As moms, we have all been there: long day managing career, life, kids, extracurricular activities, and a myriad of other things. Your precious darling of six months of age is ok with his world for the time being, but you know that could turn on a dime. Sure enough, just as you pull into the grocery parking lot, he lets out an earsplitting scream. Time to go into problem-solving mode. Not hurt. Check. Spurns bottle. Not hungry. Check. Diaper blowout? Oh yes. Culprit found. Onesie removed, offending diaper sent to hazardous waste disposal, baby cleaned and refreshed back into car seat, and life goes on.
Except, what if that was the last diaper you had?
You were hoping that it would last until the morning when your paycheck was deposited, and you could get more diapers. You’re at the grocery and could get more, but you’re down to the last $20 in your wallet and still have to feed your kids. With despair, you look at your baby and wonder how long you can listen to him scream in discomfort, or whether you send your other children to bed hungry.
This dilemma is one that thousands of mothers face every day.
Simply put, diaper need is having to do without a basic necessity in order to afford diapers for your child. In the Huggies Every Little Bottom Study, mothers who could not provide diapers for their children reported feeling guilty, frustrated, stressed, embarrassed, anxious, and like a “bad mother.” Mothers reported reusing disposable diapers or stretching a dirty diaper for as a long as possible in order to keep a diaper on their child. The impact of lack of diapers on families is more than emotional. Day care centers will not accept children unless they have disposable diapers with them. No day care means no work, no school, no anything since most mothers would be unlikely to leave their home without a clean diaper on their baby. Parents affected by diaper need span across every demographic, and the reason can be systemic or the result of catastrophic circumstances, such as the loss of a job. Here is the clincher: none of the governmental social safety net programs provide for diapers. That expense is borne solely by the parent.
As part of its focus to “Advance the Wellbeing of Women,” the Junior League of New Orleans created a Diaper Bank this year. Its intention is to close the diaper gap for women with children and lessen the impact of that need on the emotional and financial health of the women and in turn, their families. Every woman, regardless of her educational, financial, or religious background can empathize with the need we all have to care for our loved ones, particularly children. JLNO’s Diaper Bank will collect diapers and distribute them to organizations that provide direct service to the community.
In honor of its 90th birthday, JLNO has set a goal of collecting 90,000 diapers. One of its direct service partners reports distributing over 5,000 diapers a month to families in the greater New Orleans area. While 90,000 is a lofty goal, it is expected that the local partner would run through that supply in a year.
I had triplets. Boxes of diapers were stacked against the walls of the nursery. We went through diapers at the rate of 25 a day when they were infants for a total of 750 a month. And I never questioned that a fresh diaper would be at hand when I needed one. Ever. Sometimes a diaper change was the only thing that stood between me and a dark closet, a flask, and a box of tissues. I never had to stare at those little faces and agonize over how I could meet their basic needs. But, maybe my neighbor did. Or the lady at the park with the cute little toddler. Or the mom standing next to you in the baby aisle.
Consider how a small thing can make a big difference. Donate unused disposable diapers to the JLNO Diaper Bank and help families from the bottom up. For more information on this growing need and what you can do, visit the JLNO’s website.
About Maria Huete