Infants and Children

Long gone are the days of plastic outer pants, ill-fitting terry cloth inners and constantly wet skin for babies and infants. Today’s babies’ experience of wearing diapers is radically different from and much improved on that of the children of the 60s and 70s.

Today’s disposable diapers are light, compact, very absorbent, resistant to leaks and easy to use. 

For babies and toddlers this means they:

  • Are comfortable to wear due to the softness, lightness and ‘breathability’ of the materials used.
  • Keep the skin drier and as a result healthier. These benefits have been confirmed by independent medical experts in skin and infant health. See report on skin health and hygiene benefits of absorbent hygiene products and wipes.
  • Are better at reducing the transmission of infectious diseases as faecal containment is reduced so that there is less risk of the spread of bacteria.

Baby wipes also remove urine and faecal matter from the skin, protecting the baby from faecal contamination.


Originally promoted for use on journeys, holidays and in temporary situations, modern single use diapers (fact sheet disposable baby diapers) have now become the diaper of choice for over 95 percent of parents in advanced economies.

Single-use diapers:

  • Are easy to put on and remove
  • Take up less time than, for example using cloth diapers
  • Eliminate the need for constant laundering
  • Are widely available.

The convenience of baby wipes is also much appreciated by parents. With babies being a relatively constant source of mess of all types, parents can keep wet wipes handy for food spills and the like as well as for cleaning during diaper changes. 

When mothers of children under nine in France, Germany and the United Kingdom were asked to indicate their preference for baby wipes over other means of keeping their babies clean, they listed convenience, portability and hygiene as the three top reasons for opting for baby wipes (see Quality of Life and Absorbent Hygiene Products).

What people say

“Things have changed a lot since the 1980s when more than 20 percent of the babies I treated presented with diaper dermatitis and some of those cases were very severe. At that time, the use of old style cloth diapers and the overuse of steroid based treatment creams worsened the problem.”

Professor Carlo Gelmetti, Department of Clinical Dermatology, University of Milan, Italy

“The epidemiologic data confirms that cases of diaper dermatitis are now very rare. Some parts of the German population are very environmentally minded however and use cloth diapers. In this category of population cases of diaper dermatitis are more frequent. When the parents insist on continuing to use reusable diapers their children can really suffer. It is really important that we communicate the risks to the skin health of their child”

Professor Dr Peter Elsner, Clinic for Dermatology and Dermatological Allergies, Friedrich-Shiller University, Jena, Germany


“As a father of two children, I think that the benefits for children of nappies … are great. Benefits are in terms of practicality, usefulness. They are developed to accommodate modern living. Overall, I think the benefits are safety, comfort, hygiene and lifestyle”.

Focus group participant


Modern day wipes are very good quality and they offer real benefits in terms of convenience. The material is pliable and soft so it feels more comfortable on the skin; it is important to remember too that ingredients are added to the wipe which can moisturise and/or provide other skin benefits.

Professor Jan Faergemann, Department of Dermatology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Sweden


“There’s just no practical alternative! If I had to use cloth diapers, my life would change so much! I wouldn’t HAVE a life!”

Focus group participant

Did you know

In western Europe today, over 90% of babies benefit from disposable diapers.

The first known reference to a “disposable diaper” was made in 1942; it was a 2-piece product consisting of a disposable pad of cellulose wadding with a gauze or knitted mesh cover and a reusable panty.

The first European one-piece disposable, complete with fastening tapes, was introduced in 1967.

In a survey carried out by the Louis Harris Research organisation in 1997, respondents with children identified disposable diapers as the second greatest improvement in contemporary life; the first being the automatic washing machine.

In a 2007 survey women indicated they would rather give up air travel, a second car, a tumble direr and their microwave before giving up disposable diapers.

Attempts by local governments to encourage parents to use cloth diapers have largely failed. In Belgium only 30 percent of the women invited to participate in a pilot study agreed to do so and only five percent of that total number said they would continue to use cloth diapers after the pilot study finished stating that leakage, user unfriendliness, the extra work involved and cost were the main reasons.