I was annoyed to read an article concerning the inability of poor mothers to pay for diapers.
According to a report published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, diaper need — the inability to afford to keep a child in clean diapers — affects a "substantial" number of low-income Americans, with nearly 30% of mothers questioned in New Haven, Conn., reporting that they did not have enough for their children.
It's a problem that often goes unnoticed.
"I call it the silent epidemic," said Caroline Kunitz, who runs Pacific Palisades-based L.A. Diaper Drive, which will distribute 1.5 million diapers to nonprofit partners around Southern California this year.
. . .
Keeping a young child dry and clean can cost a pretty penny; the average is $18 a week. A single mother earning $15,080 a year in a minimum-wage job would need to devote more than 6% of her pay to diapers, according to the Pediatrics study.
Add in the fact that many lower-income families can't afford to buy diapers in bulk at stores like Costco and Target and the expense becomes prohibitive. Cloth diapers are often not an option because they require frequent and expensive trips to the laundromat.
There's more at the link.
My mom raised four kids using washable cloth diapers, and for a lot of the time didn't have her own washing machine. There weren't any laundromats, either. She soaked them in a bucket of detergent for a few hours, which dealt with most of the cleaning and sterilization. She then stirred them around with a stick (to keep the icky stuff off her hands), lifted them out one at a time with the stick and dropped them into a second bucket for rinsing, after which she hung them out to dry in the back yard. She could never have afforded an endless supply of disposable diapers, even if they'd been widely available at the time. When she finally got a washing machine (very like this one, an old circular model with a built-in mangle or wringer) she was overjoyed at how easy it made diaper care.
Why can't poorer mothers today do the same thing? It's what millions of mothers before them have done - and still do, in poorer parts of the world. In many of those places there are no purpose-made diapers at all! I've seen flour or grain sacks, threadbare blankets and sheets, discarded adult underwear, old shirts, and anything else that was available cut up and used for the kids.
How much money could be saved if poorer mothers used washable diapers in the USA? How many mothers would be able to use the money they saved to feed their kids better? How many millions of dollars of charity money would be freed to be used for more important purposes?
(As for a 'silent epidemic' . . . not in my experience! I've found that a kid wanting his or her diaper changed can be downright noisy about it!)