Diaper need is the struggle to provide babies and small children with clean diapers. Huggies® defines diaper need as having to cut back on essentials like food, utilities, medicine and child care in order to afford enough diapers for one’s children. In households experiencing diaper need, babies may be kept in wet, dirty diapers for extended periods of time. In extreme cases, babies may wear the same diaper for more than a day or used diapers that have been cleaned or dried out. A month’s worth of diapers can cost up to $100. Huggies® reports that 1 in 5 Canadian mums has experienced diaper need.
THE EFFECTS OF DIAPER NEED?
Babies kept in wet or dirty diapers are more likely to experience signs of irritation and discomfort. They cry more often and suffer from worse diaper rash. These babies are also at greater risk of developing staph, urinary tract and other infections. The likelihood of abuse increases when a child cries more often.
The experience of diapering is a conduit for connection and love between caregiver and child. A lack of diapers contributes to an increase in anxiety and stress levels, and can strain the caregiver-child bond.
A lack of adequate clean diapers also results in parents missing work or school, staying home when they need to go out, and keeping their children out of daycare as most licensed facilities require a full day’s supply of diapers for each child. Because of this, diaper need contributes to perpetuating poverty by limiting opportunities that help families improve their situations.
TORONTO'S CHILD POVERTY RATE?
The GTA is home to half of all children living in poverty in Ontario, a province in which half a million children lived in poverty in 2019. A 2016 report by The Toronto Foundation dubs Toronto the “child poverty capital of Canada” with 1 in 4 children being raised in poverty. This figure has not changed in the last 20 years. Thirty GTA ridings have child poverty rates above the national average and the City of Toronto reports that these figures are even higher for young children, with 32% of Toronto children aged 0 to 5 living in poverty. A 2021 report from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that Toronto Centre has the highest child poverty rate in all of Ontario.
DOES SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
COVER THE COST OF DIAPERS?
Ontario Works provides income support to eligible applicants in financial need. A portion of this support is provided through a Basic Needs Allowance designed to help pay for things like food, clothing, personal needs . . . and diapers. A single parent family living in Toronto with one child under the age of 17 would be eligible for a maximum Basic Needs Allowance of $360 a month. This amount does not increase with the number of dependent children in the family. Some organizations argue that the Basic Needs Allowance does not reflect the actual cost of the items that it is supposed to cover. For families with babies, the cost of diapers makes it nearly impossible to stretch this support across all of the family’s basic needs.
LEARN MORE ABOUT DIAPER NEED
Hunger Report 2021: How The Pandemic Accelerated the Income and Affordability Crisis in Ontario, Feed Ontario, 2021
Poverty in the Midst of Plenty: A report card on child and family poverty in Ontario, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2021
Toronto Vital Signs 2016, The Toronto Foundation
Huggies® Every Little Bottom Counts Study, 2010
Diaper Need and Its Impact on Child Health – Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Greater Trouble in Greater Toronto: Child Poverty in the GTA – Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
City of Toronto: Employment and Social Services
City of Toronto: Perspectives of Parenting on a Low Income in Toronto
City of Toronto: Profile of Low Income in the City of Toronto