Where there is a family with an infant, there is a family that needs diapers – at least in most modern societies. This is especially true for Guåhan (Guam), where I come from, and especially true now that we are in a global pandemic which has led to a shortage of supplies.
According to Guam DOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez, 80% of students in the public school system meet the poverty criteria for a free lunch, which would classify the entire island’s school system as “high poverty”. At least 25% of the island lives below the poverty line. Over 45,000 people rely on SNAP Benefits to feed their families. On top of this, the cost of living is high* particularly if you do not have access to purchase on the bases. Even pre-COVID I would find a container of berries, cereal or soy milk for $6 each on a regular day. Additionally, being on SNAP doesn’t necessarily mean you have the budget for hygiene products like diapers. When I checked two major brands at two of our main grocery stores, these are the diaper prices I found:
Pay Less Supermarket (size 3)
Huggies: $29.59 for 88ct
Luvs: $24.79 for 92ct
Cost U Less (any size)
Huggies: $24.98 for 77ct
Luvs: $15.98 for 76ct
When I looked to compare these prices to the states, a California mom told me that the same 88 count of Huggies went for five dollars cheaper at Target. Similarly, I’ve been told you can find 198ct Huggies for $45.99 at CostCo or 144ct Luvs for $24.99 at Target. While the disparity might not seem like much, the cost to diaper can still add up on an island where multiple children is the norm. For example, Guahan-local mom Tia shared with me that she used to spend about $900 per year to diaper 2 children.
Now that we have this pandemic, providing essentials for families has become even harder with most people out of work, needing to pay rent and having yet to receive their stimulus checks. At this point, over 20,000 meals are being given away per day by the Department of Education for school age children and the Salvation Army has seen a major increase in families seeking assistance (around 2,000 in April). As you can imagine, there has also been an increase in the number of families looking for public assistance.
In turn, the need for diapers has skyrocketed to the point that both Catholic Social Services and the Salvation Army are no longer able to fulfill this specific need. In an effort to bridge this gap, the organization Para Todus Hit** has begun
their own diaper drive, accepting any diapers both cloth and disposable alike. Even with a small sample size of less than 100 people, the organization has identified that this is a critical need for most of the families on island. However, even with the collective efforts to feed and diaper our community, we still don’t know when this pandemic will end and the exact effect it will have on our island moving forward.
Can Cloth Diapers Answer this Need?
That all being said, I feel fortunate (as many others do) that I chose to cloth diaper so I can leave disposables for those who can’t. Since I moved back home from Texas, I’ve worked only random freelance gigs and for a non-profit organization (GIFF). This meant that I haven’t had a steady income in 4 years. Other than the environmental reasons, this was a huge reason why cloth was the best choice for me when I had my baby. I spent years having to extend the life of my paychecks and doing so was much easier with an upfront cost to reuse diapers again and again. In total, I’ve spent a little less than $300 for my whole stash of diapers, which accounts for selling my newborn size and purchasing one size diapers. It especially helps that 90% of my diapers are pre-owned and I’ve seen no significant change in the utility bills.
Since my experience buying disposables (part time in the first month) was short, I wanted to check with other moms how buying disposables compared. Remember Tia, who spent $900 a year on disposables? She uses cloth now, spending around $400 on her whole stash to use on all her children. I had another mom tell me she switched to cloth right as the COVID panic buying began, noting that prior to this she spent around $450 for 10 months of disposables for one child vs $350 for diapers she will reuse until potty training. Additionally, any changes in utility bills (if at all) were minimal.
Of course, not everyone will have the same experiences but this shows just how much cloth can make a difference especially in times of uncertainty like now. I feel so grateful that I’m not going to have to worry about diapering my kid as long as I have access to water. The best part about it is that you don’t even have to spend as much as I did to cloth diaper, which I covered in THIS BLOG POST (< click).
So while some consider it controversial, I think this is the very essence of the challenge I’m going to undertake in just a few weeks: The Flats and Hand-washing Challenge. This challenge is one week of using flat diapers (single sheet of fabric), hand washing them and air drying them. Its objective is to provide a possible solution to those who want to diaper their kids on small budgets, showing that cloth isn’t out of reach.
Cloth Diapering isn’t always InstaGlamorous. We might not always be in the best circumstances to diaper like owning a washer, having money for brand new diapers, or an available diaper service. The flats and hand-washing challenge is meant to show that cloth can be practical and feasible with small budgets.
You can follow along my challenge from May 25 to 31st here on my blog. Until then, please think of your brothers and sisters in need and donate to organizations like Para Todus Hit (link to donation page) and help diaper our families.
(any names have been altered for privacy)
*this is for both finding a place to live and also purchasing necessities, which is largely due to our political status and the military presence
** Translates to “For All of Us”