For some families, checking off the most basic of baby essentials can be a struggle. Fortunately, new families in the greater Syracuse area now can have a startup supply of newborn diapers to take home from the hospital, thanks to a partnership between Crouse Health and the CNY Diaper Bank.
According to CNY Diaper Bank founder Michela Hugo, more than 20 families have accepted diapers since the program kicked off. It’s a program that has been months in the making, Hugo said, and it finally launched Jan. 14.
“It’s a really wonderful feeling to be able to give families a basic need that they struggle with,” Hugo said.
Through their interactions with new parents, nurses in the Kienzle Family Maternity Center at Crouse assess which families could benefit from the diaper program. If a family indicates that they need help with diapers, Crouse sends home 50 newborn to size 1 diapers along with information about the CNY Diaper Bank and other resources.
“The nurses are the ones they’ve gained trust with during their stay here, so I’m hoping they would tell them in that situation,” said Brynne Stockton, perinatal/newborn nursery nurse manager at Crouse.
“We hear from moms all the time and they just have no idea. They’re just so unaware of what programs are available to help them,” Hugo said. “New moms trust their nurses and they can give them information about where to turn should they need help.”
Stockton and Hugo said pediatrician Dr. Winter Berry proposed the idea of a partnership. Berry worked with the diaper bank through her own practice at the Upstate Pediatric and Adolescent Center, and her research interests include poverty, diaper need and caring for underserved children.
“We had our heart set on trying to get a hospital to help us reach a majority of new moms. Winter presented the idea to them and they bought into it,” Hugo said. “If this is successful, we hope to expand to St. Joe’s and Community.”
Crouse handles the lion’s share of births in Central New York — more than 300 deliveries each month, Stockton said.
According to CNY Diaper Bank, diaper need affects one in three mothers. Half of Syracuse children under the age of 5 live in poverty, and WIC and SNAP do not pay for diapers.
“It affects all parts of their lives if they can’t buy diapers, so it is huge. It’s a small thing that affects big things,” Hugo said. “We know if you’re struggling to buy diapers you’re struggling to buy other things as well. You’re struggling to buy food; you’re struggling to pay your rent. It’s a lot to have to worry about.”
The diaper distribution program at Crouse gives families about five to seven days’ worth of diapers.
“They don’t see their pediatrician for two days, so what if they don’t have what they need to keep their baby clean and healthy?” Stockton said.
Diapering is not just a physical health issue, Stockton said, but it’s an important part of a baby’s social development.
“Those diaper changes are a time to bond with your newborn. It helps with their development to have that safe time with a family member,” she said. “She’s smiling at you at that point, and looking at you as you change the diaper. You get to see those developmental milestones: smiling, cooing and looking around.”
Outside of the Crouse program, the CNY Diaper Bank distributes 70,000 diapers every month. This month, the organization is on track to break the million-diaper mark since Hugo founded the diaper bank in 2016.
“One of the things that led me to start the diaper bank was becoming a mom myself. Every mom wants to do the best for their baby,” she said.
The community can support the CNY Diaper Bank and Crouse Health’s diaper partnership in many ways.
“Any group — an office group, a church group, a school group, friends and family” can host a diaper drive, said Hugo. Larger diaper sizes are in high demand. “We’re constantly buying 5s and 6s because we’re constantly going through them,” she said.
While those material donations are welcome, the nonprofit diaper bank is able to purchase diapers in bulk for much cheaper than the typical retail price. Each dollar donated to the CNY Diaper Bank equals one day of clean diapers for a baby or toddler.
“We definitely prefer dollars to diapers because the dollars go so much further,” Hugo said.
Donations can be made online at cnydiaperbank.org or by mail. Send checks to Central New York Diaper Bank Inc., CNY Diaper Bank, ShoppingTown Mall, 3649 Erie Blvd. East, Syracuse, NY 13214.
The diaper bank also needs volunteers to count and package diapers for distribution. Sign up at cnydiaperbank.org/volunteer.
Aside from volunteering or donating to the diaper bank, Stockton said the best way to help the program at Crouse is to spread the word to expecting families who might need help.
“Be supportive of these initiatives. Get the word out, letting them know the support we have here for all of our families,” Stockton said.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.