Cloth Diapering in the 60s, The Mommom Interview

20200116_191547If you head over to YouTube, you’ll see the video version of this interview!

For those who are interested in the questions (and their answers), here is a written summary of those. If you want verbatim responses, though, you’ll need to go check out the video!

1. What kind of diapers did you use?

She used flats for most of the diapering days, having added some prefolds into the mix near the end.

20200116_1922372. How many did you have?

Her stash consisted of 2 dozen diapers when she began.

3. Were they 100% cotton?

Of course. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what point I was trying to drive home by asking except that maybe this was likely the only option.

4. I assume they were pinned on?

Again, not sure if I really was expecting a different response, but just in case…

5. Did you ever put anything over them, like a cover?

They had the infamous rubber pants, which she wasn’t a fan of using because it trapped moisture and didn’t breathe, which bred rashes.

20200116_1922336. Did you have leaking problems?


What makes me laugh a bit, which I explained to her during the interview but cut out of editing (mostly because of noisy kids), was how disposable diapers were marketed for their ability to eliminate leaking and absorb more than cloth diapers during that day. Now, it’s almost the opposite. No amount of elastic can hold certain “blowouts”, but disposable diapers are notorious for leaking poop. Some people don’t have that problem. I was far from one of them. Every single child I put a sposie on had major blow outs. This has only happened twice during my nearly 4 years cloth diapering so far, and that was entirely user-error. I can’t count how many times in the almost 4 years I was using disposables that I had blow outs, including one very embarrassing story for another day.

7. Did you wash the diapers by hand or by machine?

She said machine, then went on to say she used a wringer machine. I joked in the video about how nowadays we’d call that hand-washing, although it is technically using a machine. But it really was a machine, just not fully automated like the kind we have the privilege of using today. You can see someone using a similar type of machine in a video here.

8. What did that process look like?

Piecing together our conversation, including some after-talk, I realized her process of washing diapers was arguably simpler than mine, ha! Seeing the process in which these older style machines work in the video linked just above really helps get an idea, but the jist of it is that she’d put detergent into the machine with the hottest water she could get from tap, let the machine run for a time, run the diapers through the wringer and into clean rinse water, then used the wringer again to squeeze the rinse water out, and hung them to dry.

ivory9. What kind of detergent did you use?

Good ol’ ivory soap!

10. Did you ever bleach them?

She gave me a very firm “no”. 

11. Did you boil the water you used to wash them?

No, but she did use hot water! She just used the hottest she could get from tap.

12. I assume you line dried?

Anyone else not surprised that the answer was yes? hahaha

13. Where did you dry the diapers in the wintertime?

The previous question was just a lead into this one. Where did she dry her diapers in the wintertime? She answered that she’d use the basement or sometimes hang them upstairs near the heat register.

14. How old were your children when they potty trained?

18 months, 2 years, and 3 years, in that order. Anyone thinking what I was thinking? Being a mom gets difficult the more little creatures you have to chase around. My grandmother had these three pretty close in age. I know from experience how demanding that can be, and if you knew my dad, you’d know what it was a miracle she survived!


15. Where did you buy diapers from?

After some thinking, she recalled a store reminiscent of Sears called Korvettes (which declined and eventually went bankrupt in 1980) where she purchased her diapers from. 

16. How did you diaper overnight?

She explained that she made extra sure there wouldn’t be leaks. I’m not sure if it was obvious in the video or not, but she often doubled her diapers for overnights.

20200116_19233417. Were they really bulky?

And yes, they were really bulky. She chuckled a little at that question.

18. What did you do with poopy diapers?

She said she’d dispose of what she could in the toilet, then scrub them again in a wash basin (she likened it to a large dishpan) to give them an extra scrub before they went into the machine for washing.

19. What did you do if the baby pooped when away from home?

After disposing what she could, she would wrap up the diaper in a plastic bag to bring home and give it a second scrub like usual. Funny enough, when I asked her where she got the plastic bags she carried around, she had absolutely no idea. Back in those days, grocery stores used brown paper bags. She still has no idea where the plastic bags came from.

20. Where did you change the baby at home?

Just like I do today, she changed her babies on her bed, occasionally on the couch.

21. Where did you change the baby when out and about?

The backseat of the car often became the changing station when away from home.

22. What did you use as wipes?

It took her a little while to recall what she did for wipes. Disposable wipes weren’t an option then. Later on she recalled that she would use a wet and a dry wash cloth to clean their bums.

23. Would you say this flat (large 100% cotton Nickis Diaper flat)/this prefold (Cottonbabies 100% indian cotton small prefold) are similar to what you used?

She said yes, but I sometimes wonder because the kinds of vintage diapers I have seen and heard of seem very different from the ones we have today. I suppose mommom, in all her mommomness, was speaking very generally. 

pampers gif24. What was your first impression of disposables when they hit the market?

“A waste.”

She talked about how disposables were something more commonplace in the hospital than in the home, and how they came across to her as, well, a waste. She didn’t see the sense.

25. What do you think of modern cloth diapers?

Breathable yet water resistant PUL material has her completely won over. She basks in the pretty prints I bring when I visit her and gawks at the functionality of them now compared to when she used them.

26. What is your favorite style of modern cloth and why?

Pockets are her favorite: the ability to put what you want inside but still have the ease of on and off diapers.

27. In all honestly, given today’s options, if you had to diaper babies again, would you use disposables or cloth diapers and why?

The ease of modern cloth diapers made her decision a no-brainer. She has an appreciation for the ease and convenience of disposables, but she even said in an after-talk, “These [modern cloth diapers] are so easy to use, I really don’t see why more people don’t use these. They’d save a bunch of money”.

28. Can you show me how you folded your flats?

mommom folding GIF

Essentially, she just folded the flat into thirds, then folded it down until she had the rise length she needed. The way she folded it in this demonstration would accommodate an older baby. For a younger baby, she’d have to fold the flat entirely in half again before then pinning it on the baby…. if that makes sense.

29. How often did you wash diapers?

She washed every day unless her schedule didn’t permit doing so. With a stash of only two dozen diapers, plus a few more she added later with two in cloth, she really couldn’t put it off, especially in light of line drying. I would know as this is very reminiscent to me of my early cloth diapering days, having a stash of 20 pockets and flats which I had to handwash and dry overnight to make sure I wouldn’t run out before they dried. 

30. Did you buy more diapers when you had two in diapers?

In case it wasn’t obvious from the previous answer, yes. She did add a few more diapers to her collection when she found herself diapering two at the same time. I believe this was when she had added prefolds to her stash. 

I did ask if she had any embarrassing or funny stories related to diapering. That tale is in the video!

Over the phone with my grandmother, I later asked a few more questions:

31. What brand diapers did you use?

32. Do you remember how much they cost?

She didn’t know the question to either of the above two questions. I told her I would do some research to try to find some brands and run them by her to see if any ring a bell. If so, there’s a thin possibility I could figure out how much she approximately paid for them, too. We’ll see!

33. About how often were you changing diapers? (Or about how many did you go through in a day?)

If her memory serves her correctly, 8 diapers a day. She then added that, of course, there were times that was an exception. She used diarrhea as an example, and I could tell from the way she said it that her memory bank is burned with memories of scrubbing diarrhea out of cloth diapers in a dishpan. 

What did you find most striking about this interview? What are some questions you would have added?

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