11 Surprising Diapers Parents Used On Their Babies Throughout History

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

I love my little nephew more than I thought possible, but there is one thing I have refused to ever do for him: change his diaper.

Sure, I feel a tad guilty when I hand him over to my sister-in-law to take care of the dirty work, but she’s obviously gotten used to all the surprises he might have waiting for her. Today’s parents are also lucky to have plenty of options when it comes to how they keep their tykes nice and tidy, though they had to be a bit more creative in the past.

After learning that the first disposable diapers didn’t hit the market until the 1960s, I couldn’t help but wonder how they dealt with the messy issue even farther back in the day.

I knew cloth diapers were a common standard, but looking back at more ancient eras is pretty shocking.

Take a look below to see for yourself, and let us know if we missed any unique methods you’ve heard about from history.

And don’t forget to SHARE with your friends!

[H/T: Dirty Diaper Laundry]

Thumbnail Sources: Wikimedia Commons 1, 2

1. Milkweed-Leaf Diaper

Close up milkweed lead

These large leaves could definitely cover their little one’s entire bottom back in ancient times, but I have a feeling leaks were a frequent issue as they probably weren’t very absorbent.

2. Animal-Pelt Diaper

Animal pelt hung up on fence

Another ancient option was pelts. Hunters and gatherers fashioned diapers from the same pelts they used to keep themselves warm.

3. Moss-Packed Diaper

Bunches of moss

Inuit parents dating back to 800 and 1000 AD would stuff seal skin “baby pants” with plenty of moss to soak up their tykes’ daily excretions.

4. Wood-Shaving-Stuffed Diaper

Close up of wood shavings

Yup, the same stuff that keeps hamster cages from smelling was another common option for creative parents going all the way back to Biblical times. They would stuff the shavings right into the baby’s clothing or undergarment.

5. Grass-Stuffed Diaper

Field of grass

Early Incan mothers not only packed grass into makeshift diapers, usually made with rabbit fur, they also lined their kiddos’ beddings with it for any nap-time accidents.

6. Loose Wool Swaddling

Close up of fresh wool

Medieval Europeans kept their infants swaddled tight with wool, but often left the bottom half loose in order to switch out fresh fabric as needed.

7. Flour-Sack Diaper

Piles of empty flour sacks

Poorer families in the Depression era re-used flour sacks for tons of clothing items and cleaning rags, so it makes sense that they also strapped their youngsters with the sturdy material.

8. Paper-Sheet Diaper

Stack of paper on table

In 1944, a man named Hugo Drangel, who worked for a Swedish paper company called Pauliström, was the first to brainstorm a disposable diaper option using thin, tissue-like sheets of paper.

9. Rubber Baby Pants

Rubber band diaper

This was a step forward in the early 1900s for leak-proof diapers, but unfortunately tended to leave the baby’s skin with uncomfortable or painful rashes and chaffing.

10. Flushable Diaper Insert

Pile of diaper inserts

British mom Valerie Hunter Gordon was tired of constantly washing the reusable inserts, like those shown above, so when she had her third child in the 1940s, she got creative by crafting the first ever disposable versions out of parachute material.

11. Safety-Pin-Secured Diaper

Open safety pins

It didn’t take long for mothers to adopt Walter Hunt’s invention in 1856 to keep their kiddos’ nappies secure, before they eventually got around to developing less pointy options.

Did we miss any innovative methods folks have used to keep their babies’ bums clean? Let us know below, and be sure to SHARE with your friends!