Personal Experiences: Maria Renta-Marrero

How did you decide to cloth diaper?

When I found out I was pregnant with Anais, I was really young. I wasn’t working, I was still in high school. It was a big thing for me to save money on all the things I could save money on but still have good quality stuff for my daughter. A lot of people in my family have really sensitive skin, so I knew my daughter probably would have sensitive skin too and have issues with disposable diapers and lo and behold she did! She gets chemical burns from certain brands of disposable diapers.

I just knew that I needed something that was not going to make a big impact on the environment. I wanted something that made me feel it was the best thing for my daughter. I was on Pinterest and I realized that this was something I could do so I just started building my collection. I only had 4 or 5 and I got them from Ebay. I got diapers that needed repairs. I found a cloth diaper bank and got a cloth diaper loan, and I used those for her when she was a newborn until I really started building my stash. Within a couple of months I had my own, and it was awesome!

What helped you be successful?

I was definitely determined to do what I thought was best for my daughter. I also had a lot of support from my family. When she was born, her dad was so excited and told everyone that she had cloth diapers. I had a baby shower after she was born, and people asked if we needed diapers, and he said, “No, my daughter’s mom got her! She’s got the best stuff! She’s using cloth diapers!” Support from the people around me like our parents was really helpful. Other parents who cloth diapered supported us as well.

What kinds of challenges did you face?

My daughter is a super heavy wetter, especially when she was a newborn, so we struggled with absorbency. We had a trial and error period to figure out what was best for her and for our family in general. She will go with her aunt and she will be confused, so we needed to find something that was easy for our family to figure out and still functional for her was our biggest challenge -- but that wasn’t so much a challenge as a learning curve.

Can you talk about cloth diapering in a shelter?

When Nai was three months old, I found myself homeless and had to turn to the shelter system. I was determined to continue using cloth diapers for my daughter, even though our situation presented additional challenges. In one of the shelters I was in, I only had one wash day a week. Our laundry was free, but I could only do laundry on Saturdays. That really made me have to use disposables for overnights to stretch my diapers as long as I could during the week. Then, in the second shelter that I was in, the laundry wasn't free - I had to put money on my laundry card, like a laundromat. So it added a cost to wash my diapers. Other than that, it wasn’t hard.

I feel like a lot of young people don’t know about cloth diapering, but they’re scared to start something new. Maybe they don’t have support because it’s not the norm or their parents didn’t do it. I think young or teen parents who are interested in cloth should look for support in the online community if they’re interested in cloth. I have friends online who also cloth diaper and we have become close friends. I can talk to her about any situations I am having with Nai and her diapers- or anything else. I found a really good friend. So even if it seems like you don’t have a support system, you can always build your own. Cloth diapering helped me find a new community!

Maria Renta-Marrero lives in western Massachusetts. At the time of this interview, she was cloth diapering her second child.