CLAREMONT — Toilet paper may be the poster child of the ongoing supermarket scarcity. But for parents of newborn children, the short supply of infant diapers and baby wipes could pose even greater problems if the COVID-19 pandemic continues long-term.
Robin Wittemann, executive director of Baby Steps Family Assistance in Claremont, says she has been spending much of each day delivering diapers, baby wipes and formula to parents or caretakers of infants who lack the money or transportation to acquire those essentials.
Currently, Baby Steps Family Assistance still has a full-stock of diapers, about 1,500, “but they are going quickly,” Wittemann told the Eagle Times. The nonprofit organization just added four infants born this week to their list of children-in-need.
Additionally, Wittemann’s last three online orders for more diapers and wipes were cancelled due to being out of stock.
“If I can’t get them, how will people who have no money or can’t leave their house get them,” Wittemann said.
In addition to a lack of money, a mother or caregiver cannot take a newborn into the public because of their weak immune system, Wittemann explained.
While donations are always needed, these supply shortages will require a broader coordinated effort involving the city and county governments, local organizations and residents.
“At this time, we really need to collaborate,” Wittemann said. “This [state of emergency] may not be over after April 3. We need to be prepared for working with whatever resources we have.”
In the case of infant diapers, successful coordination between community partners is key to better managing the supply, according to Wittemann.
For example, in addition to Baby Steps Family Assistance, the Newport Health Center has also provided diapers to families-in-need, Wittenman said. But rather than these two organizations providing duplicate services, Baby Steps Family Assistance and Newport Health Center compliment each other’s service by assisting the families that the other does not.
Baby Steps Family Assistance only delivers diapers and essentials to parents who lack a means of transportation. Additionally, Baby Steps Family Assistance only serves the Claremont community.
Baby Steps Family Assistance already serves a sizable client base in Claremont alone. Last year, the organization served a total of 946 people, aging from infancy to 82 years old, including 300 school-aged children.
Wittenman said she tries to refer parents with means to pick up diapers to the diaper bank at the Newport Health Center, which will serve Claremont residents and provides 30 diapers per child.
However, the diaper bank at the Newport Health Center is currently not an available resource,according to Kathleeen Kennedy, communications director at New London Hospital, which operates the center.
But if the COVID-19 pandemic continues for months, Wittemann worries about the ability to provide diapers and essentials to infants if the hoarding and supply-shortages don’t improve. She said she hopes that city and county governments can team with community partners like Baby Steps Family Assistance to ensure that these essentials to families are still accessible. Through collaborative messaging and policies, Claremont might, for example, encourage residents to adopt more community-minded shopping habits, strengthen coordination between similar service-providers and direct the public to a central source for official information.
“We need to share,” Wittemann said. “If we don’t work as a community to help one another, we’re not going to have one.”
TO DONATE OR SEEK ASSISTANCE
People who cannot travel and need diapers, baby wipes or formula should contact Baby Steps Family Assistance at (603) 372-6134 or visit their website, https://babystepsfamily.org. Baby Steps Family Assistance is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesdays from noon to 5 p.m.
Baby Steps Family Assistance also has available go-bags with infant clothing. Each bag contains about a week’s worth of clothing.
Baby Steps Family Assistance also accepts cash donations and items, including diapers and baby formula.
Ed.Note -- Contact information for the Newport Health Center diaper bank was removed from the article, after being informed by New London Hospital that the service is not currently being provided.