Diaper Need Is a Serious Problem and YOU Can Help!

Did you know that 1 in 3 mothers struggle to provide the diapers her children need to stay clean, healthy and happy? 

Diapers are a basic need for any young child. Diapers are also very expensive, costing families about $1000/year per child. There is virtually no public assistance provided to low-income families to help them provide this basic necessity. WIC and Food Stamps cannot be used to purchase diapers, and the woefully low amount of money that a family could receive from TANF (usually around $350/month) would need to be used by families to purchase food or housing. The burden to purchase diapers for families living in poverty is perhaps the most profound – with the cost of diapers representing nearly 10% of the income of a family living at 100% of the FPL. 

When diapers are in short supply, caregivers are forced to make difficult decisions about how to survive without the diapers they need. Often times, children are left in dirty diapers for extended periods of time, with some caregivers forced to resort to cleaning out dirty disposable diapers and using them again.

We know that there are immediate physical consequences for children left in dirty diapers too long – urinary tract infections and chronic diaper rash being the most common. There are also emotional consequences for children whose caregivers don’t have enough diapers. As we know, babies in soiled diapers are not happy babies and unhappy babies are crying babies. Unhappy babies who cry frequently are at a much higher risk of abuse than those who are content. Perhaps most importantly, young children learn how to trust adults and form meaningful and loving connections with caregivers by expressing needs through crying and then having those needs met by the people who care for them.

When a baby’s needs are not met, as in the case of a child left in a soiled diaper for a long period of time, it affects the child’s ability to develop trust that she will be cared for, that she is loved, and that she is safe. Even a child’s future can be touched by a lack of diapers in early childhood! Without diapers, young children cannot participate in early childhood education and students that participate in early childhood education are 2.5 times more likely to go on to finish college. 

Access to diapers isn’t just about the children affected. Caregivers who cannot provide an adequate supply of diapers to keep their children clean and dry report higher levels of stress and depression than those who can meet their children’s diaper needs. Parents without enough diapers for their children are not able to take children to childcare or preschool. Without childcare, caregivers are not able to work, placing low-income families in an even more precarious financial situation. Especially for mothers, the ability to meet a child’s needs seems to be directly related to her own feelings of worth and happiness. A mother who cannot meet the diaper needs of her child(ren) begins to feel like a “bad” mom, a belief that can lead to depression, feelings of inadequacy, and a lack of interest in bonding with the child(ren) in her care. Research shows us that mothers who report diaper need are nearly twice as likely as their peers to report symptoms of depression and other mental health needs. To these moms, diaper need is even more stressful than food insecurity.

Further Reading

The Diaper Divide | Published at WH.gov, March 2016

Diaper Need in America | Published at nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org

Help These Local Families Today!

You can help join us in our mission to eliminate diaper need in St. Louis by hosting a diaper drive, making a donation, volunteering your time, or partnering with us.

Do You Need Diapers?

If you are in this situation, we are so sorry. The St. Louis Area Diaper Bank does not provide diapers directly to individuals, only to other nonprofit organizations, who then distribute the diapers to their clients.

See our list of partners, and learn more about Free Diaper Friday at Bethany Christian Services, for some immediate resources.