Authored by Jane Brown, Director of Early Childhood, Hathaway Brown School
When I think back to my days of being a new mother, one of the hotly debated issues (it’s still debated) was whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. It never occurred to me I was lucky to have a choice.
For underprivileged families, providing diapers for their babies becomes a critical drain on resources that are already stretched thin. According to the National Diaper Bank Network, an adequate supply of diapers costs $100 or more for each baby per month and safety net programs which may provide assistance for food, housing, and childcare do not allot money for diapers.
A mother can get a stipend for daycare so she can work or further her education, but daycare centers require parents to supply diapers and generally do not accept cloth diapers. When diapers are unaffordable, daycare is no longer an option, meaning opportunities for employment or vocational training fall by the wayside. Since public assistance is often contingent on employment, the lack of diapers can also be a major factor in allocations being cut for food and housing.
To get by, families report diapering less or attempting to clean and reuse diapers – practices that lead to potential health risks from rashes and infections.
“A moist and warm environment is prime for bacteria to develop and can lead to a breakdown of baby’s skin,” said Sarah Sachs-Jepson with Pediatric Care in Kansas. “When that happens, strep, staph, and even MRSA can develop.”
The inability for a mom to provide diapers has also been linked to greater anxiety and depression. Yale University Psychiatry Professor Dr. Megan Smith concluded from a study of mothers in a Connecticut low-income housing project that “an adequate supply of diapers was a stronger predictor of a mother’s mental health needs than even food insecurity—and high levels of stress and depression in a parent can be associated with low achievement in school and mental health problems that can follow a child for a lifetime.”
Due to the persistence of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, California recently passed a bill that makes diaper assistance available to low-income parents. As Fletcher emphasized, “This is about much more than the affordability of diapers. It’s about making it easier for young parents, especially bread-winner moms, to hold jobs so they can support their families.”
Hopefully, the California legislation will serve as a model nationwide. In the meantime, we, at Hathaway Brown School focus on awareness of this essential need. HB is a drop-off location for the CLE Diaper Drive. Last year, we collected 2,063 diapers that went toward a total of 80,000 diapers collected city-wide.
We are in the final days of our second drive. Through Wednesday, October 3, You can drop off your diaper donation (any size/brand) in any of the HB lobbies. You can also donate to the on CLE Diaper Drive registry on Amazon.