Karly West, founder of Mamatoto Cloth Diapers, photo courtesy

What inspired you to get into the cloth diaper business?

I am a mama to 3 little girls and have cloth diapered them for the past 9 years, I chose to use cloth diapers for my baby’s health and the health of our planet.

Photo by Natasha Sweeney/MamatotoDiapers

Do you think convenience and over reliance on single-use products is responsible for environmental degradation?

Absolutely!!!! The key is finding ways to make environmentally friendly products convenient, easy-to-use, and affordable.

How sustainable is mamatoto diaper as compared to disposable diapers?

There were 113,788 babies born in Nairobi in 2019. If each baby uses about 6000 disposable diapers, in 3 years Nairobi could produce 682,728,000 diapers that last over 500 years in a landfill. 6000 Disposable diapers create about 950 kg of waste for a landfill and a set of cloth diapers create 2.4 kg. Disposable diapers are often thrown away, and they end up polluting the environment. Using cloth diapers also keeps human waste out of our landfills.

Used disposable diapers thrown by the roadside in Mwariki, Nakuru.

They say cheap is expensive, how true is this in relation to the disposable diapers, to both the consumer and the environment?

We need to talk about the health of a baby. Many diapers available in Kenya are cheap imported ‘knockoff’ diapers that have not met health and safety standards and this is very risky to use these diapers filled with unknown chemicals on your baby. Also, disposable diapers can absorb a lot of pee without leaking, and in order to save money parents will leave a diaper on a baby for too many hours and this is very unhealthy for a baby leading to rashes and infections.

What’s the most challenging part in your business?

Developing products and laundry services that work across all income levels in the Kenyan market. It is almost like setting up two businesses, one that focuses on the upper income market with social media marketing, e-commerce, and home delivery; the other focusing on lower income markets that uses sms messaging, partnerships with health clinics and NGOs, and kiosk drop and pick points.

What is your message to upcoming parents on responsible parenthood?

what have you learned from the experiences of using cloth diapers

My overall lesson is buy the best quality cloth diapers in a natural fiber fabric such as cotton with necessary cloth diapers accessories and you will succeed at cloth diapering. You will recoup your cost in 9–12 months of diapering and diapering subsequent children is FREE and you can even sell the diapers second hand when finished.

Photos by Natasha Sweeney/MamatotoDiapers

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