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Memphis Daily News
Addressing Babies' Needs, One Diaper at a Time
September 13, 2018
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

This proverb has been passed down for hundreds of years, in many cultures and languages. There have been slight variations, but the message is constant. It implies that small differences in what appears to be an insignificant need, relative to its availability, can lead to more serious, seemingly unrelated consequences.

It’s happening here in Memphis, this lack of a seemingly insignificant, yet critical need, in the battle waged daily by our neighbors fighting a life in poverty. But in Memphis, when there is a need, we notice. We care. We help. The need we have affects our most vulnerable citizens, children from birth to age 3 living in poverty. And their critical need is for diapers.
The Urban Child Institute fellow Dominique DeFreece has convened partners in a collaborative effort to address this need. UCI, along with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, The University of Memphis, Dads and Diapers and Sweet Cheeks Ministry is spearheading Bundles for Babies, a diaper drive to initiate a Diaper Bank for Shelby County.

The need is great. In Memphis, 44 percent of children live in poverty. A healthy baby can use eight to 12 diapers daily, costing $100 monthly. There are no government programs that cover diaper assistance. Diaper need impacts the physical, mental and financial well-being of children and families in poverty.

A baby in a low-income family can spend a day or longer in one diaper, leading to potential health and abuse risks. If a parent works and needs day care, the parent is required to provide a steady supply of disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are not an option, as many low-income families do not have access to washing facilities.

If the parent cannot provide disposable diapers, they cannot use the day care center. Without child care, they cannot work. Without work, they cannot afford to buy diapers. Without diapers, the child’s well-being is at risk. And the cycle of poverty continues into the next generation.

There is an additional downside to the need for diapers. Disposable diapers have become a target for shoplifters and one of the hottest commodities on the black market. What would you do to keep your baby clean, dry and healthy?

The Diaper Drive to start the Diaper Bank is scheduled for Sept. 22-30. Collection sites for disposable diapers and wipes include all Memphis Public Library locations, Crosstown Concourse and Germantown Middle School. Diapers will be distributed through the Diaper Bank to their partner programs that work with families in poverty.

It’s seemingly such an insignificant thing, a diaper. But to a baby who is cold and wet, and a parent who is stressed and scared, a clean diaper can make all the difference in their world.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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