Diapers Are the Latest Pandemic Shortage

For the families who make it to the store, diapers aren’t always in stock.

Amanda Trussell, the mother of a 2-year-old boy, said that diapers had been hard to find near her home in Junction City, Kan., even before the pandemic started and that store shelves had only gotten more empty in the last year and a half.

“At one point, we went to three or four different stores to find a pack and had to settle on a size bigger because there were just none in his size,” she said on Saturday.

When her family runs low on diapers, Ms. Trussell, 24, puts her son in a reusable cloth diaper. That’s why she hasn’t had to go to a diaper bank, which offers supplies to low-income parents.

Diaper banks across the country have reported recent surges in families who couldn’t afford diapers. WestSide Baby, which is based in Seattle, distributed 2.4 million diapers last year, up 60 percent from 1.5 million in 2019, according to Sarah Cody Roth, the organization’s executive director. WestSide Baby is on track this year to meet or exceed last year’s total, she said.

Diaper banks in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania have reported similar trends. Many banks give families 50 diapers per month, which covers about two weeks, said Cathy Battle, the executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank. That’s often not enough for families who can’t afford diapers.

A lack of diapers can seriously harm a family’s physical and mental health, said Megan V. Smith, the senior director of community health transformation at the Connecticut Hospital Association. Many parents who can’t afford diapers feel like ineffective caregivers, she said.

“If you have to worry about where you’re going to get the next diaper, you can’t focus on singing and reading and playing with your child,” said Dr. Smith, who has researched diaper need and maternal mental health.


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