History of disposable diapers: the baby revolution

In collaboration with Rokiyah Hosen

Relecture professionnelle

The arrival of the cloth diaper can be seen as a step back in time. In fact, diapers as we know them today didn 't always exist! When did disposable diapers first appear? How dry was baby before diapers? We tell you all about it in this article.

A world without diapers: how do we take care of baby?

Before diapers, babies were swaddled in cloth. Indeed, the main aim was to keep them upright so that their bodies didn't become deformed. So they were swaddled in a first layer of swaddling clothes, with splints to keep their legs straight. This was followed by a second layer to keep the baby warm.

Then, in the 18th century, doctors discovered that leg growth did not depend on swaddling, so splints disappeared. Despite this discovery, the French continued to keep their babies' legs straight in their swaddles. How are swaddles made? Swaddles are actually sheets, blankets or mops. Any fabric will do.

As swaddling was very difficult to remove, infants were not changed very often, and remained in their urine or stools for too long. Even when the mother took the time to change him, she would hurry to put the cloths on quickly, lest the baby deform.

Hygiene was very complicated... Diapers had to be washed, so households equipped themselves with washing machines. These were the ancestors of washing machines, the equivalent of pots in which mothers boiled their cloths. But it wasn' t ideal, because of the humidity, the heat from the kettle and the odors.

Early 19th century: the advent of safety pins

The early 19th century saw the arrival of safety-pin diapers. Cotton and hemp squares were held together by safety pins. It was at this time that the urban legend of babies being killed by safety pins was born. Fortunately, this rarely happened, although accidents did happen.

Mid-20th century: the arrival of Pampers disposable diapers

In 1961, Pampers launched the first disposable diaper as we know it today. It was a revolution for the time, for parents and for baby's comfort. At first, however, when the products arrived in Europe, parents were reluctant... It's true that the first diaper models were bulky , and children weren't necessarily comfortable moving around.

Before that, in the early '40s, a Swedish stationery company launched a disposable paper designed to be placed between babies ' diapers and bottoms. This corresponds in fact to the protective veil contained in today's disposable diapers.

1971: Peaudouce diapers marketed in France

Later, in 1971, Procter & Gamble's Pampers diaper technology was imported into France, and the French Peaudouce diaper brand was born .

Then, a few years later in 1978, the Kimberly Clark group launched Huggies , which became the second largest manufacturer of disposable diapers.

Today, disposable diapers are used all over Europe. A disposable diaper is made up of an outer layer that makes the diaper waterproof, and an inner layer with an absorbent core, designed toabsorb baby's needs and keep him or her dry.

Baby diapers: a constantly evolving product

As time goes by, diapers become progressively more absorbent, thinner and easier to use, with elastics and repositionable tabs, enabling the diaper to adapt to baby's morphology and ultimately be more comfortable.

Better compositions for disposable diapers

In the 2000s, Greenpeace revealed that disposable diapers contain toxic and chemical substances. Then, in 2019, ANSES will publish a study indicating that "dangerous chemical substances" are present in several models of diapers sold in France. This will be the starting point for ecological diapers with healthier compositions. The special feature of these diapers is that plastic will be replaced by natural materials, which are much gentler on your baby's skin, and also more respectful of the environment.

New washable and reusable diapers

In the 1980s, North American studies highlighted the impact of disposable diapers on the environment. All this awareness led to a growing demand for cloth diapers. Of course, today's cloth diapers have nothing in common with the diapers of yesteryear.

Learning diapers

Finally, there are now the famous training pants. They are used when your baby is learning and/or starting to be potty-trained. They replace your little one's diapers. There are several types available:

  • Disposable paperdiapers;
  • Training pants.

Training pants helpabsorb accidents. Of course, they're not as absorbent as conventional diapers.

If your baby asks to be potty-trained, has greater mobility and makes you aware when his diaper is dirty, you can start topotty training and start replacing diapers with panty diapers or training pants.