How Cubans Recycle Disposable Diapers

Mercedes Gonzalez Amade

Mercedes González Amade

HAVANA TIMES — Becoming a mother is one of the greatest challenges a woman can take on. Today, faced with endless financial woes, women have to work miracles to give their children what’s best.

In Cuba, nearly all baby products are sold in hard currency stores, at prices that are exorbitant for anyone living on a basic salary of 250 Cuban pesos (the equivalent of 10 CUCs).

Today, many people are using disposable diapers, or Pampers. At first glance, they seem to be immensely practical for mothers, saving them time, energy and – most importantly – money. But things aren’t that simple.

These diapers are a good deal while the baby is still small. A package of extra-small diapers contains anywhere from 20 to 30 diapers. As you go up in size, however, the price increases and the quality of the diapers decreases.

If your child is anything like mine, who weighed as much as a four-month-old baby when he was only two months old, this will take a big bite out of your paycheck. Cuban women must therefore rely on their innate ingenuity: in order to save, they recycle.

Let me briefly explain how we do this.

First, you unfold the used diaper and remove the padding. Then, you wash the body of the diaper and hang it out to dry. Once the diaper has dried, you fold two cloth diapers in four and stuff them into the pocket where the padding, or “gut” (as we call it), once was. If the adhesive has worn off, we use two safety pins to keep the diaper on the baby.

You can do this as many times as you can wash and dry the diaper without destroying it. Sometimes, the much-needed “guts” are sold at stores, but, since they’re in such high demand, they run out quickly. The cloth replacement padding is easy to wash, if soiled.

I can confidently say this method is used by 90 % of Cuban women. Though it is reassuring to know one’s child is protected by the diaper, one must remember that, when the child begins to walk and talk, the diaper should be removed so that the baby begins to grow out of the habit and to gain control over his or her sphincter.

Unfortunately, not all mothers are of the same opinion, and I’ve seen kids as old as two walking around with the “disposable” diapers.

I also used them for my kid, but, when he turned nine months old, I made him wear cloth diapers or small jockeys. It took a lot of patience and effort, but Carlos stopped peeing himself at 10 months, so I was able to save a fair amount of money. Today, he is eleven. I still keep the cloth diapers he used back in the day.


34 thoughts on “How Cubans Recycle Disposable Diapers

  • March 25, 2018 at 12:55 pm
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    Thank you for sharing about the situation in Cuba and also how you did early potty training. I teach Westerners about how to do elimination communication with their babies and realize it’s an even bigger problem in 3rd world countries. We are trying to do our part to reduce landfill and guess what? Babies are born capable sphincter control and communicating their need to go outside of their clothing. Thank you a million times over for doing what’s right for your baby and for the environment.

  • December 20, 2015 at 9:30 pm
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    The customer.

    Strange suggesting people that cannot eat pay for a diaper service only millionaires can afford.

    We are American and re-use our disposable diapers.

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