Diaper dilemma

Tara Bradbury
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Every Little Bottom study shows need for diapers, financial hardships faced by mothers

Financial hardships have made it increasingly difficult for mothers to afford diapers for their children, a study conducted by Kimberley-Clark showed in February. — Thinkstock photo

Imagine being able to afford so few diapers for your child, you’re forced to keep the infant in wet, dirty diapers for extended periods, or even to try and dry them out before putting them on a second time.

This is what some women are doing, according to a newly released national study of mothers struggling with diaper need.

Commissioned by Kimberly-Clark, makers of products like Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissues, the Every Little Bottom study was conducted in February by surveying 1,008 mothers in Canada with children between newborn and four years. The study included moms living in financial hardship, as well as those who were financially stable.

The results of the study are startling — nearly one in five Canadian mothers report struggling to provide clean diapers for their babies, and have had to cut back on basics like food, electricity and child care in order to afford them.

Twenty-four per cent of mothers surveyed reported having to cut back on buying clothing in order to afford diapers, while 16 per cent said they cut back on food. One per cent said they didn’t fill prescriptions or buy medication in order to save money and another one per cent said they cut back on child care.

When it comes to actions taken as a result of a need for diapers, just under half of the moms in need said they borrowed diapers from another mother, and 34 per cent reported putting their baby in a diaper that didn’t fit. Some said they tried to get their child to use the toilet, used more diaper cream or left the baby without a diaper and prepared for accidents.

Twenty-nine per cent of mothers in diaper need said they let their baby stay in the soiled diaper for a longer period of time, and four per cent reported cleaning out the diaper and reusing it.

As a result of the need, moms said their babies were pulling off their own diapers, suffering from diaper rash, crying and showing other signs of irritation and discomfort.

“This study helps us understand a serious issue that has been largely unrecognized until now,” said Dr. Nicole Letourneau, a lead researcher on the study and professor at the University of New Brunswick, in a news release.

“We are now able to understand the implications not having enough diapers has on both mothers and babies.

“Without enough diapers for the necessary routine changes, mothers and babies are feeling distressed, which often makes the bonding process as well as the job of parenting more difficult.

Cloth diapers are often not a realistic option for mothers in need who don’t have in-home laundry access, since many laundromats don’t allow them to be washed there for sanitary reasons. Most licensed daycare centres don’t accept cloth diapers and require a days worth of disposables.

The diaper need experienced by mothers in financial hardship in this province is similar to what the Every Little Bottom study found nationally, said Eg Walters, executive director of the St. John’s-based Community Food Sharing Network.

In the metro area alone, there are about two dozen food banks, which serve more than 16,000 people per month. The typical food bank client could be anyone, Walters said, but about 40 per cent are children under the age of 18, Walters said. Many more are single parents, both male and female.

“There’s certainly a big need for diapers,” Walters told The Telegram. “Not only diapers, but other products as well. Just think — you get up in the morning, you use a toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper. If you’re a single mom with two or three teenage girls, the amount of feminine products you’d run through in the run of a month is significant. What happens is food banks can supply that type of product to the families, and then they can use that saved money to purchase milk and eggs and bread.”

When the network does food drives, it concentrates on actual food, so items like diapers and wipes are in short supply. What they do get goes quickly, Walters said, and there are always people looking for them.

“They’re always asking for all kinds of household detergents, toilet paper, paper towels, garbage bags — all the things that you and I, when we go to the grocery store, pick up and just don’t think about,” he explained.

“We do need these things.”

As a result of the Every Little Bottom study, Kimberly-Clark created the Huggies Every Little Bottom program, and will donate up to 2.5 million diapers in Canada over the next eight months, including half a million to Food Banks Canada to share among their network of about 450 food banks, including those operated by the Community Food Sharing Network in St. John’s.

Food Banks Canada is also working with Huggies to build awareness of diaper need and make additional diaper donations as part of the program. Huggies has also partnered with Girl Guides of Canada, organizing diaper drives for local food banks and promoting diaper collections.

“I think this is a great program, and it extends all across Canada,” Walters said.

“It certainly helps food banks and food bank users across Canada.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the Community Food Sharing Network can do so by visiting them at 21 Mews Pl. in St. John’s, or by calling 722-0130. More information on the Every Little Bottom campaign is available online at www.everylittlebottom.com.



Organizations: Huggies, Kimberly-Clark, University of New Brunswick Community Food The Telegram Food Banks Canada

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Becca
    March 26, 2011 - 10:41

    I have read these comments and i want to set things straight, a family with a single child doesn't get 550 a month per child the actual amount is 312.,and yes i am a single mother ,and i used disposable diapers,and no i didn't leave my child in it for long periods of time, yes i am a smoker but my child always had his diapers,milk etc.. BEFORE i got my cigarettes.So to stereotype all low income families by saying all we do is cash our checks at the beer store is not fair to those of us who do take care of our children.

  • kris
    December 14, 2010 - 23:09

    $550 per month doesn't go very far these days with the cost of housing in our city, and social services doesn't change their monthly allowances to reflect this. I can't imagine having to raise children on the amount of money some people are living on in our province. Also, to those of you who say "just breastfeed" as an option to buying formula, some mothers are not lucky enough to be able to breastfeed. There are many medical reasons which would prevent a new mother from nursing her newborn, as was my case. Everyone is so quick to judge the needy.

  • Young Mother
    November 08, 2010 - 07:57

    This astounds me. I'm a young single mother, not as young as many, but young nonetheless. The amount I get from child tax on a monthly basis is almost $500. I didn't breastfeed for my own reasons, but to feed my child costs maybe $30/week, and to diaper costs MAYBE $40/month. That's $70, versus the almost $500 the government has kicked in to help. The only parts that are expensive are the various "optional" things you want your child to have like certain toys, jumpers, etc. Yes, they're good to have, but not necessary for him/her to grow up and be healthy. I'd never consider reusing a disposable diaper. Would you reuse your own underwear without washing it? I can't see how this is going on. This isn't right. Instances like this should be reported to child welfare.

  • Second Look
    November 06, 2010 - 14:35

    I read Star.s response and I agree. I like you am not rich but I have helprd with donations in the past. I have given my own children and grandchildren less at Christmas time or birthdays to give to the needy. Two women that I know personally with 2 children each are on Facebook everyday showing all the gifts that the kids received from santa easter bunny and birthday.etc. I mean a whole room full of toys.These women are on Social Services and use the Food Banks ,Happy Tree and whatever else they can get for Free. Still their social life (according to their F/ B wall ) is FULL. How many more out their doing the same thing. I have changed my charity donations to Red Cross ,Cancer Society etc. where my money will do more good

  • Have A Heart
    November 06, 2010 - 13:59

    Good Grief people! Not all parents who can't afford diapers are smoker/drug/VLT users. Quit your stupid sterotypes. This issue is real. Thankfully I can afford diapers, however my husband and I have remarked on several occasions that the price of diapers is outrageous! I do believe that cloth diapers are great (I purchased and used them with my second child), but they carry a heavy upfront cost and they don't do as good a job as disposable to keep the baby dry (I bought the best brand on the market and this was still the case). This problem can be overcome by changing the baby more frequently (once per hour at most), but then you need to buy more diapers to make it through the day without doing a load of laundry every morning and afternoon just for diapers. They cost $30.00 each. Bottom line is that you are all so quick to jump to conclusions. Maybe consider this... the next time you see a box of diapers on sale at the grocery store... pick them up and drop them in the food bank box. It might just help some poor little child feel better!

  • Victoria
    November 06, 2010 - 13:17

    I am a singe mother of two, and we use cloth diapers, for the most part. I must point out, though, that in my research, in St. John's, there are only TWO daycares that will accept babies wearing cloth diapers- the rest require disposables for the convenience. Cloth diapers nowadays are no more disgusting to change than disposables, and don't require a separate waterproof cover. Daycare owners, educate yourselves! The only problem I can see with cloth for a mom in financial hardship is that the diapers do require a separate wash in hot water, and they must be washed frequently. I know for us, once we started using cloth, our electricity bill did go up. Like previous posters have said, there also needs to be education on breastfeeding. I don't understand why a mother in hard financial times would choose to use formula, unless breastfeeding interfered with her drinking/drug habit

  • Star
    November 06, 2010 - 13:15

    My first reaction was Wow! I'd l ike to help out with this. Then, my second thought was - many of these moms smoke and probabl drink. From my experience in working with the homeless is that they always have what they want the most - cigarettes, booze and drugs in many cases. Awhile ago I gave personally to a single mom in dire need. A few months later she is buying top of the line furniture for her child!! I am not rich by any means but do like to help out when I can; however, these people who need the help certainly need to be educated in being accountable and responsible.

  • chuck
    November 06, 2010 - 12:50

    I agree with Judy. I dont think there is any need for woman in NL.to have their kids in wet or soiled diapers for longer than usual periods of time. If one child is getting 550 dollars that is quite suffient to give him/her the basic necssities of life as an infant. The parents have to be more responsible over their spending as when they chose to have children they should have realized that their needs should come first . In some cases , but not all, the parents are unable to and wont make an effort to give up their nasty habits i.e.VLT's, booze, smokes, drugs etc. I am astounded at a woman who is finding it finanically difficut not to choose to breastfeed as the money saved there could provide for other needs such as diapers Then again breastfeeding might interfer with their drinking or smoking problems. Sheila said use cloth diapers-good advice. There are always options one can use.

  • Jacob
    November 06, 2010 - 12:30

    Just another instance of an unsustainable practice that will eventually be curbed for environmental and economic reasons. Conveniences such as disposable diapers are like paper towels and plastic bags: great for those using them to save time, terrible for the earth and the future generations who will have to deal with the waste they create. I understand how cloth diapers are much more inconvenient. However, I stand by the fact that disposables must eventually be phased out. The way of progress is to reduce our reliance on convenient yet harmful practices.

  • Mark
    November 06, 2010 - 12:23

    The fact this report is bought and paid for by a company trying to sell more disposable diapers really shouldn't be lost on anyone. If they could convince the government to start buying diapers off them, they'd be quite happy. If you can't afford disposable diapers, do your child and our landfill a favour and use cloth ones instead.

  • Geo
    November 06, 2010 - 11:44

    I often wonder whatever happened to cloth diapers that you can wash and reuse again? Our mothers did it for years, and it didn't clog up the landfills either. I hear the answers now: "You crazy? I'm not doing that." Well its your kids that are suffering.

  • Booboo
    November 06, 2010 - 11:34

    If you can't afford a basic thing like diapers for your child,maybe you should have thought about that BEFORE having a child(?) I bet a lot of the same people who for some reason can't afford diapers CAN afford cigarettes,booze and VLTs. I guess Kimberly-Clark is the winner here,do what all the big corporations do-make a minimal donation (as a tax writeoff of course) and make themselves look better for price gouging people for years.

  • Cheri
    November 06, 2010 - 10:31

    God forbid the companies who make diapers lower their prices to make them more affordable. On another note - leaving female babies in soiled diapers for prolonged periods can do a lot worse than leave a rash.

  • Sheila
    November 06, 2010 - 09:45

    When I had my first baby my husband and I found it difficult financially like most young couples do. The disposal diapers were saved for daycare and outings and I had washed cloth diapers for home use. It is a option any mother with access to water and soap can use.

  • Judy
    November 06, 2010 - 08:51

    This was very hard to read. And without a doubt a huge problem in many parts of the world. But in Newfoundland, the sad part is that this should not be happening. I know for certain that the child benefits provided will 100% cover the costs of diapers, clothing, food, and formula for an infant. Anyone who makes under 36 k should be getting the full amount, which is roughly for 1 child, about $550 a month and with two children its $850. This is tax free. The problems I see are that many mothers and fathers are not using that money towards their children, they are using it as souce of income to provide things for themselves, I see it every day, people changing their "baby bonus" cheques to buy beer, ciggerettes, a night on george. you name it. Now this isn't the case for everyone, but alot of abuse of our foodbanks is being comitted. One young woman told me she would add extra water to the formula because it was "soooooo expensive, and a bitta water won't hurt" I asked her why she didn't breastfeed because it's free, and she said "Thats gross, besides in the Hospital they told me that Enfamil is the best" the lack of information on breastfeeding and on family planning and on parenting in general is scary. I work at Human Resources Labour and Employment (welfare office) by the way. But that's a whole different story for the telegram to cover.