The old cloth vs. disposable diaper debate is flaring up again as a new generation of eco-friendly products are starting to toddle into the mainstream.
These soft-as-butter diapers made of bamboo velour, hemp and wool are not your mama’s nappies that leaked, sagged and required sharp pins. They’re tie-dyed, striped and polka-dotted and come in vibrant colors and retro prints. They use Velcro strips, snaps and buttons and come in lots of fitted styles. They’re free of chemicals, highly absorbent, easy to use and — believe it or not, advocates say — easy to wash at home.
Families in other parts of the country — mostly the western states — have been quicker to dump disposables in favor of these cloth alternatives, but the pendulum is starting to swing in Pittsburgh. A half-dozen home businesses have sprung up here since 2000 to sell or make them.
In fact, it’s this network of WAHMs — industryspeak for work-at-home moms — that’s selling and producing many of the new diapers. You won’t find them at Target, Wal-Mart or Babies R Us, but you will on the Internet from such businesses as Pittsburgh’s Dinker & Giggles and E-a-poo’s. Average costs for these diapers can range from $6 to $20 or higher, depending on the fabric and craftsmanship.
Alaina Frederick, a mother of three who operates Dinker & Giggles from her Coraopolis home, said the diapers (she has two in diapers including a month-old infant) add just one extra load of laundry a week. The natural fabrics such as wool (used usually as diaper covers) have natural antibacterial properties and waterproofing that keep other clothes drier so they don’t need to be washed as often.
She started Dinker & Giggles after buying diapers from Lisa Clarke, a work-at-home mom in Castle Shannon who has operated Green Earth Baby since 2004.
Ms. Frederick was impressed with the personal, hands-on attention of Ms. Clarke, one of the popular appeals of the home businesses. “We don’t see each other as competition,” said Ms. Frederick, who had about 15 regular customers before taking a break after the recent birth of her son.
“It’s a community very respective of one another,” agreed Ms. Karchella-MacCumbee, a mother of three who operates E-a-poo’s, where she also sews much of what she sells. She turned to cloth after her youngest son had allergic reactions to disposables.