Dear Customer, The accusation that cloth diapers or wool covers are unsanitary is unfounded, and I am sure you can help the staff at your daycare center understand this with some gentle education.
Wool Diaper Covers at Daycare
I see three issues at hand here:
- assumptions about urine;
- the cleanliness of a previously-worn wool diaper cover; and
- daycare regulations.
Assumptions about Urine
Urine is easiest, so let’s deal with that first. Urine is sterile, unless one is ill. The pH of urine is very close to neutral. Urine is not a scary, unclean substance despite the tendency in our culture to be afraid of our own waste.
Cleanliness of Wool Diaper Covers
Next, the cleanliness of a previously-worn wool diaper cover. You were told that reusing a diaper cover was unsanitary. As you mentioned, either deliberately or not, they were questioning your parenting choice. We’ll break this down into two parts: wool and lanolin.
Wool fibers have a porous core. The fibers easily absorb then evaporate moisture. Wool fibers absorb 30% of their weight without feeling damp. Natural moisture content makes wool fire-resistant, yet wool’s porous structure repels mildew and dust mites. Wool is the perfect fiber for the moist environment of a diaper because it breathes and regulates the baby’s skin temperature.
Next, wool diaper covers have natural lanolin content and are often treated with lanolin to condition the fibers. Lanolin is sheep wax, the naturally occurring oil from sheep’s skin. Lanolin itself has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, protecting sheep’s skin from infection. An even stronger point for you to make is that, when the lanolin in the wool comes in contact with urine, a chemical reaction occurs, which creates lanolin-soap. This has an antibacterial effect, making the wool self-cleaning, as it is worn by your baby. They may not be interested in a chemical reaction between lanolin and urine, but you yourself can rest assured that you are making a very good choice.
The last issue is daycare regulations. This is the most difficult issue, but you still have strong points to make. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care provides on their website an Indiana rule for Child Care Center licensing, including “Caregivers shall use a fresh, clean diaper cover with each diaper change” (NRCHSCC). They don’t explain their reasoning but simply state a rule. Your daycare won’t be governed by this rule, but it sounds as though they follow this reasoning. They are, though, governed by National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation rules. Those are even more strongly stated. NAEYC insists that staff use only commercially available disposable diapers or pull-ups unless the child has a medical reason that does not permit their use (the health provider documents the medical reason) (NAEYC). In order to accredit a daycare facility, NAEYC requires that babies wear disposable diapers.
I can only assume that this criteria is uninformed and ill-chosen, and I fully intend to approach them about it through the Real Diaper Association.
This may mean that your choice in the short run is limited, but I believe you could educate your local daycare as well as the national accrediting body.
Considering where they are starting from, they clearly need some solid information about cloth diapers. You might start your cloth diaper education of the daycare center staff by telling the Center’s Director about a cloth diaper situation in Sunnyvale, California. A local daycare told a parent she was not allowed to bring cloth diapers for her child to use in their facility. The staff themselves researched the issue and found that the municipality would make considerable cost savings if all city residents were to switch to reusable diapers. Rather than regulate the use of disposable diapers with a ban, they recommended that the City Council authorize staff to use public education and outreach methods to encourage the use of reusable cloth diapers (Sunnyvale). Their education points included: cooperative promotions, negative financial impacts of disposable diapers on the City’s rate payers and technical assistance. The Director may be interested to know how that the daycare center themselves do have choices in this matter by seeking a change in rules from governing bodies. It may be a long shot but if you can educate the staff at your daycare center, you may find they become allies in your use of cloth diapers and wool diaper covers.
I suggest you start with one clear article: “Cloth Diapered Children and Day Care Providers: Is Cloth a Hygienic within a Day Care Setting?” by Heather Sanders. This article answers many of the basic questions they are likely to have. You might also find it useful to use advocacy cards (short, single issue postcards) and pamphlets (longer with further resources) from Real Diaper Association (RDA) to give cloth diaper facts as needed.
Update: When this parent spoke to one of the daycare directors, she was open to hearing the information. As a matter of fact, the director has a 1-year-old child and is using cloth diapers with plastic covers. This parent is going to give the director a wool cover to help her see how well wool diaper covers work.
Update: Several years after this post, Real Diaper Association and Real Diaper Industry Association worked together to build resources to promote cloth diapers in daycare.