What To Do If You Can't Afford Diapers

Ad failed to load

For those of us who have enjoyed the privilege of baby showers filled with an abundance of cute organic baby clothes and tiered "cakes" fashioned out of diapers, it can be hard to believe that many families in the U.S. can't afford diapers (let alone onesies that say "The Snuggle Is Real"). But it is a very real, systemic problem. So what is there to do if you can't afford diapers, besides throw your hands up in despair? And if you can afford diapers, how can you help those that don't? According to the National Diaper Bank Network's (NDBN) website, one in three U.S. families can't afford diapers. And when you think about how many diapers an infant requires per day (breastfed newborns typically go through 6 or more per day, according to the site, Healthy Children), you can imagine how quickly all those Pampers add up.

There are, thankfully, some resources available for families in diaper need. The NDBN is one such organization, which, according to its website, (among its support and fundraising efforts), connects with diaper banks to collect, store. and distribute diapers to babies suffering from diaper need. In 2016, their site states, the network distributed more than 52 million free diapers (including 20 million donated by NDBN founding sponsor Huggies). The NDBN's website provides helpful tips on how to obtain free diapers or find diaper resources as well. They suggest calling United Way's local service number (2-1-1) and asking (or searching online) about "basic needs" or "diapers" or searching listings under "children". Another avenue they propose on the site, is to try local church, or food pantries as resources.

Ashley Batz/Romper
Ad failed to load

Another place to turn when you can't afford diapers is the National Diaper Network's Find a Diaper Page, which helps locate diaper banks in your area. If no banks are located, the Huggies website lists community social services agencies such as local women's shelters, publicly funded daycare centers, or public health facilities as being possible helpful resources.

Some might employ craftier ways of obtaining diapers, such as signing up for free diaper trials that various companies offer (e.g. The Honest Company) or filling out surveys that reward you with Amazon money. The "freebie" method is a bit tricky, as it often requires having a credit card, access to a computer, and that you stay on top of your "free trial" lest you get charged for the "real" subscription. For families in dire need of diapers, this probably is not the most realistic option.

Others may turn to cloth diapers as the answer to the expensive disposable diapering problem. Yet, as Forbes reports on its website (and as many moms may have learned the hard way), this can be a misconception (if you are planning on purchasing new cloth diapers). Nicole Kaeding, an economist in Washington D.C. and mother of a 15-month-old daughter, tells Forbes that there are a lot of upfront costs in going the cloth diaper route, especially in the first year. It's not until the second year, and with additional children, when the real savings start to come in.

Ad failed to load

One way to save money on cloth diapers is to buy used ones, which can cost up to half the retail price of a new cloth diaper. And if this is still cost-prohibitive, there are cloth diaper banks such as The Rebecca Foundation, which have provided thousands of families in need across the U.S. with free (reusable) cloth diapers to help circumvent those up-front first-year cloth diapering costs.


The technical term for not being able to afford diapers is "diaper need," and it is defined by the NDBN's site as "the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers to keep an infant or toddler clean, dry and healthy." According to a study published in Pediatrics in 2013 (and conducted in 2010), diaper need contributes to parental stress, particularly among low-income families. According to the study's abstract, this study is the first of its kind to examine how low-income families' needs for diapers impacts them on psychosocial levels. The study's findings show that the potential effects of not being able to afford diapers can be far-reaching, from impacting a parent's ability to work or to seek childcare for their child, to impacting the child's physical health.

Ad failed to load

For example, as the study finds, since daycare centers often require that a parent supply them with sufficient diapers in order for the child to attend, an inability to afford diapers creates a barrier to entry. Without a daycare option, parents who can't afford diapers therefore have trouble attending school or their own place of work. Furthermore, for those families in the study who practiced "stretching diapers" (i.e. using a soiled diaper multiple times), more doctors visits and emergency room visits per year were reported for cases of diaper dermatitis and UTI's in young children.

Being unable to provide a basic necessity such as diapers for a child, can also lead to self-esteem and mental health problems, the study finds. In her article for The Atlantic, journalist Olga Khazan reports on the types of sentiments women in the study shared with study co-author Megan Smith, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. As one mother in the study recalled (and shared with Smith): "My self-esteem plummets. I can’t soothe my baby because I can’t put a clean diaper on my baby.”

Ashley Batz/Romper
Ad failed to load

A 2017 study (building on the 2010 study mentioned above) conducted by the NDBN and Huggies uncovers that diaper need is on the rise  – with 36% of U.S. families struggling with it, versus the 34% reported in the 2010 study. Whereas the 2010 study surveyed mothers alone, the 2017 study included parents and caregivers as well. The new study also reveals that 2 out of 3 families surveyed were not aware that diaper banks even exist.

Being a family in diaper need is an extreme hardship. If you in a position where you can donate to or help those who are in need, there are lots of ways you can help that are listed here, on the NDBN's site. Victims of the recent hurricanes in Houston, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Island and Puerto Rico are especially in desperate need of diaper donations right now.

Ad failed to load

Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

A Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the te…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack