A Brief History of Diaper Changes, Nappy Wipes, and Baby Creams
Posted Feb 05 2013 6:18am
By Rojer Beckhams
I’m proud to announce that in a few weeks’ time, I shall be a proud uncle for the second time round. By this stage of pregnancy, most moms already have a stockpile of disposable baby diapers, nappy linings, wipes, diaper rash creams and other such baby-friendly equipment. And, I’m sure my nephew to-best mom has done the same! With just one month left to go till the birth, I thought it would be interesting with this blog post to dig past all the so called “known” things about baby products, and find out where (besides the supermarket) they actually came from. Sure there’s a treasure chest of baby items that are easily purchased from the mall, but how did they get there?
Today’s baby items are no longer just soft and simple; on the contrary, they’ve become rather tasteful and trendy. Where yesterday’s babies smiled and gurgled in simple but sweet swaddling clothes, today’s tots can proudly boast of having branded diapers, branded nappy wipes, branded creams, branded bottles, branded clothing, branded toys, branded formula foods, and, yes, even specially flavored branded milk! It becomes remarkable when you realize that items such as these weren’t always within arm’s grab of the changing table, or within the planning of a quick trip to the store to restock. Most inventions have taken a long period of time for planning, experimenting, and developing—baby products are really no different.
From Swaddling Clothes to Disposable Diapers…
First things first, it simply must be said that whoever invented the first diaper in history was a genius in every sense of the word! While researching the history of, what we shall call, “diaper-hood”, I came across some rather interesting tales of the way things were done for thousands of years before “real” diapers came along. Apparently during the Elizabethan times, most mothers used a cloth type of a diaper, however, it wasn’t considered normal to change it very often, so it was worn for several days, accumulating the waste at the same time. –Ewwww! I even read other interesting tales of inventiveness using animal skins, moss, linens, leaves, and whatnot as diapers. Not to mention that babies in tropical climates wore none at all! So when did civilized diaper-hood begin?
To begin with, “diapers” weren’t always called “diapers”. In fact, the Middle English word diaper originally had nothing to do with the context of “unpleasant duties”, but was used as a word that referred to a diamond shaped piece of white cotton or linen fabric. First, the word “diaper” referred to the type of diamond pattern, later the name was given to the cloth that was used to make diapers, and finally to the product itself. The first diapers are traced back to the 1590s in England (though we can safely assume there were various versions before this) and were handmade using a type of soft tissue sheet that was then cut into geometric diamond shapes. During this time having cloth diapers was the “in thing”! Although cloth diapers had their fair share of messy moments, they did present moms during our previous century with a fairly efficient way of handling baby’s “accidents”. Plastic covers for the cloth diapers were, of course, an added bonus for mom, baby, and furniture. The only problem was that during the first stages of cloth diaper-hood, they were mostly dried out and reapplied without washing!
Thankfully for the upcoming generation, during the 1940s individuals started to comprehend the importance proper hygiene and caring for the baby’s skin. With such realizations, cloth diaper-hood began to improve, and the 1970s saw the arrival of the first ever disposable diaper. This was a period in History when moms all over the world must have heaved a sigh of relief.— Brilliance had come to light!—Although it would take a couple decades for it become more affordable, but still, it was a start!
From Wash Clothes to Disposable Wipes…
Baby wipes are relatively simple products. There’s no rocket science, just a simple use and throw method. But in the beginning they were rags or washcloths that were not use-and-throw, but use-and-wash. When the first baby wipes were developed in the 1970s, they were an expensive item that few moms opted for. But by the 1990s other non-diaper companies started to produce on bulk and sell baby wipes for a more affordable price. It’s hard to imagine a time when you had to wash each baby wipe you used. Not only do baby wipes smell like baby heaven, but they also save time, allow for a quick and easy cleaning method, can be easily discarded after using, and take a load off a busy mom’s time.
From Udder Cream to Baby Cream…
“Soft as a baby’s bottom”—that’s way things should be when it comes to baby creams. Little is known about the exact origins of these sweet smelling creams that are lathered onto babies’ bottoms, but in early times home remedies like spreading dry cornstarch powder, washing baby in oatmeal water or chamomile tea, soaking wash-clothes in a baking powder solution before wipes, and lard or shortening applications were pretty common. Today’s best known remedies for bottom rashes are Johnson & Johnson CreamVaseline, Nivea Cream, Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Diaper Ointment, and others. Aside from being a cream that is effective in the treatment and prevention of diaper rashes, some creams like Drapolene Cream, for example, are also used widely used as a balm for burns and wounds, face blemishes, athlete’s foot, and jock itch! Suffice it to say, that baby cream has “spread” a long way!
Diaper-Hood Evolution Continues…
Although the history of diaper-hood will continue evolving forever, one thing is certain; we have come a long way since our humble beginnings! The diapers will continue to become more efficient, the nappies more creative, and the creams more sublime. Why? Because few things in this world can be compared to the softness of a baby’s skin, and universally we unanimously believe that.
Author Bio: Rojer Beckhams is a dietician counselor and writer. He has written many articles, blogs, and posts on the subject of natural healing and natural diet. Presently living in South Carolina with his wife and three children, Rojer holds the firm belief that “nature works best”. He holds conferences, discussion groups, and counsels on the subject of nutrients and diet.
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