Face Time: Cloth diaper devotee Terri Hutchinson

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Auburn mom Terri Hutchinson is high on cloth diapers. We’re not talking about aroma here, we’re talking about the environmental benefits, the pluses for your baby’s skin and the lower cost.

She’s such an advocate, she runs the local chapter of the Rebecca Foundation, which is a national group that lends cloth diapers to struggling parents. Bottom line: The foundation was there for her; now she’s giving back.

For all the poop on cloth diapers, read on.

Name: Terri Hutchinson

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Town of residence: Auburn

Favorite diaper brand: I love Thirsties Duo Wrap! I started with their covers and fitteds, and they have fit my son the best, even when he was so tiny. I highly recommend them.

Favorite bottom to put in a diaper? My son Rohan’s of course! Although, I was rather proud to have my (step)granddaughter Mia in a cloth diaper within an hour of her coming to my home, so that was exciting!

Your first child was a disposable diaper baby. What made you think of cloth for your second? I never knew anyone who used cloth diapers when my son Shawn was born in January 2004. While I received a package of prefolds at my shower, I (and everyone else I knew) used them as burp cloths. Even when we discovered that he was allergic to the three major disposable diaper brands, we just kept trying until we found Dri-bottoms, which didn’t make him break out as badly, and used extra Desitin. We were very low income, so we were one of those families who regularly waited at churches and/or food banks for help, but they are so under-stocked in diaper donations that they aren’t able to provide more than a few per family. We aren’t quite as bad off money-wise as we were when Shawn was born, but still living check-to-check, so I knew we would need to come up with a solution as we were stretched thin and our income wasn’t changing. I came across some pocket diapers online and was intrigued.

What makes you so passionate about using cloth diapers? The reasons for choosing cloth for our second were pretty evenly: money, environmental issues and the risk of him being allergic, too. I had my own washer and dryer, so the cost savings alone were staggering. You can cloth diaper from birth to potty for $500, while disposables will cost about $2,000. Then on top of that, babies are being chemically burned by disposable diapers, not to mention just the chemicals themselves that are in them and can transfer through babies’ skin. Then there is the environmental impact they cause during both production and the fact that they take 500 years to decompose. To put that in perspective, every single diaper ever used — since the beginning of disposable diapers — is still out there in a landfill somewhere (unless they were burned, as they are here, which is a whole different environmental concern!). In fact, each child goes through enough diapers, leaving enough waste, to fill a hole with a ton — yes, 2,000 pounds — of diapers and human waste. I didn’t want to contribute to that.

How did you get involved in The Rebecca Foundation?

I am unable to work, so we couldn’t afford disposable diapers for our son even if we could use them (turns out he is sensitive to them) so we decided to cloth diaper. I went months using just seven diapers and washing them two, sometimes three times every single day to keep him in cloth. Then I heard about The Rebecca Foundation, I applied, was approved and received a set of loaned cloth diapers. It more than doubled my usable stash, and for the first time I waited an entire day to do a load of diapers. It was like this huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. They truly were a miracle for me and I knew I had to give back. I was able to find a few more deals on diapers and finally had enough of my own that I was able to return my diapers to the foundation to be loaned out to new families. Now I volunteer for The Rebecca Foundation by running a chapter of my own and am so proud to be part of such an amazing and beneficial service.

What’s the background on The Rebecca Foundation? The Rebecca Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was started by Amanda La Bell in August of 2012 after she struggled with purchasing disposable diapers for her newborn daughter. A friend in her local mommies group told her about cloth diapers and, as they say, the rest is history. The foundation’s core values are to help all those who are in need; through that core value they provide help to families who are on government assistance (any type), military families, foster families, and will take families case-by-case who are struggling financially. To be provided a set of cloth diapers, families need to apply online, in person or may call a volunteer to help them complete the application over the phone. Upon approval, families will receive between 10 and 15 diaper changes, which can last up to two days before washing, for up to a year. The goal is to be a supplemental program, a way for families to transition from disposable diapers to cloth and build up their own supply of diapers during that time.

Is there a difference between today’s cloth diapers and your grandmother’s diapers? Today’s cloth diapers are NOT your grandmother’s (or mother’s, according to mine) cloth diapers. Most people, myself included, immediately think of flats (essentially a receiving-blanket-looking diaper) or possibly prefolds (the burp-cloth type diapers). People think you have to fold them like origami and try to close them with huge safety pins without sticking the baby (or themselves), so they dismiss the option of cloth without really considering it. Today’s modern cloth diapers are just as easy to use as disposables and have the added benefit of customizable absorbency and no blow-outs. The elastic holds in messes very well and you can even buy all-in-one, one-size diapers that, as their name implies, are all one piece that adjust in size to accommodate babies from 8 to 40 pounds.

There are used cloth diapers online selling for $80 a piece? What’s that about? Supply and demand, as with anything else. There are ones with prints on them that a lot of people like (some people collect each diaper made by certain companies), but only so many were made, so once they sell out there are people who want them and are willing to pay a premium to get them. Everybody has a price, so the hard-to-find, highly-sought-after diapers are going to go for whatever the person who owns it can get for it. I recently saw a plain purple diaper for sale for hundreds of dollars because it was never used and no longer made. I’m not sure if or what it sold for, but there is no way that I could/would pay like that for diapers, nor is there any need to. Not everyone uses cloth diapers to save money though; some do it for the cute bums and have a higher play money account than me.

Let’s face it, there is an eeewww factor here. In that respect, cloth are not as advantageous, right? Are there tricks to using cloth and reducing that factor? A diaper sprayer has been amazing, and I would love to get a Spray Pal when I can afford one. It’s a plastic contraption that holds the diaper spread out so you can spray it without having it splash all over your bathroom. Or even a Diaper Dawgs Spray Collar, which is a mini version of the Spray Pal and works just as well. Before heading to the hardware store to pick up parts for a diaper sprayer, we used a handheld shower head and a 5-gallon bucket.

The fact of the matter that most people don’t pay attention to, though, is that you’re supposed to empty “solids” out of every diaper into the toilet before tossing them in the garbage. That’s printed on packages of disposable diapers as well, however most people just ignore that.

Besides, how many times have parents changed a diaper and gotten something on their hands? It’s gonna happen regardless, and personally, the savings and health of our son are worth the extra yuk factor for us.

How can people learn more about The Rebecca Foundation and get tips on using cloth diapers? We have a wonderful website at www.clothforall.com. It has all the information about how the foundation got started, about cloth diapers, how to apply for help and more. We also have a very active social media presence from Facebook to Instagram.

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