Why I decided to join the Flats and Handwashing Challenge
April 28, 2014 8:30:00 AM EDT
Around this time last year, my friend, Jessica, tagged me in a Facebook post about the Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry...
“Hey Stephanie, I’m doing this! Wanna do it with me?”
At first, I didn’t read the post, but I got the gist of the challenge from the infographic. Participants of the Flats Challenge promise to use flat cloth diapers (the same ones your Grandma probably used) and WASH THEM BY HAND for one full week.
When I saw it, I’m pretty sure I laughed! I thought to myself, “Has she gone crazy???” (Sorry Jess, haha!) Why on earth would I voluntarily put myself through using flat cloth diapers and dealing with folding and pins when I have this stash of great modern cloth diapers? AND washing them by hand for a whole week when I have a washer and dryer? I already have enough on my plate with four kids! Nope, not happening. Nooo thank you. Instead of saying ALL THAT, I “liked” the post and moved on. Then later on, she texted me…
"Hey, did you read about the Flats Challenge? I am doing it and you should too!
Read about it in the post I tagged you in."
"Yeah, I saw the link…..it sounds cool. Our AC went out last night :( we are having a streak of bad luck, so I need to not spend any more money on diapers right now. [since I didn't have any flats] And I hardly keep up on laundry with four kids as it is… I think this may put me over the edge! lol :)"
She said she understood and we changed the subject. After a few days, I found myself thinking about that post. I was curious why people would want to put themselves through that… why take the challenge? Why use flats when there are more modern options available? And why wash them by hand for a whole week when you have a perfectly good washer and dryer? After I read the article, I had a change of heart. Hear me out and you may too…
The main reason Kim Rosas, the founder behind blog Dirty Diaper Laundry, started the Flats and Handwashing Challenge was to raise awareness. There are families struggling to make ends meet, that have to choose between buying disposable diapers and putting food on the table. In her post, Kim explained about the diaper need and how 1 in 3 families struggle to afford diapers for their babies. Some parents go to lengths such as reusing soiled diapers by scraping out the waste or blow drying a wet disposable diaper and putting it back on their baby. Some also use the same soiled diaper longer than is recommended so they use less diapers during the day. Doing this puts baby at risk for diapers rashes, infection, and can be very uncomfortable. Every baby deserves to be clean and dry!
To many of us who use cloth diapers, educating families on reusable diapers, rather than throwing money away with disposables, seems like the obvious answer to this problem. But Kim explained that whenever the option of cloth is brought up in the media, it is almost always dismissed as not being a viable option for low-income families, and reasons used include that many may not have access to a washer and dryer, and that the initial investment in cloth diapers is more than these families can afford. The Flats Challenge sets out to prove and spread the word that using flat cloth diapers and handwashing IS a viable option for many of these families.
But why flats?? When I was trying to build my stash, I wrote them off at first. They just seemed too complicated, the folding and the pinning… but the more I read about them, the more intrigued I became...
Flat cloth diapers are large, single layer squares of fabric that are folded to fit baby and covered with a waterproof shell. They can be folded in a variety of different ways to add aborbency right where your baby needs it. If fancy folds aren’t your thing, you can simply fold it into a rectangle, also known as the Pad Fold, and lay it in a shell like an insert!
And if pins intimidate you, don't use them! Although some parents love using pins to secure flats on their babies, there is an awesome little invention called a Snappi that can be used to secure a diaper on baby in a matter of seconds, no pins necessary!
The motto of the challenge is...
NO WASHER. NO DRYER. NO PROBLEM.
Being that flats are a single layer of fabric, they are typically very easy to wash by hand and dry quickly, making them a great option for those without access to a washer and dryer. Plus, since most flats are made from natural fibers, they don’t hold onto stink like synthetics do. They are also extremely versatile and can make for great dishtowels, a light blanket, nursing cover, burp cloths... so many possibilities!
And most importantly… Flats are CHEAP! You can diaper your baby with traditional birdseye cotton flats which typically cost around 1-2 bucks a piece, inexpensive flour sack towels from your local supermarket, receiving blankets you may have laying around the house, or even make your own perfectly good flats out of an old t-shirt! See instructions from DDL here.
With 18-24 flats and 4-6 waterproof covers, you could easier diaper your baby from birth to potty training for around $100 or even less! That's a saving of thousands of dollars that could go toward bills and necessities. You can find more information about flat cloth diapers on TGN website in the Flats for Newbies section. I also wrote a post last year on my love of flats that you can find here on the TGN Blog.
After reading Kim's posts about the Flats and Handwashing Challenge and doing my research on flats, I ended up texting my friend back a few days later...
"Ok, I think I am going to buy some flats lol :) I have been reading a lot about them and I think they are pretty great!"
I chose to do the challenge last year to challenge myself. I wanted to see if I could do it. If I was going to tell families about the option of flats and handwashing, I wanted to be able to back it up. Plus, I wanted to try out flat diapers. The more research I did on the challenge, the more I began seeing so many moms and dads who LOVED flats. Once I started using them, I realized that flats were actually pretty great and they quickly became my favorite type of cloth diaper! I even used the skills I learned and put them to use when we went on vacation last summer!
This year, I'm doing the challenge to help raise awareness. I know it's possible to handwash flats, but some parent may not know this is even an option. Even families with access to a washer and dryer can benefit from learning about using flat cloth diapers since it is such an inexpensive and versatile diapering option. I know there are families struggling to afford diapers who have never thought of using cloth, because I've been there! I know what it's like to cringe as you put a twenty some dollar box of disposables in the shopping cart and take out things that you may want, but really don't need. We used disposables on our first three children, at one point having two in diapers at the same time. It honestly never crossed my mind to use cloth diapers, but had someone told me it was an option I would have been so greatful. It would have helped free up extra money that we really needed at the time. For me, even if it helps just one family, the time I spend washing flats by hand and spreading the word will so be worth it!
If you're curious how the challenge went for me and what it may have in store for you, here are my posts from last year:
Day One: Why I chose to participate in the Challenge
Day Two: Preparing for the Challenge
Day Three: Open topic... just rambling about starting a blog and such :)
Day Four: My wash routine
Day Five: How it's going for me
Day Six: Open topic... Interview with a buddy participating in the Challenge
Day Seven: Is flats and handwashing a viable option for families?
Please consider joining the challenge! Challenge yourself. Learn a new skill that may come in handy one day. Spread about flats and handwashing. You never know... your participation may make a profound difference in someone's life. Maybe even your own!
Sign up for the Flats and Handwashing Challenge here! Use the #flatschallenge and #briningflatsback hashtags on Instagram and Twitter to join the conversation! You can also join the Flats and Handwashing Facebook group to connect with other families participating in the challenge. It's a great place share your experiences, ask questions, and offer advice!
Are you up for the challenge???
Stephanie Beck is a busy mama of four. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family. Stephanie started her blog, Apron Strings Attached, because she wanted to share her experiences with raising kids, breastfeeding struggles and success, and cloth diapering. She now enjoys blogging about life in cloth diapers for TGN.