Cloth diapers \'Share the Love\' in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Kailey Webber was 19 when her seven-month-old son, Kolten, was born. As a young and single mother, it was hard to support herself and her son, not to mention the amount of diapers she needed.

"He was going through an allergy, and when he was first born he went through all the diapers within a couple of hours," she said.

Webber applied for Share the Love's cloth diaper loan program. The loan allows a recipient to borrow a reusable diaper cover and fifteen sets of diaper cloth changes. The loan allows recipients to use the diapers until their child is potty trained, until they can afford to purchase enough for themselves, or until their child turns three-years-old.

Share the Love's program

Share the Love is a non-profit that aims to help families who have "diaper need". The organization defines diaper need as the choice a parent makes between buying clean diapers and other necessities. Depending on the age, the amount of diapers a child needs varies.

Now, Webber buys her own diapers and only needs 10 to 15 diaper cloth changes per day for Kolten. Because of cloth diapers, Webber will only need to spend $200 on diapers altogether until Kolten is ready to be potty trained.

Webber's mother, Marcia Hathaway, became Columbia's Share the Love host in this May. When the job opened, she saw how much it helped her daughter and wanted to offer the same help to families in her area.

"I responded because I know what it's like to have that diaper need, I was an 18-year-old single mom when my daughter was born, and I did cloth diapering the way your grandma did," she said. "I didn't have the money to buy disposable diapers, and I never had to worry that my child had clean diapers."

Hathaway shared some problems she's faced with sharing the groups goals.

"Spreading the word about the program and getting donations have been the biggest challenge," she said.

She wants to get the word out more about this program because when faced with a diaper need, parents are forced into a corner.

"People will reuse disposable diapers which could lead to horrible rashes and infections, not to mention the psychological effects it has on families to have to reuse disposable diapers," Hathaway said.

Hathaway explained it is pretty easy to apply for cloth diapers; the only requirement is to be on a form of public assistance. Webber, her daughter, shared what the process was like for her.

"It was actually really easy. You just had to go to the cottonbabieslove website, fill out the application, write out an essay about how you could benefit from the diaper loan, share your experience," she said. "I said it would benefit us because I was 19 and a single mom, and at the time I was unemployed and didn't have a way to either purchase cloth or disposable diapers."

Cost of cloth diapers versus disposable diapers

Hathaway said cloth diapers costs typically range from $15-$600 which is used from birth to potty training, typically until three-years-old. The budget for disposable diapers can be around $3,000 for those three years.

Proper care for cloth diapers

The question Hathaway gets asked most often is about the proper washing of cloth diapers. She said for breastfeeding babies, diapers can go straight into the washer, but it's a different process if they aren't.

"Once they are on formula or any other solid foods, then the poop has to be rinsed out. You can dunk and swish in the toilet, you can use a garden hose, you can use the sprayer in your sink, you just have to rinse that off then put it in the diaper pail or wet bag and wash every two-three days," she said.

Misconceptions of cloth diapers

Hathaway said families still think of cloth diapers in the old way.

"I think people look at cloth diapers like your grandma used, which are the flat diapers that you had to fold and you had to pin, and that's not the way cloth diapers are like anymore," she said.

Molly Carmichael, owner of the store Go Baby Go, only sells cloth diapers, which resemble disposable diapers.

Every first Saturday of the month, she teaches the basics of cloth diapering at her store. She typically teaches parents about wash routines and different styles.

"It's a whole other world for the cloth diaper world," she said.

Carmichael said prepping the cloth diapers is important. The prep is to wash the diapers before using them.

Carmichael said her store is the drop-off site for Share the Love donations, and she supports the group because of her own experiences.

"The whole purpose for us cloth diapering was to save money, and it has saved us money. It is a great thing. I don't have to go out and buy diapers, and I always have my entire stash of diapers," she said.

Parents usually ask Carmichael which type of cloth diapers are the best. She said it depends on the family's and baby's needs.

"It could be because they have a problem or a sensitivity to your synthetic fibers. It could be because the baby is a very heavy wetter, and they leak a lot," she said. "There's a number of different reasons, but it comes down to what is the most convenient for a family."

Webber said she hated the thought of using cloth diapers at first, but she needed the help.

"I thought it was the way your grandma would have clothed diapers, with the pins and the plastic pants and all that, and I slowly realized it's a whole different world now," Webber said.

Her favorite pattern of cloth diapers so far has a picture that resembles Mowgli and Baloo of Disney's The Jungle Book.

Other benefits

Besides saving costs, cloth diapers are environmentally friendly. A case study by the non-profit Women's Environment Network is frequently cited on its finding. It said that it takes disposable diapers 500 years to decompose.

"I thought I was going to hate it, and I am absolutely in love with his diapers," Webber said. "Once we got down what he needed, what styles, and what worked for us, we hadn't had any issues."

Webber and Carmichael both encourage parents to check out cloth diapers.

"Do your research, ask questions if you're not sure, and if you're unsure go the cheaper route and try it out first," Webber said.

"Learn about cloth diapering before you completely decide against it," Carmichael said.