Any parent can attest that diaper costs really add up. A 2016 study conducted by Hanover Research for Domtar found that in the first two years of life, a single child uses more than 4,000 disposable diapers, which is estimated to cost the average American family $1,000. That cost is often higher for low-income families, who are more likely to purchase diapers at a convenience store. This makes diaper donations and diaper banks important resources for low-income families.
Effects of Unaffordable Diapers
Thirty-two percent of families reported reusing diapers when they did not have enough money. The reuse of diapers or keeping children in soiled diapers can lead to health risks such as diaper rash and bacterial and yeast infections. The study found that children with diaper rash are more likely to cry and babies that cry excessively are at the greatest risk to be victims of abuse.
That’s not to say parents aren’t trying to address the situation. Twenty-seven percent of mothers living in poverty or financial hardship reported cutting back on food purchases for the family simply to afford diapers. Parents also reported having to miss work due to not having enough diapers to bring with their child to daycare. That creates a lot of stress for parents who already have enough to worry about.
The study also found that of women who lacked an adequate supply of diapers:
- 10 percent received additional diapers from an agency
- 10 percent borrowed diapers or money from family or friends
- 8 percent stretch the diapers they have
- 3 percent reported other methods such as seeking assistance of a church
Aside from babies, seniors with incontinence who are living on fixed incomes and adults suffering from disabilities are often in need of adult diapers. The Cornell University Disability Statistics resource estimates that in 2014, 28 percent of 21-64 year olds with a disability were living below the poverty line.
“Families are making decisions between medicine and diapers, and that is just not good enough, especially when Domtar is in a position to help,” said Heather Stowe, Domtar’s corporate social responsibility manager.
Importance of Diaper Donations
Currently in the United States, there are no social welfare programs — such as WIC or food stamps — that cover the purchase of diapers, as they are considered non-essential hygiene items. Many families rely on diaper banks that are supported by manufacturers, retailers or other organizations. While many individuals have heard of food banks, diaper banks are less commonly known. Only 18 percent of mothers who were surveyed in Domtar’s study were aware of diaper banks, making education about this resource an important component of driving diaper donations and getting diapers into the hands of those in need.
In late summer of 2016, Domtar launched the Comfort and Care program to provide diaper donations and help decrease diaper poverty. The program provides donations of baby diapers and adult incontinence products.
In the past, Domtar made donations to organizations in need, such as the diaper bank managed by the Junior League of Daytona or the Nashville Diaper Bank. According to Stowe, creating the Comfort and Care program was a way to capture all of those smaller donations, focus on Domtar communities and make a more meaningful impact.
So far this year as the program gets off the ground, Domtar has donated hundreds of thousands of diapers. As the program grows in 2017, Domtar anticipates this number growing.
“When we first started to research diaper poverty the statistics were astounding and heartbreaking at the same time,” said Domtar’s Brad Goodwin, president of Personal Care, North America. “We believe that everyone deserves personal care, and the new Comfort and Care initiative will really allow us to bring our mission and Domtar’s values to life.”