Everything has a history– even the diaper. Swaddles are considered the first cloth diapers, dating back before medieval times.
Then parents started using terry cloth and muslin to keep their babies dry, fastening the wrapped materials with rubber bands and safety pins.
As you can imagine, leakage was always an issue since none of these materials seemed absorbent enough to withstand heavy loads. Parents went as far as to fasten rubber pants on top of cloth diapers to avoid messes running down their child’s legs and to solve diaper fit problems.
These inventions came with downsides (and a lot of diaper rash). Thankfully, after plenty of trial and error, disposable diapers (and eventually bamboo disposable diapers) were born.
Want to know more about the history of diapers? Let’s take a look back at the evolution of diaper design.
What Year Were Disposable Diapers Invented?
It’s tough to say precisely, but the first iteration of disposable diapers came about in the 1930s. “Destroyable Babies Napkins” were created by a UK company named Robinsons of Chesterfield.
In 1944, a Swedish paper company called Pauliström thought of using sheets of paper inside cloth diapers for absorbency. (You can guess how that worked out!)
A couple years later, a Scottish woman named Valerie Hunter Gordon came up with the “Paddi.” The Paddi was a disposable pad made of cellulose wadding and cotton wool, worn inside an adjustable plastic garment. The funniest part? Initially, she made it out of old parachutes.
But In 1946, Marion Donovan changed the diaper-making game by creating a waterproof covering for cloth diapers using plastic from a shower curtain. Adding a paper liner to her design made it absorbent and disposable.
Thanks to Donovan, disposable diapers soon took off in the United States.
Disposable Diaper History
Instead of making this blog post a textbook on the history of diapers, here’s an easily digestible snapshot:
- 1948: CHUX, the first mass-marketed disposable diaper from Johnson & Johnson, launches in the US
- 1961: Procter & Gamble introduces Pampers
- 1968: “Kimbies” by Kimberly-Clark hits store shelves
- 1978: Kimberly-Clark replaces Kimbies with Huggies
- 1980s: Huggies passes Pampers as the leading disposable brand
- 2020: Huggies and Pampers remain the two top-selling brands of disposable diapers in the US