Photo of an infant, wearing a diaper, laying on his chest in a medical facility.
Child in a Neonatal intensive care unit in 1980. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Diapers are expensive. In order to keep one child in clean diapers, parents typically spend $70 to $80 each month.

Because the cost of diapers is not covered by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly referred to as food stamps – this represents a tangible financial hardship for low-income families. Many parents resort to extending the use of soiled diapers or drying and reusing diapers, but this practice can often cause skin rashes, irritation, and hospitalization.

In 2011, The National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) formed in response to diaper need. With 22 percent of children in America living under the poverty line as of the 2010 census, NDBN estimates that one in three families struggle to buy enough clean diapers for their children, about 5.3 million children and infants total.

There are now 257 member diaper banks that have partnered with many other charitable organizations to address diaper need nationally. The network has been campaigning to raise donations of 100,000 diapers during the month of September, in partnership with Kimberly Clark, the DC Diaper Bank and the Association for Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN).

On Thursday September 3, the partner organizations hosted a free diaper distribution event at Bright Beginnings, a childcare and family resource center that supports local homeless children and their families. Bright Beginnings is one of more than 20 DC Diaper Bank partner distribution organizations in the D.C. area. As a partner distribution organization, Bright Beginnings receives about 10,000 diapers monthly, which are then either used in house or distributed to families via Bright Beginnings’ home visit program.

Among the 75 families served by the event was Bolanle Olufisoye, the mother of two daughters, a seven-month- old and a two-year-old, enrolled at Bright Beginnings. She cited diapers and formula as her “two most difficult expenses.”

Olufisoye also expressed the importance of removing diaper need through training efforts at Bright Beginnings.

“As expensive as diapers is, it’s good to know that she’s taking steps to getting out of Pampers and using the bathroom,” Olufisoye said.

Most childcare centers require parents to send disposable diapers with their child to daycare as an issue of health and finance. As a result, the children of parents who can’t afford diapers are kept from enrolling in daycare, and parents are unable to work or attend school.

“If we can eradicate that, then it allows the parents to go to work, and to be able to drop the child off, and also to prevent some skin irritations and rashes and visits to the pediatrician, so all kinds of good things,” said Lynn Erdman, CEO of AWHONN. “And a healthy child makes a healthy community.”

Over 4,000 diapers were distributed at the Bright Beginnings event. According to Erdman, similar events will continue throughout September, culminating in “Diaper Need Awareness Week,” from September 28 to October 4.

Donations for the Wipe Out Diaper Need campaign are collected through www.DiaperDrive.org.