What Is Diaper Need?

Diaper need, put simply, is a lack of clean diapers. Many families experience the financial pinch of having a baby, but not all can cut “luxuries” and stay afloat. Some parents are forced to choose between a box of diapers and buying food for the family or paying the heating bill. Shockingly, there are no state or federal assistance programs that provide diapers to families with children. The National Diaper Bank Network reports that one in three families experience diaper need at some point. Of course, clean diapers are a sanitary must-have! Diaper need is a real issue, more common and nuanced than you might imagine. It cannot be solved by simply referring these parents to existing diaper banks, for good reason.

How Does Diaper Need Negatively Impact Infant Health?

Babies can get sick from staying in soiled diapers too long. Via My Ridiculous Life

Families who experience diaper need have gone to extreme lengths to try to make ends meet. Some have even hung wet diapers to dry before reusing them on their children. This practice is unsanitary and can create ammonia burns on the baby’s genitals. Others feel they have no option but to leave diapers on for longer than is recommended. Of course, this leads to rashes - which means the baby will then need creams and ointments, sometimes prescription drugs. Diaper need is a problem that creates other, larger problems for families.

RELATED: The Diaper Question: Cloth, Disposable Or None At All 

Disposable Diaper Banks Are Overwhelmed

Disposable diaper banks are under pressure to meet so much need. Via Nestling Diaper Bank

While diaper need is not addressed by any government agency, several non-profits have stepped up to fill the gap. Disposable diaper banks provide packs of donated diapers to families in need. This seems like a great solution - on the surface. Of course, all non-profits can only provide to their clients if they have donations coming in. The diaper banks have to provide diapers on a first-come, first-serve basis. When the diapers are gone, the families who need that relief are out of luck.

Some Diaper Banks Discriminate Against Certain Families

Some diaper banks are tied to religious organizations that discriminate against certain families. Via The Conversation

Worse yet, some disposable diaper banks put conditions on their generosity. Some banks affiliated with religious institutions require families to take religious classes or attend worship services to earn “points”. These points can then be traded in to receive diapers, or sometimes other baby items like formula or wipes. Of course, this requirement can be a huge barrier to those families who belong to another faith tradition or to none at all.

Parents Can’t Always Afford To Receive A Diaper Donation

Some families can't afford the bus fare to get to the diaper bank. Via TriState Defender

Most disposable diaper banks run short hours. This means that families who need disposable diapers must fit a visit to these charities into their busy schedules. For some, that’s literally an impossibility. Parents cannot miss work to pick up diapers lest they lose their source of income. Even if they don’t have other time commitments, parents are expected to travel to these banks to retrieve a pack of diapers. The cost of traveling might be just as prohibitive to parents who can’t afford diapers to begin with. Many of these organizations limit the number of diapers they provide in a package. Logistically, the organizations break down donations into smaller packs (say, 20 diapers per family) so they can serve more families. Unfortunately, that means that parents must travel back to the bank every day or two.

Diaper need might seem to be easily resolved through diaper banks and donations. Unfortunately, the issue is more complex than it appears on the surface. I don't mean to say that disposable diaper banks don't help families - they do! And they're doing important work! But I don't want to mislead anyone by claiming that disposable diaper banks can resolve diaper need on their own. Just as with any organization, they have real limitations. 

What can be done to permanently address diaper need for these families? Stay tuned to learn about one non-profit that is solving this problem for good.

NEXT: Coming Clean About The Messy Bits Of Cloth Diapering


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