Donate dollars for diapers at Healthy Mom&Baby’s diaper drive campaign to Wipe Out Diaper Need.
by, Joanne Goldblum, BA, MSW
Recently, we received a powerful video from a mom in California named Bryanne. At 17 years old, she and her fiancé, a young Marine recruit, were struggling to make ends meet, and there simply wasn’t enough money in the monthly budget to buy enough diapers. She discovered that government safety-net programs like food stamps (SNAP) cannot be used to purchase diapers.
Often alone with her son, Bryanne had nowhere to turn for help—no friends, no family, and no community resources. Doing her best to keep her son clean and dry, she resorted to cutting the insides of her infant son’s used diapers, throwing away the swollen centers, and stuffing them with toilet paper or paper towels. In her video, Bryanne recalls “feelings of inadequacy, stress, fear and shame” when she was unable to provide for her child.
We moms can’t imagine not being able to provide our infant or toddler with a most basic need, a clean diaper. Yet 1 in 3 mothers reports experiencing diaper need—the lack of an adequate supply of diapers to keep a baby clean, dry and healthy.
Our organization, National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), was created in 2011 to address diaper need and its impact on families. With the support of our founding sponsor Huggies®, NDBN and its 255-plus member diaper bank programs—operating in 45 states, D.C. and Guam—work to raise awareness of diaper need, strengthen the growing number of community-based diaper banks, and distribute nearly 37 million diapers annually to babies in need. While we have achieved much success, the need remains great.
Today, 5.3 million American children under the age of three live in poor and low-income families. Diaper need, an often hidden consequence of poverty, threatens the physical, mental and economic health of babies and their families. Babies left in wet and soiled diapers are likely to get unhealthy rashes and infections. Plus, a growing body of research links such poverty-related maladies to toxic stress, which negatively affects the brain development of children.
A lack of diapers can also keep parents out of the workforce. Most child care providers require parents to leave a daily supply of disposable diapers along with their infant or toddler. Without diapers, some parents cannot go to work or school.
Our own study, published in Pediatrics, found that mothers who cannot provide enough diapers for their babies are more likely to report difficulty with stress management, depression, and coping with trauma. These mental health needs were even more pronounced in mothers who had trouble obtaining diapers than in mothers who reported food insecurity.
On average, diapering a child costs about $18 per week. That is a significant expense for some parents, as it represents more than 6 percent of the gross pay of a minimum-wage worker. But as a social programs go, $18 a week to change a life is an incredible bargain.
Later this month, communities throughout the U.S. will recognize Diaper Need Awareness Week (September 28 – October 4, 2015). In addition to the options at DiaperDrive.org, you can also donate Huggies Rewards points to NDBN, which makes a huge difference. Follow NDBN on Twitter and Facebook and help raise awareness by using #DiaperNeed on your own social media posts to encourage others to support diaper banks—your voice matters!
Moms like Bryanne know that small things can make a huge difference. Today, Bryanne is a successful writer, wife, and the mother of two teenage sons. She is proudly giving voice to #DiaperNeed and working to make sure all babies have access to clean diapers—read Bryanne’s full story.
by, Summer Hunt
“A healthy supply of diapers keeps babies clean and dry, but it also reduces parent stress… diapers help parents be able to further their education, as well as find stable housing and employment.”
“I don’t think I truly understood diaper need until I experienced it myself,” says Rachel Alston. “I’ve also found that most people don’t know that there isn’t government assistance for families needing diapers.” This Portland mom found herself in a tight spot in 2008 when she had her first child, daughter Ayva. While her husband was in school, Rachel was staying at home with the baby. They already received assistance from other programs, but diapers were proving to be a pressing expense. “We were trying to stretch our SNAP benefits to be able to supplement with cash,” she says. “But it just wasn’t enough.”
Unfortunately, Rachel was not able to find a diaper bank in her area. “Eventually we turned to cloth diapering, because we were lucky enough to have a washer and dryer in our unit,” she says. “But I know that some families are just not in that situation, because they’re in transitional housing or possibly even homeless, and most schools and daycares will not accept cloth diapering as an option.” Thinking back on that time in her life, Rachel remembers being so stressed that she couldn’t provide such a basic necessity for her child. “Being a parent is challenging enough without having to count diapers or worry if you’re going to have enough to make it through the week.”
Determined to help and hopefully decrease the number of moms in her position, Rachel founded PDX Diaper Bank, the first of its kind in Portland. “I knew I wanted to start an organization to help my community to serve mothers and children,” she explains. “After making a few phone calls to other nonprofits in the area to ask about their experience with diaper need, I knew what I needed to do to make the biggest impact.” With a motto of, “inspiring hope, health, and happy bottoms,” The PDX Diaper Bank accepts both disposable and cloth diapers for infants, children and adults, which are distributed to partner agencies and then on to families. PDX Diaper Bank also offers free “Cloth Diapering on a Budget” classes to eligible families.
As the executive director of the PDX Diaper Bank, Rachel meets families from all walks of life who experience the stress and worry that goes along with not being able to provide. “I have seen so many families just trying to cope and survive day-to-day living – overcoming homelessness, securing stable employment, battling health problems… all while trying to raise a child,” she says. “They are true everyday heroes.”
If there was one thing Rachel could communicate to people considering donating to or even starting a diaper drive or bank, it would be that there is such a great need, even if you don’t see it outright. “There aren’t enough diaper banks in the United States to completely close the diaper gap, but that is slowly changing as advocates educate communities about diaper need and the impact it has on families,” she says.
As a community outreach coordinator at her church, AWHONN nurse Linda Clark Amankwaa, PhD, MN, BSN, RN, RNC, wanted to do something to make a difference in the lives of folks living in her home area of Tallahassee, FL. “I was responsible for a project, but I wasn’t sure what I could do to make a contribution to the community,” she says.
With more than 35 years in the nursing field, Linda has long been making strides to improve the health of women and babies. After communicating with Brehon, a local organization dedicated to protecting children and nurturing families, she learned that there was a great need for diapers.
“My daughter has two children, and I know how expensive diapers can be, on top of daycare and all the other normal costs,” she explains. “And without enough diapers, babies are exposed to health risks. I knew that diapers were something that would be greatly appreciated and easy to donate.”
With the help of her fellow members at Bethel AME Tallahassee, Linda started their first annual diaper drive in 2012. “We collected more than 2,000 diapers—we were overjoyed at the support for the diaper drive!” she remembers. “It was a huge success, and we knew it would be something we could do every year.”
Now in its fourth year and going strong, the Bethel AME Church diaper drive has continued its partnership with Brehon and has donated more than 8,000 diapers to date. “It has been such a blessing to watch the diapers pile up,” Linda says. “It’s incredible how something that seems so small, so simple to us can have a such a big impact on families that need the help.”
There are more than 5.3 million babies and toddlers living in
low-income families that are affected by diaper need. Without enough clean, dry diapers, babies are more prone to rashes and infections. Most daycares will not accept children without a sufficient supply of diapers, meaning mom or dad may have to miss out on work (and a paycheck).
Summer Hunt is the editorial coordinator for publications at AWHONN.
You can help reach our 100,000 diaper goal!
Visit DiaperDrive.org to find a local diaper bank in your area, and be sure to report your total donated on the website—just click DONATE DIAPERS to tell us how many and where you donated.
You can also choose to donate dollars that will be used to purchase diapers at wholesale for diaper banks across the country; $1 equals 6 diapers.