very difficult and time-consuming. Also, people got infections and whatnot all the time. The good old days were terrible.

Incidentally, I'm reading a very good book right now, The Relentless Revolution. It's about the history of capitalism. A major point the author makes is how it's difficult for modern-day people to envision how difficult life was for the average person in the pre-modern era, let alone a poor person. People's mindsets were very different as a result. Before modern conveniences, you did not have time to think or the ability to plan very far ahead. If you make a woman spend every waking second just doing that which is physically necessary to care of a baby, then she will not have any time to do anything else. She will not have the time to take care of her finances or to take care of herself or to develop her child's socialization or education beyond the bare minimum.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:31 AM on July 30, 2013 [34 favorites]


I think Target actually gave us

Target is crazy on top of this. About a year ago I was there and bought a couple jars of beef baby food and some simple toys (for my dog--beef baby food is a great base for home-baked dog treats and baby toys are cheaper) and the machine at checkout printed out probably 10 different coupons for diapers, formula, baby food, etc. And then about 2 weeks later in the mail I got a coupon booklet from Target welcoming me to my new baby, full of pictures of happy cute little chubby babies and coupons for everything they'd need.

All because I bought my dog some baby food.
posted by phunniemee at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


spending a decade at sears portrait studio taught me that no matter the topic, the overwhelming message for moms is "you're doing it wrong." i don't know how we fix this, especially on metafilter with all of our plates of beans looking for the exact right one, but it's really damaging. there's a serious lack of support, and as with most things, it dwindles with income.
posted by nadawi at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


[Reasonable as it might be to raise them, I'm going to ask you to kindly move away from issues of metadiscussion. If you want to talk about the way this post is being discussed, you are more than welcome over at the contact form or in MetaTalk.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:33 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I used to live in this truly shitty, 1-bedroom apartment, about 550 sq ft, in the South. We had a bathtub, and I guess a clothesline would have been inconvenient and super crowded but not impossible.

There was a laundry facility, but it cost like $2 a load and the dryers were terrible so it would take 2-3 cycles to actually dry anything, so we're talking about potentially $6 to dry one freaking load. And the machines would eat your money a lot, so then you had to either eat the cost or spend forever on the phone trying to get a refund that didn't come for a month.

We did have central a/c but it broke fairly frequently. Almost anywhere in the southeastern US, if you try to "dry" clothes inside with no AC, would take more than a day. So maybe with one child in diapers, 8 diapers a day would be feasible, IF you had a big startup supply and could afford to wait. But with 2 or 3 kids? 16, 24 diapers a day? You would have to have a huge "startup" supply to keep up with how long it would take to dry them.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:33 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sometimes the quant research part of my brain wishes there was a way to get instant-polling data on where people fall on the continuum along which they are arguing in many Metafilter threads. I don’t really see many people arguing in direct opposition in this thread (and in many like it, e.g. the McDonalds budget one) but I do see people with very different positions on a continuum, something like: Society should do everything possible to support underprivileged children regardless of parental choices all the way to it’s not society's job to raise your kids. That’s a glib way of putting it, and could probably be refined, but I’d love to see a rough distribution of where people would position themselves on that line. Or maybe something even more generalized, like:

[All people should be able to have a good life regardless of their personal decisions] ------ [Your life outcomes are determined entirely by your own effort and choices]

I assume very few people would pick either extreme but I’d be fascinated to see the distribution along the line. Is there data like this out there? Sociologist Mefites? Anybody?
posted by Wretch729 at 7:34 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oops just saw gnfti's comment. Delete mine above if it's too meta.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:35 AM on July 30, 2013


for the target lovers - if you switch your prescriptions to them, for every 5 you fill they'll send you a 5% off coupon for the store. i believe it can be combined with other discounts.
posted by nadawi at 7:35 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


We did cloth diapers with our first kid (the modern cloth diaper is a marvel of engineering, truly. No plastic pants needed, no pins, easy to use, comfortable). We are solidly middle class, have laundry equipment AND room for a clothesline. My wife's career is such that she was able to spend much more time at home with the little guy than is common in our country. I am an active, hands-on father. We believe cloth is ultimately better for the environment.

Our second kid wears Target brand disposables.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:36 AM on July 30, 2013 [40 favorites]


Are you guys seriously suggesting that it is a reasonable suggestion that people living near the poverty line go and buy a full supply of cloth diapers? Having dealt extensively with one in recent weeks, let me tell you: babies poop more than you non-parent types can possibly imagine. Like, 15 diaper changes in a 24-hour period is not unheard of. Unless you have access to a washing machine and dryer that you can throw your diapers into during your four free minutes every hour, you need to have about two dozen diapers available to you to make this work. If you're OK buying wretched, threadbare used diapers, you might be able to find them for $5 apiece. New ones are three to five times that. You're looking an initial outlay of $125, at the least. Now factor in your preemie, and buy another set 20 weeks later when the baby hits 15 pounds. $250 is a week's pay for someone like this. It is completely unfathomable that someone can try to handwave the problem away with "buy cloth diapers!"
posted by Mayor West at 7:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


Rotavirus is an extremely common, contagious virus that causes fever, vomiting, diarrhea and watery stools. Babies and toddlers who contract it can quickly become dehydrated because of the rapid fluid loss. Per wikipedia:
...it accounts for 425,000 deaths every year, and 50% of hospitalizations for severe diarrhea in infants and children. Worldwide more than 450,000 children under five years of age die from rotavirus infections annually (most of whom live in developing countries,) and almost two million more become severely ill. In the US before initiation of the rotavirus vaccination program, rotavirus caused about 2.7 million cases of severe gastroenteritis in children, almost 60,000 hospitalizations, and around 37 deaths each year.
Here in the US, the vaccine is relatively new and optional, not mandatory.

Kids in daycares often contract it. The virus is stable in the environment and I believe can remain on a surface for anywhere between 9 and 19 days.

It can only be killed by alcohol or certain types of cleaners and can apparently survive hand washing of clothes and diapers. Which is why vaccination is considered the primary preventative route.
posted by zarq at 7:39 AM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the options for "poop containment device" are gross and disposable; I'm not really seeing a third space there.

> Go to dictionary
> Redefine "poop" to mean something valuable and collectible
> Diapers no longer necessary
> Plus everyone has ever-increasing stocks of valuable collectibles
> All of the world becomes a paradise
> Liberals get so mad that they stomp their feet and burst into smoke
> Grinning, I lay on a leather chaise longue, wearing nothing but BluBlockers and an American flag Speedo
> Surrounded by my valuable collection of valuable collectibles
> Caption: "THIS IS WHAT GENIUS LOOKS LIKE"
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the options for "poop containment device" are gross and disposable; I'm not really seeing a third space there.

Clearly, the solution is fecal munching nanobots that instantly convert poop to battery power as soon as it crowns from the rectum.

Patent pending.
posted by planetesimal at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


A lot of women don't breastfeed because it is literally economically impossible for them to do so. the young rope-rider What? We had to be very frugal when I had my son, and nursing was dramatically cheaper than formula. I used a hand pump sometimes, and had some nipple guards a friend gave me, and bought those disposable bottle liners to store some milk, plus the cost of food for me (so much fun to be able to eat a lot and still lose weight), but it was incredibly affordable.
posted by theora55 at 7:41 AM on July 30, 2013


> One of the first studies was industry-funded, yes. More recent studies have not been

Ah, interesting. I researched it back when it was relevant to me, but haven't looked into it more recently.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:42 AM on July 30, 2013


It is economically unfeasible for them to do so because they have jobs that do not allow them to store pumped milk.
posted by elizardbits at 7:42 AM on July 30, 2013 [59 favorites]


Well, you had the time and opportunity to pump. Someone working a minimum-wage retail job might not have the time to pump during work.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:43 AM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


The problem with nursing is that for the vast majority of us urban working poor the possibility of plunking down a huge sum on a pump and then actually being able to pump and store at work (most employers aren't going to provide time and facilities to support pumping plus you also have to store the expressed milk).

If you are working a couple of jobs depending on public transit the idea of storing enough breast milk is laughable.
posted by vuron at 7:44 AM on July 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


We tried cloth; I really wanted to go that way for a lot of reasons. But 1) INSTANT soak through < the plastic baggie overwrap seemed to make a rash even without 'dirty' diaper inside> stopped that experiment. 2) No. I don't want the washer to smell that way. - We tried the 5 gallon bleach bucket, etc. No. Not enough time; not enough space, just a no not no no not for the cloth. 3) all the fancy modern cloth diapers; might try them when child has a little more control or indications of a happening down there. But at one year old; too expensive and the disposables do better.

Cloth still sounds so great; as if the word itself is a Freud meets Jung meets happiness solution. For us; it has not worked yet.
posted by buzzman at 7:44 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


A friend once quoted her mother as saying that when she was given her first washing machine that it was like being given an extra day each week.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:45 AM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


Also, despite laws to the contrary, many workplaces are quite hostile to pumping, especially in the lower wage bands. Friends of my family have encountered this firsthand. Plus you need to acquire the pumping stuff in the first place.
posted by selfnoise at 7:45 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Even in the 40's and 50's not-rich people frequently used a diaper service, and before that they often employed a wash house. The point being that cleaning diapers has always been regarded as the worst sort of drudgery that was one of the first things housewives wanted to be rid of. If you want people to pull themselves up, why would you expect them to spend all their time doing work even your great-grandparents thought was too labor intensive?
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 7:46 AM on July 30, 2013 [21 favorites]


Oh, hell. So is anyone else the eldest child of a chronically unemployable, destitute single mother who kept popping out kids right up until she hit menopause because she didn't know how to do anything else? Then I suppose you know what it's like to spend your childhood changing your siblings' soiled diapers because the adults in your life are prone to disappearing for long stretches of time, and you understand that many, many other children are in the position of having to care for the other children in their family when they are barely out of kindergarten.

I actually feel quite blessed to have had disposable diapers available during that time -- thanks, proto-socialist safety net of the 1980s! -- because otherwise I would spent years as a kid hand-washing the shit and piss out of cloth diapers under the showerhead or in the kitchen sink... and I suppose people would have insisted that I should have just used scraps and rags if we couldn't afford pre-made reusables. We didn't have laundry machines, we didn't live in a place that had coin-ops, and my parents were incredibly inconsistent and often completely absent at their absolute best, so a lot of child-rearing duties fell to me (including -- gasp! -- preparing formula). Is the complexity of the situation really so hard to grasp?

This is the end game for the "poor folks should just learn how to DIY!" solution: families going without food, and babies taking care of babies. But at least we've learned our lesson, right?
posted by divined by radio at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [93 favorites]


> Also, despite laws to the contrary, many workplaces are quite hostile to pumping, especially in the lower wage bands. Friends of my family have encountered this firsthand. Plus you need to acquire the pumping stuff in the first place


...and you need to be able to pump. I was a champion breast-feeder. My first baby put on a pound a week when he was a newborn. But pumping didn't work for me, no matter how much I wanted it to.

But wait why are we fighting about nursing? I thought we were fighting about diapers.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Diapers.com helps me a great bit; knock knock at the door and a lower price than anywhere local.
And what does Diapers.com do for people who don't have computers?
unless diapers.com accepts EBT cards and/or weekly installment payments

Many/most poor people don't have a credit card to be able to get diapers online. I called Diapers.com, and they can only accept cards through the major card companies, i.e., Visa, Mastercard. EBT cards don't generally use them.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Elizardbits, I worked, pumped milk on breaks, stored it in the fridge on site, and nursed. It wasn't very difficult. Even if I hadn't pumped, I could have nursed in the morning and evening.
posted by theora55 at 7:49 AM on July 30, 2013


We had to be very frugal when I had my son, and nursing was dramatically cheaper than formula. I used a hand pump sometimes, and had some nipple guards a friend gave me, and bought those disposable bottle liners to store some milk, plus the cost of food for me (so much fun to be able to eat a lot and still lose weight), but it was incredibly affordable.

Did you do that pumping when your baby or breasts told you to, or during your mandatory 15-minute morning bathroom break and 15-minute afternoon bathroom break? Assuming of course there was a fridge at work for you to store it in; enough time to get set up, fully expressed, and cleaned up before you had to clock back in; and a private space to do it.
posted by headnsouth at 7:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


women who have to work (sometimes multiple) low wage jobs are not usually given the time and space to pump and store the milk after pumping (and keep it unspoiled on the hour or two bus ride and lug all the stuff around with them and hope the in home day care actually gives them the pumped milk instead of the formula that she thinks is best, etc, etc).

at the portrait studio, about the most baby friendly lower wage job you can get, we didn't really have the space to give our moms to pump. it was important to me, so i cleaned out a supply closet where there was literally space for a chair and a fairly short person's knees. there was no lock and it was in the waiting room, so the door was often flung open by kids. i even had some people complain that behind a closed door that their child opened without permission there was an exposed breast. only one of my employees really stuck to pumping.
posted by nadawi at 7:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


My mom used cloth diapers for my siblings, and it was a massive time investment, even as a stay-at-home mom, and me being old enough to help. We had to soak the diapers in buckets in the yard, which was pretty stinky even in the countryside... the smell would have been unbearable in an apartment, especially in the summer.
Every three or four days we would drive 45 minutes down the mountain with our wet, stinky diapers, already rinsed because rinsing was forbidden at the laundromat, and spend the day washing them. My mom would leave me in the laundromat alone, when I was only 7, so she could go to the grocery store while I folded a pile of cloth diapers taller than I was. Our whole day and week revolved around dealing with those damn things. Even though my mom had time, and even though my brother and sister were both potty trained very early. There's nothing simple or easy about choosing cloth diapers. And they were much cheaper back in the 80s then they are now.

Also, as a childcare worker: of course daycares won't allow them. Diaper changes on 12 kids takes the better part of an hour even with disposables, and we do 5-6 changes a day. Where, exactly, is a childcare center supposed to keep 70+ wet, dirty diapers per class every day? It would be incredibly unsanitary and time-consuming. And did I mention pee soaks right through cloth diapers? Because it does. Cloth diapers might be feasible in a very small home daycare (no more than 4 kids), but in your typical 12-15 kid scenario, no way.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


Elizardbits, I worked, pumped milk on breaks, stored it in the fridge on site, and nursed. It wasn't very difficult.

Okay, and that's great for you personally. Unfortunately not everyone is afforded this privilege.
posted by elizardbits at 7:56 AM on July 30, 2013 [43 favorites]


My conclusion is that single parents who work all the time and still have no money are fucked. In diapers and pretty much every other aspect of their lives.

Because no alternative is going to work if you don't have money or time.
posted by smackfu at 7:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


Been there, done that washing of cloth diapers, and quit doing that as soon as I had to go back to my job. Washing diapers is a much bigger and more expensive task that one would expect. Babies butts are sensitive, so you need special soap. Poopy diapers need some kind of bleach, and that requires a lot more rinses: three washing machine cycles for each load.

Even working part time did not leave me enough time or energy to continue with the cloth diapers. (for you lab rats out there, it is a nastier job than washing protein encrusted glassware with its acid bath, six tap water rinses, and three deionized water rinses: it stinks less)
posted by francesca too at 7:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


please offer a concrete suggestion about how the skills and logistical difficulties of switching to cloth diapers for poor people could be addressed.

Socialism. Or, at least, a private service hired by the government. We have garbage collection, compost collection, recycling collection -- why not another bin for cloth diapers? It could work like glass bottle milk delivery in places where that's still a thing, except they'd take the full ones and leave empties.

But disposable diapers are an enormous industry, so that'll probably never happen in a million years.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:59 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe a giant cloth loop; like the hand dryers used to be in the 70's... baby poops, just move it forward a foot or two. Then change the whole thing out once a day.
posted by buzzman at 8:02 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


For more "fun illustrations of my shitty apartment" : Target probably does have great coupons and promos for baby stuff. The nearest Target to our apartment was about a 25-minute drive. I don't even know if you can get there on a bus line because when I go on the website it just says "updated system map coming soon". But from my experiences taking the bus to other places there, I would guess it would be about 2 hours, probably with a transfer, so I think it'd be about $7 round trip. When I lived there, the nearest bus stop to our shitty apartment was about a 1-mile walk up a winding road with no sidewalk and lots of scary blind spots.

Also, there was supposedly a "schedule" but I had waited 30+ minutes past the schedule for a bus to show up before, so mostly they just come whenever. If you call the phone number on the bus stop sign to find out when it's coming or where it's going, you get a disconnected number because nobody has bothered to update the signage (this really happened to me). This is in a city of 100,000.

Also, the bus service gets cut pretty much every year and their website is pretty under-maintained, so if you just walk to a marked stop you really have no idea if that line still exists or if they've cut the stop you want to go to.

I mean, how much wasted time is worth the Target discount before you think "fuck it, I'll buy the $10 diapers at the convenience store". Even if you decide to get to Target once a month, how many diapers can you carry on the bus and then your 1-mile walk home?
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:04 AM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


You have to tie the diapers to your bootstraps.
posted by elizardbits at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


My mom used cloth diapers because that's what was available in the 60s. (paper dipes of that time were pretty useless.) If you're organized and energetic, you can probably manage them and manage a job. Without a washer? I can't see it, and my hat's off to anybody who can do it. The childcare rule about disposables is a pretty good rule.

Most people have grown up seeing babies diapered in disposables, and the cloth option won't even occur to them.
posted by theora55 at 8:09 AM on July 30, 2013


In whatever way humans managed for the millennia before the invention of Pampers?

Ooh, I know this one! Exactly how they do it in lots of poor countries -- they used special clothes that make it easy for the baby to just defecate in the street. And potty trained them early.

Well, that's how my parents did it. Probably wouldn't work for people who don't want poop everywhere.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:11 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just leave the baby in the bathtub when I go to work; and teh formula infused sponge keeps it hydrated and fed. Sometimes I toss in a cattle cube for protein and fiber. Clean up is a cinch.
posted by buzzman at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


elizardbits, I find your comments anti-breastfeeding, and it's something I feel strongly about. Lots of people who aren't well educated and people who are poor think nursing is weird, old-fashioned in a bad way, and have lots of other unfortunate bad associations. Some women are unable to breastfeed for all sorts of reasons. But it's vastly better for the health of both Mom and Baby, cheaper, more convenient, helps the mom lose weight gained in pregnancy, and, for many, a lovely pleasant way to bond with their baby.
posted by theora55 at 8:14 AM on July 30, 2013


You are wildly incorrect, I am anti-people who make it difficult for breastfeeding mothers. I am fully aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Nothing in any comment I have ever made on metafilter has been antibreastfeeding. I am not sure why you refuse to acknowledge that not everyone has the time or resources to do so. It would be fucking fantastic if it was something more widely available to every single capable mother in the universe.
posted by elizardbits at 8:16 AM on July 30, 2013 [108 favorites]


How is it anti-breastfeeding to acknowledge that some women aren't as priviledged as others and don't have the kind of job situation that will allow them breaks to pump, allow them space to store milk in the fridge, and may not have the speedy biological responses necessary to pump out a small bottle's worth of breast milk in a fifteen minute break?
posted by palomar at 8:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [60 favorites]


theora55, elizardbits comments aren't about it being weird and old-fashioned (which it should be pretty obvious she is not saying).

they are about it being incompatible with being a working poor mother, the same as using cloth diapers when you do not have a washing machine/dryer.

the place where i work has a call center. i do not have that job thankfully. but i remember that having my freaking period was an inconvenience - i had a specified break time. that was stressful enough. i'm trying to think about having aching, hurting breasts and all the logistical things needed to support pumping (equipment, place to keep it, making it back to the break room after using the bathroom to pump, cleaning stuff up...can you pump in 15 minutes from setup to breakdown?)
posted by sio42 at 8:21 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


i meant i had a specified break time when i worked in a call center, if that wasn't clear.
posted by sio42 at 8:22 AM on July 30, 2013


Elizardbits, I worked, pumped milk on breaks, stored it in the fridge on site, and nursed.

Wow, you had a fridge where you worked? That's luxury!

I'm serious.

elizardbits, I find your comments anti-breastfeeding, and it's something I feel strongly about. Lots of people who aren't well educated and people who are poor think nursing is weird, old-fashioned in a bad way, and have lots of other unfortunate bad associations. Some women are unable to breastfeed for all sorts of reasons.

And yet the pro-breastfeeders seem to forget this fact whenever there is a discussion about breastfeeding, and leap in to say "but why not just breastfeed because....?"

I mean, if you already know that some women are unable to breastfeed for "all sorts of reasons," why not pick one of those reasons to satisfy the "but why don't people just breastfeed" question?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


theora55, it's not anti-breastfeeding to suggest that some jobs do not allow a woman to pump enough for her baby. In most of the lower wage jobs I've had my time was tracked to the second and management was not very forgiving. That is anti-breastfeeding, but acknowledging that fact is not. Women also differ in the amounts they're able to pump. Even with a hospital grade pump, I do not pump quickly enough to get a good supply in the tiny breaks allowed at some jobs.
posted by waterlily at 8:23 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


If only some countries would make it so that you had good parental leave policies so that breastfeeding for a long period of time would be more feasible. And then have complete coverage of Pre-K and Kindergarten so that working mothers could make sure their children had good quality child care during their formative years.

But that would be socialism and bad mmkay so instead we should continue to shame the poor for not being fortunate enough to have the same level of privilege found in the average metafilter poster.
posted by vuron at 8:25 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


My mother had a baby in 1959, another in 1960, skipped 1961 then made up for it with twins in 1962, then had me in 1963. She never used disposable diapers. My father probably helped from time to time but it was pretty much her. How did she do it?

Based on my experiences growing up in that era, I'm guessing some combination of martinis, Librium, resignation, and/or repressed rage.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [30 favorites]


saucysault: " And a working single mother of a baby has so much time for this? In the time period I mentioned above, I got up at 6am and spent all of my time working, commuting with baby, caring for my child, creating meals, housework and laundry, nursing (multitasking by doing chores) until I fell into bed around eleven (and up twice in the night for feedings). Yeah, I didn't really have the energy for ingenuity when my brain was continuously balancing my budget and trying to figure how to stretch a pay cheque that could ony pay for ten days of food when there was fourteen days between pay cheques. I didn't have the money to buy tools to fix things let alone a safe place away from the baby to dissemble anything mechanical."

I mentioned above that we made our kids' food when they were in their first year. The process itself wasn't that hard, and while it was time consuming, creating a full week's worth of food took only a couple of hours in one sitting. It wasn't terribly expensive (a hell of a lot cheaper than canned food.)

Making sure they had enough variety was harder. Required more forethought and planning.

We went to the supermarket and picked up loads of fresh fruits and veggies. And a few cans of stuff that either weren't immediately available fresh or that would take a lot of time to prepare. Corn comes to mind. Peas. Canned veggies at our local supermarket were nearly always on sale at 3 or 4 for a dollar. So they were cheap and eliminated prep time.

The fresh fruits and veggies were peeled (if necessary) then boiled, baked or steamed. This prep work took the most time. We would cook multiple items at once on a Sunday evening.

Cooked mushy veggies were then either cut up, mashed and dumped one at a time into a blender. Add water and blend to make mush. Pour into ice cube trays. Freeze. When frozen, dump the food cubes into individual tupperware containers or sealable (ziplock) freezer bags. We used bags for a month and then I bought a bunch of rectangular tupperware containers at Target. Was easier to see what we did and didn't have.

This took one parent about two hours. Maybe 2.5 if we were cooking a lot of stuff. With both of us working together, it probably took a little less, but not much. After prep time, all your time is spent waiting for stuff to cook, and then blending. And we only had one blender.

If we made chicken, turkey or beef for ourselves, we took the cooked meat and created mush cubes out of it.

When a mealtime came, cubes could be removed from the freezer and either heated on the stove or nuked in the microwave. End result, quick, easy, hot food. We quickly learned how many cubes made a small, medium or large meal. So for example, a cube of veg, one fruit and one meat was good for one six month old. Heat, mix together and add rice to thicken if needed.

The menu:

Fruits: Apples, pears, mango, pineapple, grapes, banana, melon (including watermelon), cantaloupe, cherries, strawberries and other kinds of berries.
Veggies: Zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, sweet and white potatoes, peas, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach (cooked).
Meat: chicken, turkey, rarely chopped meat. No fish.

Probably other stuff I'm not remembering. Once we did it a few times we didn't have to do all the veggies and fruits and meat every week. Just fill-in cooking to replenish when cubes ran low.

This absolutely isn't a possibility for everyone and I don't want anyone reading this to think I'm in any way indicting or criticizing people for whom it isn't an option. It's time consuming. We did most of the cooking, but we also did have an experienced nanny who could and did help if we needed it. So we had help and a lot of people simply don't. It was also hard to keep enough room free for the containers in our freezer.

But it was doable for us with twins even though we are both working parents. And yeah, we saved a lot of money and kept the kids salt intake down.
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Any job with a break will allow a woman to pump enough for comfort, and as I said above, Even if I hadn't pumped, I could have nursed in the morning and evening. I should have said pumped and stored milk. Breastfeeding in the US has been made extremely complicated. I advocate it for any woman who can do it, I hate to hear it discouraged, or see inaccurate statements, but of course I respect other women's choices.
posted by theora55 at 8:28 AM on July 30, 2013


I had a shitty retail job for a while while I was nursing. I depending on my shift would have anywhere from one 15 minute break to one 15 minute and one 30 minute break, time limit strictly enforced. There is no way in HELL my employer would have let me store breastmilk in the breakroom minifridge where everyone else stored their food. There was no private room to pump in-- only a dirty stockroom with other people coming in and out, or an even dirtier bathroom. There was also no hot water in the sink in the stock room bathroom, and thus no way to properly wash the bottles or pumping equipment without actually leaving the store. As it turned out, all my efforts to pump DESPITE these circumstances came to naught because my infant son flat out REFUSED to drink from a bottle (and yes, I tried different types of bottles and different types of nipples, which was actually pretty damned expensive, thank you very much). The way I wound up solving this problem was to have my husband, who worked opposite hours from me, drive my child to my workplace so I could nurse him on my breaks in the dirty stockroom under a blanket while my coworkers either glared at me or tried blatantly not to see me and my kid bit me and cried because he hated blankets. IT WAS AWESOME, I TELL YOU.

What on Earth would I have done if I had not had a husband with a car?

As for cloth diapers. I am a treehugging communist hippie and I really wanted to do cloth diapers with my kid. But the crappy apartment complex I lived in when he was born charged $3 a load for really terrible washers that barely got stuff clean and the on-site laundry was always overcrowded, often with people waiting in line for an hour or more for a turn to wash clothes. I can't imagine how my neighbors would have reacted if I'd brought in a load of shitty diapers. I certainly could not have afforded a diaper service. The apartment was not well-ventilated, so laundry did not dry well inside. And hanging laundry outside was banned.

This was the situation for a married, college-educated couple with a car and an entry-level dual income just high enough to not qualify for food stamps. I CANNOT IMAGINE what it would have been like to try to nurse a baby AND do cloth diapers if I had been a single mother taking the bus everywhere and maybe working two jobs instead of one to try to keep up. A newborn baby needs to eat every 2 -3 hours, and nursing takes 10-15 minutes per feeding. When my son was a newborn I calculated I was spending 20 hours a week on nursing ALONE, before we got to the laundry (which for a baby is pretty time consuming, even without cloth diapers).

If you have never even tried to nurse or cloth diaper a baby yourself, I would suggest you back the fuck off from lecturing poor mothers on what they should do. And if you HAVE succeeded at those things, but did so with the aid of a supportive spouse, a helpful family, good childcare, government-sanctioned maternity leave, and/or a flexible employer, you may want to consider whether you would have managed so well without those things.
posted by BlueJae at 8:28 AM on July 30, 2013 [68 favorites]


If she signs the baby up for Mefi it can simply fling its poop at Mefites it doesn't agree with.
posted by Segundus at 8:34 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Any job with a break will allow a woman to pump enough for comfort

Did you not see the comment from waterlily where she said that she tried but was not able to?

and as I said above, Even if I hadn't pumped, I could have nursed in the morning and evening.

Your child was only hungry twice a day? Your pediatrician was comfortable with only two feedings a day?

Breastfeeding in the US has been made extremely complicated. I advocate it for any woman who can do it, I hate to hear it discouraged, or see inaccurate statements, but of course I respect other women's choices.

If you respect other women's choices, why are you disputing their claims when they say that what was possible for you was not possible for them? And why are you saying that someone who is pointing out that not everyone had the same advantages as you was "anti-breastfeeding"?

You say you respect people's choices, but you seem to be doing your damndest to make them feel bad about them nevertheless.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on July 30, 2013 [38 favorites]


[Folks, please wrap up the "Can a woman always breastfeed at work? Y/N" derail.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


theora55, I really encourage everyone who possibly can to nurse as long as they want or the baby wants. I'm very pro-nursing. I just understand that there are a ton of institutional barriers in place that prevent a huge sector of the population from nursing past the initial maternity leave.

The end result is that even with doctors and nurses and lots of encouragement a huge percentage of the population goes with formula even though formula has a ton of problems (overeating, cost, allergies, etc) simply because the time-labor cost of pumping simply isn't doable for those individuals.

Yes a ton of people get pushed into formula for convenience and there does appear to be a tendency of hospital staff in many low-income communities to push the formula approach especially with young minority mothers but until there is way more institutional support for pumping I don't think there is a going to be a ton of mothers doing it in low income sectors of the economy.
posted by vuron at 8:36 AM on July 30, 2013


I was 14 when my little sister was born, and as a result changed a **LOT** of diapers. We used cloth, initially, because my mother was an environmentalist, we had a washer and drier at home, and one of her friends had done cloth and was able to give us a large number of diapers to start with.

It was grinding, time consuming, backbreaking, labor, and that's with me, my mother, and my 10 year old brother helping all they could, a washer and drier (though we mostly used a clothesline because we lived in west Texas and in the summer a clothes line would dry the clothes much quicker than the drier could).

I can't imagine how a single person without a washer/drier in their home could do cloth diapers and have time for anything but the neverending task of changing and cleaning diapers.

We switched my sister to disposables after a few months of the grind, and my son was on disposables from the time we got him until he was toilet trained.

And yeah, the American right's split personality on fetuses vs. actual babies is bizarre. Apparently they're pro life from the moment of conception to the time of birth. After that they not only stop caring about the baby, they become actively hostile to it.
posted by sotonohito at 8:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I want to share my personal experiences with nursing, bottle feeding, diapering, WIC and generally taking care of my two infants while being self-employed, unemployed, employed as a white-collar professional with assets and the ability to navigate social services that anyone who doesn't speak English as a first language would have difficulty doing, but I am too busy changing diapers and feeding people (from a bottle AND from my body) while working. And also, at the very back of it, I am ashamed that I can't do it all and that I needed any help and that we don't use cloth diapers and that if the kids' grandparents didn't donate 2 boxes of diapers per month to our stash I would have to severely trim our already careful food budget and since I make so much more money than a lot of people I wonder how the fuck anyone else does it, ever.
posted by annathea at 8:41 AM on July 30, 2013 [41 favorites]


My first child was in cloth diapers, and it was exhausting. We needed, at a minimum, 24 diapers; that allowed us to do a load of diaper laundry every day. Then our power went out due to an ice and snowstorm that left the roads impassable; I had to wash the diapers at home in my sink / bathtub. (Our hot water was unaffected by the power outage.) It took me four and a half hours to wash those diapers, and my hands were red and scalded, and I got shit all over the bathroom, and they did not dry in anything approximating enough time -- I had to put damp diapers back on my baby because we had used all the diapers in the house.

The next day I put on my camping backpack and hiked to the store in 22 degree weather to fill it up with disposable diapers. To suggest that poor people should just wash diapers at home is utter fucking lunacy. My second child wears Huggies, bought in bulk from Costco.
posted by KathrynT at 8:43 AM on July 30, 2013 [33 favorites]


> In whatever way humans managed for the millennia before the invention of Pampers?

Ooh, I know this one! Exactly how they do it in lots of poor countries -- they used special clothes that make it easy for the baby to just defecate in the street. And potty trained them early.


Sorry I shouldn't have been snarky there. I think its that sometimes I hear my dad tutting in my head when, for example, my (middle class) sister complains about how hard it is to raise a kid. His family was dirt poor in rural Ireland in the 40s and 50s, and his mother raised 9 kids in a 2 -bed house with no indoor bathroom. (None of them ever defecated on the street, btw.) Washing cloth nappies must have been an absolute bloody nightmare for my Granny, and I know it. I'm not saying its easy, or that its a viable alternative for a lot of people. I was just making the point that its not impossible, and people managed (with great difficulty) for a long time. I realise the benefits of the invention of washing machines, etc, and the time-saving benefits of disposables.

I suppose it just seems like disposables aren't totally working out for a lot of women either, given the article, so maybe there is some alternative? And if not, what is a practical way that people can be assisted? (Short of wage equality, equal opportunities, etc, which is the real problem.)
posted by billiebee at 8:43 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cloth diapers are a solution to one problem: This kid produces pee and poop, nobody wants that on their floor, so I better catch it with something (O.k. so two problems, the second is "what can I use to clean up stuff that's been spilled on my floor," but that's really just a secondary benefit). That's the only problem it's a solution too.

Any other problem, you need to find another solution. For instance, not being able afford to keep the kid sanitary and feed yourself. That doesn't get solved by switching to cloth diapers. I say this as I'm folding cloth diapers, they require a upfront investment in money and a much larger investment in time that disposables don't, and time is just as much a resource as a washing machine or money.

My wife and I have been very very lucky to have an amazing social support network, if that network didn't exist, we'd be right there making that choice between eating and diapers. Even if using cloth diapers suddenly solved the diaper issue, there'd still be the daycare issue, the food issue, the transportation issue, the ______ issue. Our society has vast structural issues, and no single choice any person makes is going to suddenly get them out of poverty and into a life where they have the luxury of making choices like what kind of diaper to use based on desire and not on necessity.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:46 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Apparently they're pro life from the moment of conception to the time of birth. After that they not only stop caring about the baby, they become actively hostile to it.

More like: ignore it for five years or so, stuff it in an underfunded and inadequate school for another ten, start stopping and frisking the hell out of it and you'll have a revenue-generating incarcerable in sixteen or seventeen years.

It's a massively dysfunctional system at the societal level. But there are enough people making or saving real money at each stage in the process, and plenty of well-honed pieces of ugly "folk wisdom" available to stand in place of actual empirical data that it's literally impossible to imagine an effective intervention to break the cycle.

My own hope is that we will at some point have incarcerated so many of our poor black citizens that it becomes a source of global shame. I think if European and Asian democracies decided to start hammering the US as a systematic violator of human rights, over time (a decade or so?), it might trickle down and start affecting policy.

That's a lot of wasted lives in the process. And it's equally possible that we'd just double down and continue fashioning ourselves into a brutal carceral state.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:47 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


So I guess the answer to the "how did people do it before disposables" question is either:
  1. With massive, massive societal support, or
  2. by doing things that are wildly unsanitary, lacking all other options
In practical terms, the choice for whether a given poor kid shits in diapers or the street isn't made by that kid's mom. It's made by whoever holds power, whoever makes the decision to extend or withdraw support.

Gosh, I hope they choose well!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:49 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, in Seattle -- and I am sure other places -- there are diapering services; this is how many of our forebears managed the diaper situation, is they paid someone else to do it. You put the dirty diapers out by the door once a week, the diaper service picks them up and drops off clean ones. Sounds GREAT, right? Well, the diaper service costs about $85 per month per baby, and a lot of apartment buildings prohibit leaving a week's worth of shitty diapers out in common areas, so someone has to be home to make the handoff. By comparison, my Costco box of diapers, which lasts us about six weeks, is $40.

If you want to make a difference, go to Target, buy the largest box of diapers you can find, and take it to your local food bank.
posted by KathrynT at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Plus the diaper pail reeks by the end of the week, in my experience. We tried using a diaper service but it just didn't work for us.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hope this doesn't count as a continuation of the breastfeeding derail, but I think it's material.

My wife (who is fucking awesome, btw) has been doing ethnographic work in the inner city for the past 5 years or so. Her experience of pregnancy and motherhood during that time was really astonishing, since it profoundly reframed a lot of the things she was experiencing.

One idea she's been tossing around for future research is a follow-up ethnographic study of how breastfeeding is presented and supported to new mothers across different ethnic and class lines. This thread has reminded me how important this issue is and I think I'm going to nudge her a little harder in that direction for her next project.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Back to the cost of diapers... My recommendation is, as it is for a lot of poverty issues, a livable wage. If you work full time at EvilBigBoxStore, which is rare, because an awful lot of their jobs are part-time with difficult schedules, you don't make enough for food, housing, transportation, child care, and other needs. If the minimum wage was increased, you could buy diapers and still have money for food. You could afford to live someplace with a washer on site. Going to the laundromat for the 1st 6 months of my son's infancy was miserable. Child care is really expensive, licensed child care even more so. If we cared about children in the US, we'd fund WIC, food stamps, and child care vouchers. Maybe we'd even smarten up and add disposable diapers to food stamp eligibility.*

If people got livable wages, maybe the fathers of those children could afford support payments. For a while, the Right had a whole 'Get the father to pay up' movement that was a bust, but there are poor 2-earner families who still can't afford decent food, shelter, transportation and diapers. That's just wrong.

Work 2 jobs and care for an infant or toddler? Pretty difficult to manage for the parent, and not a good approach to the very real requirements of parenting.

In the long run, increasing wages would give people more earning power, they'd spend more, and the economy would be healthier. Instead, we subsidize EvilBigBoxStore's low wages with social service programs, which is inefficient, demotivating, and there's the whole element of shame.

*Disposable diapers are bad for the environment. That should be a solvable problem. Let's get on it. One of the absolute worst things about disposables is that some people change a diaper, and leave the dirty one in a parking lot, beach, or other wildly inappropriate place. Now that's gross.
posted by theora55 at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Saminal, that's really useful info about the NAEYC accreditation - even their updated acceptance of cloth diapers would not work for simple, inexpensive, or cheap ones given their requirements - and not rinsing also ratchets up the difficulty.

The note about being required to change diapers every two hours also affects the economic considerations, outside of the cloth/disposable debate. Are you required to change the diapers even if they are clean when they are opened? Or are you allowed to fasten them back up and send them off? Otherwise it seems like NAEYC requires a lot of expensive diaper waste.

Our preemies refused to latch on. The nurses in the hospital made her feel like an unfit mother for not breastfeeding. (Note, my wife wound up *pumping* so the kids were actually getting breastmilk, just not directly from the nipple.) And then around three months demand began to outpace production. When my wife called La Leche League to ask for help and advice, they not only told her that pumped breast milk wasn't good enough, but one of the consultants actually said she was being selfish for not doing everything in her power to breastfeed from the nipple.

Zarq, I'm sorry to hear you guys had such a hard time. FWIW, and hopefully this isn't TMI, my daughter wasn't able to latch on either, and LLL was actually really helpful in getting me linked up with an automatic pump that let me pretty much empty breasts in the 15 minutes allowed as a break I had. They also were helpful in encouraging me to pump more frequently while at home to stimulate production. It sounds like you had a really bad batch - but I think that they can still be really useful when they are good.

In response to the many people saying that apartment buildings don't allow putting up clotheslines: I think that what would be great would be a cultural shift such that tenants organizations could band together and demand "improvements" such as being allowed personal autonomy which costs the landlord approximately $0. I think you're probably right - landlords want to avoid the appearance of "poor people" so they disallow public handwashing, which has the effect of shaming those who do anymore. But I think that's really supremely shitty, and we should fight that shit and those shamers whenever we see them.
posted by corb at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


billiebee: "And if not, what is a practical way that people can be assisted?"

By encouraging communities we are a part of to support their members. Let the 'haves' help the 'have nots.' Buy stuff and donate it to a food bank.

For parents, they can help themselves: By finding and joining communities which support their members. For some people, that's a religious organization. For many parents of twins or higher order multiples it's NOMTC. There are others.

By asking for help or by seeking out bargains. My wife went to kids' clothing and toy consignment sales. I wish there had been a Kid to Kid in our area but we did join every manufacturer coupon mail list we could. Similac, Enfamil and Pampers all have coupon programs. Some companies offer twin discounts for items purchased online. We learned which manufacturers offered stuff cheapest. More here. We took (and still take) advantage of clothing sales at stores. Friends are still giving us used clothes and toys for our kids.
posted by zarq at 8:57 AM on July 30, 2013


Oh yeah, and to add:

It is infinitely better to use cloth diapers and breastfeed, but you don't have to actually stop helping moms who are using disposable diapers and formula while you are working on changing the culture. We don't have to be at war here, guys!
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Buy stuff and donate it to a food bank

Better yet, just donate cash to the food bank. They can buy stuff cheaper than you can, usually, and I imagine that includes diapers.

Not that soup lines and food banks are the solution.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:59 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


The corpse in the library: "Better yet, just donate cash to the food bank."

Smart. Yes!
posted by zarq at 9:00 AM on July 30, 2013


to bring it back on topic - all this talk about how if we could only create social programs to help poor women make the switch to cloth diapers ignores the crux of the article at the top of this thread - that the social programs to help with diapers are nearly non-existent (outside of food banks and using diaper give-aways to convince women to take parenting classes).

if only we could support social programs that gave parents (especially mothers) good information, agency to make their own choices, and support for which ever choice they make.
posted by nadawi at 9:07 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


corb: " I think that they can still be really useful when they are good. "

Oh, I agree. We have friends who were helped in a big way by LLL. But man, what an awful experience.

Since we're also talking about supporting those in need.... In another thread, KathrynT mentioned (and hopefully she won't mind that I'm bringing this up,) that the hospital she gave birth in provided free lactation consultant support, 24/7, for a year. A year! Imagine if that were to be a widely adopted policy. (I'm assuming the consultants are kind, compassionate and empathetic, of course.) I couldn't agree with you more, corb, rather than shaming people we should be helping them.
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that what would be great would be a cultural shift such that tenants organizations could band together and demand "improvements" such as being allowed personal autonomy which costs the landlord approximately $0.

I think that kind of cultural shift is called "socialism". And I'm also for it, because that would solve a whole lot of other problems as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


They were kind, compassionate, and empathetic! They were also lifesavers on more than one occasion -- I got norovirus when my baby was 4 months old, and got so dehydrated my milk dried up. They called in a prescription for anti-nausea suppositories (yeah, I was that sick) and told me what to do to re-establish supply, and told me if I wasn't making milk in 12 hours to come in and they would admit me and the baby both for hydration support. That could have ended breastfeeding for me, if I didn't have them available to tell me what to do.
posted by KathrynT at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


i think mothers all over need less advice that is explicitly one sided. LLL does a lot of great work, but i have heard a lot of stories about how many members can be very narrowly focused to a specific goal (that isn't "help make this the happiest, healthiest baby/mom that we can"). kids aren't engineering problems and one size fits all solutions (no matter what the issue - feeding, diapering, clothing, educating, nap times, potty training, etc) very rarely account for variation.

i would love to see programs/classes/tv shows/magazines/etc that approach the issue like, "here are the 7 really super dangerous things and here are the 10 million things that opinions differ on and there's no right and few wrong answers. here's the info you need to avoid the 7 and decide for yourself on the 10 million. you're going to be awesome even if you fuck up!" but, it's really hard to sell ad space for that, i guess.
posted by nadawi at 9:17 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a pregnant lady, this conversation is super depressing to me. Both my husband and I work from home and will probably be all sorts of crunchy attachment parentish (planning a homebirth, planning to breastfeed). A friend even offered to give us her cloth diapers and I would love to take her up on it, but we cannot figure out how to make it work in our apartment, where the laundry is shared with four families and costs two dollars a load and where we can't even do laundry after 10 pm because a neighbor claims it keeps him up and where the bathtub has been flaking finish since we moved in because the landlady sucks and I'm sure as hell not washing diapers in it. There's a diaper service, but it's even more expensive than disposables. We'll probably do hybrids or something, as a compromise (I mean, I don't even wear maxi pads, I'd feel awful about the waste, but at least the hybrids are biodegradable eventually--and I figured out that you can buy covers from Chinese wholesalers which makes it more affordable), but still--just doesn't work for our living situation even though we'd love for it to.

And then threads like this. Guilt guilt guilt.

A friend of mine is also pregnant, has her own home with laundry facilities and wants to do cloth but can't because the government job that paid for her home gives no paid maternity leave and she's planning on returning to work almost immediately. And of course, no cloth at daycare.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


(PhoB, if you guys can afford it, a lot of my more crunchy envirofriends use some sort of biodegradable diapers made from corn husks.)
posted by elizardbits at 9:27 AM on July 30, 2013


7th gen, probably? Yeah, we plan on having those around for back-ups (and part of the problem is, of course, you don't know for sure what will work for your kid and your family until the unit is here and you try stuff and all of that). Of course, both those and the hybrids like grovia and gdiapes are pricier than regular store brands, usually. They're a luxury and I can definitely see why they wouldn't be an option for families poorer than ours.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2013


Hybrids suuuuuck IMO. I've used them with two babies and the leaks were bad, not to mention the cost.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:37 AM on July 30, 2013


I'm not hating on the idea of biodegradable diapers, because they are a good thing for all the reasons PhoBWan says, but worth noting that they don't biodegrade well in most landfills, because there's no air. Landfills do not equal compost facilities.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:38 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


And then threads like this. Guilt guilt guilt.

Yeah. Mommy-shaming is one of the worst things to come out of our generation. I mean, it may have existed before, but it seems particularly vicious right now.

I think we all need to remember that everyone is doing the best they fucking can. Or maybe not everyone, but most people. Being a mom is hard and we are so disconnected from extended family (at least here in the US) that we don't usually have this extensive and rich support network to be there to help us with everything.
posted by corb at 9:39 AM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]



And then threads like this. Guilt guilt guilt.


1. You are a two-parent, work-at-home couple with on-site (if limited-access) laundry facilities who are *choosing* to do diapers one way or another, so this thread is not about you. (not meant dismissively)
2. Do not buy into the guilt. You will be bombarded with it from all sides no matter your choices, no matter your circumstances, no matter how your kid turns out. Just decide right now not to hear it. Ain't nobody got time for that, especially not a parent.
posted by headnsouth at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2013


People who can't afford cars should just get a horse. I mean, people have been doing that for thousands of years. Who cares if it takes longer or the infrastructure doesn't support it? Horse feed is less expensive than gas, right?
posted by desjardins at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2013 [47 favorites]


Ten years ago when I was hanging out on misc.kids.breastfeeding, which made this thread look like a Amritanandamayi party, one Australian poster said her baby's daycare required cloth diapers.

She was a doctor and maybe an academic, so I imagine she had access to a pretty groovy daycare, but I have the impression that wasn't unusual. I wonder how the handled it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:44 AM on July 30, 2013


Any job with a break will allow a woman to pump enough for comfort, and as I said above, Even if I hadn't pumped, I could have nursed in the morning and evening. I should have said pumped and stored milk. Breastfeeding in the US has been made extremely complicated. I advocate it for any woman who can do it, I hate to hear it discouraged, or see inaccurate statements, but of course I respect other women's choices.
posted by theora55 at 10:28 AM on July 30 [+] [!]


What if you work a job without breaks? What if you work mornings AND evenings? What if you can't afford a pump? What if you have no way of storing what is pumped to keep it fresh before feeding it to your child? In short, what if you're supporting that child working 2 or 3 part-time low-wage jobs (someplace like McDonald's or Walmart) where some or all of those "what ifs" are reality? No one here was arguing against the benefits of breastfeeding; several people were discussing the feasibility of poor working mothers doing so due to life conditions that many don't seem to recognize, understand, or have any personal experience of. Which is fine, but one of the great things about MetaFilter is that it often forces us to think about ways of doing things and living life that are different from the ways that we know, whether that is by choice or circumstance. We should try to see this from the point of view of someone who has not had our experiences, luck, or privilege.

All of that is off-topic, but not really; the same arguments can be made for alternatives to disposable diapers. There are many, many people who can't afford to buy in bulk, can't afford the initial outlay to purchase cloth, don't have washing machines, work so many hours they don't have time to wash diapers even if they could afford them, etc. Refusal to acknowledge the difficulties faced by people who don't have our advantages won't make them go away. The inability to keep clean diapers on their kids is a reality faced by many Americans (as discussed in this particular article) and worldwide. What can realistically be done to address that? The answer goes much deeper than "cheap diapers" or "cloth diapers." It goes all the way down to income inequality and the refusal of those who aren't poor to see how bad it really is for those who are. As has been well-illustrated by the comments today.
posted by jennaratrix at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's really easy to tie oneself in knots about the environmental impacts of disposables vs the environmental impacts of cloth or compostables, but every single diapering method has some level of impact. The big environmental impact decision is made at the level of whether and how many children to have (especially in the US.) Once you have brought another little person into the world, the environmental impact of that decision far, far outweighs the disposable vs cloth debate.

Any references to the way things were done 50 or 100 years ago need to acknowledge that much of that was necessarily depended upon the availability of unpaid female labor.
posted by ambrosia at 9:46 AM on July 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


desjardins: "People who can't afford cars should just get a horse. I mean, people have been doing that for thousands of years. Who cares if it takes longer or the infrastructure doesn't support it? Horse feed is less expensive than gas, right?"

If we switched our kids from milk to unleaded, we'd save a hell of a lot of money.
posted by zarq at 9:48 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm glad you posted this. I've been meaning to donate my extra NB and size 1 diapers to Baby2Baby and have been putting it off since, well, I still have a three-month-old baby at home and it's a pain to leave the house if I don't absolutely have to. But ultimately they're just taking up space for us, and I kind of hadn't put a human face on how crap it would be not to be able to afford them. As someone who just *checks watch* four hours ago did a diaper change that ended in my throwing out not one but THREE diapers because poo got all over all of them (my daughter looooves pooping when her butt's in the breeze and she is, shall we say, forceful), I can't imagine being in a position where that represented a significant setback in my ability to keep her in diapers. That sounds awful. I'm glad I'm fortunate enough to be able to donate diapers that I can't use.
posted by town of cats at 9:49 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Town of cats, definitely donate those ASAP. The food bank that serves my area is so undersupplied with diapers that families are limited to 4 diapers per child every two weeks.
posted by KathrynT at 9:55 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. You are a two-parent, work-at-home couple with on-site (if limited-access) laundry facilities who are *choosing* to do diapers one way or another, so this thread is not about you. (not meant dismissively)

That's the thing, though. We're relatively privileged people and for us, cloth diapers are still not really a viable "choice," financially or practically, unless we want to spend a heap of money and risk pissing off other tenants in our building and/or our landlady. And yet much of the rhetoric in this thread is that people who are in much more tenuous work and living situations than we are should be washing diapers in their sinks or hauling them to the laundromat. I mean, there was a moment while reading this thread where I actually thought, "Should I be washing prefolds in the Hudson-River-run-off, pollutant-laden creek in my backyard?"

But feh to that. Seriously.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:55 AM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


PhoB: recognize that the shame/guilt culture surrounding new parenthood has everything to do with aesthetics, marketing, and politics and very little to do with the actual raising of healthy kids. There is clearly a relationship between maternal breast feeding in the first year and infant health. But not always. And not every bottle fed kid is a sickly monster. It's no doubt better to make your own baby food and to compound salves and soaps from organic materials. But it's by no means essential.

Learn as soon as you can the difference between "has to happen" and "would be nice to do" and you'll save yourself endless aggravation down the road. Also, there's nothing more satisfying than looking at someone who has just given you a self-satisfied lecture on the necessity of infant sign language or whatever and replying, witheringly, "Really? Do you *really* think that's essential?"
posted by R. Schlock at 9:55 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


IMO, the title of this post gets at the nub of the issue. What do you do with a good which has a limited supply but infinite demand?
posted by banal evil at 9:59 AM on July 30, 2013


If you're Warren Buffett, you buy stock in the manufacturer.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Finally, upper-middle class hipster parents are taking some time from their baby-and-me yoga classes to teach poor women the proper cloth-diaper, gluten-free, no formula, sustainable, fresh-produce-diet way of raising children. To make it easier on on poor moms, maybe all of you can meet up at the nearest Whole Foods?
posted by spaltavian at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh, also: I know this isn't exactly on topic but because it is on the topic of poor women who may have trouble with some stuff: if you are a nursing mom, you may not realize that you can freeze your breastmilk and it is good for up to four months. If you are producing more than your baby demands, you can also donate that breastmilk - I'm not sure how many organizations are doing it now but I remember several years ago there were at least a couple.
posted by corb at 10:10 AM on July 30, 2013



As for the laundering...from my limited experience, you can do this without the washing machine. I grew up poor, had poor relatives, and am old enough that some people still used cloth because that's what they've always done. I could be remembering things incorrectly, but seemed like a lot of the people I knew used cloth. They way I remember this being done was that the diaper was emptied in the toilet. You sloshed it around until you got the big stuff off. Pop the diaper in a bucket. Repeat until you have enough diapers to do a load. After you have the large stuff off I can't see why you couldn't wash them by hand in the bathtub or a sink.


Something else that has been striking me here: this sounds miserable. In fact, a lot of the "fix it yourself, be a Responsible Poor Person" stuff sounds miserable. ("You too can eat a wholesome, natural, healthy diet very cheaply if you eat beans and brown rice for every meal until it makes you want to puke! You too can be up to your elbows in baby shit! You too can [do various time-consuming and physically strenuous things that are fun as hobbies/crafts but really exhausting when required to survive]!")

Honestly, one of the reasons to have radical social reform is so that people don't have to be so fucking miserable in a world of plenty. It's one thing to say "if you're desperate, this is difficult but it's better than doing without" and quite another to say "you're desperate, you should do this difficult and misery-making thing because it allows you to avoid charity/political agitation/etc" - and I feel like a lot of the "yes, my mother washed all the diapers in the tub and we canned everything and did all our wash by hand and all you need are these inexpensive start-up supplies and fifty hours a day" business basically accepts that poor folks should expect to be miserable and work really, really hard. Why should that be? Why shouldn't poor folks put their effort into organizing for the kind of political change that would provide, say, a diaper service, where people earning actual wages could wash the diapers in bulk, efficiently and in a sterile manner*?

*I am not too big on this "do the diapers in the tub" thing, because just now I have a yucky ingrown-hair-staph thing and I had some cuts on my feet from stepping on broken glass recently and I just do not like the idea of dirty diapers where I wash.
posted by Frowner at 10:14 AM on July 30, 2013 [71 favorites]


Dealing with my younger brother's cloth diapers was so unpleasant that it contributed to my informed decision as a teenager to not, ever, have children of my own. Also I determined early on that children were an expense I could not afford if I wanted to avoid living in poverty. Just as well I didn't want any.
posted by Gwynarra at 10:17 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Something else that has been striking me here: this sounds miserable. In fact, a lot of the "fix it yourself, be a Responsible Poor Person" stuff sounds miserable.

Yeah, like Sticherbeast, I find the glorification of the Good Old Days terrible. Any other mefites ever watch the 1900 House? Those women were spending all day, every day, trying to keep soot off the rugs, cooking and canning and gardening, and they had hired help and while a lot of these things are currently pretty trendy for privileged folks--hell, even I have a poorly weeded garden and spend an afternoon making an occasional jar of pickles myself--I cannot for the life of me figure out how such a lifestyle of hard labor (because, let's face it, that's what it is) is possible if one wants to write books, much less leave the home to work your standard 9-6.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:21 AM on July 30, 2013 [28 favorites]


It's one thing to say "if you're desperate, this is difficult but it's better than doing without" and quite another to say "you're desperate, you should do this difficult and misery-making thing because it allows you to avoid charity/political agitation/etc" - and I feel like a lot of the "yes, my mother washed all the diapers in the tub and we canned everything and did all our wash by hand and all you need are these inexpensive start-up supplies and fifty hours a day" business basically accepts that poor folks should expect to be miserable and work really, really hard.

I understand this. And I'm not suggesting this is even the best of worlds. But I think it's important to realize that there are a lot of people for whom even the ideas and concepts of being able to do desperate, miserable work in order to get by is better than the prospect of not getting by. The mom in the article was literally starving herself in order to afford baby diapers. That is a situation that is worse than extra labor each night - which is not great! - and directly impacts so many things including her ability to actually survive. Look, I use washing machines now - but if I were ever starving again, I would be grateful that I know so well how to use a washing board and a wringer. The information and abilities doesn't hurt. It lets people make those choices based on what's best for them with their situation.

As someone who has been an activist, I think that telling poor people that what they need to do is activism is also kind of ... problematic to say the best. It is hard and expensive to do activism as well. It is time consuming and there is often no childcare and sometimes it risks your employment. It is hard for people who are living by the skin of their teeth to commit so much of their time to something that is unlikely to have an immediate effect in their living environment.
posted by corb at 10:21 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I think that in general it's unfair, unreasonable, and obnoxious to expect people who are much less fortunate than you to readily shoulder burdens you yourself have chosen to undertake using the larger pool of resources and inherent privileges that you personally have at hand, and which they do not have. To actually get down in the shit and SHAME people for, in essence, not having your advantages, is vile.
posted by elizardbits at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2013 [36 favorites]


I wonder what it would take for daycares to do the diaper service thing themselves for every child there, without making individual families responsible for bringing them to and from the daycare? Obviously not sufficient to address the problems for people using them individually, but you'd think an economy of scale effect would kick in with having them provided and washed en masse. I don't think it would matter which kid gets which diaper with a system like that, right?
posted by asperity at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if you have a disability, health issues, children, poverty, and several shitty random hour jobs? I guess you should get more education about how to care for your kids in the limited time you have. I'm sickened by the repeated use of "choice" in this thread. The point is that there often ARE no choices.
posted by agregoli at 10:27 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Back to the cost of diapers... My recommendation is, as it is for a lot of poverty issues, a livable wage.

I agree that there should be a "livable wage" in the U.S., but there would of course a cost to this. The cost would be paid through taxes, higher prices, or less available jobs (facilitated by increased automation, which is rapidly coming down in price). Should the livable wage be set at a level that the employee could meet their own needs, or an even higher cost wage that would allow them to raise a family? What if they want two children, or ten?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:31 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if you have a disability, health issues, children, poverty, and several shitty random hour jobs?

These are the real problems, the nappies are just an example of how hard real life is for people. A livable wage is one solution, rather than arguing about the type of nappies used.

Personally I have no problem with higher taxes if it means people can make ends meet, and don't have to choose between food and changing their baby.
posted by billiebee at 10:37 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


My mother toilet-trained us at what would today no doubt be considered a ridiculously young age, thus saving on a lot of diapers (she did some of each kind), but then again, she was able to choose to be a SAHM and had the time.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:38 AM on July 30, 2013


some third option that's more advanced than gross cloth diapers or hideously unsustainable disposable ones? Seriously, America, get ON THAT SHIZ.

Something exactly like current disposables but with no plastic. Made to be completely compostable and with a chemical/nutrient profile that would compliment/supplement the baby poo and pee that it contains. Throw it on the compost pile and turn your poop containment problem into delicious organic tomatoes.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:48 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


At worst, this thread is very instructive on not making assumptions about other people's lives based on the resources available in your own.

At best, this thread is very instructive on how goddamn hard it is to become not poor if you're already there.
posted by Mooski at 10:48 AM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


Something exactly like current disposables but with no plastic. Made to be completely compostable and with a chemical/nutrient profile that would compliment/supplement the baby poo and pee that it contains. Throw it on the compost pile and turn your poop containment problem into delicious organic tomatoes.

You can do that with the pee diapers for most of the biodegradable inserts and (presumably) biodegradable diapes like 7th gen. Most of them can be flushed, too (though not if you have delicate plumbing or a septic system).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:49 AM on July 30, 2013


What if you have a disability, health issues, children, poverty, and several shitty random hour jobs? In the United States, we have enough wealth to help disabled people care for themselves and their children. That we don't is appalling.

Should the livable wage be set at a level that the employee could meet their own needs, or an even higher cost wage that would allow them to raise a family? What if they want two children, or ten? If you want 10 kids as a single parent, I think you are making a decision that's pretty hard to support. If you want 10 kids as a family, in whatever way you define it, and you can manage 10 kids, I wish you well. I guess if we start with a living wage for everybody, then we can see what we need to do next. Yes, costs would rise, but they would be offset by reduced costs for housing assistance, TANF, food stamps, etc. And the benefits in people being motivated to work, and feeling pride in needing less government assistance, and not maintaining the poverty cycle where poor people learn that assistance is a way of life, would be huge.

When I worked in a welfare-to-work program, teaching poor people - mostly women - the difference in their self-worth when they graduated with skills, knowing that they weren't stupid, knowing that they had value, was amazing. The social services system doesn't plan to treat people badly, but it happens anyway, and the cultural messages for people on TANF, food stamps, public housing, etc., are all negative, and people carry all those messages every day, and it's a heavy burden.

how goddamn hard it is to become not poor if you're already there So very true, Mooski.
posted by theora55 at 10:51 AM on July 30, 2013


Just to pile on: Outdoors clothelines have been prohibited by either law or lease in every apartment I've lived in, presumably because it makes a neighborhood look "too poor."

And it's not like you can pop on over to Target and buy a discount washboard and clothes ringer.
posted by Skwirl at 10:54 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where do you even buy a non decorative washboard these days? I can't recall the last time I saw one that wasn't in a garden, uh, scene? Arrangement? Whatever you call you those totally stage set gardens.
posted by sio42 at 11:01 AM on July 30, 2013


Let them eat cake!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:02 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where do you even buy a non decorative washboard these days?

It's like that scene in The Stand where Frannie realizes that Stu has just been throwing away his dirty clothes and getting new ones at the store, and she decides "fuck it, this is not the world I want to remake post-apocalypse," but when she looks for a washboard, the only one she can find in the entire city is in a musical instrument store as part of a jug band display.
posted by elizardbits at 11:04 AM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


Where do you even buy a non decorative washboard these days? I can't recall the last time I saw one that wasn't in a garden, uh, scene?

Where else? Amazon.
posted by corb at 11:05 AM on July 30, 2013


Can't buy on Amazon if you don't have a credit card, so little use.
posted by agregoli at 11:11 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where else? Amazon.

Lollers...the "frequently purchased together" from the related items are this, this, and this, everything you'd need to hand-wash a load of laundry properly. Total cost together? $230. Not to mention the cost of time to do it all.

If you have that much money (and the ability to actually buy things online) to throw at your "don't have a machine" problem, you may as well buy a goddamned machine.
posted by phunniemee at 11:19 AM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can't buy on Amazon if you don't have a credit card, so little use.

You can buy them in hardware stores in a lot of rural America. Again, I'm not saying that anyone should have to but it's pretty easy to internet-people-argue against every possible option besides doing nothing and staying on the internet all day complaining. People usually make it work. Some situations make it such that people basically can't make it work no matter how hard they try. We should work on those situations, as a society, in ways that don't just point the finger at people and say "You, try harder."
posted by jessamyn at 11:21 AM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this...

At first, I thought this was a really clever, dry spoof of a certain attitude.
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:24 AM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


there were other tools (washboards for one, ringer for another)

There's a reason it was called laundry DAY.

I used cloth diapers for my kids.
I had two/four kids* that were sensitive to ammonia, and had to was diapers twice, with a second rinse. Never mind that the washing machine needed to be bleached occasionally without a load to keep it from becoming icky. Someone mentioned $2/load in a pay washer--two kids in diapers meant I did diapers every other day, or even every day if kids were sick. Add that up, whydon'cha. I was lucky as I had a washer and a drying line. Yes, I put diapers out in the sun to dry--great in summer, frozen diapers in winter. Ironing them or putting them in front of a fan presupposes you have that equipment. I was a stay at home mom, our income was limited, and it was tough. But I was damn fortunate compared to many, many women then, and now.

Elizardbits, I worked, pumped milk on breaks, stored it in the fridge on site, and nursed. It wasn't very difficult.

Good for you.
My daughter is a fledgling lawyer. Her work has complied by the law and given her a room to pump. Unfortunately it doesn't have running water, so she has to go two floors up to wash her equipment. The fridge on site is broken, so she has to always make sure she has ice. It's usually a rush to get things done, and that almost always doubles her letdown time. Thanks to state budget cuts, her workload is such that her caseload has nearly doubled this year. The afternoons she's scheduled for court, she CAN'T leave the courtroom to pump unless there's a break--and frequently there's not. She'd love to use cloth diapers, but daycare constraints and the expense make it impossible--and that's with two professional incomes. It IS difficult for most working mothers.

Yeah, four kids. Catholic and Mormon brainwashing worked until reality kicked in. In-laws still pressured for more. We love all our kids, and are grateful for them. They turned out great. But damned if we wouldn't have done things different....
posted by BlueHorse at 11:24 AM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can't buy on Amazon if you don't have a credit card, so little use.

Ace Hardware is a pretty big company, they offer washboards. I've physically seen them in stores in NYC, at least, and it seems you can order them to the store, where you can presumably pay with cash.

everything you'd need to hand-wash a load of laundry properly. Total cost together? $230

Wringers are nice, but not necessary. However, if you were going to get one and you were short on cash, you should buy one used. Antique hardware stores definitely offer them as far as physical locations. Without physical locations, there's always Ebay, where people often take check or money order. I'm seeing wringers offered from 20$, with decent ones at 30$. Even assuming you'd need to buy new rollers, they're also offered for about $20. So we're talking $60 all told for something that otherwise costs you at least $2 a load.

Look, again, I'm not saying this is easy or fun. I've washed a lot of clothes by hand on a regular basis, and it sucks. Your hands get red and irritated from the hot water and the soap. It does take at least two hours from start to finish - which is similar to washing machines and dryers, except that unlike washing machines and dryers, you can't set them and forget them but must work the whole time.

But I think we need to move away from laughing at the idea of hand washing clothing as something only people in foreign super-poor backwards countries do. It is simply something you do if you can't afford a washing machine or a laundromat. It is another option - not one to necessarily be preferred if your time is more valuable than the money you save, but it is a nice one to have. Because if you don't have money for the laundromat or a washing machine, it's not like your clothes just magically clean themselves.
posted by corb at 11:36 AM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you have that much money (and the ability to actually buy things online) to throw at your "don't have a machine" problem, you may as well buy a goddamned machine.

Not that simple. I'd say about half of the apartments I've rented over the years have had hookups, and I'd expect this number to be much, much lower in low income housing.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:41 AM on July 30, 2013


I swear Youtube has a vid for everthing. Even washing diapers.
posted by Gwynarra at 11:41 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Um, yeah, jessamyn, I agree. Sorry.
posted by agregoli at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2013


Ah, hardware stores. Didn't think of that. Good to know.
posted by sio42 at 11:45 AM on July 30, 2013


Corb, it still requires equipment, knowledge of what that is, and where to get it. And the physical ability to do so. A program to help people obtain those things would be nice, but I'd rather money go towards wages, transportation, good laundry facilities, free diapers for low-income folks, etc. We don't have to go back to hard manual labor for all who don't have the time/money/access.
posted by agregoli at 11:46 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not that simple. I'd say about half of the apartments I've rented over the years have had hookups, and I'd expect this number to be much, much lower in low income housing.

That one attaches to your bathroom sink. I know because I have one. Because I don't want to fight the other people (who all have families and thus very large laundry needs) in my building to use the one machine, and I don't want to haul my things down 6 blocks to the laundromat and shell out at LEAST five bucks every time I need clean clothes. Having the ability to wash clothes in my own home has significantly changed my quality of life for the better. (And I can do a load of laundry without putting on pants, which is just fantastic.)

But none of that matters. The point here is just what so many people in the thread have had to keep repeating over and over, which is that if you have the time and the ability, washing clothes, etc, by hand is great. You go to a hardware store and buy your washboard and spend two hours with your hands in scalding bleach water if that's what gets you off.

Personally, I'd rather spend that time watching TV and hanging out with my dog, and that's coming from the position of being a person with the free time and financial comfort to spend watching TV and bonding with a stupid furry thing. Many, many people do not have that luxury.

No one here is saying that you shouldn't hand wash clothes because it's poor and 3rd world and backwards. They're saying "I do not want to spend my precious little free time hand washing the poop out of things. I would rather spend those two hours doing literally anything else, like reading to my child or staring at a wall or working a second job." Not wanting to hand wash clothes is NOT a moral failure. Jesus.
posted by phunniemee at 11:50 AM on July 30, 2013 [57 favorites]


Exactly.

Actually it just seems kinda crazy that in a time and place where holograms of dead rappers can show up on stage, that ANYONE for any reason other than straight up desire to do so, should have to buy a washing board to wash diapers. Or should have to forgo food so their baby can have something to perform basic bodily functions in. Or that something so basic can be so damned expensive. But that can be said about many necessities around here, unfortunately.

That is just insane to me.
posted by sio42 at 11:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mother Jones does a better job than the originally linked article in explaining exactly what was found by the study. Not having access to a basic need for one's child - DIAPERS - increases anxiety and depression, and increased maternal anxiety and depression lead to poor outcomes for children. I am sickened by how people are MISSING THAT POINT. The mother-shaming, poverty-shaming, "just do this extra hard work that sucks so much but hey, that's what you get for being poor and daring to breed" ... argh.

In Seattle, if you have opened packs of diapers, the Baby Boutique at Wellspring Family Services will take them. If you look around in your location, I'm sure there are similar organizations that will do the same.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:02 PM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


Can't buy on Amazon if you don't have a credit card

You can pay with a checking account (which I understand some people also can't get, but which doesn't require a good borrowing history), so this isn't true, and may not ever have been.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:04 PM on July 30, 2013


Good to know, although as you note, not sure how much that counts for. The point is that hand washing with a washboard is a forgotten skill and its not even easy to find one, if you know what one is.
posted by agregoli at 12:07 PM on July 30, 2013




Thanks, Lulu's Pink Converse, for the google search idea. :)
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So where do all those cheap disposable diapers that everyone wants to give to the poor come from? They're made by even poorer people in other countries.

Sure, it's great to live a life of ease that's dependent on modern conveniences. I do it myself. But let's not kid ourselves that this comes without a price. The entire edifice within which we live is dependent on cheap oil, exploited labor (both foreign and domestic), and the vast infrastructure that's been built on these things.

I am certainly sympathetic to the plight of the poor, and honestly reading this thread has reminded me just how much my world view is formed by being a child of privilege. As an educated, resourceful, childless white male, I really don't, and probably can't, understand many people's challenges.

For me it always comes down to not having kids. Even more so if you're in financial difficulty. That's not a judgement against anybody, it's just a fact. One of the main reasons that my life is so easy is that I never had kids.

Obviously the previous paragraph is no help at all to someone who already has kids. For those who don't, take note.
posted by crazylegs at 12:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Good to know, although as you note, not sure how much that counts for.

Yeah. You used to be able to mail them a check or money order as payment, but it looks like they stopped accepting those as payment in 2008, probably because it is relatively labor-intensive to process them and increases the time that they have to keep something sitting in a warehouse while waiting for payment.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:11 PM on July 30, 2013


Since cotton seeds are super affordable, I'm surprised no one has shown up yet to explain that if they had any gumption, women could just jump down, turn around, and grow their own diapers.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:24 PM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


crazylegs: "So where do all those cheap disposable diapers that everyone wants to give to the poor come from? They're made by even poorer people in other countries."

If more people were using cloth diapers, then those same poor people in other countries would probably just be making reusable cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. I don't know which is more labor intensive, but since the quantity of the disposable diapers would be much higher (since they're disposable) it's probably safe to assume the use of disposables creates more of these low-paying jobs.

And... this is a bad thing? I would love to see a world where we have an international compact among industrialized and developing countries that sets a sensible floor on wages, but until we have that, the choice seems to be between more low-paying jobs or fewer low-paying jobs, and since an increase in the number of jobs will put upward pressure on wages, I do not see this kind of globalization / poor workers argument as an argument for making fewer disposable diapers.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:24 PM on July 30, 2013


crazylegs: So where do all those cheap disposable diapers that everyone wants to give to the poor come from? They're made by even poorer people in other countries. Sure, it's great to live a life of ease that's dependent on modern conveniences. I do it myself. But let's not kid ourselves that this comes without a price.

If there's anything I hate, it's people in poorer countries having jobs.
posted by spaltavian at 12:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


The mother-shaming, poverty-shaming, "just do this extra hard work that sucks so much but hey, that's what you get for being poor and daring to breed" ... argh.

I think this is an uncharitable reading of most people's suggestions.

I think most people, when presented with a problem, try for solutions. If disposable is not an option, and cloth is not an option, and not having kids is not an option...what are you left with?
posted by cjorgensen at 12:27 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think that the charity of the reading depends on the point of view of the reader. From my point of view (mother), this is my reading.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:37 PM on July 30, 2013


If disposable is not an option, and cloth is not an option, and not having kids is not an option...what are you left with?

Starving it would seem.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 12:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously the previous paragraph is no help at all to someone who already has kids.

You underestimate yourself! That paragraph is also no help to pregnant women and their partners, anyone who wants kids in the future, or pretty much anyone who wasn't already aware that food and clothes cost money.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 12:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [21 favorites]


So where do all those cheap disposable diapers that everyone wants to give to the poor come from? They're made by even poorer people in other countries.

Sure, it's great to live a life of ease that's dependent on modern conveniences. I do it myself. But let's not kid ourselves that this comes without a price.


OK, so you just got schooled in how much privilege you have, you've been forced to face the fact that you're playing on life's lowest difficulty setting, and now you're telling poor people and the people who want to help them to... check their privilege? Repeatedly acknowledge that we live in an unfathomably unjust, cruel world? Bear in mind that when you're poor, you spend a hell of a lot of time outright groveling just to ensure that you are clothed, fed, and housed. It's exhaustive and exhausting, every single day. And you don't know "resourceful" from a hole in the ground until you've been there.

It takes a lot of time and energy just to survive in this tier of society. So when you're busy trying to figure out where your next meal is going to come from, or how you're supposed to buy that next pack of diapers, there isn't a great deal of time to devote to social justice activism, in word or in deed. Poor Americans aren't exactly in a position to institute a worldwide living wage, or better working conditions. They're kinda busy trying to find themselves jobs, food, childcare, and secure housing.

In threads that discuss how difficult it is to get nutritious food when you're poor, are you duly moved to remind people that the migrant workers who picked the tomatoes that went in the cans of Spaghetti-Os at the food bank are pretty much just straight-up slaves? Or would you rather point out that virtuous, right-thinking people should just shop at the farmers' market and/or find a way to grow their own food, since that's the only way we can possibly know that our food suppliers are being paid in accordance with their efforts? How far down the lip service rabbit hole do you need to fall before you realize that deploying this line of thinking is absolutely useless when you don't possess the power to enact the global-scale societal change required to back it up? Here: the world is unfathomably unjust. We are all part of the machine. Can we figure out a way to help poor people get diapers for their kids now?

This is just a slapdash paint job over a massive goalpost shift, put forth under the guise of empathy, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. Trying to guilt people here for wanting to ensure that basic necessities are available to people who need them is exactly as effective as "finish your peas, Billy, there are starving children in Africa!"
posted by divined by radio at 12:41 PM on July 30, 2013 [55 favorites]


Any job with a break will allow a woman to pump enough for comfort.

I think people don't realize just how shitty some jobs for the working poor are. When my son was a toddler, I batch processed checks for a now-defunct mail-order music company. We took huge bundles of checks to our machines, the machines fed the checks at their own speed, and could not be paused without a manager coming over to unlock the machine.

We worked overnight- and with checks- so they locked us in at the start of the shift, and unlocked the doors at the end of shift. We all took our lunch break at exactly the same time, inside the same small break room (because again, we couldn't leave because of the checks.) There was no fridge, no microwave, no sink.

The bathroom was a single stall, unisex bathroom that did not lock (because, checks.) Everybody had to use it, either during our 15 minute break or our lunch period. It was irritating when somebody took a particularly long dump because it meant some of us weren't going to get to go to the bathroom that shift. I can only imagine how thrilled people would have been if someone had taken the time to pump and dump.

There are, in fact, some jobs with a break, that would not allow a woman to pump in comfort. Fortunately, I had already weaned my child when I started working there because otherwise, I would have had to stop to keep my job.
posted by headspace at 12:55 PM on July 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


We worked overnight- and with checks- so they locked us in at the start of the shift, and unlocked the doors at the end of shift.

It is not that I doubt that this happened, because I absolutely believe employers would be that shitty, but hasn't this been illegal since the Triangle Fire?
posted by corb at 12:58 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've often wondered about the marketing/economics of diapers - and why it's so confusing to just buy a box at a cheap per diaper price. Different stores have different "types" of boxes of the same diaper - Giant pack vs. jumbo vs. economy plus vs. value pack, and a zillion variations. And this is all just the regular Pampers cruisers (tried the grocery store generic and she got a rash that took weeks to clear). It's hard to copmapre the ads because they rarely specify the diaper count for each size. Eventually I just figured out that I buy diapers whenever I see them at anything less than $0.20 per diapers regardless if it's the 20 pack or the 175 pack. At $0.15 or less, I feel kind of like I'm getting away with something I shouldn't. Also, we were inundated in the mail with more diaper coupons than we could use for the first 4 months, and now, nada. If I'd known that the coupons would dry up I guess I would've stocked up more... ah well.

Does anyone know what the profit margin is like on diapers?
posted by raxast at 12:59 PM on July 30, 2013


crazylegs - a lot of people have tried to engage with you on the points you're making in this thread - from indoor plumbing, to comparisons between your mother in the 60s and poor mothers today, to poor people and how they take responsibility and when it's ok to judge them, to learning the skills of small home repair stuff, to a livelihood disparity between the first and third worlds. yet - you aren't acknowledging that people are responding to you. you said in one of those comments, "I'll withhold my instinctive snark and ask a serious question." from where i'm sitting, you don't seem to be doing an awesome job of withholding snark and your questions don't really appear that serious.
posted by nadawi at 1:02 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


what is illegal and what is done are very different things.
Earlier this year, 25 janitors contracted to work at Target stores filed complaints with OSHA, saying they were locked in the retailer's buildings during overnight shifts.

In 2011, OSHA fined a meat company in Brooklyn, N.Y., more than $62,000 for locking all of its fire exits at night and not allowing employees to unlock a door without a manager's permission.

And Wal-Mart came under widespread criticism in 2004 when reports surfaced that it had locked in overnight shift workers at some of its facilities -- supposedly to prevent theft and increase worker efficiency.

"One hundred years ago in New York City, 146 workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire," OSHA chief David Michaels said in 2011. "Many of them died because they were locked in and unable to escape swiftly. A century later, we still find employers locking in their employees."
posted by nadawi at 1:05 PM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


It is not that I doubt that this happened, because I absolutely believe employers would be that shitty, but hasn't this been illegal since the Triangle Fire?

I had a friend who got locked into the box office at a historical site for an entire shift because there wasn't a manager on duty in the last year. She quit, because she could afford to, but... I think as long as there are alarmed or open-on-automated response fire exits, it would be legal.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aaaaand there's a MeTa.
posted by corb at 1:09 PM on July 30, 2013


It is not that I doubt that this happened, because I absolutely believe employers would be that shitty, but hasn't this been illegal since the Triangle Fire?

So because something's illegal it's automagically never done any more?
posted by sobell at 1:10 PM on July 30, 2013


Most of them can be flushed, too (though not if you have delicate plumbing or a septic system).

I was just getting ready to send you a me-mail warning you about that.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:12 PM on July 30, 2013


So because something's illegal it's automagically never done any more?

No, it was more "Wow that fucking sucks, I was pretty sure it was illegal not just in the scale of fines but as in actual jail time (kidnapping-type)." With a heaping helping of "And I hope you and everyone else suffering this fry those fuckers."
posted by corb at 1:13 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fry = send them to jail, for the clarification.
posted by corb at 1:14 PM on July 30, 2013


It is not that I doubt that this happened, because I absolutely believe employers would be that shitty, but hasn't this been illegal since the Triangle Fire?

It's totally illegal. I quit the job when my son was rushed to the hospital overnight, and the onsite manager had to call the off-site manager to come and let me out so I could leave. (But 10 CDs for a penny, guys!!)
posted by headspace at 1:16 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of people arguing that it is somehow irresponsible or otherwise wrong for the mother in question not to use cloth diapers are kissing something else: economics.

Say it takes two hours, daily, to hand wash diapers. That is 14 hours a week. At minimum wage that is $101.50. Disposable diapers for a week cost a lot less han $101.50. So either the mother is supposed to do backbreaking labor at less than minimum wage, or the "she should use cloth" crowd just haven't really thought things through.

There is also the question of weithing discomforts. I would rather eat ramen than do diaers by hand, I doubt I am alone in this.

Plus, of course the Vimes' Boots isue of startup costs. The startup cost for disposable diapers is the cost of a pack of diapers. The startup cost for oth diapers and the gear to hand wash is more than a person struggling from paycheck to paycheck can afford. Ultimately, like so many other things, this is a question of economics, not just money.
posted by sotonohito at 1:17 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


crazylegs - a lot of people have tried to engage with you on the points you're making in this thread - from indoor plumbing, to comparisons between your mother in the 60s and poor mothers today, to poor people and how they take responsibility and when it's ok to judge them, to learning the skills of small home repair stuff, to a livelihood disparity between the first and third worlds. yet - you aren't acknowledging that people are responding to you. you said in one of those comments, "I'll withhold my instinctive snark and ask a serious question." from where i'm sitting, you don't seem to be doing an awesome job of withholding snark and your questions don't really appear that serious.

Point taken, and I thank you for making it. I'm really not trying to be a dick. I am learning a lot in this thread.
posted by crazylegs at 1:19 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


the penalties are sadly not that harsh - just a little money here and there if you're caught. also - in a lot of the situations i know about, while there technically might be a fire exit open, you are instructed to not leave and told if you use that door (instead of the manager controlled locked employee entrance) you can be written up or fired. sometimes they quote non-existent fire codes to support this.
posted by nadawi at 1:19 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone who's had such a fortunate life that he or she literally has no mental frame of reference for being so poor and so short on social capital that richer and more powerful people can get away with doing something to them that's technically illegal should spend some serious time tonight thinking about just how damned good the circumstances of their lives have been.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


Say it takes two hours, daily, to hand wash diapers.

From my experience, like I said, it took four and a half. Maybe I'd get better at it with practice, but probably not more than twice as fast.
posted by KathrynT at 1:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


some third option that's more advanced than gross cloth diapers or hideously unsustainable disposable ones? Seriously, America, get ON THAT SHIZ.


Maybe some sort of shop-vac?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:31 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just want to say that I know the folks at LA Diaper Drive, a charity that does nothing but provide diapers. They're good people, and they do a good job.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:50 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe one of those suspended bouncy-chairs for babies except it's a bucket and every hour or so you attach it to a special mount on the toilet to initiate an autowash sequence
posted by elizardbits at 1:50 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


i am going to make a billion dollars omg
posted by elizardbits at 1:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


My dog is litter box trained and he's pretty dumb. I mean, how much dumber is a baby, really? We can do this!
posted by phunniemee at 1:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


so much dumber, they don't even know SIT or STAY
posted by elizardbits at 1:54 PM on July 30, 2013


Geez, it takes them months even to figure out a simple "roll over." My dog, way smarter.
posted by ambrosia at 1:55 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


It can't be THAT hard to implement some version of NASA's spacesuit-potty technology.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


crob: It is not that I doubt that this happened, because I absolutely believe employers would be that shitty, but hasn't this been illegal since the Triangle Fire?

sobell: So because something's illegal it's automagically never done any more?

Uh, sobell, did you actually read the comment? Was there something unclear about "absolutely believe" it's done?
posted by spaltavian at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


My dog is litter box trained and he's pretty dumb. I mean, how much dumber is a baby, really? We can do this!

Say hello to Elimination Communication...
posted by waterlily at 1:56 PM on July 30, 2013


I haven't checked this thread since this morning and man, it turned out very differently than I thought it would. I'm wondering if geographic local has a lot to do with how we view cloth diapers.

When Mr. Jungle and I got married we made less than $20k the first year while I worked and he went to school. We lived in the worst neighborhood in Charlotte (tons of gang violence, poverty etc.) but most of our neighbors used cloth diapers so when we found out we were expecting we asked in a nice spanglish mix where our neighbors got their diapers. Most of their 'flat' diapers were re purposed receiving blankets and you could get Econobum covers at Walmart for $8 and 2 pins for $1. Our initial diaper set up cost about $30, 3 covers and 20 receiving blankets we got second hand. Now that Mr. Jungle is graduated and employed we have a few fancy cloth diapers for outings and a pack of disposables for the grandparents and a swank Kenmore setup, but I still habitually hand wash and line dry our diapers just like our neighbors taught me. It takes about 45 minutes after our daughter is asleep and it's really not that bad. I know cloth diapering isn't for everyone but I think it's a little remiss to assume cloth diapers aren't a viable option for a good bit of people. If anyone would like to know more about handwashing you can google "flats and handwashing challenge", it's a yearly thing where people handwash diapers to raise awareness for diaper need. Or memail me I guess, but I'm not an expert or anything, just a mom.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Years ago, I read that on some of the reservations in the Dakotas, which are among the poorest in the United States, store owners would open the packages of disposable diapers to sell them individually, because no one on the reservation could afford to buy the entire package at once. This has stuck with me because it is so profoundly sad.

I think people underestimate how difficult and demeaning it is to be poor.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 2:18 PM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


My mother switched to disposables after she slipped a disc lifting a washing basket full of wet nappies. She suffered for years because of it. I wanted to use cloth for my daughter, but she was tiny and I couldn't get plastic pants, let alone pre-mades, in any size that fit her for the first five months. By the time they fit she was old enough to express an opinion on the matter, and as reusables are so much bulkier and uncomfortable she absolutely hated them. So, even amongst the crunchy, professional, well-resourced middle classes sometimes cloth just simply isn't an option.

PhoBWanKenobi one of the most useful parenting skills you can start working on right now is resilience to the guilt - it is constant and you have to ignore it for your own sanity.
posted by goo at 2:21 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


goo: " PhoBWanKenobi one of the most useful parenting skills you can start working on right now is resilience to the guilt - it is constant and you have to ignore it for your own sanity."

Seconded.

For the rest of us, including me: "Parental guilt is almost bottomless. Be wary of adding to the latter without being mindful of the former." - Clyde Mnestra
posted by zarq at 2:32 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, a friend of mine at the LAT confirmed what I'd already thought--the poster girl in the lede is a friend of a friend of the writer, and is as atypical an example of someone needing welfare, public assistance, living in public housing etc. as is possible. As the Times has done so many times before, the writer found a nice peg to hang the story from, never mind the actual facts. Little actual reporting was done.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:34 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's a little remiss to assume cloth diapers aren't a viable option for a good bit of people.

your ability to line dry already makes your situation different than a lot of people. line drying has been prohibited in every lease i've signed, apartment, house, cheap, nice, doesn't matter. we pay for our dryer, but it sucks and shrinks everything so for most of our clothes i drape them over every available surface and just accept that they'll all be covered in cat hair sooner rather than later. it can take 10 hours or more to dry a load this way and i can't really fit more than 2 loads around my apartment. this is for 2 adults. i can't even imagine including cloth diapers + child care to this system.
posted by nadawi at 2:36 PM on July 30, 2013


As the Times has done so many times before, the writer found a nice peg to hang the story from, never mind the actual facts. Little actual reporting was done.

Is your point that...diapers aren't really that expensive? That poor people with diaper-wearing children can actually afford them, and just choose not to? Or what? That because the subject doesn't provide every detail of how she manages her life, you/we are justified in judging what we do know of it?
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


So, a friend of mine at the LAT confirmed what I'd already thought--the poster girl in the lede is a friend of a friend of the writer, and is as atypical an example of someone needing welfare, public assistance, living in public housing etc. as is possible.

So what? I mean, if they really can't afford that stuff, why does it matter if they're atypical (what does that even mean?) or not?
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:45 PM on July 30, 2013


I can't believe you lazy bastards are complaining about washing cloth diapers with water out of a TAP. Why, when we were a lad, we hauled that water from the local sewer outflow. Ten miles in buckets. Across a field of broken glass. And when I say we I mean my dear old mother, what died of cholera when she was twelve.
posted by Fnarf at 2:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ideefixe: So, a friend of mine at the LAT confirmed what I'd already thought--the poster girl in the lede is a friend of a friend of the writer, and is as atypical an example of someone needing welfare, public assistance, living in public housing etc. as is possible.

Aside from the issue of calling a 41 year old woman a "girl", what does it tell you that even the friend of a friend of a journalist for the LA Times is still so skint that she can't afford nappies? What do you think it's like for the mothers – single or not – who don't have even that minimal access to someone who can get their story told in a major newspaper?
posted by Len at 2:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


Ideefixe: the writer found a nice peg to hang the story from, never mind the actual facts

Are you saying that the facts, as quoted in the article, of this story of an atypical example of someone "needing welfare, public assistance, living in public housing etc." are wrong?

Because if so, it's up to you to back up that claim with something more than vague gossip from a friend of yours.
posted by Len at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


A big package of disposable nappies (gender-appropriate) is my default gift for new parents these days. Not all new parents, just the ones I know.

Can you give babies Metamucil? That would help keep their output a little more cohesive, which would make cloth nappies much more viable. Metamucil Jr.?
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:09 PM on July 30, 2013


So here's a personal story: I was born in a place and during a time when disposable diapers were either unheard of or a western luxury product. All of my young relatives wore reusable cloth diapers. We didn't use disposable wipes. Everything involved rags and cloths, and tons of washing, and little fruit jam jars with balled-up yellow lumps of cotton wool. Luckily, baby poop is a little easier on the gag reflex than other kinds of poop.

When we moved to the States, my mother only used disposable diapers for her younger child. To give you an idea of what that means, my mother is still too poor for the coin-operated washing machine. She still washes everything by hand, but she didn't use cloth diapers. It definitely wasn't because she didn't know how they worked, or because she was too squeamish, or because she didn't want to put in the labor.

We lived in a tiny apartment. My mother hammered nails for clotheslines into the bathroom walls, but clothes dried very slowly. A bathtub is terribly uncomfortable for hand-washing more than one-two items. For one, it's too deep. It makes your back hurt in minutes. That's why people used washtubs, which are portable and have low side walls. Do you know how hard it is to find a decent, zinc-coated washtub at Home Depot or Lowe's? Especially if you don't have a car, don't speak English, and your TANF cash allowance is $60 for the month?

My mother bought a plastic washbasin, which cracked almost immediately. She couldn't find a washboard. (I'm pretty sure washboards are now firmly in the realm of cartoon iconography, like falling anvils.) There was almost literally no space to put it on the floor in our tiny bathroom.

The welfare agency had my mother attend English classes. We had no relatives who could take over the childcare, so she had to use the childcare facility that was attached to the social services building. At home, we saved diapers. Sometimes the baby had to wait for a change. The childcare facility wanted enough diapers for a change every two hours, wet or dry, and no arguments. That absolutely broke us.

My mother's solution was to drop out and stay at home. She stayed at home until my younger brother started preschool and she could get a night shift job. She left for work when her husband came home from work and went to sleep. She mopped floors and cleaned bathrooms, which is pretty much what she still does today. But she didn't use cloth diapers.
posted by Nomyte at 3:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [40 favorites]


corb: "Mommy-shaming is one of the worst things to come out of our generation. I mean, it may have existed before, but it seems particularly vicious right now. "

Hear hear. So many people, many of them moms themselves, take such a perverse satisfaction in telling moms they're doing it wrong, that they're not doing enough, etc. It's gross. My wife took shit for working. She took shit for using disposables. She took shit because she didn't breast feed (few people bothered to ask to learn that she was not capable, but whattthefuckever).

We had a phrase for mom-on-mom shaming in our house. We called it (and you have to say this like a Mountain Dew commercial spokesman or a monster truck announcer): Extreme Mothering. You don't feed your kid an all vegan diet of organic stuff you puree yourself? I do; witness my Extreme Mothering. You couldn't afford to stop working to do Baby Einstein with your kid all day? I did; behold my Extreme Mothering. Etc, etc.

Mommy shaming is the worst. There are like 10,000,000 ways to be a good mom. The only thing you can ever be sure of is that every mom faces different challenges that no one except she (and maybe her partner) will ever understand.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:38 PM on July 30, 2013 [32 favorites]


Any time I start to think to myself that there might be a readily available solution to [terrible problem created or exacerbated by being poor] that poor people just aren't ingenious or hard-working enough to take on, I bring myself back to reality by remembering that poor people are fucking ass-busting ninjas of problem-solving when it comes to finding cheaper ways to get important stuff done.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


This article is describing people who are going without FOOD to cover the cost of diapers.

If using cloth diapers was a viable option, don't you think these parents would have tried it?

I mean, the idea of literally scrubbing shit with your bare hands sounds fucking awful (because access to a washer and dryer does not come cheaply), and although some people here have said its worked for them--clearly this isn't an option for parents who are going hungry because they can't afford basic necessities for their child.
posted by inertia at 3:58 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


your ability to line dry already makes your situation different than a lot of people. line drying has been prohibited in every lease i've signed, apartment, house, cheap, nice, doesn't matter. we pay for our dryer, but it sucks and shrinks everything so for most of our clothes i drape them over every available surface and just accept that they'll all be covered in cat hair sooner rather than later. it can take 10 hours or more to dry a load this way and i can't really fit more than 2 loads around my apartment. this is for 2 adults. i can't even imagine including cloth diapers + child care to this system.

I guessed you missed my earlier comment which to be fair is about 200 comments ago but we hang our diapers inside in front of a box fan. Cloth diapers do dry a lot faster than clothes though, the first year of married life I hand washed everything and I hated waiting for things to dry, here in the south it can take forever.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 3:58 PM on July 30, 2013


It is simply something you do if you can't afford a washing machine or a laundromat. It is another option - not one to necessarily be preferred if your time is more valuable than the money you save, but it is a nice one to have. Because if you don't have money for the laundromat or a washing machine, it's not like your clothes just magically clean themselves.

But people who do not HAVE time to spend on hand washing things don't have that option anyway.

Which is the point people were trying to make at the very beginning of this "laundry derail". Because that is precisely why they are going with disposable diapers - not because they dislike the option of hand-washing at home, but because it is an option they do not have. It's not a matter of their time "being more valuable than the money they save," it is a matter of the time not being available in the first place.

So, as you say, because cloth diapers don't magically clean themselves, they go with disposables. Because they gotta do something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


DeLauro's effort failed, in part because of opposition from critics such as Rush Limbaugh

I wonder how Sen. David Vitter feels about this.
posted by homunculus at 4:27 PM on July 30, 2013


Elizardbits, I worked, pumped milk on breaks, stored it in the fridge on site, and nursed. It wasn't very difficult.

I had to stop reading and chime in here. After the birth of my first son, (I work supermarket retail) I was transferred to a store I'd never been in before, so I didn't know my coworkers. They had a small room off the ladies room that was locked, but refused to let me use it to pump in. So I had to use one of the public bathroom stalls to pump - imagine going to use the toilet and there's a buzzing sound coming from one of the other stalls. I only had one pump at that time, and frankly, though I had no problems nursing whatsoever, I had a hard time getting mile out by pump. I was able to refrigerate it however, in the meat cooler. It was very discouraging to pump as much as I could in my brief breaks (two 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch) and not even fill a bottle.

By the time I had my second son almost four years later, I was allowed to use that little room; I had two battery operated hand pumps, and I still couldn't get much out. It was very discouraging. Couple that with working six days a week, my nursing schedule was relegated to nights and days off. Production dwindled, and by the time both boys were four months old I simply stopped nursing and relied on formula. I felt like a failure. (Though I loved scaring the crap out of a nosy/possibly criminally minded customer who opened the door to that little room while i was busy pumping - once).
posted by annieb at 4:29 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Elizardbits, I worked, pumped milk on breaks, stored it in the fridge on site, and nursed. It wasn't very difficult.

Look, folks. I got good grades in high school, got a degree in Computer Science from a top university, and got a job with a start-up company that went public. Now I'm worth over a million dollars.

It wasn't very difficult.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:48 PM on July 30, 2013 [34 favorites]


"Say it takes two hours, daily"

Handwash, line-dry? I was a single working father, and for two months, I had to use cloth diapers and handwash (too poor for disposables). The whole process takes two hours (soaking mainly), the actual work is only 25 to 30 minutes tops. Plus, scrubboards are actually kind of fun.

Not two hours to dry, of course, for that you need an open window, a fan to circulate air, and a clothes line. With a 5 day diaper supply, each batch gets about 3 days of drying time.

The start-up cost was next to nothing. We got hand-me-down diapers from family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and just about anybody else who had a stack of diapers and was trying to get rid of them.
posted by Ardiril at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that the charity of the reading depends on the point of view of the reader. From my point of view (mother), this is my reading.

You miss the part where I wrote about relatives and family friends emptying diapers in the toilet and them washing them in the tub? Perhaps that doesn't work these days. I'm willing to concede that, but I think you're blowing past the idea that people are trying to propose solutions to the problem, not dog on moms.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:08 PM on July 30, 2013


Disposable diapers are a complete luxury in Cambodia. The mums in our programs in urban slums use elimination communication - which requires an adult or older child to be around constantly with the child and a very high tolerance for dirt or living next to a river - or scraps of cloth tied around as sort of diapers with a bit of wadding. DIY cloth diapers.

They don't wash them if they can. These are women living on $1 or less a day, often earned in the worst ways possible with hungry children. And STILL they will scrape a few cents aside to pay for another woman to do laundry. Laundress - the traditional old-fashioned style with a washboard and tub, down by the riverside - is considered a worse job than just about anything else because it is so damn hard physically and the pay is low for the effort put in.

The working class and above go to commercial laundries which is often just a tiny shop with a couple of domestic washing machines that will take your bag of laundry and return it the next day, air-dried.

Convenient and pleasant cloth diapering is a luxury. It requires access to good quality cloth diapers and the time and energy to clean them, preferably with a machine to assist. Great hobby, some environmental pluses and really helpful with diaper rash for some babies. A luxury.

Disposable diapers are a miracle. They free up a huge chunk of time for infant caretakers. They give flexibility and require very little forward planning, which is valuable in a life with multiple challenges.

You know what really cracks me up? Adult disposable diapers. No-one's going around suggesting that adults with health or age-related issues who need diapers be switched over to cloth diapers for "the environment" or "cost". No, it's only when it's easy to shift the entire burden onto women, especially poor women, that cloth diapers become a moral issue.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:15 PM on July 30, 2013 [73 favorites]


> I'll withhold my instinctive snark and ask a serious question. My mother had a baby in 1959, another in 1960, skipped 1961 then made up for it with twins in 1962, then had me in 1963. She never used disposable diapers. My father probably helped from time to time but it was pretty much her. How did she do it? In early 1964 she had three babies in diapers along with a four year old and a five year old to take care of.

Diaper service, totally. It wouldn't have been particularly noticeable or remarkable to a kid; the whole transaction only takes a minute: truck pulls up, pail of used diapers is swapped for fresh, done. A year's subscription was often one of your baby shower presents, but it wasn't considered a frou-frou luxury, it was just part of having a baby. Remember, there were a lot more delivery services going on even through the 70s -- the milkman brought milk and eggs, at least one (but often two) newspapers were delivered, door-to-door salesmen actually made sense as a business model, etc.

The answer to "how did she do it?" is that she was home all day, as were most mothers.
posted by desuetude at 7:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


A family down the block washes their disposable diapers and hangs them on the line. I'm not sure why they do this and can't ask. I've since heard that it is not uncommon among the poor people of my tropical city. My only guess is they only do it for urine-soaked ones, where the savings to time ratio is worth it.
posted by BinGregory at 8:10 PM on July 30, 2013


I'm the youngest of three children and we all grew up in rural poverty in a fairly remote part of Ireland; no washing machine, no hot water, and because my dad was useless, no running water in the house for a period. I obviously don't remember anything about how nappies were dealt with, but I do remember the back breaking labour of washing ordinary clothes for her. I would not wish that scrubbing, boiling, and all of the rest of it on anyone. If it'd had been a warm climate I'm pretty sure she'd have had us run around naked. I cannot imagine tossing nappies onto that heap without it meaning she got no sleep ever.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I asked my mom about this today. She grew up destitute in a house with unreliable running water, and hot water was heated on the stove. Washing diapers was a misery. She and her siblings had diapers made from cloth packed with sawdust or shredded newspaper; when the weather was bad and washing even harder, they were basically just penned, diaper-free, in a corner on some sawdust or newspaper. When she had my oldest sibling she handwashed diapers in the sink and then had to climb a ladder onto the rooftop of her building, which is the only place the manager would let her line dry. By the time I came around, 12 years later, she vowed to never wash another diaper again and thinks that disposables saved her sanity. She basically thinks that Pampers are one of the greatest family inventions of all time.

Another important (if totally sad) point: my father, not one in the running for father of the year, refused to change the cloth diapers. It was much, much easier for my mother to get help from him and my older siblings with the comparatively less-gross disposables when I was a baby.
posted by TwoStride at 9:22 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


It can only be killed by alcohol or certain types of cleaners and can apparently survive hand washing of clothes and diapers. Which is why vaccination is considered the primary preventative route.

Which is why there was sometimes an extra step of boiling the diapers in a giant pot on the stove. Can you imagine?
posted by bq at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2013


Not two hours to dry, of course, for that you need an open window, a fan to circulate air, and a clothes line.

....I have counted three comments from three different posters in this thread where they said that in their area, it was illegal to hang a clothesline.

Can I ask that everyone who is trying to advocate for either breastfeeding or cloth diapering at least take a moment and read the objections people are raising in this thread, to make sure that your suggestion is something that they haven't already mentioned is something that they have an obstacle to performing? If nothing else, it would save us all a lot of time re-treading the same ground.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Haven't read through the whole thread (Y'all added like 200 comments in the time I went to the store, it seems), but would put this out there:

When my mom had us in diapers, we were rural poor, so cloth diapers was handier for a lot of reasons (not least because it was hard to get enough disposables, also mom's a hippy), and what she ended up doing was getting in on a diaper collective with a bunch of other moms (same ladies as La Leche and the food co-op), and they'd pool their money to buy both the diapers and to do the laundry.

With a little bit of seed money and a little bit of willingness to have garbage bags full of shitty diapers (rural Michigan, a good half the year they'd freeze outside), that's something that can help alleviate this ugly bit of poverty (if not for everyone). Hopefully, there's some grant money in that or something.
posted by klangklangston at 9:27 PM on July 30, 2013


....I have counted three comments from three different posters in this thread where they said that in their area, it was illegal to hang a clothesline.

I don't think anyone has said it was illegal, mostly that landlords wouldn't allow it. Which is absolutely valid - if someone lives where they cannot even hang a clothesline in their home, while being too poor to afford laundry, they are really fucked. Which is why I was saying one of the things that it would be nice to work on is changing the culture such that landlords don't make rules about things just so that the poor aren't obvious.
posted by corb at 10:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone has said it was illegal, mostly that landlords wouldn't allow it.

Most neighborhood associations don't allow clotheslines because they are "unsightly." Hanging them up is not strictly speaking illegal, but is subject to punitive fines.

Those who live in apartments generally have nowhere to put up clotheslines. Few buildings allow rooftop access, and residents usually can't erect semi-permanent clothesline poles on the apartment property.

There may also be concerns about having your laundry stolen while it's drying. Some people may not have the luxury of monitoring their laundry.
posted by Nomyte at 11:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've only read one third of the thread and gotta leave for work, but this is why I believe in paper handkerchief, paper towel, tampon, and (now) diaper communism.
posted by ipsative at 2:15 AM on July 31, 2013


I have thought more today about nappies (or, daipers, as you call them) than ever. Are re-usables so expensive? WTF, America? (and other places)?
posted by Mezentian at 4:18 AM on July 31, 2013


Are re-usables so expensive?

There are dozens of comments in this thread addressing the cost (financial, time, upfront, ongoing) of cloth diapers.
posted by rtha at 7:57 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: For a place that can be so goddamned fucking compassionate sometimes, this is just too much.

(I went to bed reading this thread and woke up to finish it. Now I'm off to MeTa for Act II.)

I'm in BabyLand over here and it's starting to feel like maybe soon we're going to have one of our own, but.... wow. Disposable diapers and washing machines changed the course of women's history (not just), and even the poorest of the poor will outsource that labor if/when they can. That's a hell of a thing to comprehend.
posted by polly_dactyl at 7:57 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went to bed reading this thread and woke up to finish it. Now I'm off to MeTa for Act II.

Don't do it!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:10 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


crazylegs: Despite your moralistic fantasies about disposable diapers being assembled by hand by impoverished children, they are actually made in highly automated plants in places like Wyoming County, Pennsylvania and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

I'm so sorry for robbing you of another reason to be smug and superior about mothers who dare to not live according to your standards.
posted by tavella at 9:30 AM on July 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


I am significantly younger than my siblings - my mother cloth-diapered them because that was what you did at the time. By the time I came along, disposables were more prevalent, and pretty much my entire life, my mother has gone on and on about how much her life improved after using disposables.

When I had a kid, I thought about cloth diapering. I also thought about the terrible drought my part of the country was in at that time. And I thought about my mother, and what she had drilled into me my entire life. So we used disposables. I felt guilty about dirty diapers piling up in landfills, but that's what we did.
posted by 41swans at 10:16 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Time for a joke yet?

1. Modified crotchless Jolly Jumper
2. Drain in floor
3. Water hose
4. Lotion hose
5. Powder puffer
6. Assorted floor-length baby gowns
7. See you in a couple years, kid
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2013


needled: "From the article:
Cloth diapers are often not an option because they require frequent and expensive trips to the laundromat.
"

I'll add that normal cheap detergents break down the diaper cloth (or make it less absorbent). The kind of detergent you use for diapers lasts much longer but is more expensive. And you have to hang dry the diapers; you can't dry them in the dryer (for the same reason as above). So if you have a baby going through 8-10 diapers a day (it happens), that means you have to have a lot of extra cloth diapers to dry.

I think if a city cares about this issue, they should set up a diaper service where dirty diapers are collected and new clean ones are distributed to needy families. So long as the parents have to manage the problem of dirty reusable diapers, it's going to be really difficult.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:15 PM on July 31, 2013


We did cloth for a while and eventually moved to disposables for a number of reasons. Part of it was just that for a few months none of the diaper covers fit (oh, and diapers are more than just the cloths; you need some kind of cover and these run $10+ and basically become unusable if the baby has a big poop, so you need to use a new cover. I can't imagine trying to wash these covers by hand); part of it was that our kid struggled so much during diaper time that we had to move to a system where you don't need both hands to put it on.

We almost always used the cheap generics. Unless you want to buy eco-diapers, there's no reason to buy anything but the store brand. They all work about the same. I'd caution against the 7th Generation when your kid is little if they're not very chubby -- they use some other kind of elastic for the legs that isn't very tight against the leg, so they leaked constantly.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:25 PM on July 31, 2013


> if you have a baby going through 8-10 diapers a day

During the few months we used cloth, my baby went through at least four a night. We had to double up to try to keep her dry, and she needed to be changed at least once during the night.

I don't remember how many she went through during the day. We didn't double them up but we still had to change them all the freaking time.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:36 PM on July 31, 2013


Thank heavens time makes me forget. I had a great position but there was not any stopping to pump during the day. Thank heavens I knew from raising cows that actually you can train your body to produce at different times. Not well known. The diaper thing...my kids were allergic to damn near everything so added to the cost was that...they spent a lot of bare bottom time...and they grew up fine...even with the early potty training.
posted by OhSusannah at 8:58 PM on July 31, 2013


Did anyone else here read the actual study? Because I did, and it is not only really poorly done as far as determining any correlation vs causality whatsoever, it is also being freely embellished upon in both the Mother Jones article and the New York Times one. Ideefixe is right to question the conclusions being made.

1. Diaper need was assessed by asking pregnant or parenting women, “If you have children in diapers, do you ever feel that you do not have enough diapers to change them as often as you would like?”

Note the vague wording in that enquiry. It doesn't even address the cost issue. There is no way, from this question, to determine if the women were unable to buy diapers because diapers were cost-prohibitive, or because the women didn't have transportation to get to the store, or if they might have just misjudged how many diapers they might need and didn't buy enough in the first place. Any mother who had at any time run out of diapers could conceivably answer yes to this question and be considered as having a "diaper need".

2. Nowhere in the study did any mother indicate she had attempted to make "one diaper last an entire day", nor was there a format provided for any woman to do so. That's just wholly embellished by the reporters.

The facts: Around 30% of the mothers in the study indicated "diaper need" from that first question. These women were given 4 choices and asked which applied to them when they were faced with not having as many diapers as they would like. The choices were: (1) borrow diapers or money from family or friends, (2) get diapers from an agency, (3) stretch the diapers I have, and (4) other “please explain.” Then --and this is important!--they were told to feel free to pick as many answers as applied. Thus each mother could pick all four, making the statistics for each answer pretty much meaningless, unless maybe one answer was overwhelmingly picked by the majority if the women. Guess what wasn't picked by the majority? #3, the "stretch the diapers" option. Only 8% of the women "diaper need" women picked that answer at all.

3. The Moms who picked the "stretch the diaper" answer didn't get to explain how they interpreted it, so it could mean anything from changing diapers once a day to changing them just one less time a day then usual to occasionally letting the child go diaperless to starting potty training early to...well, you get the idea. That, and the multiple choice,option, make this pretty much worthless as a data point, certainly not conclusive enough to base the contention that women are stretching one diaper to last an entire day on.

4. Only if the women picked OTHER were they given a chance to explain how they coped with diaper shortages. This would be a great place to explore the resourcefulness of these Moms. Did they switch from disposables to cloth, or vice versa? Did they make their own diapers? (Believe it or not, apparently there are templates for doing this quite cheapy, which I just learned today). Frustratingly, I have no clue, as the Yale researchers did not include either in the actual study or their own write-up of the results any of the comments included in the "Other" section.

5. The authors allege that "diaper need" is a predictor of depression because they asked the mothers three questions about coping strategies and then had the mothers grade themselves on a scale of 1 - 10, where 1 indicated not being able to cope at all and 10 meant everything was utterly fantastic. If a Mom had an answer below 5 for any of these questions, she was considered depressed. IMHO, that's a pretty low bar, honestly, given that sleep deprivation alone might make a Mom choose a low score when everything else is fine. In other words, the depression, if there was any, could be from a myriad of sources, not just "diaper need".

So, did Moms with diaper need meet the criteria? Yes, though 2/3 as many without diaper need scaled as depressed by this metric as well. But Moms with multiple kids routinely scored higher on the depression scale, too. In fact, there was a MUCH higher correlation between having more kids and depression than in "diaper need" and depression.

6. This probably goes without saying, but not one mother in the Yale study mentioned going without food or stealing diapers, either.
posted by misha at 11:58 PM on July 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


The diaper problem is just part of a larger problem: there should be government-sponsored childcare from the start to cover the basics for everyone, including food, diapers, and daycare. Take care of your country's kids from the start and they are more likely to grow into the adults you want living next door.
posted by pracowity at 12:47 AM on August 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


I just want to add that my wife and I used cloth diapers for my son's first two years. It is a LOT of laundry to do, daily. My wife breastfed, which (I've heard, but don't know) makes them poop a lot more. Very soft, runny, gross poop. SEVERAL times a day--I think my son's record was about 8 in a day. That's a lot of diaper changes, and you can't just let that sit in the bucket, you have to wash it. Every day.
posted by zardoz at 8:23 AM on August 1, 2013


I just got back from the third day of running a family member around to do government stuff and wanted to jump in here to note: if you have ANY need for social services, a lot of that stuff has to be done in person, in something worse than bankers' hours, on irregular days of the week, in a variety of far-flung governmental, quasi-governmental, and private-but-subsidized outposts.

Due to irregular funding, the hours and days they are ACTUALLY able to serve you may not match what it says on the website (if there is a website, and if you can get on the web), and if you try the phone, you will either be put on hold forever, or sent straight to voicemail for a person who is not responsible for the thing you want, and who therefore will never call you back.

If you do not work outside the home, you will nevertheless have a lot of your time wasted, and it will eat up your transportation budget, and don't forget to pack lots of food and diapers for your long wait in the office, if you have to take those kids with you. If you do work outside the home, you will probably end up relinquishing some of these benefits because who can take a day off and not count on being seen on the day you planned?

Also many of the people who work in these agencies will be mean to you because they are tired and frustrated from telling tired and frustrated people like yourself, "I know what the website says, but I'm telling you the way it is. No, not today!" They didn't make the rules or change them, but they are stuck with them.

So you go home again, to come back tomorrow, or maybe next week. Don't forget to breast feed, express & store milk, and wash and dry those diapers in all your spare time.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:21 AM on August 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


The "Flats and Handwashing Challenge" for cloth diapers, mentioned above, was started as a response to articles like the one in this FPP and raises money to give cloth diapers to needy families. This blog post by a participant directly speaks to the costs, both monetary and temporal, to hand washing cloth diapers.

I live in an apartment and cloth diaper, at least part time, and am only able to manage it because I have a flexible schedule and lots of time, was able to by a $250 portable washer for less than a quarter of that cost on Craigslist, and have plenty of room in my kitchen for the machine and to hang diapers to dry. And I scored $200+ dollars worth of diapers off Freecycle. Cloth diapers may be cheaper over time, but the start up costs are significant!
posted by apricot at 8:59 PM on August 1, 2013


My mum used cloth nappies for me in the early 80s. It was so easy! Here's how she did it:

1. We lived in a house with a washing machine
2. We had a garden where the bucket could stay outside
3. My dad worked full-time, meaning she could look after me full time for the nappy years
4. We had a clothesline to dry them
5. She spoke English as a first language, unlike all those lazy Indian and Pakistani women down the road who couldn;t be bothered and so fecklessly had to spend all their money on EVIL disposables
6. Her other children were 10 and 12 so didn't need as much attention as a baby.

I mean, why aren't all the other women doing it, huh? I have never actually changed a nappy in my life but it can;t be that hard, right?

Next, let's have a thread about how everyone should stop using flushable toilet paper and buying Doritos and chips!
posted by mippy at 8:12 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


unlike all those lazy Indian and Pakistani women down the road

I know you're just using the ironic voice thing here, but we really don't need more of other people's racism here, you can just leave it back in the 80s where it belongs.
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, to be clear, I was very much being ironic, because people don't always realise how difficult not being able to speak English (or whatever the dominant language is where they are) is. I'm sorry if I did offend via clumsy use of rhetorical device.

There were and are a lot of people in the town I grew up who don't speak English at all, or just to a limited standard - some of the newsletters for my primary school were printed in Urdu as well as English, as otherwise there was the risk of important information not being read or misunderstood. (Do US towns with a lot of Spanish speakers do this?)

And the town is still astonishingly racist, sadly - to the point where an aquaintance's mother moved from one end of a long street to another because she didn't like the colour of people who were settling at one end. I wish that stuff was left back in the 80s.
posted by mippy at 9:40 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stepping back in here to express a little bit of shock that people were downright hostile to my honest question about a third option. Come on people, there are so many things that could stand to be invented: reusable diapers made of a comfy moisture-wicking material where the doodie slides right off instead of sticking to the fibers for easy and quick cleaning? Bio-degradable one-use diapers (as some genius pointed out, if a bit glibly, upthread)? And yeah, the socialist diaper service is a brilliant one! Go forth and innovate, breeders!! Spread some good memes along with all those pooping genes!
posted by Mooseli at 11:29 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bio-degradable one-use diapers (as some genius pointed out, if a bit glibly, upthread)

These already exist. They're called gDiapers. They are expensive, more even than disposables, and they aren't sold everywhere.
posted by KathrynT at 11:33 AM on August 2, 2013


reusable diapers made of a comfy moisture-wicking material where the doodie slides right off instead of sticking to the fibers for easy and quick cleaning? Bio-degradable one-use diapers (as some genius pointed out, if a bit glibly, upthread)?

You just described cloth diapers and certain expensive brands of disposables. The thing is for the first while of being a human being your poop isn't solid, because you're not eating that many solids. It's a liquid, the kind that gets absorbed by your moisture wicking material. Oh, and even when the poop shakes right off, you still have to do the whole washing routine, because little bits of poop and accompanying smell, germs, etc. get into the cloth.

The reason people are hostile to it, is because you just said "we should invent some sort of self powered enclosed carriage that can drive us around" as a solution to cars being expensive.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:38 AM on August 2, 2013


Oh yeah, the wicking / non-stick ones exist, too. They are $14 to $25 per diaper. Remember that for a young baby, if you're going to do diaper laundry every day, you need at least 24-30 diapers.
posted by KathrynT at 2:30 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


anastasiav: Yes, but doing diaper laundry by hand is almost impossible. If you don't have a washing machine, then all the running water in the world isn't going to do you any good.
corb: When I was a girl, we had a washboard and a clothesline. A little detergent goes a long way - and cloth diapers are actually really easy /and/ cheap to make. You can run a clothesline indoors. Cloth diapers get rinsed in the toilet, then could be washed in the sink with a little bleach.
Certainly many mothers don't have the time and energy in their lives after holding down jobs to also do the strenuous work of cleaning clothes by hand. But to pretend that doing so is an impossibility is First-World Naivety at its finest.
corb: This is absolutely not about poor people making bad choices. This is about systemic campaigns to make poor people into consumers - just like when we told poor women that formula was better for their babies than breastmilk.
Also, THIS.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:54 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]




That's a really great link, asperity. I especially like:
The vacuum cleaner meant women cleaned their floors far more often than their mothers. The washing machine made cleaning clothes far easier. It also raised standards of cleanliness, meaning that women had to do laundry more often.
Because after all, this stuff is set up so we can't win no matter what we do. I may actually pick up this book, it looks fascinating.
posted by corb at 11:03 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read More Work For Mother as part of my freshman seminar in college. It's terrific, you should definitely read it.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:08 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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