Imagine for a moment that you have just given birth. Your body is exhausted and racked with pain and discomfort. You are sleep deprived and emotionally turned inside out. Now imagine that your baby needs clean diapers or diaper rash cream, but you have no money to buy what your baby so desperately needs. If you’re lucky and have access to a diaper bank, imagine not having a baby carrier to bring your baby with you. Imagine not having access to a working thermometer in the middle of the night when your baby feels hot and won’t stop crying. These are the realities that millions of women, families, and newborns face – and they often face them alone, their voices muted, forgotten by everyone.
Many Americans have lost their jobs and incomes, and it has left many parents struggling to afford diapers, wipes, rash creams, and blankets to swaddle their newborns. With no state or federal child safety-net programs helping families afford basic necessities like diapers, new mothers and babies are left to fend for themselves in impossible – and increasingly desperate – situations.
We must remember the pregnant women who are too scared to leave the house to buy supplies for fear of exposure to Covid-19. We can’t forget the postpartum women who have no money for transportation, no credit cards or permanent addresses for online shopping or – heartbreakingly – no baby carrier to help them safely bring their newborn outside for essential needs.
And, crushingly, we must remember babies born during this historic – and historically difficult moment – who will bear the consequences of their caregivers’ lost jobs, lost income, staggering anxiety, and lack of access to basic necessities. A study conducted by the Yale School of Medicine and published in the American Academy of Pediatrics found that “Parents experiencing poverty in the form of income and material hardship, for example in the form of diaper need, are subject to increased parenting stress. Children whose parents manifest high levels of stress or depression are at greater risk of social, emotional, and behavioral problems.” This is a moment of desperation. Support systems that were weak before the pandemic now cease to exist.
Welcome Baby is addressing these needs head-on and our mission is more critical now than ever before. We are a nonprofit organization that provides low-income pregnant women with a package containing every essential item her newborn will need in the first month of life: diapers, wipes, rash creams, baby carrier, grooming kit and thermometer, bottles, swaddle blankets, clothing, pacifiers, and so much more. Every newborn should have the foundational, critical necessities for a healthy and hygienic start to life; and new mothers who are physically and emotionally recovering from childbirth should have access to everything she needs to care for her baby.
We are calling on all mothers to band together and support each other. We are united by the innate drive to see our babies thrive; we are bound together by the bonds of motherhood and sisterhood. If you are in a position to help, and now is the time to take action. This is a moment of genuine need and the stakes rise with every passing day.
Most recently, Senator Tammy Duckworth has introduced The End Diaper Need Act of 2021. The legislation will assist minority and low-income families who cannot afford to pay for diapers. According to HuffPost, The End Diaper Need Act will give $200 million to social services every year between 2022 and 2025 for diaper and other diaper supplies. Additionally, the bill will fund 200 medically necessary diapers per month for “medically complex children” through Medicaid. It will allow diapers and diaper supplies to qualify as medical expenses allowing families to purchase these essentials through health saving accounts or health reimbursement accounts. As we navigate through a pandemic filled with uncertainty and hardships, there is no denying that disadvantaged families are struggling. This act will help families focus on other needs such as childcare, food, clothing, and other essentials.
Bold acts like these are vital and much needed across the country. You too can get involved by reaching out to your local community health organizations and family shelters which need your help more than ever before. You can also donate to nonprofits like Welcome Baby USA, that bring critical material goods to those who truly – and desperately – need them. Please know that even the smallest effort makes a difference. But now is the time for big thinking – and big helping.