Cloth or Disposable?

Ah, the smell of bleach-soaking, cloth, cotton diapers in the morning. With little siblings in the house, that smell and that of the Gerber “rubber” pants that covered them remains etched in my brain even today.


In 1966, Pampers disposable diapers became widely available, though test marketing and more humble designs marked their beginning around ‘61. That’s if you exclude CHUX, circa 1949, designed specifically for babies traveling on transcontinental flights. Take a moment to ponder that.

That thought kind of makes that grasshopper flight from Philly to Cincinnati with a baby today, seem downright tolerable.

Considered a luxury, we were raised on cloth. The big worry was to avoid sticking the baby with the pins! Early versions of disposable diapers did not have attached tapes, so you needed to keep a roll of tape nearby.

There was a certain sense of pride in using cloth diapers for children. Before disposables really became popular as a convenience, and I daresay as a necessity in the years following, there was an attitude that the use of cloth cotton diapers on your children was more comforting to them—less artificial.

I wonder sometimes whether keeping little bottoms dry was an advance in technology that made life easier, or if it was part of the bigger role of early feminism designed to get women out of the house and off to work. That’s something the history books don’t discuss.

Then what happened?

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