How Breastfeeding and Cloth Diapering Can Save the World

It seems like not a day goes by without some government bureaucrat proposing a new law or new tax to force Americans to live more environmentally friendly lifestyles. If the government wants Americans to live “greener” then they should make government assistance “greener.” What better way to help low-income American’s live greener than to provide more breastfeeding support and cloth diapers.

 I recently read an article where a long time lactation consultant mentioned that the low-income welfare moms she saw in the hospital were the least likely to even try breastfeeding. Their reasons: Why bother to breastfeed when the government will give me free formula? Obviously moms that have to work outside the home have a harder time breastfeeding fulltime, but even the cost of a good quality breast pump is cheaper than paying for formula, so maybe if someone is on WIC instead of being provided formula, the government should issue good quality breast pumps. (I emphasize good because I know that in some states women on WIC can get a small manual pump provided for free, but this is not ideal if you are going to be pumping frequently). But it has to be more than just encouraging breastfeeding. There isn’t enough support available to new moms who are breastfeeding. I hear more and more mothers say that they “can’t breastfeed.” There are a small number of women who legitimately can’t breastfeed, but this is not the case for most. Many women encounter problems that can be easily overcome if they were provided the proper support and information. Breastfeeding admittedly takes work, but so does caring for a child and since you’ve already had the baby, the caring portion is implied. You need to stay clean and sober to breastfeed, something that you would hope is recommended anyway when caring for a child. Breastfeeding is preferable to bottle feeding with breast milk, but either is preferable to formula both for health and environmental reasons. Between manufacturing resources and excess packaging plus bottles and other feeding paraphernalia, formula feeding is without a doubt more expensive and less environmentally friendly.

 I found out recently that diapers can’t be bought with food stamps. I had no idea. I always assumed that if the government provided low-income mothers with formula then they would also provide them with diapers. Apparently there is a major need for diapers among low-income families, especially in the inner city where diapers are bought at ridiculously high prices in small quantities at local convenience marts. Perhaps government-funded diaper services are the answer. Diaper services often get a bad wrap as being environmentally unfriendly, but the cleaning methods have changed a great deal in the last 15 years. But there aren’t many services left, except in large urban areas. But as the case happens, apparently large urban areas are the places diapers are needed most. People talk about starting diaper banks in the inner city. Why not start non-profit eco-friendly diaper services? Cloth diapers can be just as easy to use as disposable diapers when proper education is given and children generally have fewer diaper rashes and potty train sooner, making it an even bigger savings.

 I have heard the argument that many daycare providers won’t accept cloth diapers. At the same time I hear experts complaining that low-income children can’t even begin attending government subsidized daycare without a minimum number of disposable diapers, which is a difficult expense for low-income families. Since cloth is less expensive and better for the environment, why aren’t government subsidized daycare centers required to accept them? (Better yet, government subsidized daycare centers could cloth diaper all the children they care for with the diapers provided by the government subsidized diaper services. Perhaps parents could be permitted to take cloth diapers home and return them the next day to be laundered for a nominal fee). Besides that, more daycare centers are willing to accept cloth diapers if parents are willing to ask nicely and explain properly. I think that washing your own cloth diapers is still cheaper than diaper services, but I understand that many low-income families don’t have easy access to laundry facilities. Otherwise I’d recommend that the government provide prefolds and good quality diaper covers to any family collecting food stamps. (Including a diaper sprayer would be even better).

 I’m not saying that breastfeeding or cloth diapering is the “easy” thing to do, though I have always found breastfeeding my daughter to be easier than making a bottle. I never have to worry about running out of formula or making sure I have clean bottles. Using cloth diapers means never having to run to the store to buy disposable diapers in the middle of the night. Both are worthwhile investments that will ultimately produce both financial and ecological benefits.

 In general, I am not in favor of expanding government services, but more women breastfeeding would mean fewer government dollars spent on formula and more families using cloth diapers would lower waste disposal costs. Such programs could potentially pay for themselves. I guess the bottom line is do Americans really want to make healthier more environmentally friendly decisions for their children or settle for what appears easy and cheaper but will in reality cost us more than we ever imagined? Do our government officials really want Americans to live “greener” and healthier or are their eco-claims really a ruse to gain more control over our lives? The proof may be in the way we feed and diaper our children and the way the government helps low-income families to do the same.

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3 thoughts on “How Breastfeeding and Cloth Diapering Can Save the World

  1. I read all your posts about the cloth diapers. I just wanted to comment from recent experience that G diapers are convenient and with the liners, virtually leak proof. My sister is using Flip one size and they are leaking terribly around the legs. We have tried ,any things but still haven’t had any luck. I think if your baby doesn’t have the typical chubby legs then they don’t work well.

    I am wondering if you had any trouble with build up and also how you go about washing them. We have been looking all over the web and it seems there are 100 suggestions and ways it is done. Any good suggestions??

    1. I have had a few incidents of build up, mostly in my Bumgenius One Size 3.0 pocket diapers. The first incident was the result of bad detergent use. I had previously worked out a washing routine that worked well for me, using our old and unfortunately unreliable top loading washer. I was using Purex Free and Clear and everything was working well. I did a cold wash with half the recommended detergent, then a hot wash with half the recommended detergent and an extra rinse, and then an addition short hot wash with no detergent with an extra rinse. Then our washer stopped draining reliably.
      So we did some research and purchased a reasonably priced front-loader. But this meant a new detergent and a new washing method for the cloth diapers. (On the bright side, our water bill dropped enormously). I tried the Wegman’s store brand HE detergent, not realizing that it contained enzymes. My diapers started to stink and my daughter developed a bad rash. So I switched to Country Save. This has worked for the most part, but I have had to experiment with my wash routine. Currently, I do a cold rinse and spin (2 if it’s hot and humid and diapers haven’t been washed in 3 days or more). Then I do a quick wash cold/cold with 1 tsp Country Save detergent and an extra rinse. (I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but this stuff is really concentrated. With the past troubles I’ve had with build up, I’ve had to experiment with detergent amounts too). Then I do a Super Wash (which is the longest cycle on my washer) Hot/Cold since that’s the warmest option I have, with 1 tsp detergent and an extra rinse. Then I do a warm/warm quick wash with an extra rinse, and anywhere from a smidge to 1 tsp of detergent, depending on the size of the load and how it smells so far. Then I remove all the bags and covers and give the diapers one final rinse and spin warm. I started doing this last rinse after I read that water proof items like bags and covers sometimes get detergent residue on them.
      I know all of this sounds like a lot of work, and while it does create some extra laundry, I hardly notice it anymore. I will say that I had almost no buildup issues until my daughter was on solid food. When she was exclusively breastfed, I didn’t have any to speak of. I also discovered that pocket diapers should be washing with just a little bit of bleach every now and then. bumGenius actually mentions this in their washing instructions. They say you can use up to a 1/4 cup of bleach once a month. I use more like 1/8 of a cup once or twice a month. It seems to keep any smell issues at bay. All that being said, it may be also be related to hard water issues.
      Prefolds are the easiest to clean, hands down, with very few issues unless you use a detergent that causes buildup. Avoid anything with fragrance, dyes, enzymes, or anything that claims to prevent stains. Most diapers won’ t stain too much, but if they do, just put them out in the sun. Even some of my worst stains were bleached out by the sun in no time. Sun light also helps with smells, unfortunately, I’m still waiting for my husband to put up my clothesline and my drying rack keeps getting blown over by the wind and then my diapers are all dirty.
      If you have any other questions regarding what kind of diapers you are looking to use, I’d be happy to answer them.

    2. As far as G diapers go, I researched them before I got pregnant. I had considered using them before I discovered how easy cloth diapering could be. My main reason for not using them was a financial one. I discovered that cloth diapers were significantly cheaper. But I’ve heard very good things about the products over all and consider them to be a great hybrid between cloth and disposable diapers.

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