When they first bring home a new child, parents quickly find that their bundles of joy present all manner of challenges. A grueling and unpredictable sleep schedule, staying attentive to meet their child’s every single need, mystery illnesses, and ailments … even amidst the cheer and joy of being a parent, those first few years are difficult to navigate.
And then, of course, there are the diapers. Mountains and mountains of diapers. The MOST Policy Initiative states: “During the first three years of life, it is estimated that 4,600-4,800 disposable diapers are used and have an average cost between $945-$1,500 per year.”
That figure represents a significant impact on a family’s bottom line for an essential health care item. A 2013 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found roughly 30 percent of new mothers had difficulty paying for diapers. Last year, I had an opportunity to visit an organization in Kansas City that helps mothers in dire need of this essential resource called Happy Bottoms. I learned a lot during my visit, especially about the challenges that parents in poverty face from the expense.
Unclean diapers can hinder a new family’s growth. First, unclean diapers can lead to all kinds of health problems for babies from diaper rash, which can lead to bacterial infection, to urinary tract infections. Second, those illnesses can present more financial hurdles in the forms of health care, which only continues and deepens the cycle of poverty.
Third and finally, the lack of access to clean diapers takes a toll on parents’ mental health who feel unable to provide for their baby’s basic needs. At a time in their lives when stress and anxiety are likely at an all-time high from the arrival of a new child, the added psychological strain can have a severe impact on a parents’ ability to function.
We have an easy way to help alleviate some of the cost of diapers and mitigate some of those negative impacts. That’s why I filed HB 2384 which will reduce some of the financial burdens on parents who struggle to keep up with the costs of diapers by exempting diapers from sales tax.
I believe this change will leave a lasting positive impact on new mothers in our state. Perhaps most importantly, I know members of the General Assembly on both sides of the Capitol and on both sides of the aisle can agree on this language. In fact, we already do. Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur has filed SB 1124, and Republican Rep. Dottie Bailey also plans on filing similar legislation in the near future.
These simple pieces of legislation could take the strain off of moms and dads and let them focus on the simple, wonderful, precious joy of being a parent.
Rep. Patty Lewis is a Democrat who represents HD 25 in Jackson County. She has more than 20 years of health care experience as an ICU and critical care registered nurse and health care executive. In the legislature, Lewis is a member of the Health and Mental Health Policy Committee.