I recently read an article about a hospital in Boulder, Colorado seeking to become the first zero waste hospital in the country. They aren’t there yet, but they have taken huge strides toward sustainability (and also lowering expenses), including the use of cloth diapers. Which had me wondering, why didn’t anyone think of this sooner? It actually makes sense to use cloth diapers in a hospital setting. Hospitals already have a large scale sanitizing laundry facilities in place. Gowns and sheets are already being washed and reused. Labor and delivery produces some pretty serious mess so I can’t imagine washing cloth diapers could be any grosser.
Plus, let’s face it, those early hours in the hospital with your newborn have the potential to be greatly influential. I knew I was going to use cloth diapers and couldn’t wait to get my daughter home and get her out of her hospital disposables. But if I hadn’t yet considered it, seeing the hospital staff using cloth diapers would have made me interested. It’s not like most hospitals use cheap store brand diapers either. They put our daughter right into a Pampers diaper. Talk about creating a brand loyalty at birth. Just as hospitals now encourage breastfeeding by providing lactation consultants and breastfeeding classes, rather than giving out free samples of formula; more hospitals should send parents home with a couple of cloth diapers and give a few quick lessons on how to use them before leaving the hospital. I even read an account once of a mother of preemie triplets whose doctor recommended cloth diapers as a healthier choice for preemies. (I admit I don’t remember everything about the article, so please don’t freak out that I don’t provide a link or documentation). I think the doctor’s recommendation was based on the air flow provided by cloth diapers and helping to prevent infections which preemies can be so prone to.
Just imagine if hospitals began using prefolds and covers or even inexpensive cotton fitted diapers like GM Infant Fitteds, in the nursery instead of disposables. That would save thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I can’t imagine what it must cost a big hospital to keep their nursery and mother baby ward stocked with disposable diapers. According to the above linked article, Children’s Hospital of Aurora, Colorado used 43,506 disposable diapers a month. That’s 522,072 disposable diapers a year! What must their local landfill be like? Yikes! Assuming most diapers used are in smaller sizes and that the hospital is able to negotiate a bulk buying price of approximately $.20 a diaper on Pampers diapers that is $101,414.40 per year. Now maybe some hospital’s use generic diapers and perhaps they don’t send any home with their patients (which I doubt), but either way it is still a lot of money. People all over America are up in arms about the cost of health care, both citizens and politicians alike, but few are willing to discuss voluntary reusability and sustainability as ways to lower cost. I wonder what it would take to convince our local hospital to use cloth diapers?