Low-income moms can't afford diapers, mental health suffers

Jul 29, 2013, 01:00 ET from National Diaper Bank Network

National Diaper Bank Network announces landmark study

NEW HAVEN, Conn., July 29, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Many low-income mothers cannot afford an adequate supply of diapers and are likely to suffer mental stress that can harm their children, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics.

The stress of not being able to afford diapers was an even stronger predictor of mental health need than food insecurity, data collected for the study showed.

Almost 30 percent of the women surveyed reported that they did not always have enough diapers to change their children as frequently as they wished. Women who reported needing diapers also had more difficulty with stress management, depression and coping with trauma. The study included 877 low-income women.

"Parental stress and depression can negatively impact children," said Dr. Megan Smith, Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and the study's principal author. "Many women who had trouble obtaining diapers also reported significant mental distress. Health care providers should recognize diapering difficulties as a serious issue and possibly an indicator of mental health need."

"A mother's number-one priority is meeting her children's basic needs. Diapers are a basic need, akin to food and housing. But unlike those other things, there are no public programs parents can turn to for help," said senior author Joanne Goldblum, MSW, executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network. NDBN assists community-based diaper banks around the country that provide diapers to low-income families. Food stamps and Women Infants and Children (WIC) cannot be used to purchase diapers.

This research was conducted by the New Haven Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership, a community-academic partnership between Yale University and seven local and state agencies. Dr. Smith started MOMS to support low-income mothers after her research demonstrated links between poverty, increased stress levels and mental illness.

Certain groups of women were more likely to report difficulty obtaining diapers, including grandmothers who were raising children and Hispanic mothers, the study found.

"We knew that diaper need harms babies, who are prone to rashes or more serious infections when not changed frequently enough," said Alison Weir, PhD, JD, a co-author of the study. "Our research raises concerns about the long-term impact. When parents have high levels of stress or depression, children are at greater risk for social, emotional and behavioral problems. That has far-reaching effects on a child's development and success in school."

SOURCE National Diaper Bank Network