Contrary to what common wisdom and history teachers would tell you, the most revolutionary invention of the past millennium is neither the printing press nor the steam engine. Oh, no! It's not the automobile, the airplane, the computer, the Internet, or even Velcro. No, the one thing most responsible for elevating mankind, lifting us out of our former brutish existence, and separating us from the beasts of the field, is the invention of the disposable diaper.
Think about it. Imagine if you dare what life was like for mothers of the past, those poor benighted souls, whose only recourse was the use of cloth diapers. Imagine the horror associated with the use of such a product: a diaper that was not only difficult and even dangerous to apply and remove but was also re-usable – re-usable mind you – and everything that that implies. Re-usable?! We're talking diapers here! You may wonder how anyone could ever think that re-using something as inherently unsanitary as a baby's diaper could ever be a good idea. I certainly do. The answer, of course, is simple and apparent – in the past there was no other alternative.
I first became a mother forty years ago. That was a transitional time as far as baby products were concerned. At that time baby supplies and equipment, everything from baby food to baby toys, were undergoing a revolution of sorts – including the diaper. When those of my generation were infants the cloth diaper was the primary option available to our poor mothers. However, by the early seventies when I was first becoming a mother, disposable diapers were widely available. Disposable diapers had been around for a while, Pampers were first marketed in 1961, but the economics behind the idea made it difficult and sometimes impossible for some mothers to take advantage of this innovation. As a young, first time mother I was juggling a host of economic issues including the tremendous cost of baby formula which, at the time, was all the rage among mothers and pediatricians alike. Forced to choose between expensive disposable diapers and re-usable, and therefore less expensive, cloth diapers I opted for the latter. Yuck!
At the time that decision was not as illogical as it sounds today. Remember, I was raised in an era when the cloth diaper was queen. Everyone used them and always had. The disposable diaper was a comparatively new; some said "newfangled", convenience and was still considered in many precincts as a luxury rather than a necessity. I certainly thought of it that way. So cloth diapers were still a big part of the diaper scene and there were two ways to do it: wash them yourself or subscribe to a "diaper service". In 1974, when my first daughter was born, the "diaper service" was the most common arrangement for the re-usable diaper crowd: at least it was among my socioeconomic set. Still, we could remember our mothers washing diapers themselves back in the day -Nasty! The diaper service was easy and a major convenience. You simply deposited the dirty diapers into the "diaper pail" provided by the service and they were picked up weekly at the same time that a fresh supply of clean diapers was delivered. And when I say clean, I mean clean. You could not tell that they had been used before, a feature that was absolutely necessary for the success of that business model.
The diaper service was a big innovation but only in a relative sense compared to what came before. It could not compare with the true convenience of disposable diapers. Cloth diapers have a lot of disadvantages. They are large and bulky. They don't "seal" properly and therefore require the use of rubber pants over top of them to prevent leakage. You fasten them with "safety pins", an Orwellian term if I ever heard one, which require the mother to place her finger or thumb behind the diaper when fastening it to ensure that if and when the pin goes too deep or at the wrong angle her finger or thumb receives the wound rather than baby's hip. The clumsy mother could look forward to years of bleeding digits because of this. Then, of course, there is the "diaper pail" which is nothing short of an abomination. Can you imagine having that thing as a permanent fixture in your home? The dog loved it, but I hated it. And finally there is the fact and knowledge that the diapers you are using on your "little precious" were used before by God knows who. Sure they were cleaned and bleached so that they were no doubt sanitary, but still!
And that brings me to the point that I want to make here. Presently there is a movement afoot to return to re-usable diapers. The criminals behind this insanity are the usual eco-crazys that always seem determined to make our lives miserable. The twisted logic seems to be that disposable diapers are taking up too much room at the landfill and "Gaia" demands a return to re-usables. Don't let them do it! The advantages and relative gentility of disposable diapers are worth any price that the Earth and mankind must pay and the "green movement" be damned. If our own landfills are filling up with diapers then we should conquer any neighboring nations necessary, clear off all of the people, and turn those countries into diaper landfills. Harsh perhaps but it has to be done. It's them or us. Be honest, which would you rather have, a soul slightly blackened by genocide or a diaper pail in your kitchen? I've made my choice.