Impacts of Diaper Need

What is Diaper Need?

Diaper need is defined as the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers needed to remain clean, dry, and healthy.

  • One out of three babies and toddlers live in low-income families, who may struggle to provide diapers.
  • Low-income families spent 13.9 percent of their income on diapers in 2014.
  • There are currently no governmental assistance programs to help cover the cost of diapers.

How Does Diaper Need Affect Babies?

One of the most important consequences of diaper need, is the health consequences. When there is not an adequate supply of diapers, this can lead to babies being left in the same, soiled diapers for longer. Dirty diapers can make us sick and spread hepatitis A, viral meningitis, and severe bacterial diarrheas, among many other illnesses that are a danger to the baby's health and the family's. 

These same children are particularly vulnerable to experiences that weaken the brain's architecture --- this can't be undone after age 3 and it affects later achievement and employment.

"A baby’s early experiences shape the brain’s architecture into a strong—or fragile—foundation for learning, health, and success in the workplace. Adverse early experiences, such as poverty, can weaken babies’ brain development and follow them their entire lives. A state’s ability to build a strong, competitive economy in an increasingly global marketplace is jeopardized when the future of so many young children is compromised….Good health is the foundation from which young children grow and develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.”

Source:  Zero to Three – State Baby Facts, A look at Infants, Toddlers and Their Families in 2015 – Idaho

Lack of diapers can also affect a child or family's education and ability to work. Most daycares and early education programs require a full days worth of diapers. Without diapers, children and parents can miss out on education opportunities, as parents can be forced to stay home from work or school without access to childcare.

How Does Diaper Need Affect Families?

Low income families spend a larger percentage of their money on diapers.

“Low-income families spent 13.9 percent of their income on diapers in 2014. For the years 2004 to 2014, this quintile spent a far larger share of their income on diapers than any of the other quintiles, roughly 2 to 2.75 times greater than the next poorest quintile.

It’s clear that the cost of diapers disproportionately hurt the poor. While many in the bottom two quintiles are helped by social programs, the necessity of diapers, the frequency of their use, and their high costs, add up to a significant burden for these households.”

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Women have reported that not having enough diapers can be more stressful than not being able to provide enough food. Diaper need is the number one predictor of maternal depression and is linked to negative impacts on child health.

“Results from the American Academy of Pediatrics study provides evidence of the substantial prevalence of diaper need in low-income families. This study calls attention to the fact that an insufficient supply of diapers is not only a risk factor for poor infant and child health but also for maternal mental health, potentially diminishing maternal sense of competence and increasing maternal stress, which ultimately leads to potential negative impacts on child health and development. For families who are financially struggling, health care professionals and researchers should recognize not only food and housing but also diapers as basic needs.”   

Source: Pediatrics - Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Diaper Needs and Its Impact on Child Health” - July 29, 2015


A Family’s Access to a Reliable Supply of Clean Diapers Leads to:

Healthier Communities

Dirty diapers can make us sick and spread hepatitis A, viral meningitis, and severe bacterial diarrheas. Not having diapers adversely affects a mother’s feelings of self worth and can negatively impact the mother-child bond.

Happier Babies

Frequent diaper changes prevent painful diaper rash, loss of appetite, staph, urinary infections, renal failure, and more. Negative child experiences can also impact development. Access to clean diapers is an essential BASIC NEED.

Financial Independence & Early Education

A supply of clean diapers are required to attend most early childcare programs; without them, children miss out on educational opportunities and parents can’t attend work or school.

By helping provide families with access to concrete basic necessities such as diapers, the Idaho Diaper Bank is helping build stronger families and reduce adverse early experiences for Idaho babies.

Learn more about diaper need and its effects in Idaho, by going to our Facts & Statistics page. To learn more about how you can help wipe out diaper need, visit our How You Can Help section.