The baby’s nappy hasn’t been changed in two days: how you can help support Childline


It was the dog that I saw first. He was a brown fluffy thing, all poof and snubby nose, a Pomeranian type. His owner was bringing him into a phonebox, trolley parked outside, packed steeple high with bulging plastic bags. Homeless. Dog owner. Drug addict.

He hunkered down in the phonebox, the dog at his feet, back to the busy street outside. Morning. Rush hour traffic. Shooting up. I was glad I didn’t see his face; I didn’t want to imagine his life, his youth, his childhood.

Another story. Another scene. A phonecall to a friendly voice. A kind voice at the end of the line, always there, always listening.

“What’s wrong love?”

“The baby’s crying”

“The baby’s crying?”

“He needs his nappy changed.”

“Could you change his nappy love?”

“There’s no nappies here.”

“When was it changed last?”

“Two days ago.”

Eleven children in the home. No food. The younger ones can’t stop crying. Addict parents, drink this time.

And this is the world we live in. Addiction. Neglect. Hunger. Abuse.

I’d spotted the homeless man and the dog on the way to the event –‘s Cheerios charity breakfast to highlight the work that Childline does. It was at the event that I heard that one story, the case of a little boy who called the line regularly to report the stream of neglect his family were enduring. The only staple in his life was the kind voice at the end of the phone. Every eye in the room was wet. Mothers and non-mothers, crying for this helpless boy and his suffering sibling.

I can’t stop thinking about this family, who were eventually reported to the authorities and the children taken into care. Who else is crying right now? Who is hungry and afraid and living a life that no child should ever even imagine?

Anna Daly of Childline explained their work carefully. They don’t offer advice. They don’t tell children what do to. Instead they listen and support and encourage their callers to find their own answers, to come to their own conclusions about what’s best to do in their own situation.

It means the children can always call. And not feel judged. And not feel like they need to do something in their already pressured lives.

Sharyn Hayden, the lovely comedienne wrapped up the day wonderfully. ”I worry that I’m a bad mammy, “ she told us. “That I don’t give my child enough attention, that I do the laundry when my child wants to play laser beams and dinkies.”

And then, after a morning listening to the horrors happening under our watch, in the houses in our country, she and we realised that we are truly wonderful parents. That we have nothing to be worried about. That the only thing we should really consider is what we can do to help the helpless, to reach out to those who can only reach for one thing. A phone and a voice. For love from a stranger’s words. For Childline.

Text BREAKFAST to 50300 to donate €2 to Childline. Register to host your own breakfast at or by calling 1850 50 40 50.


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December Girl audiobook

19 Comments on The baby’s nappy hasn’t been changed in two days: how you can help support Childline

  1. Great post to highlight these horrible things that are happening to children. I hate that even in these modern times, children are still suffering like this and it’s great that you are spreading awareness.

  2. Children even those who aren’t our own can simply break our hearts. It saddens me so much to see children who won’t be able to truly have a childhood. Childline is a wonderful organisation that doesn’t get half as much support as they should. The breakfast is a great morning for all involved and for fundraising.

    • Agree Louise, and seeing children suffer or hearing about them, affects me so much more now that I have a little one. Not that I was heartless before, but I’m more emotional now!

    • I know, that’s why it’s worth stopping and thinking about it and also the good work that so many people do. Don’t know how social workers do it ?

  3. Such a fantastic thing to highlight Nicola, I have to say I find it so hard reading stories of neglect when it comes to children, having children of your own really makes those stories all the more heartbreaking. I ms donate actually so thanks for providing the info

    • Great Eimear, €2 is nothing to us really! And so easy to donate. Agree, I am so soppy and have such empathy for children now.

  4. I wish that I had someone to turn to when I was a child like this, a stranger at the end of the phone would have given me the courage to break out of my life sooner. It is wonderful that society is taking the steps to end neglect and poverty but its still not enough. We must band together to help our youths get a better, brighter future.

  5. My heart breaks a little every time I hear about neglect of children. Its just awful and when your a mum yourself with children you become so sensitive to these type of stories. so heartbreaking but a great post

    • I know – and there are so many stories. Totally agree on the empathy factor once you’re a mum. Every sad story gets you. Thanks for reading x

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