An alarming new diaper study suggests that a staggering number of American babies, due to poverty and gaps in extant social welfare programs, are changed less frequently than necessary because their families cannot afford enough diapers.
The “diaper stress” study is also again bizarrely framed as a “mothers’ only” problem, with no mention of fathers “anguishing” over the admittedly horrible circumstance of a helpless baby sitting in pee because diapers cost so much money.
The research was for some reason tied only to mothers, perhaps because single mothers are more likely to be in dire straits than their coupled peers. But according to the study in Pediatrics, published online today, one in 12 low-income women report leaving babies in soiled diapers due to insufficient ability to pay for the necessary quantity of diapers for their baby.
Study author and Yale psychiatrist Megan Smith notes that while that alone is incredibly troubling and puts babies at risk of illness and emotional trauma, the silent issue has a ripple effect on working moms because daycares do not provide diapers.
Again not really mentioning what the men who fathered the children are expected to do when diapers are too expensive, Smith remarks:
“Mothers are required to bring a supply of diapers to a daycare center. If you can’t bring a supply of diapers to your child care center your child is missing out on care, but also you’re unable to attend school or work.”
It was unclear whether the daycare centers in question are willing to accept diapers from males, or if the diapers must first be handed off to a female to be passed on to a daycare center.
US News And World Report cites some sad diaper stress statistics in the piece:
“About 30 percent of women who had children in diapers reported that they didn’t always have enough. Of those, 10 percent relied on donations of diapers or money from family and friends, 10 percent sought diapers from an agency or diaper bank, and 3 percent turned to other sources, like a church, for help.”
Many anecdotes cited in the study involved social worker and first-hand reports of removing solid waste from a diaper before putting the soiled diaper back on the child to “stretch” a diaper supply.
Smith explains that like many pervasive issues related to poverty, most believe simplistic solutions will solve the issue, when diaper stress is often more complicated:
“The problem is that most of the families we’re talking about don’t have washing machines in their homes. And when they do go to Laundromats, most facilities won’t let you use their facilities for cloth diapers because their temperatures don’t get high enough or they just don’t want them.”
Carl Latkin, a professor in the department of health, behavior and society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC that the diaper study demonstrates “a gaping hole in the safety net,” adding:
“The vast majority of focus has been on food and security. Obviously when you are defining a safety net of basic necessities, I think most people would put diapers in that category.”
One solution cited in the diaper study involved diaper banks, but many low-income families do not know of or are insufficiently served by the limited resource. The American Association of Pediatrics has supplemented the study with more information on diaper banks for families in need of diapers.