Monday, February 4, 2019

A Quick Hisotry of Diapers.

Baby, Boy, Diaper, Blue, Smile, Crawl The other day, I was changing a friends baby.  Out here in the bush of Alaska, most people use disposable diapers because they may or may not have running water or they may or may not have access to a washer and dryer.  Furthermore, energy is extremely expensive out here so disposables cut down on your electric bill.

My aunt said she used disposable diapers in the 1950's with her kids but I didn't believe her because as far as I knew, they'd only been around since the 70's but it turns out I'm wrong.

In ancient times, people used moss, milkweed, skins, and other things as diapers.  Even in Elizabethan times, they had a kind of cloth diaper that wasn't changed all that often.

Diapers were really not in use as we know them until the safety pin was invented in 1849.  This invention allowed people to use a square piece of linen, cotton flannel, or other soft material as a diaper.  They folded it into a triangle so the widest end went around the waist and the point came through the legs where the person pinned the ends together to make a "diaper".

In 1887, a woman created the first mass produced diapers which were easily folded into the triangular shape.  It was also about this time that bacteria and germs were discovered leading women to boil diapers to keep them clean.  Unfortunately, the people had to use what they had such as knitted shorts as covers until 1910 when the first rubberized cover appeared but it wasn't very popular because children ended up with diaper rashes. 

Diaper services came to the rescue for cleaning diapers beginning in 1935, just in time for the war.  As women replaced men in the work force, they had less time to boil diapers and this service made their life easier.  Five years later, the first pinless diaper appeared but it used buckles instead of safety pins. 

The first real disposable diaper came from Sweden, called a paper diaper,  but it was actually a disposable pad made of creped cellulose tissue the mother put on her child and covered with rubber or other material.  It showed up in 1942 and since it was during World War II, cotton was considered essential to the war so other materials had to be substituted.

Just after the war in 1946, an American housewife invented "Boaters" which were cloth diapers inserted inside a plastic shower curtain.  At about the same time, Chicopee began marketing the first disposable diapers but they were still nowhere near what we use today.  In fact, Johnson and Johnson was responsible for importing Chou disposable diapers from Sweden and they were marketed for traveling families because of the cost.

Over the next few years, the field of diapers jumped with new inventions from the prefolded diaper offered by diaper services, to inserts one place in cotton diapers to keep them clean.  My aunt used these.  She said you placed them on the diaper and when they were soiled, you threw them out after placing a new one in.

Not much happened with disposables until the 1960's with the release of Pampers.  Pampers were made with cellulose fibers instead of paper, softer insides made of rayon, and when done, the diaper could be completely pitched.  Pampers were an instant success possible due to the price, the convenience and were offered in two sizes.

The earliest Pampers came without tapes but by the end of the 1960's someone figured out how to add tapes to make them even easier to use.  Soon Proctor & Gamble and Kimble Clark were going head to head to take over the disposable diaper market and their use spread around the world even to third world countries.

In addition, this struggle caused more and more improvements to happen until today's disposable diapers.  Although disposable diapers are the first thing most new parents think about, cotton diapers are still around with grandmothers who knit those solid covers and diaper services still pick up and drop off daily loads for those who don't want to wash their own diapers but want to use the cotton ones.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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