Fredericksburg Families

Amy Umble writes about family issues and kid-friendly events.

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Diaper costs add up to stress, depression for some moms

The other day was one of those days Pink sings about–in baby talk, it was a poopy day. As I reached for the fourth diaper in less than an hour, I started calculating how much each diaper costs. Basically, we’d just spent more than a dollar that hour. It didn’t sound like much, but when you figure that every day, we spend more than $3 in diapers, it adds up. The average parent spends $18 a week in diapers. Or nearly $1,000 a year. Just to contain a baby’s waste.

And in our family, that’s just the cost of one child in diapers. Our teenage son wears adult diapers, which are even more expensive.

I could almost understand the temptation to try and lengthen the time between diaper changes, just to get your costs down.

A report released today in the journal Pediatrics finds that for some families, this isn’t a temptation–it’s a reality. And it’s not just about pinching pennies. It’s about making ends meet.

The report found that almost 30 percent of the women surveyed couldn’t afford to buy enough diapers to change their babies as frequently as they’d like. And that doesn’t just mean an increased risk of diaper rash. Women who reported needing diapers also had more difficulty with stress management, depression and coping with trauma.

The study’s authors found that affording diapers was now one of the leading stressors for struggling parents, right up there with affording food and shelter.

“We knew that diaper need harms babies, who are prone to rashes or more serious infections when not changed frequently enough,” said Alison Weir, PhD, JD, a co-author of the study. “Our research raises concerns about the long-term impact. When parents have high levels of stress or depression, children are at greater risk for social, emotional and behavioral problems. That has far-reaching effects on a child’s development and success in school.”

And the stress adds up, because while mothers who struggle to buy food have options to feed their children, there aren’t many similar options for diapers.

“A mother’s number-one priority is meeting her children’s basic needs. Diapers are a basic need, akin to food and housing. But unlike those other things, there are no public programs parents can turn to for help,” said senior author Joanne Goldblum, MSW, executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network. NDBN assists community-based diaper banks around the country that provide diapers to low-income families. Food stamps and Women Infants and Children cannot be used to purchase diapers.

NDBN links parents to diaper banks across the country. The closest one is in Richmond. But the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank would welcome donations of diapers for its clients who need them. A diaper drive would be a great way to boost the food bank’s supply of disposable diapers, which are always needed, said Dayna Klein, major gifts and marketing coordinator for the food bank.

She added:

“Often times, parents with little one’s may have extra diapers of the wrong size that they don’t know what to with, this may be a great way to take what someone may not need and get it into the hands of someone who has a need.   Diapers will need to be in their original packaging and sealed with clear tape if opened to keep the diapers clean and dry.  Anyone who is interested in hosting a diaper drive is asked to contact me at or 540-371-7666 x 131 for more information.”


  • O2binboston

    People need to stop having kids they cant afford its that easy.

  • Victoria Roberts

    Whatever happened to using cloth diapers and rubber pants? The initial output is not much greater than two large boxes of diapers. Then you have them to use again. As for the laundering….some say they can’t afford the laundry costs…wash by hand in bathtub if you have to. If you can’t afford to properly feed and cloth a child…refrain from sex.