Diapering a baby is costly. Some estimates put diapering a child for two years at well over$1,500.

Even purchasing an expensive set of pocket diapers would probably run you about $450. Which is a savings to be sure, but still out of the question for many parents. (*NOTE: on the other hand, you COULD get a set of covers and flat cloth diapers for about $60-80, so not all diapering systems need to be costly!).

Unfortunately, the cost of diapers is what causes some low income families to leave a baby in a disposable longer than is healthy, or even in the worst cases, to dry out and reuse the same disposable diaper! (Reports of this kind are what prompted the Flats Challenge!).

Many families are not aware there are resources to get free diapers! Whether you use disposables or cloth, you can find the help you need.

If you’re at a loss for how to diaper your baby on your income, check out diaper banks. Diaper banks are not-for-profit organizations providing diaper subsidies. In fact, the largest one, The Diaper Bank, is in my home state. They distribute over 2 million diapers a year to needy families; and they accept all comers.

Madeline, director of The Diaper Bank in North Haven, Conn., gave me a tour a few weeks ago. I was impressed by the scale of their operations. They distribute to over 66 agencies throughout the state, and give out some 200,000 diapers per month. The Diaper Bank provides families a “sleeve” of diapers monthly (about 1/4 of of a baby’s monthly diapering needs).

Of course, that still leaves a lot to be covered. Ahem, yes, pun intended. I inquired why The Diaper Bank doesn’t promote cloth diapering. Their answer was that besides the fact that their current operations keeps the staff busy, families they reach out to have not shown interest in using cloth. Many do not have laundry facilities to care for cloth. However, The Diaper Bank does have a few donated cloth diapers, so if you’re in the area and think using cloth diapers could help you in a time of financial need, give them a call! Their staff was super friendly, and just want to help others!

And, where there are disposable diaper banks, there are also cloth diaper banks! Of course, this is what really excites me!! In New England, there’s Giving Diapers, Giving Hope, a cloth diaper lending service for low income families. At GDGH, a family can get an entire stash of new or gently used cloth diapers for their baby. Families can apply to receive diapers whether they live in New England or not. (Although the diapers are free, if you live out of the area you have to pay shipping of $30; they do suggest a donation of $10 / month while you keep the diapers, if you can afford it).

Where there used to be NO resources at all for needy families with babies (WIC / Food stamps do NOT cover disposable diaper purchases), now we have more potential answers to the dilemma of baby hygiene! I’m happy to see the growing response from organizations that want to see babies well-cared for. I’d love to see disposable diaper banks exploring a way to offer cloth, or partnering with cloth diaper banks to reach the needs of families.

Personally, I’d love to be a part of educating local parents on ways to ensure their babies stay healthy and clean despite rising costs of diapers! I’ve already offered my “cloth diapering knowledge” to The Diaper Bank if they need it. I’m also looking into ways to introduce parents to cloth diapering in my community as well. It’s just a small seed idea in my mind, but I’m trying to make it grow!

If you’re in need of diapers, contact either one of the above agencies, or see if you have one in your area. If you have diapers you’re not using (disposable or cloth) consider donating them to help other families and babies.

Had you ever heard of diaper banks before? Does your area have one? What do you think would be a good way to utilize both types of diaper bank resources?

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  • Darcy June 24, 2011, 11:15 pm

    I’m actually working with another mom in my area to start a cloth diaper bank. We have more than. 10 moms interested already but only have enough donations to give them a days worth (better than nothing!) – we have our first class scheduled to take place in 2 wks – how to use and care for them. They are getting a mix of prefolds, contours and pockets. I donated half my stash so we could start (the same stash I got from Freecyvle to get me started!)

  • T Rex Mom June 24, 2011, 11:09 pm

    I have heard of diaper banks and our state does not have one. I think participating in the flats challenge was enlightening about the challenges cloth diapering would be without laundering facilities. However, clothing is not disposable so I think it would be possible to cloth diaper. I just think is is more cost effective in the long run. Give a pack of disposable diapers, and the baby is diapered for a few days. Give a set of cloth diapers and diaper the baby (any its siblings) for life. These banks need to get into cloth more.

  • Trisha W. June 24, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Here’s a link I found that some of your readers might be interested in: http://diaperbank.org/Startup.aspx.

  • Rebecca Henson June 24, 2011, 2:04 pm

    I have a Cloth Diaper Lending Non-Profit in Sarasota, Florida!


    We have a Cloth Diaper Auction right now, as well, to raise money for our 501c3 so we can actually let people KEEP cloth diapers!


  • Crunchy Beach Mama June 24, 2011, 10:02 am

    Great post Julie!!

    I have never heard of a diaper bank before but I have always wondered how everyone can afford diapers when I know we have struggled many many times in the past and are not even close to the worse off.

    We have some kind of cloth donation group. I think it’s just a mom or two who takes donations and gives them away to those in need. I don’t really know that much about it but maybe I should pay closer attention so I can try and help too.