The XX Factor

Some Relief for the Diaper Crisis

For style-conscious parents, designer diapers are the hippest new trend. Huggies is now marketing a product in mock-denim *-they’re tiny, more absorbent versions of grown-up jeans. Pampers, not to be outdone, has collaborated with Cynthia Rowley on a line of disposables available in madras, stripes, and an array of pastels. The concept of diaper as fashion statement takes for granted the garment’s function for hygiene and health, but, as KJ wrote last month , browsing the baby aisle like a Bloomingdale’s catalogue is a luxury not shared by every mother. Luckily for the one-third of American women who can’t afford diapers for their children, change is on the way: The latest round of TANF ARRA stimulus funding awards two states and one Indian nation with federal money meant specifically for diapers.

While the ARRA funding is a one-time gift, it’s a big step in the right direction. KJ noted the importance of private charity in alleviating the diaper crisis, but the magnitude of the problem requires the addition of public assistance. Right now, neither food stamps nor the WIC program-two key resources for low-income mothers-provide for the purchase of diapers. Getting coverage through Medicaid or Medicare is a convoluted process that usually requires diapers to be prescribed as treatment for a patients primary diagnosis (i.e., incontinence in the elderly or mentally disabled). The TANF program doesn’t specifically disallow coverage of sanitary products, but the approval of funding applications explicitly listing diapers shows the government officially recognizing them as a need. Since the effects of the diaper crisis move, quite literally, from the bottom up-threatening public health, barring children from early educational opportunities, and creating a drain on the workforce-it’s in the government’s best interest to keep these changes coming.

*Correction, July 27, 2010: The Huggies diapers are made of mock-denim material, not actual “denim,” as the post originally stated.

Photograph of denim diaper by Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images.