Helping Moms Who Can't Afford Diapers: Help A Mother Out Kicks Off Nationwide Campaign in May
I'm not a mother, so the closest I get to diapers is on the rare occasion that a friend drafts me to babysit. So I will admit I never gave much thought to how much diapers cost, how many a newborn, infant or toddler may go through, and what happens if a mother can't afford to buy those diapers.
But Help A Mother Out (HAMO), a San Francisco-based organization working to help increase access to diapers for mothers who can't afford them, says it costs 20 to 30 cents per diaper, depending upon diaper size, and the average newborn baby goes through 60 diapers per week. Or more. That's a lot of money for a mother operating on a fixed income, or who might not have any regular money coming in the door at all. And public assistance programs, including WIC and food stamps, don't cover diapers.
"Diapers are a must-have," an Oakland, Calif. mother told Help A Mother Out. "You can't skip them like you can breakfast. Getting donated diapers has helped me because I don't have to have my child do without other things, such as food."
This May, in observance of Mother's Day, Help A Mother Out will hold a month-long campaign to collect diaper donations nationwide to help homeless and low-income families. There will be kick-off events in 11 cities.
The problem gets personal
San Francisco's Julie Michelle, who I first came to know through a post on Tangobaby about a homeless mother and three children she encountered on the streets of San Francisco, vowed to spend this year working to provide clean diapers for low-income and homeless babies everywhere.
It doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize that a baby in dirty diapers gets sick more. Goes to the emergency room more. Means more stress and hardship for a child and a mother living under already incredibly stressful circumstances. Many parents can't afford diapers and food, so they get food. They try to wash out disposable diapers and reuse them. (BTW, laundromats have various rules about washing cloth diapers, and many do not allow it, in case you were wondering. And having enough cloth diapers on hand is obviously another expense most families can't afford either.) So if you're low income or homeless, odds are you don't have a washer and dryer for cloth diapers. These kids get sick and that affects all of us.
Lisa Truong of Help a Mother Out wrote on the organization's blog about the Bayview Mission, a San Francisco-based organization that provides food and other supplies to homeless and low-income residents of a particular district in the city. Similar versions of this story are repeated across the country every day.
Every Monday when the mission opens for food distribution, there are about 40 families who come to them and have a child in diapers. Diapers are in scarce supply at the mission. So much of an unmet need that, up until recently, they have only been able to distribute diapers once a month. Nina and the mission's volunteers told me story about a mom that usually comes to them on Mondays. She has a young child, as well as a 6 month old baby boy. Because she believes that larger sized diapers hold more, and therefore, are cheaper in cost, she puts the baby boy in size 5, even though he really fits a size 3. The baby is six months old and is still wearing newborn clothes, because the mother doesn’t have bigger clothes for him to wear. So his clothes are too tight, and he stays in the Size 5 diaper longer than he probably should.
Wendy of Wendolonia wrote about how learning about the problem -- and this national organization that is trying to solve that problem -- affected her:
Ever since I first read about this and really started to think about what it meant, I have not been able to get this out of my head. Homelessness or poverty forces some moms to regularly make a choice between buying diapers to keep their children clean, buying food to keep their children fed, or paying to keep a roof over their heads. Now, every time I’m changing Augie and I reach for a diaper, I think about those moms and feel lucky to have a drawer full of Huggies to wrap around his chubby little tushie.
Events begin May 1
Help A Mother Out events get underway in Los Angeles, Calif.; Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz.; and Long Island, NY, on Saturday, May 1, and the flagship event will take place at the Peekadoodle Kidsclub in San Francisco on Sunday, May 2 from 3 to 6 p.m. You can also donate online to Help A Mother Out, or hold a diaper drive at your workplace, school or place of worship. Help A Mother Out provides a free toolkit to help you organize a drive.
Whitney of RookieMoms wrote about her drive to gather diapers for this organization, and lists some of the ways anyone can make a difference.