Michelle Neilson and a group of 41 mothers knelt on a bed of pine-needles over their wide-eyed sons and daughters.
“Diapers up, everybody!” she shouted.
Legs kicking and arms flailing, the babies were ready for another routine diaper-change, but the mothers were ready to break a world record.
“Three. Two. One. Go!” Neilson shouted.
Off the moms went to unwrap the cloth diapers, wipe down the babies’ behinds and snap on fresh diapers.
At 12:30 Saturday afternoon, about 100 people gathered at Westside Park off 34th Street in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for most cloth diapers changed at one time.
The international event, called The Great Cloth Diaper Change 2012, was organized by the Real Diaper Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of cloth diapers in order to spread awareness about reusable diapers.
The Gainesville group was one of the 305 communities in 16 countries around the world that gathered Saturday to beat last year’s record of 5,026 diaper changes at once, according to the organization’s website.
The cloth diaper enthusiasts will find out later in the week if they broke the record.
Cloth Diaper Enthusiasts of Gainesville, a community group, hosted Gainesville’s inaugural event. Members roped off a 30-foot area next to the playground where parents laid the babies on blankets to change them. Families gathered outside the perimeter to watch and snap pictures.
While mothers changed diapers in Gainesville, parents in countries like Belgium, Malaysia and Israel participated in hopes of shattering the record.
The eco-friendly alternative is becoming more popular as parents realize how much money they save and how much it helps the environment, said Meghan Schoenborn, co-host of the event and member of Gainesville Cloth Diaper Enthusiasts.
“You can build a nice stash of cloth diapers for anywhere from $50 to $100, and then you can reuse them when you have more kids,” Schoenborn said. “And think about all of the trash you’re keeping out of the landfill.”
Disposable diapers take 250-500 years to decompose in a landfill, according to the Real Diaper Association.
“If Shakespeare had worn a disposable diaper, it would still be in a landfill somewhere,” Schoenborn said. “That is ridiculous.”
Most the babies crawling around the park Saturday wore only shirts and diapers. Parents wanted to show off their cloth diapers, said 37-year-old participant Estie Merritt.
“That is the beauty of cloth,” Merritt said. “You can have a lot of fun with the prints.”
Her daughter, 6-month-old Hannah, wore a psychedelic, floral-printed diaper by RagaBabe, the Ed Hardy of cloth diaper designers. The prints are bold and busy, just like Hardy’s tattoo-inspired designs.
Others didn’t care to make the diaper a fashion statement.
Sarah Bell, 39, said she prefers wool covers that she and friends knit for her 9-month-old daughter, Hannah. She wraps the baby’s bum in a towel-like cloth and then puts the wool cover over it to keep the cloth in place. Some cloth diapers are all-in-one and others, like Bell’s, come in pieces. All are washed after the baby goes to the bathroom and are then reused.
Bell said there are often negative preconceptions about cloth diapers.
“People think it involves touching poop and doing like a bazillion loads of laundry,” she said. “You flush the poop down the toilet, and I do maybe one more load a week than I used to do.”
Contact Adrianna Paidas at email@example.com.