1 garment consisting of a folded cloth drawn up between the legs and fastened at the waist; worn by infants to catch excrement [syn: nappy, napkin]
2 a fabric (usually cotton or linen) with a distinctive woven pattern of small repeated figures
EtymologyFrom Old French dyapre, diaspre, in mediaeval Latin diaspra, diasprum; represented in Byzantine Greek δίασπρος (adj), from δια- + άσπρος ‘white’.
- Rhymes: -aɪpə(r)
an absorbent garment worn by a baby
- To put diapers on someone.
- Diapering a baby is something you have to learn fast.
A diaper (in North America) or nappy (in the United Kingdom, many Commonwealth countries and Ireland) is an absorbent garment worn by individuals who are incapable of controlling their bladder or bowel movements, or are unable or unwilling to use a toilet. The purpose of a diaper is to absorb moisture and contain mess so that the wearer can remain dry and comfortable after wetting or soiling themselves. When diapers become full and can no longer hold any more waste, they require changing; this process is often performed by a secondary person such as a parent or caregiver. Failure to change a diaper on a regular enough basis can result in diaper rash.
Diapers have been worn throughout human history, and made of cloth or disposable materials. Whereas cloth diapers are comprised of layers of fabric such as terry towelling and can be washed and reused multiple times, disposable diapers contain absorbent chemicals and are thrown away after use. The decision to use cloth or disposable diapers is a controversial one, owing to issues ranging from convenience, health, cost, and their effect on the environment. Currently, disposable diapers are the most commonly used, with Pampers and Huggies being the most well-known brands in the industry. Plastic pants can be worn over diapers to avoid leaks. Diapers are primarily worn by children who are not yet potty trained or suffer from bedwetting. However, they can also be used by adults who suffer from incontinence or in certain circumstances where access to a toilet is unavailable. These can include the elderly, those with a physical or mental disability, and people working in extreme conditions such as astronauts. Diapers are usually worn out of necessity rather than choice, although there are exceptions; people such as infantilists and diaper fetishists wear diapers recreationally for comfort, emotional fulfillment, or sexual gratification.
EtymologyThe word diaper originally referred to the type of cloth rather than its use ; "diaper" was the term for a pattern of small repeated geometric shapes, and later came to describe a white cotton or linen fabric with this pattern. The first cloth diapers consisted of a special type of soft tissue sheet, cut into geometric shapes. This type of pattern was called diapering and eventually gave its name to the cloth used to make diapers and then to the diaper itself. This usage stuck in the United States and Canada, but in Britain the word "nappy" took its place. Most sources believe nappy is a diminutive form of the word napkin.
DevelopmentThe problem of clothing infants not yet potty trained is as old as human history. In some countries with warmer climates, babies were kept naked and mothers tried to anticipate their bowel movements so as to avoid mess near their living areas. This method is known as elimination communication and is still used today in some cultures.
In the 19th century, the modern diaper began to take shape and children in Europe and North America were being diapered using cotton material, held in place with a safety pin. Cloth diapers were first mass produced in 1887 by Maria Allen in the United States.
In the 20th century, the disposable diaper gradually evolved through the inventions of several different people. In 1942, a Swedish paper company known as PauliStróm created the first disposable diaper using sheets of tissue placed inside rubber pants. Four years later, a Westport housewife named Marion Donovan developed a waterproof diaper cover known as the "Boater" using a sheet of plastic from a shower curtain; she was granted four patents for her invention, including the use of plastic snaps as opposed to safety pins. In 1947, a man named George M. Schroder invented the first ever diaper with disposable nonwoven fabric. Disposable diapers were introduced to the US in 1949 by Johnson & Johnson, and were considered by parents as a great invention. During the 1950s, companies such as Kendall, Parke-Davis, Playtex, and Molnlycke entered the disposable diaper market. In 1956, Procter and Gamble began researching disposable diapers. Vic Mills, along with his project group including William Dehaas, both men who worked for the company, invented "Pampers" while searching for a better product to use. Presented to Fred Wells as project p-57 (this was the plane Wells had taught American pilots to fly during WWII), Mills stated "This one wil fly." Although Pampers were conceptualized in 1959, the diapers themselves were not launched into the market until 1961. Over the next few decades, the disposable diaper industry boomed and the competition between Procter and Gamble's Pampers and Kimberly Clark's Huggies resulted in lower prices and drastic changes to diaper design. Several improvements were made, such as the introduction of refastenable tapes, the "hourglass shape" so as to reduce bulk at the crotch area, and the invention of "super-absorbent" material.
Since their introduction several decades ago, product innovations include the use of superabsorbent polymers, resealable tapes, and elasticised waist bands. They are now much thinner and much more absorbent. The product range has more recently been extended into children's toilet training phase with the introduction of training pants and pant diapers.
Modern disposable baby diapers and incontinence products have a layered construction, which allows the transfer and distribution of urine to an absorbent core structure where it is locked in. Basic layers are an outer shell of breathable polyethylene film or a nonwoven and film composite which prevents wetness and soil transfer, an inner absorbent layer of a mixture of cellulose pulp and superabsorbent polymers for wetness, and a layer nearest the skin of nonwoven material with a distribution layer directly beneath which transfers wetness to the absorbent layer.
Other common features of disposable diapers include one or more pairs of either adhesive or velcro tapes to keep the diaper securely fastened. Some diapers have tapes which are refastenable to allow adjusting of fit or reapplication following confirmation of an as yet unsoiled diaper. Elasticized fabric around the leg and waist areas aid in fitting and in containing urine or stool which has not been absorbed. Some diapers lines now commonly include wetness indicators, in which a chemical included in the fabric of the diaper changes color in the presence of moisture to alert the carer or user that the diaper is wet.
A disposable diaper may also include an inner fabric designed to hold moisture against the skin for a brief period before absorption to alert a toilet training or bedwetting user that they have urinated.
Some disposable diapers include fragrances, lotions or essential oils in order to help mask the scent of a soiled diaper or to protect the skin.
ClothCloth diapers are reusable and can be made from natural fibers, manmade materials, or a combination of both. They are often made from industrial cotton which may be bleached white or left the fiber’s natural color. Other natural fiber cloth materials include wool, bamboo, and unbleached hemp. Manmade materials such as an internal absorbent layer of microfiber toweling or an external waterproof layer of polyurethane laminate (PUL) may be used. Polyester fleece and faux suedecloth are often used inside cloth diapers as a "stay-dry" wicking liner because of the non-absorbent properties of synthetic fibers.
Traditionally, cloth diapers consisted of a folded square or rectangle of cloth, fastened with safety pins. Modern cloth diapers come in a host of shapes, including preformed cloth diapers, all-in-one diapers with waterproof exteriors, and pocket or "stuffable" diapers, which consist of a water-resistant outer shell sewn with an opening for insertion of absorbent material inserts. Closure methods include snap closures, hook and loop fasteners (such as Velcro), and other new closure methods such as the Snappi., a three-point, pin-free closure device.
HybridSome brands seek to combine cloth and disposable diapers. Generally, these hybrids are cloth diapers with a disposable inner layer, such as the gDiaper brand.
CareCare of disposable diapers is minimal, and primarily consists of keeping them in a dry place before use, with proper disposal in a garbage receptacle upon soiling. Stool is supposed to be deposited in the toilet, but is generally put in the garbage with the rest of the diaper. Cleaning is not required.
Cloth diapers require dry storage as well, and equipment and supplies for cleaning. Cloth diapers place less stress on landfills as compared to single-use disposable diapers, but also require washing in water with detergent to be properly cleaned. The method of "dry-pailing" after removal of solid waste and washing on a cold or warm wash removes most bacteria. Sun exposure will kill any remainder and usually resolves any staining issues. As an alternative to at-home cleaning, some locations have a fee-based cloth diapering service that delivers clean diapers and picks up soiled ones, while parents in more rural areas often find that they must clean diapers using their own cleaning facilities.
Ecological impactCloth diaper-wearing children go through about 6,000 diaper changes. If thrown into a landfill, cotton diapers decompose within six months.
Since disposable diapers are discarded after a single use, usage of disposable diapers increased the burden on landfill sites, and increased environmental awareness has led to a growth in campaigns for parents to use reusable alternatives such as cloth or hybrid diapers. An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year.
The environmental impact of cloth as compared to disposable diapers has been studied several times. In one cradle-to-grave study, results found that disposable diapers produce seven times more solid waste when discarded and three times more waste in the manufacturing process. In addition, effluents from the plastic, pulp, and paper industries are far more hazardous than those from the cotton-growing and -manufacturing processes. Single-use diapers consume less water than reusables laundered at home, but more than those sent to a commercial diaper service. According to industry data, 3.5 billion gallons of oil are used to produce the 18 million throwaway diapers that end up in landfills each year. Washing cloth diapers at home uses 50 to 70 gallons of water every three days, which is roughly equivalent to flushing the toilet five times a day. An average diaper service puts its diapers through an average of 13 water changes, but uses less water and energy per diaper than one laundry load at home.
Other studies have indicated that reusable diapers are more damaging to the environment . An independent study by the UK government backed organisation The Environment Agency, found there to be no clear advantage in environmental impact for reusables. The United Kingdom based Women's Environmental Network has claimed that all such studies promoted there were directly funded or commissioned by disposable diaper companies. In one instance in July 1991, such companies withdrew their claims amid pressure from the press upon the release of analysis done by The Landbank Consultancy, an independent environmental agency. The Landbank Report of January 1991 concluded that, compared to cloth diapers, throwaway diapers use 20 times more raw materials, three times more energy, twice as much water, and generate 60 times more waste.
There are variations in the care of cloth diapers that can account for different measures of environmental impact. For example, using a cloth diaper laundering service involves additional pollution from the vehicle that picks up and drops off deliveries. Some people who launder cloth diapers at home wash each load twice, considering the first wash a "prewash", and thus doubling the energy and water usage from laundering. Cloth diapers are most commonly made of cotton, which is generally considered an environmentally wasteful crop to grow This effect can be mitigated by using other materials, such as bamboo and hemp.
ChildrenDiapers are commonly worn from birth until a person is toilet trained. Replacing a soiled diaper with a fresh one is essential to the prevention of contracting skin irritation of the buttocks, genitalia, and/or the waist. Babies may need to have their diapers changed ten or more times a day. Diapering can also serve as a bonding experience for parent and child. To avoid skin irritation, commonly referred to as diaper rash, the diaper of those prone to it should be changed as soon as possible after it is soiled (especially by fecal matter), as feces contain urease which catalyses the conversion of the urea in urine to ammonia which irritates the skin and can cause painful redness.
The age at which toilet training should begin is a subject of debate and keeping children in diapers beyond infancy can be controversial, with family psychologist John Rosemond claiming it is a "slap to the intelligence of a human being that one would allow baby to continue soiling and wetting himself past age two." Pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, however, believes that toilet training is the child's choice and has encouraged this view in various commercials for Pampers Size 6, a diaper for older children. However, some children have problems with daytime or more often nocturnal bladder control until eight years or older. Known as enuresis, or more commonly bedwetting, this may occur for a wide variety of reasons and can be both a shortterm or long-standing issue. With this as well as the increasing number of obese infants in developed countries, disposables manufacturers are increasing the sizes of their products so that children can remain in diapers for longer.
Because of the increase in older children wearing diapers, companies have designed special "training pants" which bridge the gap between baby diapers and normal underwear during the toilet training process. These training pants are distinct from diapers in that they mimic underwear and do not require complex fastening, so children can be changed standing up or even independently without adult assistance. Studies have shown that the use of training pants instead of diapers can be effective in speeding up toilet training. Larger versions, such as GoodNites, are available for older children and teenagers who have already been toilet trained but continue to suffer from bedwetting. They are intended to be discreet and similar to underwear, so as to avoid alienating those who find wearing diapers at a late age to be embarrassing. Available in both cloth and disposable versions, they are constructed like a diaper with an absorbent core and a waterproof shell and can be worn at any age until the child stops wetting the bed. Because they can be pulled on and off like underpants, children are able to use the toilet if they feel the need, rather than being forced to wet or soil themselves unnecessarily. Whereas most diapers are unisex, training pants often come in sex-specific versions because children become more aware of gender roles as they grow older. Dr Anthony Page of the Creative Child Online Magazine claims that children can get used to their diapers and begin to view them as a comfort, and that of the children surveyed, most would rather wear diapers than worry about getting up at night to go to the toilet. In a series of online surveys, Robert A Pretlow, MD, of eHealth International, Inc., cites an identical figure. He argues that if Internet users are representative of society as a whole, these surveys imply that a fetishistic or emotional attraction to diapers may be responsible for these "comfort" cases, and that "these behaviors are a significant cause of enuresis and incontinence." He called for further studies to be done on the topic.
Parents and other carers for children often carry spare diapers and necessities for diaper changing in a diaper bag.
AdultsAlthough most commonly worn by and associated with babies and children, diapers are also worn by adults for a variety of reasons. In the medical community, they are usually referred to as "adult absorbent briefs" rather than diapers, which are associated with children and may have a negative connotation. People with medical conditions which cause them to suffer from urinary or fecal incontinence may wear diapers or similar products because they are unable to control their bladders or bowels. People who are bedridden or in a wheelchair may also wear diapers because they are unable to access the toilet independently. The usage of adult diapers can be a source of embarrassment, and products are often marketed under euphemisms such as incontinence pads.
In 2006, seventeen students taking a geriatrics pharmacotherapy course participated in a voluntary "Diaper Experience" exercise to help them understand the impact incontinence has on older adults. The students, who wore adult diapers for a day before writing a paper about it, described the experience as unfamiliar and physically challenging, noting that being in diapers had a largely negative impact on them and no better solutions to incontinence are required. However, they praised the exercise for giving them insight into incontinence and the effect it has on peoples' lives. Similarly, in 2008, Ontario's Minister of Health George Smitherman revealed that he was considering wearing adult diapers himself to test their absorbency following complaints that nursing home residents were forced to remain in unchanged diapers for days at a time. Smitherman's proposal earned him criticism from unions who argued that the priority was not the capacity of the diapers but rather staff shortages affecting how often they were changed, and he later apologized.
Fetishists can wear diapers for sexual gratification. People with diaper fetishism have a desire to wear diapers even though it is not a physiological necessity, and may enjoy using their diaper to various degrees, depending on the person. Infantilists wear and use diapers in ageplay, although they are considered distinct from fetishists, as "diaper lovers" are sexually motivated to wear diapers, whereas "adult babies" wish to regress to the helpless state of a baby. Other sexual uses of diapers include omorashi, rubber or plastic fetishism In BDSM roleplaying games, diapers can be used as a power exchange to emphasise loss of adulthood or control over bodily functions. Alternatively, they can also be liberating, as an infantilist is granted the freedom they desire to be a baby.
Astronauts wear trunklike diapers called "Maximum Absorbency Garments", or MAGs, during liftoff and landing. On space shuttle missions, each crew member receives three diapers — for launch, reentry and a spare in case reentry has to be waved off and tried later. The super-absorbent fabric used in disposable diapers, which can hold up to 400 times its weight, was developed so Apollo astronauts could stay on spacewalks and extra-vehicular activity for at least six hours. Originally, only female astronauts would wear Maximum Absorbency Garments, as the collection devices used by men were unsuitable for women; however, reports of their comfort and effectiveness eventually convinced men to start wearing the diapers as well. Public awareness of astronaut diapers rose significantly following the arrest of Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut charged with attempted murder who gained notoriety in the media for driving 900 miles in an adult diaper so she would not have to stop to urinate. The diapers became fodder for many television comedians, as well as being included in an adaptation of the story in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, despite Nowak's denial that she wore them.