Whereas the soaring cost of diapers pains many parents, environmental enthusiasts argue it might be a blessing in disguise.

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How parents are coping with the soaring cost of diapers

What you need to know:

  • At Bonita Baby and Kids, Softcare is retailing at Sh1,000.
  • Huggies selling between Sh1,650 to Sh2,050.
  • Molfix diapers are Sh1,250 while pants are selling at Sh1,350.
  • Softcare jumbo pack gold is Sh930, premium at Sh970 while space jumbo is Sh1,150.

Did you know that a new-born can need a diaper change up to 10 times a day to decrease the risk of diaper rash and other skin infections, which if left untreated could result in more serious health problems?

However, the soaring cost of diapers has left parents helpless as they try to figure out how to keep up with their children’s sanitary needs without blowing up their budgets.

“When we had our first-born, who is four years old now, we started using Pampers. By then, I did not feel any pinch of the price. We were happy to have him and we wanted to spoil him, you know that brand is pricey. My job was at its peak and I was able to take care of all the baby’s essentials without struggle,” narrates Peter Ng’anga, a father of two boys.

Peter used to buy three jumbo packs (containing 64 pieces) back then every month. “Infants eat every three hours and can soil a diaper just as frequently. They can require an average of 10 diaper changes every day.”

With the second born who is now nine months old, Peter notes that a lot has changed. “I lost my online writing job during the Covid-19 pandemic. You know schools abroad were closed and so there were no assignments. So when our son was born, we were struggling. I thank heavens my wife is understanding, and that made life easier. We agreed to change the diaper brand and settled for Molfix. It's less expensive compared to Pampers.”

When their son turned five months, Peter’s wife began to potty-train him. “At first I was against it but it turned out to be a good thing. At seven months, he started using diapers only at night. You can imagine the amount of money we are saving.”

Peter recalls one paediatrician informing them that children don’t get potty trained until they are almost three years old. “But that’s the year they ought to be joining playgroup class,” I thought. For Peter, this decision has worked out fine and eased the burden of buying loads of diapers, especially now that the cost of living has skyrocketed.

Mary Wambui is the mother of twins Hailey and Christabel, who are almost seven months old. She spends about Sh5,000 per month to keep her children comfortable in clean diapers.

“When I first did my ultrasound at 18 weeks of my pregnancy, I was the happiest mum-to-be in that hospital. It has always been my prayer to have twins. My husband was happy as well.” Mary is a stay-at-home mum. She quit her job after she was put on bed rest due to pregnancy complications. When she finally delivered her children, the worst happened. Her husband was laid off. They were devastated.

“It was the toughest time of our lives,” Mary said. “We had to forgo a lot of things to cater for the diapers alone. Then lacking diapers is not something you can easily share with people, there are more pressing needs like food you know.”

In a span of six months, Mary has spent a total of Sh33,600 on diapers alone. Her babies developed severe reactions to certain brands of diapers (cheaper ones) forcing them to settle for the costly ones instead.

Although she has tried buying them in bulk at wholesale stores to cut costs, this has proven to be unsustainable as diaper prices continue to rise.

Like Peter’s second born, Purity Onyach says her almost three-year-old daughter only uses diapers at night. Reason? “Any time I visit the stores for diapers, I start wondering whether I should be buying food or diapers.”

She has contemplated using nappies in order to save some money but hasn’t gotten around to doing it. “Saving money the money spent on diapers sounds good but touching baby poop is a whole other matter,” she says with a laugh.

A Daily Nation spot check at baby shops in the Central Business District revealed the struggles new parents are going through to give their children comfort. At the Made for Mums baby shop, Huggies for new-borns is selling between Sh1,030 and Sh1,100. Jumbo of the same is selling at Sh1,999. Huggies dry comfort selling at Sh1,600.

At Bonita Baby and Kids, Softcare is retailing at Sh1,000. Huggies selling between Sh1,650 to Sh2,050. Molfix diapers are Sh1,250 while pants are selling at Sh1,350. Softcare jumbo pack gold is Sh930, premium at Sh970 while space jumbo is Sh1,150.

The prices are however varying across all the shops. At Just Moms Baby Shop, they have varieties ranging from Pampers to NipNap. Pampers is going for Sh1,900, Huggies Sh1,100, Molfix Sh1,150, Softcare Sh950, and NipNap brand at Sh700.

Pampers remains the most expensive brand almost doubling its previous price. At Made for Moms, the jumbo pack is selling at Sh2,050 and Sh1,900 at Bonita. “Pampers has also reduced the number of pieces in their packs. Stage one by 22, from 88 to 66. Two from 80 pieces to 62,” says James Manthi, a salesperson at Made for Mums.

Softcare is cheaper, but most people are buying Huggies due to the quality and also the number of pieces in a pack.

Surprisingly, almost no mothers opt for washable diapers and nappies. Across all the shops washable diapers are gradually going extinct. They sell between Sh550 to Sh600 depending on the shop. “Parents don’t want to wash diapers. They find it time-consuming. Only one percent of our customers are buying them. In a month you have just one client opting for washable diapers,” said Mr Manthi.

At Bonita, they are no longer stocking washable diapers due to low consumption. “We stopped stocking them in January. Mothers are complaining the babies are reacting to them,” said a sales lady at the shop.

The high cost of diapers often falls hardest on mothers, particularly poor mums. Last year, Daily Nation spotted a woman on a solo protest over the sky-rocketing price of diapers, asking the government to make changes to accommodate even the poor mums.

As the parents have attested, the cost of baby diapers can be a significant burden on the family budget. But why are diapers so expensive?

The recent spike in inflation made diapers expensive, and demand at diaper banks, especially Pampers brand has surged, since the start of the pandemic.

“The manufacturers are saying the rate at which the currency has been dwindling against the dollar has largely contributed to the increase in the prices. So instead of further raising the prices, for instance, Pampers opted to reduce the pieces,” said Mr Manthi.

The Kenyan shilling is cents shy of hitting the 145 nit mark trading against the US dollar, further compelling manufacturers to dig deeper into their pockets to meet the high foreign exchange rates.

This has also seen a few players in the industry benefit at the cost of the suffering consumers as they are buying in bulk and selling per piece. “Softcare has been retailing at Sh20 a piece. A piece of Pampers is now Sh35 from Sh30,” said Douglas Kalawanga, a father of two.

Despite having its diaper manufacturers, Kenya is still importing expensive brands which is further hurting parents. Kenyan diaper makers are attributing the high prices to the production cost and the currency fluctuation which has affected every process of manufacturing the product, especially the importation of raw materials.

The primary materials used in diaper manufacturing are pulp, super-absorbent polymer, and non-woven fabric. However, the cost of these raw materials is directly affected by fluctuations in the global market.

As fuel prices rise, so do the costs of moving products across the country. This increase in transportation costs is then passed on to consumers, driving up the price of diapers. Other factors include distribution and logistics, marketing and branding, and retailer mark-ups.

Whereas the soaring cost of diapers pains many parents, environmental enthusiasts argue it might be a blessing in disguise as it might prompt people to adopt eco-friendly alternatives such as washable diapers. Disposable diapers take years to decompose and have been faulted for emitting carbon dioxide therefore contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer (Greenhouse effect).

As the inaugural Africa Climate hosted at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, comes to a close today, Kenya has made bold commitments to champion climate action and de-carbonise the globe. What does this commitment mean to you, dear reader? Could it be a call to rethink the consumption of disposable diapers?