Low-Income Families Struggle To Afford Diapers, Forced To Reuse Dirty Diapers In Some Cases

What kinds of programs exist to help poor, struggling families afford diapers for their babies? None. While we sit and watch the GOP scream about the 'right to life.' Image @ SilentWindsOfChange

What kinds of programs exist to help poor, struggling families afford diapers for their babies? None. While we sit and watch the GOP scream about the ‘right to life.’ Image @ SilentWindsOfChange

As a parent, there are few situations as desperate as running out of diapers. Worse is when you can’t afford to buy more.

I remember being a young parent with my husband, a junior enlisted soldier, trying to make sure we had enough diapers to make it to the next payday. We’d forgo non-essential items to buy extra diapers, because the last thing we wanted was to run out of them before being able to buy more. It happened more than once. There was a time when I even wrote a bad check to get diapers. That package of diapers, which back then cost $5, ended up costing me almost $100 in fees. That’s desperation.

Yet, according to a new study in Pediatrics, one out of every three moms said there were times when buying diapers was a hardship, which means diapers, along with food and housing, are among the things that are most stressful to parents. More worrisome still was the fact that eight percent reported reusing dirty diapers or leaving their child in a soiled diaper in order to stretch their supply. The study, which was aimed at discovering the stressors that could disturb the bonding process between a child and parent, found that on top of causing health issues for the child, such as diaper rash and urinary tract infections, having to reuse diapers or skip diaper changes affects the self-esteem of the parent as well. This can lead to feelings of shame or inadequacy in the parent, resulting in difficulty bonding with their child.

What kind of programs exist to help poor, struggling families afford diapers for their babies? None. While we sit and watch the GOP scream about the “right to life” while simultaneously working to strip away at funding for SNAP (or food stamps), families such as the ones who participated in this Yale University study struggle to provide for their child a basic hygienic need that wouldn’t be covered by this program at all. One mom noted that food could be sought via various avenues, but diapers weren’t available. Even the Women, Infants, and Children program (or WIC) doesn’t help struggling families with diapers, though it does provide help with basics such as milk, eggs, and even supplemental formula.

In recent years, some “diaper networks” have popped up in larger cities, and there is even the National Diaper Bank Network which works to provide diapers to low-income families who otherwise might find themselves in a situation that could endanger their child’s health. While the program is helping many families around the country, there are those in areas that have not been reached but who are equally affected. I wondered about cloth diapers as well, but the increased cost of that method must also be considered, meaning extra costs associated with washing the diapers, possibly a trip to the laundromat, as well as more time spent washing when time is already in as short supply as money.

But all this is not to say that Washington is ignorant to the need. Back in 2011, Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro-D, proposed the DIAPER Act: the Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery Act. This bill would provide diapers to low-income families using federal assistance to help pay for childcare. The rationale is that diapers, as a requirement of being able to have a child in day care, can cause missed workdays due to running out. The Act would be funded by the same grant that funds childcare, so it would only be available to those who use federal assistance to pay for daycare expenses, not unemployed or stay-at-home parents. However, since it would use an existing grant, the bill required no additional funding. Conservatives laughed the bill into oblivion with a variety of poop-related jokes, and it has not been addressed since.

Just another way of showing that the GOP will make sure you’re born. After that, you’re on your own.