Families struggle with the expense of diapers, study says


A Yale School of Medicine study in the August edition of the journal Pediatrics finds that 30 percent of women cannot afford enough diapers for their children. It further finds that those women are more in danger of depression and anxiety.

If you've ever raised an infant, you know that the hassle of diapers is no laughing matter – travel plans necessarily include and to some degree revolve around some provision for hauling, shipping, or buying piles of diapers on site, and the speed with which used diapers can fill a trash bag is disconcerting to say the least. And if you're struggling to make ends meet, the sheer expense is non-trivial: buying enough disposable diapers for an infant can take 6 percent of a single mother's annual minimum wage income of $15,080, the survey finds. Cloth diapers are no silver bullet – the time and expense involved in laundering cloth diapers is as bad or worse than their eco-hostile, disposable brethren. 

This insight into the cost of diapers – seemingly minor, but actually an important window into one of the many facets of poverty – couldn't come at a more relevant time, as a recent Associated Press survey reveals that a full four–fifths of Americans wrestle with near-poverty, joblessness, and/or reliance on welfare at some point in their lives, a trend exacerbated by a collapse of domestic manufacturing jobs and a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

There's no easy answer to poverty and joblessness across the board, of course. But there may be a simple way to deal with the expense of diapers for people in need. The challenge? Finding bipartisan support for patching this little piece of the frayed safety net. A Los Angeles Times story on the topic found that in 2011,Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D) of Connecticut introduced a bill that would have made it easier to use federal funds to provide diapers to infants in need. It failed – in part because of mockery by critics like radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, who viewed the bill as part of a farsighted plan to indoctrinate children into the cult of liberalism.

Once upon a time, America prided itself on taking care of its less fortunate. And while there is always a valid debate to be had as to the nature and scope of the safety net, it seems like diapers for infants – and the support that would be provided to new mothers by ensuring those diapers are available – is a clear cut win-win for society as a whole and the moms who receive the support.