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Are Diapers A Basic Need?

Diapers baby, food stamps, government assistance, WIC, disposable diapers, cloth diapers

Leaving a baby in soiled diapers can quickly cause an ongoing rash.

How many diapers does your baby go through a day? On average, a baby will use between 8 and 10 diapers each day which can easily translate into $70-$100 per month. While the high cost may be an inconvenience for some moms, for others it’s impossible. Poor mothers who take advantage of the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program and food stamps have to pay in cash for diapers and for many, it’s something they simply can’t do, especially young and single mothers.

The food stamp program only allows its users to buy food, no paper goods including diapers and baby wipes are covered by food stamps. For a single mother who works a minimum wage job, she will have to work two hours to afford one package of diapers. And that package will only last about two days.

Should government assistance programs be widened to include diapers and baby wipes?

According a report by NY1 News, many moms are resorting to inventive ways to prolong a diaper:

A recent study shows one in three mothers across the country have to cut back on regular household necessities to cover the cost of diapers. And a study from Huggies shows that in extreme cases, parents in diaper need resort to cleaning out and reusing diapers.

Katherine Snider, the executive director of Baby Buggy, a New York City-based charity for families in need says diapers top the list of their five most requested items. And even with large donations from companies like Huggies, they still can’t meet the demand.

It goes without saying that leaving a baby in a dirty diaper will impact the baby’s health. Two of the most common health problems resulting from not changing dirty diapers are diaper rash and fussy babies:

“They can’t tolerate a wet diaper for very long. Not only because they start crying and they’re uncomfortable, but definitely their skin is just more sensitive so they are more pronounced to getting rashes with just the littlest sort of moisture in the diaper,” said Dr. Jessica Sessions of the Ryan Community Health Center.

Advocates for poor and low-income families say that diapers are a need, not a luxury. I agree. While food stamps do not typically cover paper goods, why not deem diapers and baby wipes as specific accepted items? Or include the diapers and wipes as part of the WIC program items?

Many of us can’t imagine going through the day not being able to afford an extra diaper, but this is exactly what many poor moms do daily, particularly young and single mothers. One hundred dollars a week is a lot to a teen mom or a single mom who has other children and is earning a minimum wage check.

Of course, we need to raise the minimum wage as well, but in the meantime, wouldn’t providing free diapers be a small consolation? I’d have to argue that diapers are indeed a need. Babies have no control over their bodily functions and with mothers working so many long hours and going to school, cloth diapers just aren’t as functional. Even with cloth diapers, there is a start-up expense and an ongoing cleaning expense.

Would you support providing mothers on government assistance with diapers? What about wipes? Aren’t diapers and wipes a basic need for babies?

Image: MorgueFile

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