For most families, buying diapers for their newborn baby barely makes a blip in the monthly budget. That $25 or so each week doesn’t make much of an impact when you are fully employed and in a stable situation. However, for families in financial crisis, an additional $100 in expenses each month can often mean the choice between eating and diapering. That means babies stay in wet or soiled diapers too long, causing them to cry in pain – which in turn further stresses an already anxious mother and family.
When Kay Keating read an article about the National Diaper Bank, she did some exploring and realized that WIC (Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Service) does not give mothers help with diapering, either through the purchase of disposable diapers or the laundering of cloth diapers. Kay decided to act. She organized a group of women at St. Alexander’s Church in Palos Heights to explain her plan to start SWADDLE, the Southwest Area Diaper Depository for Little Ends. At that initial meeting, Kathy Rogers raised her hand.
“I was not working at the time and wanted to get involved with something meanful. I really had no clue what I was getting myself into,” Kathy chuckles. “Our first diaper drive collected over 8,000 diapers for single moms, struggling families and their babies.”
“While we initially tried to dispense diapers to individuals, we found that was a bad idea as we were working from a home office. We really wanted to respect the families’ privacy. Now, we have partnered with social service agencies in the area to ensure that mothers not only have enough diapers, but that they are also getting other necessary resources that will help them feed their families and improve their lives overall,” said Rogers. “When we get a request for diapers, we make a referral to the appropriate social service agency.”
Donated diapers are taken out of the original packaging and then shrink-wrapped into bundles of 10 by SWADDLE volunteers and board members. This helps eliminate reselling or returning, keeping the diapers where they need to be, on baby bottoms. The bundles are all of a uniform size, so they are easy to store. “Cloth diapers are not our priority at this point. Laundromats will not allow them in their washers and day cares will only take children in disposables, and these moms are working, using daycare. Disposables are very important for families in need,” says Rogers.
Rogers and Keating usually coordinate about three diaper drives each year, with this past September’s “Harvest” being the latest event. “The drives are amazing and then we have 16,000 diapers or more stacked to the ceiling. However, between drives, there is a lull. There is no consistent flow of donations and that is a problem for the agencies we are trying to help. Their need is year-long.”
When Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics heard about SWADDLE and the irregular nature of the donations, he raised his hand too. “We have dozens of families visiting our offices everyday and many of them have extra diapers when their own children outgrow a size or finish potty training. Having our offices serve as permanent donation sites is just a perfect fit.”
Rogers and Keating are thrilled with the pediatrician’s offer of space. “Diapers can be donated in any quantity – full boxes, opened packages, or even just a handful. A low-income family will spend about $176,550 to raise a child to the age of 18. If SWADDLE and Alzein Pediatrics families can help relieve the financial and emotional stress on babies and families when Baby needs changing, all of us are doing something really important.”
Dr. Alzein agrees. “Diaper rash can develop from a bit of an annoyance to dangerous sores quickly, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Keeping your baby in a clean diaper is vital to keeping your child healthy and free of diaper rash.” Diapers should be changed about every 2 hours or so, and immediately after every bowel movement. Ensure that your baby’s bottom is cleaned with warm water or a very mild wipe during every change. Alcohol wipes or alcohol gel should be avoided. When a diaper rash occurs and doesn’t improve within a few days of regular diapering as recommended, it’s time to call the doctor. “Your medical professional may prescribe a cream or ointment, perhaps anti fungal, antibiotic or steroid, depending upon what is causing the rash. Bring your baby to your doctor immediately if he is running a fever or if you see pus or blood draining from the rash,” said Dr. Alzein.
A crying baby stresses herself out and also stresses her parents. “Your baby creates the stress hormone cortisol when crying. When your child is exposed to high levels of cortisol for longer periods of time through unattended crying, he will tend to develop behavioral problems,” said Dr. Alzein.
Alzein Pediatrics is no stranger to community outreach. Both the Oak Lawn office and the Evergreen Park office are also Little Free Library locations, encouraging visitors to “take a book or leave a book.” Dr.Alzein said, “We were pleased with the success of our Libraries and hope that the SWADDLE donation boxes are just as well used.”
SWADDLE is a stand-alone 501(c)3 organization. “We have been able to grow beyond our initial group, expand our horizons and reach out to a very large area, assisting many types of people throughout the south and southwest suburbs.” SWADDLE provides diapers and unopened packages of wipes to agencies such as Oak Lawn’s Courage, Chicago Height’s Respond Now and Robbins’ Pro Labore Dei. They also accept adult diapers, working with PLOWS Council on Aging in Palos Heights.
“These new regular collection sites at Alzein Pediatrics are important, so parents can drop off diapers or unopened wipes at any time. The summer especially tends to be a desert for us, so those boxes in Dr. Alzein’s offices will service as a reminder. A steady supply is really vital to our mission.” Monetary donations are also gratefully accepted.
Donations are accepted at both Alzein Pediatrics locations, in Evergreen Park at 2850 W 95th Street, Suite 400 and Oak Lawn at 6700 W 95th Street, Suite 250. To learn more, visit www.swaddlediapers.org.