History of the Disposable Diapers

“The disposable diaper is one of the most significant consumer product developments of the twentieth century. In just a few years after commercialization, disposables virtually replaced traditional cloth diapers as consumers recognized and valued overwhelming advantages in ease of use, increased comfort, better hygiene, and improvement in the amount and quality of time parents can have with their children. At the same time, the industry’s competitive rivalry and history of continuous innovation and cost reduction have enabled parents from all parts of the world and all economic circumstances to benefit socially as well as economically”. Davis Dyer, 2005

The advantage of using disposable diapers is definitely an added value for consumers, allowing parent’s quality time with their children as well as the benefit of comfort and better care for their children. Diapers have been evolved along the human history. They have been made of disposable materials (some plants leaf, animal skins, and other natural resources) or reusable (cotton, hemp, bamboo, microfiber, wood or animal skins). Disposable diapers usually were used for couple of days. Just think in the diseases (rash and skin infections) and mom changing a diaper with couple days of baby waste accumulate, not an easy and pleasant work. Reusable diapers (cloth diapers) are usually composed of layers of fabric such as cotton, hemp, bamboo, microfiber, wood or animal skins and can be washed and reused multiple times. They are not very practical for busy moms or traveling families. Material of reusable diapers historically did not change too much until recent years, on the other hand, disposable diapers have changed a lot from basically any absorbent material that came handy to diapers contain extra absorbent material and chemicals.

The use of diapers is not exactly the same for all communities around the world and varies depending of the weather, season and cultural practices. In the tropical areas the problem was simplified, babies did not use diapers and moms kept them naked most of the time, however in seasonal regions this practice is impossible during the winter.

During the World War II in United States many women were employed in the factories and they had to dedicate less time to the house keeping them diaper services came, a service to launder dirty diapers. On the difficult times moms are highly recursive and for 1946 Marion Donovan invents the “boater”, a diaper cover crafted from a plastic shower curtain. Shortly after that in 1949 Johnson and Johnson introduces “Chux” the first truly disposable diaper. In 1961 Pampers were unveils by Procter & Gamble. In 1968 Kimberly-Clark introduces Huggies and 1978 replace the Kimbies brand. For about 30 years (1950’s-1980’s) in United States two main brands compete for the market Procter & Gamble’s Pampers and Kimberly Clark’s Huggies. This competition resulted in lower prices and several innovations to avoid accidents and for the comfort of the babies and toddlers, including the development of an hourglass shape to reduce bulk, tabs that could be refastened, and the elastic waist.

One of the most important changes in the disposable diaper industry was the introduction of the sodium polyacrylate a super-absorbent polymer in 1984. The polymer reduces dramatically the incidence of diaper rash, as well as reduces accidents (leaks) from 10% to 1% and allows build thinner diapers. In addition, the polymer makes diapers cheaper, more small diapers fit in a box or package reducing shipping cost. In the 1990’s disposable diapers continues it development with ultra-dry thins diapers and stretch panels to make diapers more comfortable. In 1989, Kimberly-Clark introduced Huggies Pull-Ups, the first disposable training pant to facilitate toilet training.

In 2007, the disposable diapers were “upgrade” and the new gDiapers, a flushable biodegradable disposable diaper were introduce to the market, however continue to grow in popularity generated some concerns in waste water treatment plants.

Today disposable diapers continue their development and many alternatives in technology, brands and prices area available in the market for moms in the search of the comfort of their babies without sacrificing the family budget. Currently, disposable diapers are very popular, American babies used about 3.6 million tons of diapers in 2006 however cloth diapers are regaining some popularity too. The five most popular brands of disposable diapers in the market are Huggies, Pampers, Luvs, Earth’s Best Diapers and Up &Up.

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