For any family with an infant or toddler, diapers are just a part of life. But it might be surprising to learn how vital the role of diapers are in advancing a child’s health, as well as supporting a family’s economic opportunity. Unfortunately, not all children have access to the diapers they need.
Diapers are essential to a child’s well-being and healthy development. A lack of clean diapers leaves babies at risk of developing diaper dermatitis, skin breakdown, open sores susceptible to infections, and urinary tract infections, all of which are preventable with an adequate supply of fresh diapers.
The problem can have repercussions on the entire family as well. To enroll an infant or toddler in a child care program while parents work, they must have a reliable supply of diapers. Without access to diapers, many parents cannot work or pursue job opportunities.
Diaper need is more widespread than you might think. Most children need diapers for only a few years, but when they need them, they need a lot. Infants go through 10 to 12 diapers each day, and toddlers can go through six to eight daily. An industry study found one in three mothers in the United States reported running short of diapers each month. A Feeding America survey found 48 percent of food bank clients who used diapers would delay changing a diaper to make their supply last longer, and 32 percent would try to reuse a disposable diaper.
Here in Florida we have nearly 650,000 children under age 3, 28 percent of whom are living in families earning less than the federal poverty level. The average cost for a monthly supply of disposable diapers is between $70 and $80, which is nearly six percent of the gross full-time salary of a minimum wage worker. For the poorest 20 percent of American workers who buy diapers, they’re spending nearly 14 percent of their income to keep their babies clean, dry and healthy, according to an analysis by the Center for Economic Policy and Research.
There is currently no government assistance specifically for diapers. They cannot be bought with SNAP, better known as food stamps, or WIC, and child care subsidies do not include the diapers that parents must provide the child care provider to use during the day. The federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program provides cash assistance to some, but diapers can command 26 percent of Florida’s maximum assistance for a family of three.