TACOMA, Washington — The average infant generally needs more than 2,900 clean diapers annually. Without clean diapers, infants are more at risk of developing severe rashes and infections. That’s why one nonprofit is striving to eliminate diaper shortages around the world. Jake’s Diapers is solving diaper need globally by working with more than 15 community-based partners to provide reusable diapers to those in need.
Traditional diapering practices have varied tremendously for years due to cultural and regional differences. The Chukchi and the Comanche used moss in their diapers to absorb moisture. Meanwhile, parents in northern China used to put their children in sandbags. People have used these practices, as well as various other traditional diapering practices, for millennia. However, they can cause health problems. For example, experts in China found that putting babies in sand drastically hindered babies’ weight, height and intelligence. In today’s society, there is less variation in diapering practices due to growing access to safer alternatives. However, there are still many parents that struggle to obtain diapers for their children.
The Importance of Solving Diaper Need Globally
The definition of diaper need is the “gap between the number of diapers a baby needs and the number of diapers the family can afford”. Diaper need is not only a problem for babies, but it can also be a problem for seniors and people with disabilities that have incontinence issues.
For people living in poverty, diapers can be extremely costly. Over 700 million people around the world survive on less than $1.90 per day. The average disposable newborn diaper is around 26 cents and most newborns will dirty at least six diapers per day. With those numbers, disposable diapers alone would cost approximately $1.56 per day for a newborn, which comprises at least 82% of the daily income for someone living in severe poverty. While cloth diapers are much cheaper, only about seven cents per diaper, this still adds up to 42 cents per day which comprises at least 22% of someone in poverty’s daily income.
Clearly, it wouldn’t be reasonable for someone to spend the majority of their daily income on diapers alone. That is why impoverished families experience acute diaper need. Many parents in poverty have to make the decision between diapers and basic needs, like food, shelter and water.
The Importance of Proper Diapering Practices
Diapers are vital for an infant’s happiness and health. Infants need to have their diapers changed regularly to lower their risk of developing physical problems such as infections and skin rashes. In severe cases, they can even develop skin breakdown. Access to diapers also keeps communities safer by reducing the risk of water contamination. Additionally, being properly diapered is vital for an infant’s emotional wellbeing. Infants tend to become extremely uncomfortable when left in soiled diapers for too long, causing them to become irritable and cry.
Issues Associated with Disposable Diapers
Disposable diapers are extremely popular in the United States, mainly due to the convenience associated with them. They are also extremely impractical for multiple reasons. The Real Diaper Association estimated that it costs around $750 per year to regularly diaper an infant using disposable diapers. In comparison, using cloth diapers would only cost around $225 yearly for the same usage frequency.
Not only are disposable diapers expensive, but they are also bad for the environment. Disposable diapers contribute to non-recyclable landfill waste. On top of that, they contain and then release many harmful chemicals into the environment upon disposal. In developing countries, disposable diapers become a sanitation issue since these countries lack a place to properly dispose of the diapers. This makes reusable diapers the practical option for solving diaper need globally.
Jake’s Diapers is a Wisconsin-based non-profit organization that focuses on solving diaper need globally for infants, the elderly, and people with special needs. As of 2019, Jake’s Diapers had distributed 606,964 cloth diapers and hygiene products to families in over 20 countries. During both Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and the Australia fire crisis in 2020, Jake’s Diapers provided emergency relief to families in need. The non-profit receives donations of both new and used cloth diapers and provides them to babies in need.
Originally, Jake’s Diapers’ intention was to help babies in Peru. The founder of the non-profit, Stephanie, participated in a women’s mission trip to Peru in 2011. During her trip, she visited an adult care facility where she saw caregivers reusing disposable diapers for 15 babies in the facility. Shortly after Stephanie returned from her trip, she started a family and used cloth diapers for her son, Jake. Once Jake outgrew his diapers, Stephanie sent them to Peru for the babies in the adult care facility. Since then, Jake’s Diapers has grown tremendously and impacted nearly 18,000 lives.
– Araceli Mercer