FORT BLISS, Texas -- Disposable diapers are one of the more costly expenses of raising children. Having to change diapers every few hours or so can cost a family more than $50 a week.
Sabrina Halverson aims to show families that they have a choice in how they diaper their children. Halverson is the leader of the Fort Bliss Cloth Diaper Brigade, a group that shows families that there are options other than costly disposable diapers.
"I ask families that I see if they would want to wear paper underwear," said Halverson. "They always answer 'no.' I then ask them why they would do the same thing to their children."
Halverson began cloth diapering close to three years ago with the birth of her third child. Her husband was on recruiting duty in northern Minnesota and there were no experts on cloth diapers to turn to.
"We had no support, advocacy or awareness where I was at the time," said Halverson. "When I had questions, I had to look online to parenting forums for help. It took a lot of trial and error. I don't want other parents to have to go through the same thing if they don't have to."
Halverson volunteers with William Beaumont Army Medical Center, or WBAMC, to teach her skills and knowledge of using cloth diapers during its new parenting classes. She is also in the process of bringing the same to Fort Bliss Army Community Services.
The brigade meets every other month at the home of one of its members. There, they discuss some of the basics of cloth diapering, to include common misconceptions such as cost and ease of use.
"When people hear cloth diapers, they automatically think of pinning and rubber pants that their grandparents wore," said Halverson. "These are really not your grandma's diapers. They have come a long way since that time."
Cloth diapers now include fashionable designs as well as a different materials including fleece, microfiber, wool and polyurethane laminate, or PUL. PUL is a fabric originally developed for the medical community, but its softness, flexibility and waterproof qualities make it perfect for cloth diapering. PUL also easily tolerates high dryer temperatures and heavy use.
Every potential convert from disposables that Halverson comes across has their own reasons for choosing cloth diapers. One such convert is Marisol Knapp. Knapp has been using cloth diapers for approximately four months. While at WBAMC, she was told of a very interesting fact that made her a convert.
"I was at the newborn parenting class," said Knapp. "We were told that disposable diapers stay in landfills for around 500 years. I was just shocked."
Knapp has also noticed cleaner benefits of using cloth diapers in her own home. "They tend to hold waste better than disposables," said Knapp. "I find myself cleaning messes outside of diapers a lot less now."
Since using cloth diapers, Knapp cannot estimate how much she has helped the environment, or how much money she has saved, but someone who can is Sarah Newberry. Newberry has been using cloth diapers since October 2010. She initially began using them for financial reasons and has since reaped the benefits.
"After everything that I have spent on cloth diapers and supplies, I probably broke even during the first year," said Newberry. "With another year or so of diaper use with my current child, I am estimating that I will save more than $1,000."
The savings will not just stop there. Newberry is currently expecting her second child. Keeping the cloth diapers and supplies that she already has means even more saving down the road.
Newberry has noticed other benefits to using cloth as well.
"I personally feel cloth diapers hold odor better than disposables," said Newberry. "There have been times that I have been totally surprised because I could not smell anything at all." Besides financial and environmental benefits, some parents have noticed health benefits to using cloth diapers. Erika Cooper is one such parent.
"My son has eczema," said Cooper, who has over 40 different cloth diaper designs. "Using disposables, I found that he kept getting rashes. He very rarely has rashes now that I am using cloth."
For more information about the Fort Bliss Cloth Diaper Brigade, Sabrina Halverson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook by searching for Cloth DiaperBrigade Fort Bliss.