The History of Diapers

Diapering babies is something that we, as a society, all but take for granted. The mere thought of a mother toting a baby around without a modern diaper seems absurd today. Diapers, however, weren’t always the Pampers and Pull-Ups that we know now. In fact, mothers of yesteryear had to simply make do with whatever was available at the time to manage their baby’s bowel movements. Here’s a brief look at the history diapers, and how they’ve changed over the years.

Ancient Times

A look through historical documents shows that babies in ancient times were wrapped in large leafs, animal skins, and any other materials that were suitable and available. Sometimes, strips of wool and linen were sometimes swaddled around babies in early societies. In tropical climates, babies wore little to no clothing, so mothers of those days practiced the art of “elimination communication.” This means that they had be observant for subtle clues that the baby was about to have a bowel movement, then plan and act accordingly. Some tribal societies of today, far removed from the conveniences of the modern world, still practice elimination communication.

Late 19th Century

This is the era when diapers began to resemble their modern counterparts. Diapers during this time were basically a square of cotton or linen that was folded over, and  in held in place by safety pins. As you can imagine, these first-generation cloth diapers weren’t of the greatest quality or absorbency, and leakage was a common problem.

20th Century

This period saw many innovations in diapering:

  • In 1942, the first disposable absorbable pad was fabricated from cellulose tissue and became very common in usage. Diaper services were all the rage during this time.
  • The “Boater,” the first waterproof cover for cloth diapers was invented in 1946 and was made from shower curtain plastic.
  • Safety pins, although traditional, were still dangerous, and in 1950 the first snapable, pinless diapers were invented
  • The 60’s saw the popularity of disposable diapers increase due to cellulose pulp fibers, which dramatically improved the absorbency.
  • Although disposable diapers continued to involve in their absorbency and effectiveness, environmental concerns over disposable diapers (filling up landfills at an alarming rate) led to a resurgence in cloth diapering in the 90’s.

2000 – Present

Both cloth diapers and disposables continue to involve and innovate. Cloth diapers are steadily increasing in popularity as a more economical option, however, as they cost half as much as disposables. Additionally, as concerns over the negative environmental impact of disposables grow, many parents are now switching exclusively to cloth diapers.

To learn more about the history of diapers, contact Smile2Baby.com at (855) 797-BABY.