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Nurses Stand in the Diaper Gap

By Jessica Hazboun, RN, PHN

Nurses Stand in the Diaper Gap

Here’s why the maternal-child nurses of AWHONN collect diapers, wipes and other essentials for at-risk families in their care and in their communities.

At 8 years old my life was forever changed. My family quickly became a single mother of 5, low-income household.” I watched my mom struggle to meet our basic needs including those of my twin siblings who were less than a year old. My older sister and I quickly grew into adults to help our mom. I vividly remember receiving an EBT card, trying to figure out what we could and could not purchase with it, and feeling a little embarrassed the first time we used it.

I had never felt so overwhelmed, stressed and helpless. We were so appreciative for acts of kindness we received that allowed us to not think about money for a moment and be the kids we truly were. It was through those acts that we found hope.

Now as a nurse, wife and mother, I get to be a source of hope for struggling families in partnership with my colleagues at AWHONN, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric & Neonatal Nurses, the maternal-child nurses who create this magazine for the women and infants for whom they provide care.

Nurses Care for Their Smallest Patients

Nationwide, the nurses of AWHONN are the largest group of healthcare providers who provide and collect diapers, wipes and other essential care items to families-at-risk in hospitals and communities through the Healthy Mom&Baby Diaper Drive, which operates year-round in partnership with diaper maker Huggies™ and the non-profit National Diaper Bank Network.

As maternal-child nurses, we are the ones our patients confide in about diaper need. We’re the care providers who can send families home with extra diaper packs to help in any way we can.

Truth is, 1 in 3 families in the U.S. struggle with being able to afford enough diapers for their children. They reuse diapers, or delay changing them, to make their supply last. Continued exposure to urine and stool in a diaper can degrade baby’s skin, causing irritation, infection and for many children affect their overall mental health and development. When parents are stressed, babies are stressed.

My mother lived that struggle. When her husband became a violent, she became a single mom living paycheck to paycheck; oftentimes even that wasn’t enough. “When you’re in that position, you need diapers as much as you need milk or food. It’s not a matter of should you get them, it’s how am I going to get them,” she recalls.

“I didn’t tell anyone that I needed help because I was embarrassed. Instead, I found myself taking my stress out on my children, and felt even worse. People on the outside don’t see the struggle; it’s lonely and hard. If you need help, ask—there are so many good people there to help. You’re not alone.”

Diaper need creates a vicious cycle. There are no public assistance programs that provide diapers. Most daycare centers require at least a week’s worth of diapers for a child to attend, making it hard for a parent to return to work or school.

Making a Difference for Babies at Risk

Since the launch of the Healthy Mom&Baby Diaper Drive in 2015, AWHONN nurses have collected and donated nearly 1 million diapers to their vulnerable patients. AWHONN member and mother-baby nurse Joan Sperger hosts diaper drives and raises awareness regarding diaper need locally and by speaking on behalf of the Diaper Bank Network in Washington D.C.

North of Philadelphia, at Abbington Jefferson Hospital, Joan identifies families at risk. “Our less fortunate moms ask us for more diapers when we know they haven’t used all of the diapers we’ve already provided,” she says. “And we give them more diapers because they’re insecure about their ability to care for their babies. No mother should worry about meeting basic needs for her child just because she’s getting public assistance. Diapers are not a choice, they’re a necessity.”

Chicago nurse Deborah Roache rallies colleagues at Prentice Women’s Hospital around diaper need. This mother and labor and delivery nurse of 39 years in a hospital that delivers more than 12,000 babies each year has raised more than 20,500 diapers for her community.

“I first became aware of diaper need in an AWHONN post asking nurses to join their colleagues in holding diaper drives. I did a little research and was shocked at the statistics,” Deb says.

Like Joan, Deb continues to increase the number of diapers her hospital provides to the community each year. “We need to continue not only diaper drives, but educate everyone about the very real need for diapers, and the funding needed to help at-risk parents provide them for their babies.”

Get Diapers & Infant Care Essentials

If you know a family struggling with diaper need or if you’re struggling to provide diapers for your youngest children you are not alone: Nurses care, and nurses want to help. Visit DiaperDrive.org, the National Diaper Bank Network at http://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/need-diapers-now/ to find diaper banks near you, or 211.org for agencies in your area.

“As maternal-child nurses, we are the ones our patients confide in about diaper need. We’re the care providers who can send families home with extra diaper packs to help in any way we can.”

Further reading: Donate Diapers for Babies in Need 

Jessica Hazboun, RN, PHN, is a nurse, childbirth educator and advocate for the Healthy Mom&Baby Diaper Drive.


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