As parents prepare for a baby, there are necessary items to purchase – a crib, bottles, pacifiers and tiny outfits. There are also fun things, like plush animals, a mobile or a rocking chair.
Of course, once baby arrives, most new parents will tell you that the most critical and immediate need is a diaper stash. The average newborn goes through 10 to 12 diapers each day, according to babycenter.com.
A local woman, who will we call “Ann,” remembers being a new mom and straining to provide basics, including diapers.
“I look back at when I struggled making the decision to pay a bill or buy my daughter diapers. I would wonder how good of a mother I am if I’m not even able to provide the basic needs for my child,” she recalls.
Stories like that motivate the people behind Harrisburg area’s Healthy Steps Diaper Bank. Like “Ann,” nationwide, 44 percent of mothers reported times when they found themselves choosing between buying diapers versus other basic needs, according to Healthy Steps.
Susan Speese of Harrisburg learned about the critical need of diapers and then discovered that the Women Infants and Children’s program (WIC) and Food Stamps cannot be used to purchase diapers.
“With guidance from the National Diaper Bank Network and with my prior nonprofit work experience, I was moved to open a program to address diaper need,” explains Speese.
The Healthy Steps Diaper Bank launched in July 2013, and each month it provides more than 20,000 disposable diapers to more than 400 low-income families in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties. It does this by partnering with family-service organizations that identify those most in need. Healthy Steps collects, stores and then distributes disposable diapers through the organizations.
“By being an active participant in one of our partners’ programs, families are able to get a supply of diapers to supplement what they are currently able to provide,” says Speese.
Healthy Steps notes that one in three families struggle to buy diapers and that disposable diapers cost approximately $72 per month. While cloth diapers are more economical, they often are not an option because most day-care centers require disposable diapers. If a parent does not secure childcare, he or she cannot work.
“Without a sufficient supply of diapers, parents are forced to keep babies in diapers longer than is healthy for the child,” explains Executive Director Amanda Barns. “Some of the mothers would have to leave their baby in a diaper for a day or longer or sometimes even reuse diapers while suffering from the quiet shame of not being able to meet her child’s basic needs.”
Healthy Steps offers a free “Healthy Diapering” program to teach caregivers the important basics. It secures diapers through diaper drives, diaper “baby showers” that friends hold and from monetary donations and grants that go toward the purchase of diapers. Healthy Steps is currently seeking private and corporate sponsors in order to maintain and expand its services.
For “Ann,” access to free, clean diapers restored her ability to lovingly care for her baby.
“Receiving help from Healthy Steps Diaper Bank has not only brought peace to me in the sense of being able to meet my daughter’s basic needs, but it has also lifted a weight off of my already heavy heart.”
For more information or to learn how to get involved, visit healthystepsdiaperbank.com.