A van pulls into a local Dallas Sam’s Club parking lot and 2 volunteers spring into action, handing out up to 2 packs of diapers and wipes to more than 500 qualified low-income families who depend on this diaper drop so that their children can go to childcare while the parents go to work .

In Pennsylvania, a diaper pantry keeps families from choosing between having enough food or putting diapers on their babies.  In Los Angeles, one diaper depot hands out more than 1.5 million diapers a year.

In St. Louis, Nurses for Newborns recently gathered diapers for more than 2,600 families out of the passion that mother/baby nurses have for their smallest patients and their parents. All of these efforts made headlines in their local newspapers, but across the country there’s a larger unspoken and unmet need for 5.4 million children who don’t have enough diapers.

Understanding Diaper Need

Throughout the US, community diaper banks, religious and philanthropic organizations and individuals strive to meet the needs of the 1 in 3 families who struggle with a need for diapers—the inability to buy any or enough diapers for their child. When baby doesn’t have enough diapers to go to childcare mom or dad can’t go to work. And these wee ones need between 8 and 12 diapers a day.

Diaper need is not having enough diapers to keep your baby clean, dry and healthy.  When diapers aren’t regularly changed, baby’s skin is exposed to urine and stool, which can lead to diaper rash. Left untreated (yes, diaper cream is another cost of diapering), skin breakdown can happen and lead to infection requiring medical care.

No state or federal programs help families buy the 3,000-5,000 diapers each baby needs. You can’t spend food stamps for diapers.

The 1 bright spot is the growing National Diaper Bank Network, which connects and supports the county’s 240+ community-based diaper banks that collect and distribute free diapers to struggling families. Last year, the national network distributed more than 40 million free diapers, half of which were donated by founding sponsor Huggies® to some 1.2 million children in the US.

You Can Wipe Out Diaper Need

The nurses of AWHONN and families in communities including yours are working with the National Diaper Bank Network to launch Healthy Mom&Baby’s Drive to Wipe Out Diaper Need!

Nurses are with moms when they first learn they’re pregnant. Nurses give expert care and advice as moms go through prenatal visits. Nurses help moms birth the 4 million babies born in the US each year, and nurses are also known for collecting and donating diapers to local groups in their communities, including the diaper banks that support struggling families.

Now, you can join with nurses to help families in need have enough diapers and wipes to properly care for their children. Organize a drive, donate dollars for diapers (your dollars will buy diapers at wholesale!) and take a big box of diapers to a diaper bank in your area. Then go online to Health4Mom.org/diaper-drive and tell us what you did so that we can count your efforts in with those from AWHONN nurses. Together, with our partners at the National Diaper Bank Network we can Wipe Out Diaper Need.

Wipe it Out!

  • 5.4 million infants and toddlers live in poor or low-income families
  • 1 in 3 American families don’t have enough diapers
  • $70-$80 is the typical monthly cost of disposable diapers per baby
  • Diapers costs triple when parents don’t have transportation to “big box” stores
  • Cloth diapers aren’t accepted at most childcare centers
  • A day’s or week’s worth of extra diapers is typically required for each child in childcare

Further reading: How To Deal With a New Baby 


Carolyn Davis Cockey, MLS, LCCE, is founding editor of Healthy Mom&Baby, Senior Director of Partnerships & Publications at AWHONN, and a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator in Sarasota, FL.

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