Diaper dearth creates dilemma

Donating disposables helps ease shortage

Knowing that a dearth of diapers can create serious problems for children and parents, the Jackson County Medical Alliance hopes the community will help cover babies' bottoms during a series of diaper drives.

"A lack of sufficient diapers is an ongoing problem and really needs to be addressed with the help of the entire community," said Sue Martin, alliance member and organizer.

Did you know?

Experts say the number one trigger for child abuse is crying. The number one cause of infants' crying is dirty diapers.

How you can help:

Donate disposable diapers from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the South Fred Meyer store or at Food-4-Less on Biddle Road. Please keep giving as the Rogue Valley diaper drives roll on.

(Correction: The times of the diaper drive have been corrected in this story.)

Infants need up to 12 diapers a day. Toddlers use about eight per day. An adequate supply of diapers can cost more than $100 per month, Martin said.

Dirty diapers create physical, emotional and mental hardships for infants and toddlers. Health problems can run from diaper rash to hepatitis, and experts say the No. 1 trigger for child abuse is crying. The chief cause of infants' crying is dirty diapers.

"This is about the basic health and safety of the youngest members of our community, those who are at highest risk of child abuse due to the stress their families are under. These children really need someone to go to bat for them and their families," said Martin.

In a June 2010 study of 2,500 families facing financial hardship, 99 percent of mothers surveyed had cut back on essentials such as food, child care or utilities to afford sufficient diapers for their children, she said.

"There are large numbers of families experiencing financial hardship locally and they regularly have to sacrifice other basic needs just to buy diapers for their kids," said Martin.

The alliance's long-term goal is to create a regional diaper bank. But for now, the group is focused on an immediate and urgent need — getting disposable diapers to the Rogue Valley's only respite nursery, Martin said.

"The Family Nurturing Center is at the epicenter of this need in our valley and they are out of diapers right now," she said.

The inability to change their child's diaper is a huge stressor for parents, said Mary-Curtis Gramley, center director.

The center provides diapers not only to families currently enrolled at the respite nursery, they also give diapers to families on the waiting list and to parents who are referred through other nonprofit agencies, such as the Maslow Project, she said.

"The process of using them is part of the care and nurturing of a child. But diapers are so expensive," said Gramley, noting that unopened packages of diapers are requested in all sizes, particularly sizes 4 and 5.

In low-income households, babies often spend the entire day or longer in a single diaper because the family cannot afford to buy an adequate supply.

Safety-nets such as the Food Stamp Program and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) do not cover the cost of diapers, Martin said.

The vast majority of licensed day-care centers do not accept cloth diapers and require parents and caregivers to provide a steady supply of disposable diapers.

Many people living in poverty do not have affordable access to washing facilities, Gramley said.

Furthermore, most coin-operated laundromats do not allow customers to wash cloth diapers for health and sanitary reasons, Martin said.

Saturday is the kick-off of a community-wide event that will continue in coming weeks, she said.

"We have enlisted the help of many community partners, including Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, Target, Providence Health Systems and others," Martin said.

St. Mary's School is holding an early-morning, two-day diaper drive-by on Thursday and Friday at their school. Medford Montessori School and Bel Capelli hair salon also will be collecting diapers, she said.

"Providence Health Systems is holding an employee donation drive for the entire month of March to help us collect diapers," Martin said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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