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diaper duty

August 2, 2011

As of late I’ve been busy working with  a group of our tailoring students in a cloth diaper sewing project.  The diapers our students produce are purchased from them for use in our infant/toddler daycare; an income generating project for our students and a cost-effective solution for our center.

In much of rural Uganda, it is not uncommon for infants to go diaper-less, a practice which is quite hygienic, practical, and climate conducive on an individual basis.  Interestingly enough, diaper free babies are also more likely to be toilet trained at an earlier age. As you can imagine, however, it is a difficult system to maintain in group care settings.  Our center was in need of diapers and while disposables are readily available in town, they are quite a costly expense.  Not to mention they are a pain to dispose of in a context without public waste disposal services.  The more I looked into it, I found quite a few downsides to disposables.  A few diaper facts to ponder:

  •  It is estimated that disposable diapers do not decompose for 250-500 years.
  •  The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth.
  •  Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year. (Statistics from the Real Diaper Association. That’s right, an entire organization dedicated to cloth diaper awareness. )

I myself was a cloth-diapered baby and I’ve got plenty of baby pictures with my ass three times the size of my head to prove it.  The cloth diapering world has come quite a ways since my time in the nappy, however, so in deciding on a design that would work for our center I had my work cut out for me.  I delved in the world of cloth diaper research and read far too many “mommy blogs” in the process.  In case you have yet to encounter this subset of society, let me warn you: the cloth diapering advocates of the world are serious about their science.  It took me a while to catch onto their lingo, but I think I’m in the in-crowd now.  AIO CD with a PUL lining, or perhaps an OSD with FOE trim and a PF insert?  Can’t fool me!  The alphabet soup of the cloth diaper crowd is almost as bad as the NGO scene. The pattern I settled on is an adaption of the acclaimed “Rita’s Pocket Rump.”  Despite it’s unfortunate name, the design is working out fabulously, and our students are crankin’ them out like there’s no tomorrow.

And that is how I found myself, one Saturday evening, pouring over an article entitled, “What to Do if Your Toddler is a Super-Pooper,” with genuine interest.  This is certainly not where I pictured myself at 24 and less than a year into my post-grad “career.”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg H permalink
    August 2, 2011 2:49 pm

    I love:
    This post,
    Waking up to your writing,
    And the new questions you’ve given me words for through your blog.
    I am a happy subscriber- though I’m still “digesting” the poop story.


  2. Libby permalink
    August 2, 2011 4:49 pm

    Just another great project from Ms. Elizabeth!! They look great. But now you have left me with a quandary for the day–what DO you do with a super-pooper!?

    I love reading your updates dear friend. Miss you 🙂

  3. August 4, 2011 2:45 pm

    Hooray!!! I’m so glad to have witnessed the first sale of these! 😀 Keep it up!

  4. Donna Champion permalink
    August 6, 2011 2:42 am

    Those are some great looking diapers, Liz! Good job!

    I was a cloth-diaper mother. There wasn’t much choice when my daughter was born in 1973. Disposable diapers were on the market, but were terribly expensive and not as eco-friendly as the ones they’re making today. I wish there had been patterns for diapers like the ones in your photo.

    Keep up the great work.

  5. November 22, 2011 10:45 pm

    What a fantastic project! How incredibly useful for everyone! Kudos!!!

  6. January 5, 2013 7:43 pm

    So interested to read this. There is a nearly complete void , pardon the pun, on the subject of Global South diapering and toilet training. Would love to pick you brain for my book. Please email me –

  7. January 9, 2013 2:07 am

    Elizabeth, I have been researching diapering in the Global South and have found next to nothing. This is EXTREMELY helpful – I would like to feature it in a book I am writing, 100 Under $100: the Women’s GLobal Toolkit. No social entrepreneurs have focused their attention on diapering, and think how much time mothers in the developing world spend cleaning up after their babies…. Would love to be in touch. In fact I am stalking you, but haven’t found any contact info. mine is

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