Did you know nearly half of U.S. parents struggle with diaper need?

Posted on February 8, 2024

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By Olivia Carrara Leontine Young Fellow

For more information on this topic, contact Olivia at ocarrara@acnj.org

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Diaper need is defined as parents’ and caregivers’ inability to provide a sufficient supply of diapers to keep their babies clean, dry, and healthy. According to the National Diaper Bank Network, 47% of U.S. parents reported diaper need in 2023.

On average, infants need their diapers changed 10 to 12 times a day, adding up to around $80 a month per child, for an average of three years. This cost continues to rise as diaper prices have increased upwards of 22% since 2018. As a result of these high costs, 48% of parents reported that they delayed diaper change due to insufficient supply. This delay increases the risk of health complications like rashes and urinary tract infections in children.

of families reported
diaper need
in 2023

On average,
a child uses
diapers per week
for 3 years

of parents delay
diaper change due
to insufficient

For families, diaper need often leads to financial struggles, decreased work attendance, increased stress, and mental health impacts. Many U.S. parents struggling with diaper need report cutting back other expenditures, like food and utilities, to afford diapers. Additionally, many NJ child care programs require parents to provide diapers, thus limiting child care access for families unable to provide them. 25% of parents with diaper need reported missing about five days of work or school per month as a result of being unable to provide the required diaper supply needed to drop their child off at child care.

The National Diaper Bank Network works to address diaper need across the country and helps coordinate a network of diaper banks in each state. New Jersey has a total of nine diaper banks associated with the national network. These nine banks serve approximately 10,024 infants and toddlers a month, and distribute about 6,014,543 diapers a year.

As a result of this growing need, state and federal legislators have begun proposing legislation to support families and increase access to diapers and diapering supplies. Here are a few pieces of legislation currently being discussed:

  • The End Diaper Need Act of 2023 (H.R. 5644/S. 2879)- Introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in the House of Representatives, and Senator Tammy Duckworth and Senator Kevin Cramer in the Senate, the End Diaper Need Act of 2023 hopes to use federal funding to eliminate diaper need. Passage of the bill would authorize the use of $200 million annually from 2024 to 2027 to provide diapers and diapering supplies to families throughout the U.S. The bill would also expand the use of Medicaid by providing families with medically complex children 200 diapers a month, and permitting the purchase of diapers using Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). The bill was introduced in September of 2023 and has yet to be voted on.
  • Improving Diaper Affordability Act (H.R. 3352)- Introduced by Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman, Rosa DeLauro, and Barbara Lee, this legislation would prohibit state and local taxation of diapers, while also making the purchase of diapers using HRAs reimbursable. The bill was introduced in May of 2023 and has yet to be voted on.
  • New Jersey Legislature Bill (A2027 previously A5662/S3035)- This bill, introduced in the NJ State Legislature, intends to establish a Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) diaper benefit program. WFNJ is New Jersey’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program which provides families with cash assistance and other supports. If passed, this proposal would provide WFNJ participants with a diaper benefit equal to $30 a month per dependent under 36 months of age, thus decreasing the monthly cost of diapers by 37.5%. This bill was passed by the Senate on June 26, 2023, but was not passed prior to the end of the 2023 session. The bill was reintroduced on January 9, 2024.

Diaper need is an issue that deserves greater awareness and support. It is crucial that state and federal policies recognize this need and individuals advocate for diaper access. Currently, diaper banks in New Jersey rely solely on individual contributions and donations. Without these donations, diaper banks would all shut down within weeks as their supply would run out. For this reason, donating funds or diapers to local diaper banks directly helps serve families in need. Individuals can support this cause by reaching out to their legislators, volunteering at a local diaper bank, holding a diaper drive, or simply starting the conversation about diaper need.

Last year, ACNJ held a Lunch and Learn webinar on diaper need in New Jersey in partnership with the Central Jersey Diaper Bank. The webinar can be viewed here.