Ask any parent and they’ll tell you: Diapers are expensive. And families with less income can pay more if they don’t have access to bulk-buying or subscription options online that lower how much you pay. Also, it must be said that diapers are not covered under supplemental nutrition programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), which cover mostly food purchases.
Add in the cost of formula if the mother doesn’t or can’t breastfeed or pump, and you realize how expensive caring for a baby can be.
A number of low-income families face special challenges, too. Having a child who is disabled can cut a family’s income in half if one parent has to stay home to care for that child. Even if there are two working parents, if each of those parents has to take multiple jobs to make ends meet, you’ve also got a mom who probably can’t breastfeed or pump and who can’t send a child to daycare because she can’t afford to send the diapers they require.
And forget the option of cloth diapers, which require constant laundering. Try going to the laundromat on your non-existent days off.
According to Beverly Hamilton, founder of the Austin Diaper Bank, when mothers don’t have diapers for their babies, they might try to borrow money to buy diapers or even steal diapers. They might use old T-shirts or even fast-food napkins. They might try to re-use them or just stretch them out by leaving a baby in a soiled diaper for too long.
And when they don’t have milk, babies can be moved on to different liquids and foods too soon, which can mean they don’t get the nutrition they need.
It’s important to understand the magnitude of the situation families with low-income are in because it helps you realize how simple it can be to help.
HELP WITH DIAPERS
Hamilton started the Austin Diaper Bank three years ago out of her home. “I couldn’t believe we didn’t have a diaper bank in Austin,” she says. She started accepting donations for diapers, storing them in her extra room and then sending them to a few local nonprofits that serve families and seniors in need. (As Austin’s senior population grows, so does its population of seniors in need.)
Today, the Austin Diaper Bank rents a small warehouse in North Austin and provides diapers to 40 nonprofit partners, including Any Baby Can, Foundation Communities, Hospice Austin, SafePlace, Round Rock Serving Center and more. Children with disabilities are their priority since their diaper needs can continue long past potty-training time.
In Travis County, 26% of babies live in poverty and 25% of seniors live in poverty, and many of those people in need go without diapers that can keep them healthy.
Volunteer to host a diaper drive. Ask for diapers from friends, family and co-workers. Ask for diapers in lieu of gifts. Diaper drives not only raise more diapers but also raises awareness about the need.
Volunteer to help sort donated diapers. Individuals, parents with kids and groups up to 20 can help sort and stack diapers. Expect to open boxes, re-package, write on the packages and then stack them on shelves.
Donate diapers. There are about 10 drop-off locations across Austin, but you can also order off their Amazon WishList, which will send your donation directly to Austin Diaper Bank.
Donate money. A donation of $20 can buy about 130 diapers.
Diaper Need Awareness Week is September 26 – October 2. Now’s a good time to get started!
HELP WITH MILK
Did you know that the Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin is the largest milk bank in the country? Thanks to more than 800 donors a year, it serves premature babies in 140 hospitals in 20 states.
But the need is growing. In 2015, 1 in 8 babies were born premature in Texas, (a rate higher than the national average) and they’re often too young and not healthy enough to process formula. Formula not only doesn’t have the nutrition premature babies need, it can also actually hurt their digestive systems. Human breast milk, on the other hand, can save their lives.
More than 800 women donate milk to the milk bank in a year, and it’s easy to become a donor. (Learn how here.) But even if you can’t nurse, you can help the Milk Bank reach more babies in need.
Volunteer to help process the milk. All that milk coming in needs to be process, pasteurized and bottled, work best-suited for groups of 3-4. You’ll complete an application to volunteer and then be trained, but an evening of volunteering can lead to almost 2,000 ounces of processed milk.
Donate money. And feel good about it. One-hundred percent of financial donations to the Mothers’ Milk Bank are used directly for the charitable care or research programs. All operational costs for the milk bank are supported through processing fees paid by hospitals using donor human milk for their infants.
When the need is so great and the consequences are so dire, it’s easy to have a big impact. Let’s get our babies off to the best start.