The Desperate Need for Diapers

by Melissa Brunner

With all the new babies we're excitedly welcoming around our workplace this year, we have much reason to feel blessed. The boys are all doing great, happy and healthy in their homes.

And they have access to clean diapers.

Sadly, that statement is not meant to be funny. A study published this week found nearly a third of mothers cannot afford to purchase diapers. Yale University researchers call it the first peer-reviewed study to quantify diaper need. It's eye-opening.

Clean diapers, the researchers point out, are essential for infants' health. Dirty diapers put babies at risk for infections, urinary tract problems and diapers rash. It also is a stress on parents, which can correlate to social, emotional and behavioral problems for the children.

One issue raised in the study is that programs for families usually focus on food and shelter. Diapers don't enter the equation. The researchers say that can trickle down to child care subsidies. If a facility requires a parent to supply diapers for the child, and the parent doesn't have them, the lose the child care.

Why not use cloth diapers? The researchers addressed this issue too, pointing out the families impacted by this need often don't have their own washers and dryers in the home and maybe can't afford the regular visits to a laundromat. Even if they can, the researchers say, many laundry businesses don't allow dirty diapers, either because they don't set their water temperatures high enough to adequately clean them or they simply don't want them in their machines.

According to the study, an adequate supply of diapers costs $18 a week. With that figure, they calculated a single mom making minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would have to pay more than 6 percent of her gross earnings to afford diapers for one child.

How can we help in Topeka? I was troubled when I read this story, so did some checking. The Junior League of Topeka launched a "Diaper Depot" program in May, in partnership with Harvesters of Shawnee County. Diapers are distributed through Let's Help, with diaper donations accepted at these locations:

Mission Township Fire Department- 3101 SW Urish Road

Soldier Township Fire Department- 600 NW 46th St

Kirk and Cobb Realtors- 2810 SW Gage

Pediatric Associates of Topeka- 3500 SW 6th St

They'll take new, unopened packages of diaper or even your opened packages of unused diapers, if your child went up in size midway through! They say the greatest need is for sizes 3 and 4. You also can help with cash donations or by hosting a Diaper Drive. For information on that, email

Let's do what we can to pitch in. This is a statistic we can change in our community.

You can find further details on the Yale study, by clicking here.



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