Guest column: Why diaper cost increases are debilitating to impoverished families

This year the cost of a pack of diapers has increased on average 16% nationwide.
This year the cost of a pack of diapers has increased on average 16% nationwide.

The skyrocketing costs of goods and services around the country is frustrating for all people. It’s debilitating to families living below the poverty line, and detrimental to families with young children struggling to make ends meet. This year the cost of a pack of diapers has increased on average 16% nationwide.

Clean diapers are essential for a child’s health and development. According to the National Diaper Bank Network, the average child will go through about 11,000 diapers in the first few years of life. In 2021, it was estimated that families spend $100 per month per child in diapers. Because of this, many parents may either reuse diapers or leave their babies in soiled diapers longer than is appropriate, which can lead to diaper rash, infections and other health problems. Babies crying from spending hours in a soiled diaper are also at an increased risk of suffering lifelong negative consequences.

One in three U.S. families struggles to provide an adequate supply of diapers for their baby. An often hidden consequence of poverty, diaper need harms the physical, mental and economic well-being of children and families. The cost of diapers and diaper-related supplies for children are not covered by any supplemental government programs low-income families often rely on, including Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This barrier creates a great need especially in times of crisis like we have seen this year.

Diaper need can create great barriers that disproportionately affect impoverished communities in Oklahoma. A sustainable supply of diapers is often a requirement for families to use child care centers, leaving many parents without the ability to go to work or continue their education.

According to a study done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the poorest 20% of Americans who regularly purchase diapers spend nearly 14% of their post-tax income on diapers and related supplies.

A need this great is something that should not go untreated and unnoticed. Through a partnership of Infant Crisis Services (ICS) and the National Diaper Bank Network, Oklahoma will recognize National Diaper Need Awareness Week through Oct. 2, with proclamations signed by both Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma City’s Mayor David Holt.

Diaper need awareness is nothing new for Infant Crisis Services. For 38 years, the nonprofit has provided a week’s worth of food, formula, and diapers up to four times annually for the first four years of life for children across central Oklahoma. The nonprofit is in central Oklahoma City and has two BabyMobile units that visit 23 counties stretching across 30% of the state. Infant Crisis Services has given away 2.4 million diapers in the last three years in nearly 60,000 client visits. This impact is only possible because of the generosity of donors in the Oklahoma community.

Compared to last year, the nonprofit has seen a 27% increase in clients who need its services. This is largely a result of the rapid cost increase because of severe inflation and the nationwide formula shortage we experienced this spring and summer. Diapers are an essential need for families and a dry diaper is vital to the health and development of all children.

Miki Farris is executive director and co-founder of Infant Crisis Services in Oklahoma City.

Miki Farris
Miki Farris

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Increase in diaper costs is debilitating to impoverished families