I will be honest…I had never heard of cloth diapering until I became a mother. And even still, the concept of it frightened me a little bit. I consider myself a “naturalist” and am all for holistic living but this was a new concept for me to understand. Which is why I was so excited to hold this interview with Donna Wallace, creator of the online platform Black Women Do Cloth Diaper. Thankfully, my little one is completely potty trained but after this interview, I may be tempted to try cloth diapering the next go around. Join us as we chat with Donna about the importance of cloth diapering in the Black community.
Black Women Do Cloth Diaper
Black Moms Blog: Hi Donna! Thank you for joining us at Black Moms Blog to talk about your platform, Black Women Do Cloth Diaper. For those joining us who are unfamiliar with what you do, can you tell us a little about Black Women Do Cloth Diaper and what inspired you to bring awareness to this cause?
Donna Wallace: Hey Girl! Thank you for inviting me! Ok, so Black Women Do Cloth Diaper is a social media based support community/advocacy organization for people of color who use or are considering using reusable diapers aka cloth diapers. We primarily feature babies of color in cloth.
Our mission is to bring the knowledge of cloth diapering and other aspects of parenting topics like baby wearing and breastfeeding to parents who could benefit from the information but mainstream marketing and programs just won’t reach.
We also talk about Black life issues like hair, parenting, social issues, and so on.
When I began cloth diapering, I could not find imagery of Black babies in cloth. This included marketing for cloth brands. I barely saw Black parents in cloth forums. I checked all over. I knew I could not be the only one- and lo and behold, I am not! I started the page as a hobby and was approached by Deja Allison, the owner of Sunshine Fabric And Designs and the creator of the Black Lives Matter cloth diaper. Her brand is the longest standing Black owned cloth diapering brand. She had similar feelings about the cloth community and together we went full force into what is now Black Women Do Cloth Diaper. We have an amazing team of admins that are behind the scenes moving and shaking.
BMB: What are the benefits of cloth diapering versus disposable diapers?
DW: Oh the benefits of cloth are endless. The deciding factor for me was the projected long term financial savings.
Using disposable diapers can cost upwards of $2000 for ONE child. Cloth can be as inexpensive as $100 and used on multiple children with proper care.
Some babies and children need to use diapers longer than others, and of course the cost of disposables will go up. Again, cloth can save those families money to be used for other pertinent expenses. Babies who are allergic to the chemicals in disposable diapers or simply sensitive also benefit from the simplicity of cloth, especially the kinds that are made from “natural” fibers. There is also the environmental aspect. As many as 18 billion disposable diapers are added to US landfills each year. It takes at least 200 years for a disposable diaper to decompose. Two words: Global Warming.
BMB: Have you always used cloth diapers? If not, what sparked you to start using them on your children?
DW: I started using cloth with my 4th, my last, when he was about 4 months old. I found out about cloth from a fellow military wife here at the base we are currently stationed at. She was Black- but surprisingly she did not give me many details. I wound up hearing about it from two more different military wives, who were not Black, and who broke it all the way down for me. The money saving is what really tipped the scales for me and my husband. At the time, we had one in diapers and one in pull ups. We were easily spending $100 a month on disposable diapering products. I was a SAHM (stay at home mom) for the most part—and we are not rolling in money.
BMB: What is the typical reaction when people hear that you are an advocate for cloth diapering?
DW: Truthfully? Shock! I don’t fit the cultural norm of “crunchy”—Yo..can I say how much I can’t stand labels?
There are many aspects of “natural parenting” and living I am just not deep into. I am tattooed, pierced, I am not deep into the “clean eating/living”—all of that stuff. I dibble and dabble—but eeeehhhhh…it’s not me. I found a love and a passion for cloth diapers and making sure that people who NEED to know they have options –Black, low income families—get information and can feel comfortable getting it.
BMB: I know with Black Moms Blog, we receive occasional feedback from mothers who feel that our brand is exclusionary to mothers who are not African American. How do you explain to others the need for putting a spotlight on the fact that Black mothers are conscious of cloth diapering?
DW: Girl, my level of cares has depleted over the course of the last year. At Black Women Do Cloth Diaper, we welcome anyone. It’s a public forum—but we set out to do what no one else was doing…featuring Black babies, babies of color period. If someone feels that Black Women Do Cloth Diaper is exclusionary—well—technically it is. I don’t need to include babies that are not of color or their parents because that is who the entire cloth industry is marketed too. Just scroll the website of any cloth brand, any social media page, most retailers that sell cloth, even social media groups—and then come back and tell me I need to cater to, feature, or include those who are not Black. Nope. The modernized cloth community has been exclusionary in every sense.
When some people hear “Black Women Do Cloth Diaper” they say, “Is that even a thing?”— and I’m like—“Why yes, yes it is, and it’s my baby”.
BMB: For new mothers, the idea of cloth diapering can be intimidating. What advice and words of encouragement would you share with them about why they should take the plunge into using cloth diapers on their babies?
DW: Keep calm, It Is Just Cloth! No seriously- I always tell moms that there is an overwhelming amount of information out there. It is not all necessary. Take what you NEED to know and leave the rest out. Cloth can be SO SIMPLE. Depending on your needs (ease of use, financial situation, etc) choose a system and a brand—buy them- use them- wash them-dry them-use them some more.This will probably shock you—but I would tell any mom considering cloth that it is NOT for everyone. It is an option that can be amazing and can be the saving grace that frees up money to ensure dinner is being eaten or a light bill getting paid. Lastly, Black Women Do Cloth Diaper is here for you.
BMB: I am sure I can speak for everyone when I say that I truly appreciate your honesty! Would you say that cloth diapering is an easy alternative for the working mother?
DW: I can’t say. It depends on a parent’s lifestyle. What I may consider easy, may stress someone else out. I have been a working mom who uses cloth and it was not an issue at all. It is literally a load of laundry. I also did not have to deal with child care provision. I hear often that many moms don’t use cloth because of child care providers or facilities that refuse. It really boils my blood. Cloth Diapering IS NOT unsanitary as some like to say. There are steps for the disposal of disposable diapers. It should not be hard to create a process for cloth. Period. Cloth can be stored in a biohazard bag if it is that problematic. If a child has an accident while at daycare—for instance, a ‘Blow Out’ (this is what happens when a baby has a poop that comes out of the diaper and onto clothing and the babies/child’s body and surrounding areas)—I would hope that the provider doesn’t throw out the child’s clothing! I have to add, Blow Outs are not normal occurrences in cloth, but they are in disposables. But I digress.
BMB: How do you feel that your platform has opened up the doors of acceptance when it comes to cloth diapering in the Black community?
DW: I feel like seeing is believing. We provide the vision. Parents of color can SEE that there are other parents of color who use cloth and realize that it is not just a “White people thing”.
Sometimes that is the tone in the Black community, right along with breastfeeding. It makes me emotional every last time someone tells me we introduced them to cloth, we had a hand in their final decision to use cloth, or that our community at Black Women Do Cloth Diaper is what keeps them using cloth. Black Women Do Cloth Diaper provides information that caters to parents of color, not just as it relates to cloth and products- but life as a Black person in America. In addition, I have seen the cloth diapering community slowly make a drastic turn. From marketing to the forums. I see more parents of color who are interacting—who are posting pictures of their babies in cloth. I am seeing brands recognize the need for diversity in their marketing. We have been able to be a platform that features Black owned businesses in the natural parenting community and even outside of the “natural” community. There are so many out there that I can’t name them all.
Cottonbabies is a very well-known mainstream brand who has been a pioneer in making sure that people of color, babies of color, and different family types are used in their marketing campaigns. Other brands and retailers have made noticeable changes. I urge consumers to check a brand before purchasing—and if there is an obvious lack of diversity—let us know. We are bridging some gaps.
We recently participated in MommyCon when they were in Atlanta. MommyCon is a natural parenting convention that is held in multiple cities in the United States each year. They wanted to assist us in showcasing our mission and we wanted to assist them in reaching further than they had in order to bring people of color to the event. It was a HUGE success. We displayed the Black Lives Matter diaper and event goers, both Black, White, and everything in between took pictures and showed support of Black Women Do Cloth Diaper and Sunshine Fabric and Designs. Brands and retailers reach out to us for advice on diversifying, and launching community efforts, amongst many other things. It is amazing. There is so much more to come.
BMB: For those wanting to learn more about your advocacy, where can they find you?
Do you have any questions for Donna? Post them in our comments section.