Diapers harder to come by for some families during coronavirus

Here's how to help.

April 1, 2020, 2:33 PM

For most parents, finding your preferred diaper brand out of stock during the novel coronavirus outbreak is nothing more than an annoyance. Simply move onto the next-best brand.

But for others, diaper need is a very real problem. According to the National Diaper Bank Network, about 1/3 of American families cannot afford the diapers it takes to keep their babies dry and healthy.

That number will likely increase if more people continue to be laid off or furloughed, Bridget Cutler from the New Jersey-based Moms Helping Moms Foundation diaper bank.

"During our first full operating week after coronavirus hit, we distributed three times as many diapers as we normally do," she told "Good Morning America." The organization said the need is increasing "exponentially," every day.

Moms Helping Moms -- and organizations like it -- have access to diapers through donations and some purchased at wholesale, Cutler said. "We are doing our best and happy that we are open, helping the public and keeping our employees working. However, we will not be able to keep up with this demand without additional funding."

Audrey Symes, a New York City mom who is active in the collection of excess diapers for the GOOD+ Foundation told "GMA," the overbuying of diapers on the part of people who are not economically disadvantaged contributes to the problem.

"Many families who typically experience diaper need are in precarious jobs such as hospitality and retail that have been suddenly eliminated," Symes said. "Especially early in the month, when benefits are paid out, it’s really helpful to those families to be able to purchase stock. The rashes and infections that result from overuse of disposable diapers could overwhelm the medical system right now."

PHOTO: A pile of diapers are seen in this undated stock photo.
A pile of diapers are seen in this undated stock photo.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

"They [people with low-income levels] don’t have the resources to buy in bulk, so they depend on consistent stock availability," she said. Buying in bulk is often not an option, she said, because of the upfront cost.

"We certainly saw that panic buying and hoarding two and three weeks ago led to empty retail shelves throughout the country," Troy Moore chief of external affairs at the National Diaper Bank Network, told "GMA." "This caused a ripple effect for diaper bank programs which rely heavily on community-based drives and product donations from individuals. It also impacted diaper banks’ ability to use donated funds to purchase diapers through bulk buying programs. The supply chain was disrupted. It is getting better."

It's unclear how much overbuying is still taking place. On Wednesday, a search on Amazon for "diapers" yielded a list several pages long. But diaper makers tell "GMA" they are experiencing higher-than-normal sales. "The supply chain is experiencing a bit of a shock, like toilet paper manufacturers, but so far we've been able to meet customer demand," Matt Anderson CEO of diaper company ABBY&FINN, said.

Eco Pea, a diapers and wipes company, told "GMA" sales have increased. " Some days we see a 500% increase compared to the average day before COVID-19," a company spokesperson said.

As families experience "situational poverty," Moore said, the reliance on diaper banks will continue. " Diapers will be key to parents’ ability to return to work as a daily supply of diapers is necessary to leave a baby in child care. Without diapers, parents cannot go to work."

Cutler said people can help first by not overbuying, but also by contacting the local diaper banks in their state to inquire about their needs. She recommended National Diaper Bank Network's website as a resource.

Monetary donations are always welcome. "We can use those to purchase diapers through our channels at 1/3 of the retail cost," she said.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events