As I drop off my baby girl with my parents so that I can do my multi-store grocery shopping trip my father says “Hey, did you hear about all of those parents who are blaming Proctor & Gamble for their kids’ diaper rash?” I had not yet heard about the incident involving the new line of Pampers diapers, but I figured it was some how related to the new ultra-absorbency know as “Dry Max.” We don’t often buy disposable diapers, but when we do, we usually buy Pampers (with a coupon of course). This is a brand loyalty based more on convenience than anything else. We were given a large box of 109 Pampers diapers before my daughter was born. She actually outgrew them before we used them up. Since we liked them well enough, as disposable diapers go, we kept buying the same brand. Why waste the money on a different brand that might not work for us? My suspicion however, is that there is probably nothing inherently wrong with Pampers, at least nothing more than with any other disposable diapers. Personally, I hate disposable diapers. I don’t like the smell of them when they are wet. They don’t just smell faintly of urine, they have a weird chemical and floral fragrance. After my daughter was born I couldn’t wait to get her home and start using the cloth diapers I bought instead of the disposables the hospital gave us.
Aside from the environmental impact and expense, my main issue with disposable diapers is what they are made of and how they are used. Disposable diapers are made with amazing chemicals that absorb large amounts of liquid. The problem is that the diaper no longer feels wet, so neither baby nor parent realizes how much urine is really in the diaper. So hours pass, and the baby is still in the same diaper. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s diaper, regardless of kind, should be changed every 2 to 3 hours. Yet I’ve seen disposable diapered children go much longer between diaper changes. Now I don’t always change my daughter every two or three hours either, but her diapers are made of cloth, many of them natural fibers. So while she may be wet, she isn’t usually uncomfortable. (I realize she can’t talk yet, but most kids I know make it pretty clear when they want their diapers changed). This is in part because cloth diapers, even the synthetic fabrics, breathe much better than their disposable counterparts. I have also found that they leak much more often, particularly when my daughter was fully breastfed. I can’t ever seem to get a good fit around my daughter’s skinny legs and I find myself wondering whether the disposable diaper will really keep everything in. The lack of wetness can also be detrimental when trying to potty train a child. Disposable diapers now have indicators on the front to show you when the child is wet (though my experience is that these indicators are not always reliable when it comes to poopy diapers). I’ve seen Pull-Ups with similar indicators. The commercials used to say “when the stars disappear, your child will know she’s wet.” That’s great, except wouldn’t it motivate my child more to use the toilet if she actually felt wet when she peed instead of looking for the disappearing stars?
Typically disposable diapered babies have a much higher rate of diaper rash, especially for babies sensitive to the chemicals and fragrances in disposable diapers. Some of the chemicals used in the filler of the disposable diapers have been banned from usage elsewhere in the world due to potential correlations with reproductive cancers. I’m by no means lobbying for a similar ban in the United States, but that obviously adds yet another reason to my list of reasons why I prefer cloth diapers. I have not tested the new “Environmentally Friendly” disposable diapers. Perhaps, since they claim to be made with fewer chemicals, they are easier on the babies’ bottoms. However, these are much more expensive and since cloth diapers are already less expensive than conventional disposables, I’m reluctant to spend even more for these supposedly “healthier disposables.”
Bottom line, I think parents probably do notice that their babies have more diaper rash with the new Pampers Dry Max, simply because the diaper seems drier and therefore the child is not being changed often enough. Just because the diaper doesn’t seem wet, doesn’t mean the combination of ammonia from the urine and the chemicals and fragrances from the diaper itself are harmless to your child. Baby’s bottoms need to be aired out periodically, even more so when they are wrapped in plastic all day (imagine exchanging your underwear for a plastic grocery bag filled with bubble wrap and lined with paper towels). Maybe some people will find relief by switching to Huggies or maybe just by changing their child’s diaper more often, or even better, switching to cloth diapers, especially if your child is approaching potty training age.