Personal Experiences: Donna Wallace-Smith

How did you first get started with cloth diapers?

At the time we were living on a military base, Claydon was about four months old, Mackenzie was under two. I had two under two, and I saw a Black military wife whose son was about the same age as Claydon. I asked her about what I thought it was a diaper cover and she told me it was a cloth diaper. I sort of ignored it because I was like, “Ew, I don’t want to deal with poop!” Then a few weeks later I met up with another military mom to buy some clothes and her son was running around in what I thought was a cute Spiderman diaper cover. And she said, “No, that’s his diaper!” What was supposed to be a quick transaction ended up being me staying there for two hours! She broke down cloth for me, and I ended up leaving with some cloth diapers.

I went home and told my husband about it and he said you’re not going to do it! I said, she told me a hundred dollars and you’re set. Then another mom sold me her diapers, like a stash of 20 diapers for around 30 bucks. They were Alvas that she had used on her twins, who were then potty trained. After I got those first cloth diapers, I never bought diapers again! I alternated between my last box of Luvs and the cloth, and I never bought another disposable again.

If it wasn’t for the hands on support in my neighborhood, I would never had known about cloth. To see the cloth, and have someone spend time with me and go over every step - how to wash, styles… after telling me what worked for them, they suggested the Fluff Love group. If it wasn’t for someone who had access to the knowledge and resources who provided me with the knowledge and resources…

How did Black Women Do Cloth Diaper come about?

Once I started using cloth I immediately decided to jump on Facebook and looked for groups. I figured this must be a thing! A lot of people are doing this right here in my neighborhood. So I went first to Fluff Love, and after that I found other brand-specific groups. That was my first exposure to the online cloth community. I literally started to scratch my head a month or two in, like where are all the Black people? Surely it can’t be this pale!

Then I started to Google - it became a mission to me to find Black babies in cloth diapers. I started to really research the marketing, research brands and groups, and I started joining a bunch of groups. I realized the overall community was very pale. I did find some Black crunchy parenting groups, not centered on cloth specifically, just an array of natural parenting topics. Even in those groups it seemed like they were very small scale and very close knit. Like, in all the huge groups, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack to find another Black parent. I started posting just because someone would see me and be like, “Hey Sis!” But that didn’t do much because I would see those same people from our small groups.

Why specifically did you create the page?

I was already following Black Women Do Breastfeed. I was originally going to do a group, but that was too much to moderate. So I just started a page. Within a week we had a thousand likes! I was like, “Where you all been at? Where you been in those groups?” So I started to pay attention to why there was a lack of participation from Black parents in the groups. I was still looking at the marketing of these brands. Our focus at this point was to really say, “We are here too, why isn’t the marketing reflective of the entire demographic of consumers - ie. where are the Black babies, parents, fathers, in your graphics and marketing?” We had some very influential people in the cloth community who took notice and took a look overall to say maybe she’s on to something! This was when Black Lives Matter was starting, there was a lot of social injustice that we were talking about in our Black parenting community.

What is your vision for Black Women Do Cloth Diaper moving forward?

My vision for Black Women Do Cloth Diaper is always shifting. I have never wanted to monetize the page and make it a business. It models a business to some degree and is run like a business in some ways, but I have always wanted to keep it peer advocacy based. My dream and my goal has always been for us to be in every low-income community in every major city. Because I would never have known about cloth if not for that one-on-one advocacy. There is a disproportionate number of parents who are lacking these resources, who would benefit from them more than anyone else. But because the government is in bed with disposable diaper companies it is impossible to pitch any kind of organization that supports sustainable living. I would like to see us become an organization that provides ongoing support and education to do more than drop diapers off, to provide that one on one support like I had.

Donna Wallace-Smith is a parent, activist, military veteran, cloth diaper advocate, and founder of the page Black Women Do Cloth Diaper. TCO is proud to partner with Black Women Do Cloth Diaper.