Baby Diapers Are A Necessity For A New Mom’s Sanity… Make Them Tax Free!

For new moms, and especially if the husband doesn't share baby-care duties, diapers are not a luxury and need to be made tax free!

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Over a period of time, the joy of bringing the newborn from hospital to home had somewhere been shoved to a corner where mounds of diapers kept on piling. The astonishing use of disposable diapers day after day added to the concern of growing costs that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge this soon.

While still basking in the glow of motherhood in my first week, my cousin in the US texted me to congratulate me by specifically pointing out that, ‘Your child comes first!’ I inwardly chuckled, ‘Why wouldn’t it?!’

But her words sank deeper into my consciousness when I woke up to gastrocolic reflux in my then two-month-old.

Disposable diapers or cloth diapers?

I hail from a humble background. Heard from my mother, she never came around using disposable diapers right after I was born. So before visiting me in Bengaluru to welcome the yet unborn nati, she had already sent mounds of old sarees for her to stitch innumerable langots (cloth diapers). While still in my nesting phase, I was making space for the newborn. Clearing the cupboards, and putting away my clothes in the bed storage, I neatly placed her laundered sarees. I complained about the quantity of sarees, but she retorted: ‘You have no idea how many you are going to need it!’ And she was right.

The newborn arrived. The floodgates of congratulatory messages, video calls, and home visits by friends and families had just begun only to never stop. While still reeling in the chaos that postpartum brought, I was trying ways to bond with my baby girl in the not-so-quiet corner of the house.

One evening, while feeding her, I reminded my husband to place an order for disposable diapers as we were soon going to run out of hospital supplies. Nonchalantly, we chose the brand that we saw in ads or our friends using it. As the pack arrived, both our mothers advised against the use of disposable diapers while my husband asked me to use it economically and not solely be dependent on disposables. Agreeing on reasonable use, I charted out the occasions of use and when to be diaper-free.

I was responsible for the added expenses – not my husband, not anyone else!

Already disillusioned with the idea of equal parenting, as days passed, I was suddenly responsible for the added expenses the newborn incurred, especially in using and purchasing disposable diapers. Since ‘child-rearing’ was my responsibility, I was anxious about being judged for using it and the lack of use of the same. Amidst the mounting risk of the baby developing diaper rash and the pressure to be thrifty, I listened and acted on everybody’s advice until I couldn’t.

Being at the receiving end of advice and opinions, it started to feel as if everyone was there to confuse or shame rather than to show the right path. My already declining mental health bore the strain of living in an apocalypse where I had been role-playing a mother fighting against the challenges of maintaining consistent childcare needs when there was no need to cut corners. Oscillating between spending less and more, I never knew how I became negligent.

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A change in potty habits in my 2 month old that led to an increased use of diapers

At my natal home, my husband bid me adieu with an adequate supply of diapers.

While enjoying the care of my mother, I witnessed an unnatural episode that suddenly increased the use of diapers twofold. My baby girl was then two months old. All of a sudden there was a change in her potty routine. From pooping once or twice a day, she started passing gas with poop on every feed like a newborn.

I was alarmed. I informed my husband of the new development. He allayed my fears by trying to convince me that this could be a natural phase. But I was unconvinced. I texted the doctor and he diagnosed the episode as gastrocolic reflux while at the same time advising me to look out for the symptoms of dehydration.

Not only did it put an end to the joy of being in my mother’s care, but also, I was also overwhelmed by watching the growing mound of diapers. Stashed in the corner in a black garbage disposable bag, it became an ignominious presence.

I couldn’t cope at this point

Habituated at her passing a bit of poop with every feed, one night I left her sleeping on the same without changing. My eyes were heavy with sleep, I checked for the diaper behind my pillow but couldn’t find and somehow, I couldn’t muster the strength to get out of the bed and pull one out of the almirah. I convinced myself by saying that it was a bit of poop, it wouldn’t irritate her.

Later in the morning, as I was cribbing at the dwindling stock, I heard my elder brother calling me stingy. It stung because it was true. But how am I to compare myself with my brother in managing expenses who makes bold purchases now and then and who is yet to embrace parenthood to understand the finer realities? But even if he understood the finer realities, would he have shied away from providing the necessities to his kid? Because under his watch till now my daughter was in want of nothing from the moment she was born. My Bhaiya and Bhabhi took care of every 101 needs that I felt I couldn’t provide on my own.

In the initial days, my house felt like a godown as I was accepting continuous deliveries in their name. Feeling ashamed for not being devoted enough to my daughter and taking care of that one need when every other expense was compensated in gifts, I went ahead and placed an order online without consulting my husband on the best available offers. I even went ahead and checked the best diapers available in India. In doing that, as I scrolled down, I was taken aback further.

Then I went down a rabbit hole of research on diapers

I am a caring mother. But does my care have to be justified in making costly purchases?

Even if I was earning, I would still have been strictly against inundating my child with dresses and accessories. On the contrary, I believe in directing the amount to more useful stuff.

But I had no idea that it was diapers that were going to be the most useful in the array of other household expenses. Until called out for cutting short on my child’s needs, I had been using brands that 90% of the parents use. I found diapers frivolous because of their use and throw nature but not like my mothers who consider diapers a monstrous invention invariably causing rashes in babies.

Evolving as a parent after that incident, the amount I was spending on diapers was next to nothing. While searching for the best diapers available online, I came across an organic biodegradable bamboo diaper brand. Even with these, if I switch to diapers solely, I would be spending on about 180 pieces of diapers (keeping the occasional pooping episodes in mind) in a month, costing somewhere between 7000-8000 bucks (with no discount). I was stumped.

How can something so essential be so costly?

On further research, I found that the diaper dilemma was solely not my own but shared by millions of households around the world. In the West, there are diaper banks to support low-income families and I was surprised to find that the scarcity or the inability to purchase diapers leads to missed shifts at work as caregivers don’t accept cloth diapers.

On going through another article, a study underscored the necessity of diapers in ensuring a child’s well-being and health. An adequate stock of diapers not only wards off dermatitis and urinary tract infections but it also relieves parents of the stigma. Is there an alternative? No. Cloth diapers though reusable can’t be used in public places and they come with their share of hassles of washing and drying thus adding to the existing water and electricity bills.

Who is accountable for this, if the father does not co-parent closely?

Mostly in Indian households, when one is earning the other is shouldering the responsibility of saving. As a homemaker, I share a fraught relationship with money. I don’t share the same connection for our money as my husband does.

Representing lakhs of homemakers in India, I too find it hard to keep financial insecurity at bay. Wishing to provide a fulfilled life, I think of mothers like me who want the best for their children but bear the constant guilt of not measuring up. The lack of awareness among mothers regarding diapers is staggering. Parents from low-income families to save money often find themselves changing diapers less frequently. Moreover, middle-income families in search of affordable diapers settle for brands containing harmful chemicals. An appeal must be pushed forward to the government to make policy changes to make diapers a medical necessity and tax-free.

Image source: Getty Images Free for Canva Pro

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About the Author

Ankita Kumari

Ankita Kumari is a Post Graduate of English Literature. With literaturecurry.com, she strives to bring the literature of seven continents to one place. Based out of Bengaluru, Karnataka, she tries to rekindle the fire read more...

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