Cloth diaper outrage

My daughter wore cloth diapers. We used a diaper service so she would have the benefits of cloth diapers, and I wouldn’t have to wash them. Of course, my husband had to haul a big stinky bag of them to town once a week, since we lived 45 minutes from Omaha at the time…but it was worth it. Better for the environment, less stinky trash, virtually NO diaper rash. We had a very good experience.

Which–I assume–is part of the reason my friend N decided to go with cloth diapers when she had a baby. N stayed home with her little one for a few months, but when the start of school loomed in the fall, she had to find a day care for baby A. She looked for ages before finding a good situation.

But after a few weeks, it didn’t seem so great. The day care was terribly picky about bottles, so N had to buy a new set of bottles to placate the day care. And she had to divide packages of breast milk into A’s exact serving size before dropping it off. (Because apparently, measuring out a serving of milk is too much work for the day care staff.) And they didn’t want to deal with cloth diapers.

If I seem irritated about this, well, I am. I used to work in a day care. And, yeah, the pay was crap. But, honestly, the work is not that hard. All you have to do is love the kids and give them what they need. Change diapers. Feed. Encourage naps. I have absolutely no patience for people who do this job poorly. If you can’t care for kids, go work in retail.

When N started looking for a new day care, I thought it would be a good thing. A better day care, one that is more accommodating and understanding toward parents, would make everyone happy.

But then N told me what the staff at the Child Saving Institute day care told her. In order to be a licensed child care in Nebraska, the Child Saving Institute COULD NOT touch cloth diapers. It isn’t allowed under the licensing laws. The woman N spoke to was very sympathetic–she even said that CSI used to do cloth-diapering for parents who wanted it…until the licensing regulations changed. Now CSI can’t do it, and neither can any other licensed day care in Nebraska.

Now, I have not been able to verify this yet. I have been reading what I can find of the regulations (on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website), and I haven’t found any reference to diapers at all. I am still looking, and boy-howdy, am I going to get to the bottom of this. Because it makes me madder than a very mad thing.

For the moment, let’s just say this is true. WHAT. THE. HECK. WHY wouldn’t cloth-diapering be allowed? Here are some possible “reasons”:

  1. Disposable diapers are “cleaner”.
  2. More people know how to use a disposable diaper than a cloth diaper.
  3. Dirty disposables can just go in the trash, but the day care staff would have to wash and/or store dirty cloth diapers.
  4. The people who wrote the regulations are ignorant about or prejudiced against cloth diapers.

There may be other reasons, but that’s what I have come up with so far. So let’s take these reasons one by one.

1. Disposable diapers are “cleaner”. Really? How so? I mean, all diapers become soiled with human waste, so I would think that they would all be equally dirty. Of course, some people think cloth diapers are still just cloth. Ergo, leaky. And who wants to encounter a puddle of pee on their classroom floor?

The thing is, in this country at least, almost all cloth diapers are now used together with waterproof diaper covers. The style my daughter used had elastic around the legs (just like a disposable diaper) and velcro straps in the front (like the sticky tabs on disposable diapers).  It was just as leak-proof as any disposable diaper.

Of course, there is also the “ick” factor. Because when you take the diaper off the baby, well, it’s full of pee or whatever. Disposable diapers use a polymer to suck up all that moisture, so they don’t feel wet. Cloth diapers are just cloth, so they get soggy. The problem is, the lack of wetness can lead people into a false sense of security. “Oh, I didn’t touch anything wet. I don’t need to wash my hands.” Wet or not, the germs are still there.

And, besides, at the day care where I worked, staff were supposed to wear rubber gloves when changing diapers, to avoid any contact with human waste. Wearing rubber gloves and washing hands thoroughly will take care of any germs encountered in disposable or cloth diapers.

2. More people know how to use a disposable diaper than a cloth diaper. This is a pretty common assumption, but I think it is false.

First of all, day care staffs are filled with girls who have no children. They learn how to change a diaper on the job. Would it be THAT big a deal to train staff on how to change a cloth diaper? Perhaps another ten minutes…

Second, I don’t know a single person who actually deals with disposable diapers properly. (And, yes, I am including myself in this. I have been just as guilty as the next mom.) When faced with a disposable diaper full of messy diarrhea, all I want to do is seal it up with its handy sticky tabs and throw it in the trash bin. But not only is that unsanitary, it is illegal.

According to the National Park Service (in other words, the U.S. Government): “The disposal of human excreta or waste is regulated by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Clean Water Act . These regulations require human waste to be properly disposed to protect human health. It is prohibited to dump waste on the ground, in surface waters, or in a landfill. Proper disposal requires human waste to be disposed at an approved wastewater treatment plant or approved on site wastewater system.”

When you throw a dirty diaper in the trash bin, where does it go? The landfill. Landfills are not zoned for human waste. Only sewage treatment plants can deal with the germs and, well, stuff in human waste. But how do you get the human waste out of the disposable diaper and to the sewage treatment plant? It is sometimes recommended that caregivers “shake out” dirty disposables into the toilet before throwing them away. But that still leaves the urine-soaked polymer in the diaper, and we really have no way of wringing that out–not that anyone would want to.

Cloth diapers, on the other hand, go into the washing machine. The water from washing goes into the sewer and on to the sewage treatment plant where it belongs. No problem.

3. Dirty disposables can just go in the trash, but the day care staff would have to wash and/or store dirty cloth diapers.

For the explanation on this, re-read #2. Summed up: DISPOSABLE DIAPERS CANNOT JUST GO IN THE TRASH. As far as washing/storing dirty cloth diapers, the babysitter just put all of my daughter’s dirty diapers into a used plastic shopping bag and tied it shut. I took the bag home and emptied it out daily. The diaper service dealt with the washing.

4. The people who wrote the regulations are ignorant about or prejudiced against cloth diapers.

This is the explanation I am left with–if, of course, the licensing story is true. I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.


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4 Responses to “Cloth diaper outrage”

  1. Patricia Urzedowski Says:

    Nebraska’s Child Care Licensing Regulations do not address the type of diapers that can be used in licensed child care programs. It is the decision of the child care program and parents that determine whether cloth or disposable diapers are used. Some child care programs have their own policy about using cloth vs. disposable diapers.

    Patricia Urzedowski, Administrator
    Office of Children’s Services Licensing
    Phone: (402) 471-9431 Fax: (402) 471-7763

  2. fractone Says:

    Thank you! for the information and the response.

  3. nikki Says:

    Thanks. I’m in a similar situation. My kids use cloth diapers and I’m currently looking for childcare. It’s good to know that childcare providers aren’t prohibited from dealing with cloth diapers.

  4. Dixie Says:

    When my oldest was in cloth diapers, the service offered another, smaller pail for daycare/babysitter situations. That way, everything went in the pail and there was no hassle. We weren’t supposed to wash out or rinse the diapers because of the process used to clean them. Not really sure now what it was. This was almost 11 years ago! Yikes. We were supposed to dump the solid waste in the toilet, however. Sounds like the main problem is laziness! Also, maybe they are afraid a wet cloth diaper would wake a child during the required nap time. I started using disposables at night to help him sleep longer. I may have been fooling myself. ; )

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