Progress always leaves a wake of nostalgia. This post is a ripple in that wake. Undoubtedly paper diapers are a wonderful invention, I applaud the advantages of this bit of progress. But there is a whimper of nostalgia I need to raise for the old cloth diapers, lest they be completely forgotten by a culture that fails to appreciate it's history.
Some kind person (or church group) gave us a month's subscription to a diaper service. Now the invention of paper diapers has destroyed an entire industry. The delivery driver would pick up our bag of nasty diapers, and leave us with a neat stack of folded, sanitized fresh diapers. This replaced a disgusting chore that we soon intimately experienced because we couldn't afford to continue the subscription. Now just think of the several small business entrepreneurs who have been frustrated or bankrupted in the crisis of change. No self respecting Republican can be proud of that record.
Cloth diapers were soft and cuddly for baby's chubby little buns. We learned to fold them in effective triangles that covered the vital areas with maximum comfort to junior. We learned to pin them with one hand in the diaper between the cloth and baby's skin for obvious reasons. An experienced mom (or dad) could quickly change these diapers without sticking herself (or himself). Part of that experience was to construe the contour of the installed diaper so as to keep it from falling from these little hips. Such costume malfunctions were embarrassing at least, and sometimes disastrous.
Oh yes, diaper pins are now antiques I suppose. I can't remember the last one I saw. These were safety pins with plastic heads that were about 2 inches long. Sometimes the heavy cloth resisted easy piercing, so we learned the trick of dragging the pin through our hair to apply just enough grease to run the pin through the diaper most smoothly. I'll bet there are few, if any, reading this blog who remember that little trick.
A serendipity development was the discovery that cloth diapers make wonderful dust cloths. They were also wonderful clean up rags for spilled milk and other liquids. After all isn't that what they were manufactured to do?
In cold climates one can determine that diapers on the clothesline were dry when they freely flapped in the breeze. Before this they would swing stiffly back and forth like a board in the frosty air.
Of course when junior did his thing in these diapers it would drip on the floor. You would get wet, your furniture would get wet or your company (who insisted on holding baby) would get wet. And, of course, this was not just water. We then invented plastic pants to cover diapers, with elastic waist and leg openings to hold the urine inside. This gave way to concentrated ammonia and diaper rash which hit us in epidemic proportions.
And so it became necessary to invent paper diapers. Well, I'm sure this was progress, but it still leaves a little wake of nostalgia ripples.