Hey Y’all! It’s Erin.
An interesting fact about me is that I have a Bachelors in Social Work. My education and work experience are what led me to write about the diaper crisis. It is also the reason I want to talk about foster parents who cloth diaper.
According to the most recent federal data there are over 400,000 United States children involved in the foster care system. Over 100,000 of those children are within the typical diapering ages.
I feel so honored to get to share the experiences of 3 amazing foster parents who cloth diaper. Sarah and Grace are LilHelper Ambassadors, and Anna is a local friend of mine. As much as possible, I have tried to use their words in this post, because I believe that there is power in what they said without any kind of spin from me.
A brief introduction to these amazing foster parents who cloth diaper and why they chose to foster
Sarah said it was a wild story to explain how her family became involved in foster care. Her sister is a paramedic and in December of 2014 met a baby born with a 10% chance of survival. Sarah’s sister went to the first court hearing for the baby boy and met his first foster mother. Due to the nature of his removal, he would not be reunifying with his parents, but his foster mother wouldn’t be able to adopt him. Although Sarah’s sister was not in a position to become a foster parent herself, she thought that Sarah would be a good fit. Sarah thought so too. Sarah and her husband began visiting the little baby that they eventually adopted in 2016. After their first foster experience, they saw how great the need was and have continued to foster.
Grace is a teacher who let her police officer husband know on their first date that unless he was interested in being a foster parent they would need to end the date immediately. Turns out that he was in a service learning college dorm that focused on the foster care system in their county. Both of them have seen their fair share of families that are struggling and feel it’s their responsibility to support these families when they are at their lowest. They were married in October of 2013, submitted their paperwork October 2014, and had their first placement in October of 2015.
Anna shared that she and her husband wanted to become parents, but dealt with significant fertility issues. They had moral issues with spending tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments such as IVF. Foster care was the option that they felt was best for them in their parenthood journey.
“What made you decide to cloth diaper as a foster parent?”
Sarah: “I had cloth diapered my older two biological kids so it was a pretty automatic decision.”
Grace: “Our second placement was a teeny, tiny newborn baby girl. We took her home from the hospital after she was born. The hospital sent tons of teeny, tiny Pampers Swaddlers diapers. They were so cute, and EVERYONE swore by them! Well. 2 diaper changes in, and BAM- diaper rash. Thus began the frantic search for a diaper that DIDN’T cause her sensitive booty major problems! After 5 different brands, and stacks of unusable diapers taking up her closet, we threw in the towel. We came to cloth out of desperation! I saw ads for Lil Helper Diapers on social media. I did ALL the researching and stalking. We were convinced! Switching that tiny girl to Lil Helpers cleared up all her sensitivity issues!
5 months later, we got a call for a 14 month old placement. We had tons of size newborn and 1 disposable diapers, but none that would fit a chunky toddler. He came to our home at 11pm, terrified. That’s not the time to rush out for diapers. Lil Helpers to the rescue again!
Then 2 months later, we took in his newborn baby brother. You guessed it- Lil Helpers!
Since then, we’ve had a nearly 3 year old, and a 9 month old spend time in our home. They also spent time in our Lil Helpers!”
Anna: “We are on our fourth placement in three years, getting each placement as a newborn or very young infant. This means we have a much larger diaper footprint than most parents. Additionally, my husband has some health issues that require medical supplies and generate way more trash than I like. All these diapers combined with all his waste makes me worry about what we personally are doing to the world. Cloth diapering is one small way we can generate less trash. Plus, they are so stinking adorable!”
“How big is your stash? How do you store diapers that you’re not using in preparation for a child that may need them?”
Sarah: “We currently have about 25 diapers. We haven’t really had any time lapse in usage. They’ve stayed in decorative baskets on the changing table shelves.”
Grace: “We have roughly 40 diapers in rotation, and a few overnight insert sets. That sweet little second placement went on to become our adopted daughter, Arya! For a long time, all diapers were stored in her room, in a dresser drawer. I went ahead and stuffed diapers with both inserts and a liner, and stacked them in the drawer. In the drawer below, we kept extra inserts, liners, and shells. Now, we have no one in diapers (so sad!) and they are all waiting in our empty nursery for the next little love who needs them!”
Anna: “That is such a good question, and one I can’t actually answer. Through every stage of babyhood we have changed/adjusted how we diaper. We started off with china pockets and inserts/FST, combined with some AI2 systems. Then we went solely to AI2 and AIO. Then we moved to covers and prefolds. Now we use covers and GroVia biosoakers for day time and a combo of cover/prefold/hemp booster at night. I have a huge stash because we have gone through several different methods, but only keep a dozen covers, 5 prefolds and hemp boosters, and biosoakers on hand. I have them in plastic tubs in my basement, next to the tubs of kids clothes, shoes, toys, and car seats.”
“Lots of people worry about sanitation around cloth diapers on multiple babies. What is the cleaning process for you when you have the same diapers for more than one child?”
Sarah: “We have a solid wash routine and haven’t been concerned about using them on more than one child. We do a bleach soak in between babies and take precautions if the new baby has a rash or anything else that could cause issues, but other than that we treat them how we would for a biological child.”
Grace: “The summer of 2017, we had THREE kiddos in cloth! They were 1 month old, 6 months old, and 18 months old. We accidentally started color coding their diapers- the newborn was a boy and wore mostly oranges, yellows, and reds. The 6 month old was a girl and wore pinks, teals, and whites. The 18 month old was a boy and wore the greys, blacks, and dark patterns. Having a color system was most helpful for laundry day- I went ahead and snapped diapers to the rise setting for each kiddo. We have always followed Lil Helpers’ wash routine for our diapers, and we’ve never had any problems with stink, stains, or ammonia! In the summer we line dry our inserts, but the rest of the year they’re tossed in the dryer. We always hang out shells to dry. We had one situation where a child came to us and had Norovirus. We didn’t know until he shared the yuck with Arya! After that, we HAD to strip our diapers. That’s a hard virus to get rid of! So I emailed the Delight Team and got their recommendations for deep cleaning and sanitizing our whole stash. They were SO helpful! It was the first and only time we had to strip our diapers, and it killed off the virus and didn’t spread! Typically, we would wash every 2-3 days.”
Anna: “I know that I have a really solid wash routine so I don’t worry about any extra need for sanitizing. I do a bleach soak every six months or so and periodically toss in some mighty bubbles. I often put them out in the sun, so between the bleach, MB, and the sun I don’t worry about it.”
“Did you have any supports or programs available to help you purchase your stash? Or did you have to buy all your diapers out of pocket?”
Sarah: “We purchased our stash out of pocket a little bit at a time. We currently have about 25 for two babies and we’re still building. I know that there are diaper lending services that will loan to foster parents.”
Grace: “In case you weren’t already convinced Lil Helpers Diapers is the best company under the sun… When we decided to start cloth, and I knew there was a great possibility we’d have several kiddos in cloth at a time, I reached out to Mohammed. I sent him an email, explained we were jumping into fostering, and that I wanted to order at least 3 day packs. I asked if they offered any coupon codes for larger orders like that. I was crossing my fingers for 5-10% off! Instead, Lil Helpers sent us a huge stash of diapers for the cost of shipping, along with a letter encouraging us in our journey. Since then, we’ve made several more orders out of pocket! The cute prints… they’ll get you every time!”
Anna: “We did have support, especially from another foster care mama friend who got me started using cloth! My family is supportive in theory but when they keep him they request disposables. They find cloth diapers gross, but like the idea.”
“What advice do you have for foster parents considering cloth diapering?”
Sarah: “Do it! It doesn’t have to be complicated. We wash our two foster babies diapers together. We do keep disposables on hand to use during visits with their biological parents. It makes it easier on the parents and the case worker.”
Grace: “GO FOR IT! Just jump in and try. Even if your agency is hesitant, the kiddo will spend lots of time in your home, and lots of time in diapers!
Babies who are exposed to harmful substances in the womb often struggle with withdrawals after birth. With those withdrawals also come reeaalllyyy terrible diaper rashes. Cloth diapers help minimize those rashes and keep little bottoms happier.
We became foster parents knowing that the kids we welcome into our home will always need extra… extra time, extra appointments, extra patience, extra interaction, extra hugs… extra love. Healing little hearts takes a lot of work from the grown up and the child! Cloth diapering felt like one more way to be intentional in caring for and loving the children we had in our care. Prayers were poured over diapers while I assembled them, nice and clean, on laundry day. Extra time was taken to determine the perfect fit, as a child who was malnourished put on weight and started to grow. A toddler learned to pull his diaper up and down to begin potty training… later than most, but earlier than therapists believed possible. Diapers were matched with care to sweet little sun dresses. Lil Helpers help us show big love!”
Anna: “Dooooo it!! But on visitation day put that kiddo in a disposable because most birth parents aren’t familiar with cloth and I don’t want to confuse them or have a good diaper ruined.”
Thankfully, all of these amazing families have been supported by their fostering agencies in their decision to cloth diaper as foster parents! In preparation for this post, the realities of opposition were hanging heavy in my mind. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they have all been supported in their decision to be foster parents who cloth diaper.