The History Of Diapers

Please note: Posts may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. For more of our disclosure policy, click here. For more of our privacy and cookie policy, click here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying Services LLC purchases.
The History Of Diapers

Darla sent me a deal a while back for disposable diapers on Amazon. She was buying for her grandchildren. This started me thinking about the history of diapers, and how my thoughts have changed over the years.

Way back in the stone-age when I was born, disposable diapers were unheard of for everyday use. Apparently they did exist, but my mother said they were so expensive no one bought them unless you were going on a trip – and even then only if there were no facilities to wash cloth diapers. By the time my youngest brother was born, my mother used disposable diapers more regularly, although I remember cloth diapers in the house. I also remember that cloth diapers made the best cleaning and dusting rags, and I buy them to this day for that express purpose!

By the time Sonny-boy was born in the late 80s, cloth versus disposable diapers was a real debate. People were debating the municipal waste versus water usage environmental issue. They still are. I did try cloth for him for a few weeks, but moved on to disposables before he was two month old. I couldn’t figure out how to keep us dry – plastic pants could result in diaper rash, and the diaper wraps were just coming onto the scene. I recall these fuzzy ones out of Australia that were neat, but he was born in the summer and they seemed rather hot to me. And let’s face it, rinsing a diaper is gross. Even with services, you rinsed before you dropped them in the pail. Disposable diapers are just so much easier!

But like everything convenient, the cost of disposables comes at a steep price. They just are not cheap. Conversely, you pay for cloth diapers once, and use them for an awfully long time. However that is just the sunk cost of cloth – there is also the washing and drying to consider, along with the soaps and disinfectant costs.

Whatever decision is made, the issue of using disposable or cloth diapers is much more complex than what it appears at first blush.

The History Of Diapers

• Ancient Times – animal skins, moss, linens, leaves, Milkweed leaf wraps and other natural materials. Many babies tropical environments wore noting at all

• Elizabethan era – cloth type of diaper that was seldom changed

• Early 1800s – a square or rectangle of linen, cotton flannel, or stockinet was folded into a rectangular shape, and knotted.

• Late 1800s – when the safety pin was invented in 1849, those were then used by those that could afford the pins to hold the rectangular square in place.

• 1942 – Disposable diapers were invented by Hugo Drangel of the Swedish paper company Pauliström using unbleached creped cellulose tissue.

• 1946 – Marion Donovan invented the “Boater” – a waterproof covering for cloth diapers. Her first model of the disposable diaper was a conventional cloth diaper inserted into shower curtain plastic. She had four pattens for her designs, including one for plastic snaps.

• 1948 – Johnson & Johnson introduces first mass-marketed disposable diaper in the U.S from the Swedish import, the Chux diaper.

• 1950 – the prefold diaper was invented by a diaper service owner and produced by Curity.

• 1950 – Sybil Geeslin Kennedy invented the Safe-T Di-Dee diaper, a preformed, pinless diaper.

• 1950s – Pampers were developed

• 1968 – Kimberly Clark introduces Kimbies. Huggies were introduced in 1978.

Since the late 60s disposable diapers have evolved for more dryness. It is estimated that disposable diapers now make up 2.5% of all municipal waste, and will not dissolve until the 26th century.

What kind of diapers did you use on your children? What do your grandchildren use? What did you use? Have your thoughts on diapers changed over the years?

Disclosure: the links in this post may be affiliate links

Ann's Entitled Life Ann's Entitled Life Ann's Entitled Life Ann's Entitled Life Ann's Entitled Life Ann's Entitled Life


  1. I am the oldest of 4 kids and cloth diapers were used on all of us. I used disposables on my both of my kids in the 80’s. My daughter now uses cloth diapers for my grandson. They are much different than they were when I was a kid. No one gets wet these days and none of those awful plastic pants either! They do seem to be quite expensive to get started with these days though, but they sure do have cute ones! She started out using disposable ones but my grandson always had diaper rash. She switched to cloth and no more rashes. She says she doesn’t mind washing them but she does have an old washer that fills up the drum. I have heard some people have a terrible time trying to wash them in today’s low water machines. Apparently many people resort to filling their washer up with more water from a hose to get them clean.

  2. I am so old that there were only cloth diapers or newspaper, I think mom used newspaper that way she could read my butt while taking care of me. Only kidding! I used cloth then disposables I thought they were expensive at $2.00 a package look at the price now. I wish the Diaper Genie was around at that time.

  3. Old fashioned cloth diapers were used on me & my siblings since we were born in the 50s & 60s.. Disposables werent a household commodity yet.. When I had my oldest daughter in ’81, I wanted to use cloth but I almost died & was supposed to have complete bed rest for 3 months after I came home.. so disposable it was for us.
    When I had recovered some & she was a little older (maybe a year) I did use cloth diapers sometimes.. She was completely potty trained before she turned 2.. She did not like being wet.. Fussy little girl she was. Her second baby is just like her. My second daughter I used all disposable.. I didnt have the time or energy to use cloth..

    My oldest daughter used mostly disposable on her oldest daughter (4yo) but shes using cloth with her second (4 months). She used disposable for the first 3 or 4 weeks, but then switched over to cloth. She’d been planning it for a while & was slowly buying really cute ones that are size adjustable. Its funny because some of them look like they’re swallowing her up

    My youngest daughter helped a friend raise several of her kids & they used disposable all the way..

  4. Stephanie B says

    I use disposable for my son. Thankfully now that we are potty training we go through significantly fewer diapers than we did a few months ago. He pees more than any kid I know, so we could only use Pampers Swaddlers or Cruisers, and they are expensive. From the moment we brought him home until about 2 months ago (so age 2.5) we spent $100 per month on diapers!!! Some days I wish I had considered cloth diapers when I think about how much money we spent, but then I remember I have no desire to clean them.

    • Stephanie B says

      We have in a bind purchased Tops brand diapers and I have to say they are quite good for a store brand. We now keep a small package in the car for emergencies. I would compare them to the basic Pampers baby dry and they have the best tabs of any diaper I have ever used.

  5. Michele K says

    My mom used cloth diapers on all of us. I used cloth diapers on my first 2 and then disposable on the next 2, when I was finally able to afford disposables, really for the convenience. Don’t like the thought of how much I actually spent on them though. Otherwise I don’t have a favorite, there are pros an cons to each. My granddaughter uses disposables, mainly Huggies an Luvs but she has come with diapers from toys r us, which are good, I think.

  6. I have three grown daughters who are about 14 months apart and i used cloth diapers and rubberpants on them when they were babies.I was washing diapers every other day and it was a good thing that we had a well! I thought i was done with the cloth diapers and rubberpants for good,then the oldest daughter started wetting the bed at 12 and we put her back into the cloth diapers and rubberpants at night! then a few months later daughter number 2 started bedwetting before 12 and then number three started just after 12,so i had all three of them in cloth diapers and rubberpants again and it was easier this time as the diapers were just being wet in.All three daughters wore the cloth diapers and rubberpants untill their bedwetting stopped past 14.

    • Corrine J. says

      To margo-I grew up with two sisters also and we were close in age.When we were in puberty,all three of us were bedwetters and mom used the whole nine yards on us- the cloth diapers,diaper pins,rubberpants,babypowder,babylotion and baby oil.At bedtime,the three of us would lay side by side and mom would go right down the line-slide the diapers under us,apply the powder,pin the diapers on us,then pull the rubberpants up our legs and over our diapers.Mom used a few different brands of rubberpants on us,the Empire brand in the extra large super size,the playtex toddler extra large size,the Woolworths patacake in the super size,the Gerber toddler size in the 35 pound and over and a couple of other brands i cant remember.I t was hard on us being 12 to 15 years old and having to wear the cloth diapers and rubberpants to bed every night.Mom even had us wear our rubberpants without our diapers under our Easter and christmas dresses as well when were were in two weddings.

  7. Yes Margo,you are right! Cloth diapers and rubberpants were not only used on babies,but also on older kids and teens for bedwetting back in the 50s,60s, and some of the 70s.Me and my sister were bedwetters going thru puberty in the late 60s and we both wore the cloth diapers and the toddler extra large or the extra large super size rubberpants over our diapers.The cloth diapers could be made to fit older kids,but the extra large super size rubberpants made by Empire were the largest size on the market at the time.Me and sis were a year and a half apart,so we were both in the cloth diapers and rubberpants for a while together.I never knew any boys who were bedwetters,but me and sis had friends who were also going thru puberty and bedwetting and also wore the diapers and rubberpants.It was very common for the moms to put the diapers and rubberpants on their daughters at bedtime and babypowder and baby lotion was used as were the regular baby diaper pins.Me and sis and most of our bedwetting friends had pastel rubberpants and even some with babyprints on them and it was fairly common at slumber parties for us girls to wear our cutest pair of the babyprint rubberpants over our diapers.Me and sis finially stopped our bedwetting before 15 as did most of our friends.

    • To Margo and Clarice-I too grew up in the early 1960s and wore the standard cloth diapers and rubberpants as a baby.Then when i hit puberty just before 12,i started wetting the bed and it was a nightmare! Mom put me back into the cloth diapers and rubberpants at night and that time i wore the super large size rubberpants.Like you clarice,mom used baby lotion and babypowder on me before my diapers were pinned on me and she dusted my rubberpants with the baby powder to keep them soft.It was weird having the one drawer in my dresser with just the diapers,rubberpants,pins,powder, it.When i was 12,i started having sleepovers with a friend or two and mom would tell them that i was wetting the bed and wore diapers and rubberpants for it,so they would watch as mom put them on me at bedtime.My bedwetting lasted thru 13 and 14 then stopped just after i turned 15 and that was the hardest part of all.

  8. Cloth diapers and plastic pants worn by 3 bedwetters ages 9, 7 and 5 every night to bed. Have been doing this for 4 or 5 years and have seldom had a leak. Pj’s, nighty’s and bed sheets for all 3 dry in the morning. A lot cheaper than buying disposables for all 3.

  9. 2 bedwetters here 8 and 6 both wearing cloth diapers and rubber pants to bed. Agree it’s cheaper than disposables for my 2.

Speak Your Mind


Return to top of page