As many parents know, babies can go through upward of a dozen diapers per day. Since the pandemic, the price of diapers has been shooting up, making the purchase of basic needs incredibly tough for low-income families.
The average price for a package of disposable diapers was $16.54 in 2019, according to NIQ data on U.S. sales of disposable diapers. Now, the average price is $21.90.
The National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) is a nonprofit that helps groups collect and give out free diapers to those in need. The organization, which works with hundreds of diaper banks coast to coast, reports that 47% of American families are struggling to afford diapers in 2023.
“Goods are really expensive,” said Joanne Samuel Goldblum, CEO and founder of NDBN. “We saw the increase of SNAP and WIC during COVID, and that’s going away. I think that’s a huge factor in this.”
Julie McAfee, program director at Hilltop Child and Family Development Center in St. Louis, said the center offers free on-site behavioral health services, parenting services and early childhood education.
The center partners with the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank and offers free diapers for the 112 children in the program.
“Our main goal at Hilltop is to break down as many financial barriers as possible. … Kids have to have diapers. There’s no current program that helps parents afford that cost, and we all know that’s very expensive,” McAfee said.
The St. Louis Diaper Bank expects to distribute over 3 million diapers to more than 70,000 families this year.
“Since the pandemic in 2020, it has increased tenfold almost for us,” said Muriel Smith, executive director of the St. Louis Area Diaper Bank. “Before the pandemic we distributed about 1.5 million diapers out to the St. Louis community. We now distribute twice as many annually.”
According to Smith, many of the families who receive diapers are well below the poverty line and never fully recovered from job and income losses.
She also said the need for diapers can contribute to physical and mental harm of a child.
“Obviously for the child that’s a physical issue because they might be experiencing more UTIs or diaper rash,” Smith stated.
Not being able to afford basic needs can also cause a lot of stress for parents.
“It also forces people to cut back on other things that they need like cutting back on entertainment, food, utilities, rent. It really impacts so many areas of people’s lives,” Goldblum said.
The U.S. government is the only entity large enough to address this level of a problem, Goldblum shared – adding that 19 states have eliminated diaper taxes.