HAMO note: The DIAPER ACT asks for NO additional federal funding to states. The legislation would empower eligible childcare providers (by each state) to provide diapering supplies with existing grants IF they so choose. Be sure to visit the Diaper Difference Coalition for more details and visit our page on this effort.

This is a cross post, with permission from Jennifer Labit, Founder and CEO of Cotton Babies, and creator of awesome cloth diapering products.


On October 6th, Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro introduced a piece of legislation that would underwrite diapers for families using subsidized childcare. The DIAPER Act (HR 3134) would provide diapers to families using subsidized childcare, enabling both parents to work and bring home income that would improve their family’s standard of living. Food is expensive. Diapers are expensive. Childcare providers require that you provide diapers for your baby. It’s difficult to work, even when childcare is free, if you can’t afford to buy diapers for your baby to use during the day.

Last week, my husband and I sat down with Judge Jimmie Edwards to discuss how we can help educate the teen moms in his school about diapering their baby on a shoestring. During our conversation, Judge Edwards spoke of families who can’t wash their child’s clothing because they can’t afford hot water or detergent. He now offers the children in his school access to warm showers and a washer/dryer so they can have clean clothes. We have to take these limitations into account when working to develop material to educate these girls about how to best take care of their baby. Among other things, we are taking some inspiration from The Flats Challenge(created by Kim Rosas and inspired by my post about “Almost Free Diapers“). Among other things, we will be showing these moms how to use flats, teaching them to “bucket wash”, and working to find a way to easily provide them with detergent.

We walked away from our conversation with Judge Edwards shaking our heads in dismay. We knew it was bad, but we didn’t realize it was that bad. After doing some more reading, I’ve realized that most large cities have literal third world countries in their backyards. Real families are living day-to-day realities that most of us who live in suburban America choose to ignore. We don’t go to that part of town because it might be dangerous. The cultures develop almost independently as children are raised in different schools, attend different churches and socialize only with children from their neighborhoods. Suburban families choose to remain obtuse; an embarrassing state particularly for the highly educated customers who tend to choose cloth diapers over disposables.

We have been writing for several years now about how low income families simply don’t have reasonable access to diapers. We know how badly the babies in these communities need diapers. As a single company though, Cotton Babies can’t possibly “fix” all of the needs the babies have in those areas. Laws governing WIC don’t allow the support of anything but nutrition services. Food stamps work in grocery stores and don’t work on diapers. The only federal funds that can be used on disposable diapers come from TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families), a grant given out by the states to only the most destitute of families. The maximum amount a family can receive each month is only around $200; varying slightly up or down depending on the number of children. Families only qualify for TANF when they really have absolutely nothing. At that point in time, having a roof over their head trumps buying diapers. Other than TANF, there is no existing legislation or program to really help these families with a very basic, simple need. Friends, this is really the most meaningful effort I’ve seen by Congress in a long time to reach out to young, needy families. Legislation like the DIAPER Act could really make a meaningful difference.

As word about this legislation has spread online, I’ve seen some in the cloth diaper community reach to the DIAPER Act with outrage because they think it only pays for disposable diapers. The definition of “Diaper” as written in the DIAPER ACT (

3) DIAPER- The term ‘diaper’ means an absorbent garment worn by infants and toddlers who are not toilet-trained or individuals who are incapable of controlling their bladder or bowel movements. ‘Diaper’ refers to a disposable diaper or, where the administering agency elects to make available, a washable cloth diaper and the requisite diaper laundering and delivery services necessary to provide sufficient clean diapers for the eligible population. ‘Diapering supplies’ means items, including diapers, diaper wipes, and diaper cream, necessary for safe diapering.’.

First of all, I stand by and applaud the Congresswoman for her efforts to reach out in a meaningful way to needy families. The DIAPER Act includes financing for the purchase of and laundering of cloth diapers. It also helps with the purchase of disposable diapers, enabling families without washing facilities to have access to clean, safe diapers for their baby.

I’ve been surprised by those who don’t seem to understand the plight of these families. On Friday, Rush Limbaugh went off on the Diaper Act, describing it as ludicrous and ridiculous. His reaction to the act demonstrates that he doesn’t yet understand what these families are living through. He went so far as to label it “Pampering The Poor”.

This image is from Rush Limbaugh’s website.

For the sake of simplicity, here is the rest of the Act:

Congress finds, pursuant to its authority under article I and the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution, that–
(1) access to a reliable supply of clean diapers is a medical necessity for the health and welfare of infant and toddlers, their families, and child and health care providers,
(2) a supply of diapers is generally an eligibility requirement for infants and toddlers to participate in early childhood educational programs,
(3) providing a sufficient supply of diapers can cause economic hardship to needy families,
(4) absent access to child care, parents and guardians of infants and toddlers cannot participate in the workforce, thereby causing economic harm to many families,
(5) providing diapering systems to needy infants and toddlers through child care programs furthers the national goals of improved health and sanitation for families and for staff in early childhood education and child care programs, and
(6) making available clean diapers to needy infants and toddlers who would otherwise be prevented from participating in child care programs furthers the national goal of safe and quality child care, and therefore enables better implementation of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 9801 et seq.) is amended–
(1) in section 658E(c)(3)(C) by adding at the end the following:
‘Provision of diapers for use by eligible children within the State who receive or are offered child care services for which financial assistance is provided under this Act is a direct service and shall not be included in administrative costs.’,
(2) in section 658G is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘These activities include the provision of diapers and diapering supplies to enrolled child care providers sufficient for the population of children under the age of three whose parent receives or is offered financial assistance under this Act.’, and
(3) in section 658P by inserting after paragraph (2) the following:
‘(3) DIAPER- The term ‘diaper’ means an absorbent garment worn by infants and toddlers who are not toilet-trained or individuals who are incapable of controlling their bladder or bowel movements. ‘Diaper’ refers to a disposable diaper or, where the administering agency elects to make available, a washable cloth diaper and the requisite diaper laundering and delivery services necessary to provide sufficient clean diapers for the eligible population. ‘Diapering supplies’ means items, including diapers, diaper wipes, and diaper cream, necessary for safe diapering.’.

Rush should consider reading through the research generated by Huggies last year; research that inspired their “Every Little Bottom” campaign. Their research showed that 1 out of 3 parents is choosing between diapers and something essential, like food. It says that 1 out of 20 parents is reusing dirty disposable diapers. These are families who cannot afford to feed their families because they have a baby who needs diapers. When groceries win and they don’t buy diapers, they wipe the poop out of the diaper and use it again, causing life threatening, infected rashes in some infants. Rush simply doesn’t understand what these families are living through and how much change this simple legislation could bring to impoverished families in the United States. [Rush, knowing that someone on your staff will read this, you should know that I’m a conservative. I’m a small business owner. I don’t talk about how I vote, but I do educate myself carefully, including being sure that I understand your perspective. On this particular issue, you’ve missed it 100%.]

Yes, the DIAPER Act will cost taxpayers money, but frankly, this simple legislation would put more moms to work. Their paychecks generate income that can be spent on consumer goods and services, driving up GDP and, frankly, generating spending that helps getting our country out of the current debt crisis. They only have to work a few hours at minimum wage to generate $20 in revenue to offset the government transfer payment to buy that package of diapers. They don’t pay taxes, but you can bet that the businesses producing those goods and services pay a hefty tax bill. I know my company pays it’s fair share. This bill will enable mothers to work and earn money to feed their children. They have to be able to go to work if they are ever going to get their family off of government support.

My family was living this reality not too many years ago and we haven’t forgotten where we came from. I carry a heavy weight of responsibility to lighten the loads of families struggling with the same issues we came out of so miraculously years ago.

Knowing that Cotton Babies couldn’t carry the load alone, I have done an enormous amount of research about the issue of getting diapers in the hands of needy families. As recently as last month, I had meetings with senior leadership in federal, state and local government agencies to discuss how we could partner with those agencies to reach out to those families. My research has shown that there is only one source of federal assistance to needy families that helps with the cost of diapers. The TANF grant is administered by the states and is available only to the most destitute. TANF provides a few hundred dollars of assistance each month towards household bills; money most commonly used on rent and utilities, not on consumables like food or diapers. With each agency we’ve spoken with, we’ve found that leadership understands the need for diapers, but is prevented from acting to help families by the way legislation is written. The DIAPER Act is the first legislation we’ve seen that actually takes a step towards helping these families in a meaningful way.

I’ve focused most of this post on the human side of this issue, but from a business perspective, this legislation could be very meaningful for the cloth diaper business community. If the government underwrites the cost of cloth diapers to needy families, we have a simple way to get our products in the hands of the families who need them the most. This drives up your throughput, enabling you to put more families in your community to work.

I’d like to see the cloth diapering community get behind the Diaper Act. The community has a loud voice that frankly, could work to educate Rush Limbaugh and perhaps encourage him to change his opinion. If nothing else, we need to encourage Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in her project, raise awareness, and, by doing so, help her find a co-sponsor for this piece of legislation.

Do you know a family who has struggled to purchase diapers (cloth or disposable)? Do you know a family living the reality of diapers or food? Are you that family? Please leave a comment telling me your story. I’m guessing that Rush’s team and the Congresswoman’s team will have Google Alerts to let them know that this post is here. They need to know who you are and what you think.

Other ways you can help: