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Potty training and the use of disposable diapers.

Have you noticed that babies using disposable diapers take longer to potty train?
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Have you ever wandered why babies seem to take much longer to potty train than a few decades ago? Is this just a perception or reality?

Well, after being active in the diaper industry for 21 years, I have been able to notice a few interesting correlations:

1- Most babies are able to potty train at age 15 to 18 months, at least from their anatomic/biological development point of view.

2- The average succesful potty train age has been increasing over the years, specially after 1984. Countries like China, Russia, India and Pakistan where market share penetration for disposable diapers is still low, their babies learn much faster how to potty train than countries where disposables have a large market share, like America, Japan or Western Europe.

Does this mean disposables are bad for the baby? For sure not! The baby will be drier and most times probably happier. Parents are able to sleep better at night because the baby does not wake up at the middle of the night as frequently complaining of a wet and/or cold diaper. This translates into peace of mind for the parents and also for the baby. In addition, most serious studies now suggest there is no evidence that disposable are worst for the environment than cloth diapers....Please hold your horses, this will be a topic for another discussion, I do not want to loose track of the present topic.

An interesting issue happened when superabsorbent (SAP) was added to the disposables during the mid 80's. Diapers are so dry now thanks to the drying properties of the SAP that it is difficult to even be aware that the baby is wet, at least from the point of view of the sense of touch of the baby. Obviously a used diaper will increase its volume and that is easy to detect from the point of view of the parent. I have tested many high performance diapers where surface rewet under 5 KPa of pressure is less than a fraction of a mililiter, even after a third insult (100 ml each) was added to the diaper. In my opinion, this means it is also almost impossible for the baby to learn the connection between urinating and potty training as he feels perfectly dry. I believe this is one reason why parents will require a longer period of time to potty train their babies if they use these kind of disposables the whole day. This will also translate into more diapers needed over the life cycle of the baby and more money spent. This is also the reason why diaper companies have been forced into launching larger size diapers. Long time ago we used to have three sizes, today we have 7 (from newborn to size 6). Diaper companies also have a much larger business today even when you take into account the same fixed number of babies.

What can you do? Well, if you have the money... do nothing!! and just enjoy the ride with more peace of mind. If you don't? Try using less efficient diapers during the day so that the baby is able to feel the wetness near his skin, at the same time change the diaper more frequently to avoid diaper rash. It is a fact that lower performance diapers have a higher risk of a rash than their super dry relatives. Low performance diapers are not as good to the skin because they are not as dry. At night you may want to keep using the high performance diapers for a quite sleep.

A new technology where the sap is allowed to dry the diaper at a slower rate is being launched. This will help the baby feel wet just for a few minutes before he is dry again. I believe this is a move in the right direction.

If you have any comments or suggestions please let me know.

Carlos Richer... .... Diaper Industry Consultant
I would imagine if you had to keep cleaning cloth diapers, you would be alot more motivated to potty train than parents who use disposable diapers. My daughter just potty trained and she just turned 3.
Quite an incentive if you do not have a washing machine!!
I had this same conversation just last weekend with a group of mothers. Only one of the group used cloth nappies (or diapers if you like!!) and her child had moved on from them at just 18 months. The mothers of other children used disposables and still had toddlers as old as 3 1/2 in nappies.

For me it's just another reason to use cloth over plastic.

I think that disposables are lazy, unhealthy for the child and incredibly detrimental to the environment.
Please lets concentrate in the current topic... we will have a chance to talk about the environment in my next posting
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