History of Disposable Diaper

The development of disposable diaper

The disposable diaper history began several years ago.  The development of disposable diaper over decades have been phenomenal.   Ancient diapers were made of animal skins, moss, linens, and sometimes leaf.  In some of the  warmer climates babies just went naked.  In the far north, mothers of Eskimo placed moss under sealskin.  While in South America mothers of Native American  packed grass under a diaper type cover made of soft rabbit skins.  The history of disposable diaper continues below.

In the early 1600’s saw the introduction of cloth diapers, which made the babies and their mothers miserable as they got wet so quickly.  In the early days the diapers were rarely washed but instead they were just dried before reapplying. However In the early 1900’s people finally became aware of the problem of bacteria and began to wash and even boil diapers between uses.

When did disposable diaper come out / When did pampers come out?

The development took place over a period of years beginning in the 1900’s as is explained in the paragraphs below.


Who invented Disposable Diaper?

Marion Donovan invented the first disposable diaper in the 1940’s.  Donovan was married in 1942 and by 1946 was on her second baby. She had to contend with the horrible rubber “baby pants” that was used to solve the leakage problem. Those baby pants might not have leaked, but they also gave babies’ diaper rash and dug into their soft little baby legs and baby bellies.  Frustrated by the countless, repetitive task of changing her youngest child’s soiled cloth diapers, bed sheets and clothing, she decided to craft a diaper cover to keep her baby dry and comfortable.

Donovan wanted to help people

The main question that guided Donovan’s work was “What did she think will help a lot of people and most certainly will help her?”

When she first started out in the 1940s men controlled manufacturing. And to them, the problems she was fixing might as well not have existed and so she encountered problems with them in developing her idea.

Donovan was not the sort of person who settled for other people’s design failures. First from waterproof shower curtains, later from nylon parachute material,she made mor breathable diaper covers. Then, she had a better idea: She made the cover into a container, into which a baby’s caretaker could stuff absorbent paper. She called it the Boater, and she went out to find a manufacturer,  however no one wanted to manufacture the Boater.  As a result she had to get into manufacturing herself to develop the Boater herself.

The Boater was not entirely disposable as the nylon part of it could be washed and reused.  When Donovan proposed making a discardable diaper out of paper, no one she talked to wanted to try.

The Boater was an unqualified success from the day it debuted at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949. Donovan received a patent in 1951 and promptly sold the rights to Keko Corporation.

When Donovan proposed making a discardable diaper out of paper, no one she talked to wanted to try.  She had to fashion a special type of paper that was not only strong and absorbent, but also conveyed water away from the baby’s skin.  Donovan took her finished product to every large manufacturer in the country, but once again no one wanted to manufacture them, everyone she talked to told her that the idea was not practical. However, around a nearly a decade later, in 1961, that Victor Mills drew upon Donovan’s vision to create pampers.

This famous woman inventor Marion Donovan deserves the undying gratitude of new parents around the globe.

Disposable Diapers History 1970’s – 1980’s

By the late 1980s, disposables accounted for more than 95 percent of diaper changes in Japan, North America, and most European countries.

The onset of the new models saw the traditional advantages of disposables in a smaller package.  These new models enabled infants and young children to move freely and be dressed fashionably.  They produced additional economic and social benefits including savings in shipping, merchandising, distribution, and storage while also generating less waste.  The increased usage of disposables improved benefits which included reduced instances of diaper dermatitis and improved skin wellness.

Low-cost manufacturing reduced the price premium for disposables relative to cloth diapers and facilitated rapid substitution in the 1970s and 1980s in most developed countries and in a growing number of developing nations. •

When disposable diapers became affordable they appealed to all segments of the market, mothers evidently preferred disposable diapers to cloth diapers.

There was strident competition among manufacturers which resulted in a improved designs and innovation in the industry.  And as a result the diapers overtime became smaller, easily fitted, and easier to use.  Additionally, more manufacturers got on board which helped to keep prices down making the product more accessible to customers and mothers all around the world.

When did disposable diaper come out?

Disposal Diaper since the 1990’s

Market trends in disposable diapers since the 1990’s have improved in such a way that consumers have been treated nearly every year to new features and enhancements, along with the occasional creation of new related products such as training pants and convertibles (diapers that resemble training pants and can be pulled on but also open on the side for easy changes). Budget conscious consumers have continued to benefit from the widespread availability and declining real prices of inexpensive store brands.

As the focus of competition shifted from replacing cloth diapers, the pace of innovation in disposables accelerated dramatically, resulting in improved products and more choices for consumers in the premium segment, while the growth of the value segment exerted downward pressure on prices.  The benefits to consumers of modern disposable diapers are diverse, extensive and profound:  ease of use; liberation of parents from time-consuming duties; happier healthier children.

Benefits of the development of disposable diaper

One of the most significant consumer product developments of the twentieth century is the disposable diaper.  Shortly after commercialization, the traditional cloth diapers were replaced by disposable diapers as consumers became aware of the overwhelming advantages in ease of use, improved hygiene, improved comfort, better hygiene, and an increase in the amount and quality of time parents can have with their children.  Similarly, the industry’s competitive rivalry and history of continuous innovation and cost reduction have enabled parents from all parts of the world and all economic circumstances to benefit socially as well as economically.



  1. This is really awesome to write about the history of the disposable diaper. I came to know many facts associated with this. The disposable diaper is really helpful for babies in providing comfort and hygiene during travel. This is a real boon to parents.

    • Yes Kavitha that is so true. Without disposable diapers many babies health would have been compromised. The development of disposable diapers over the decades have been tremendous.

  2. After reading this article I actually would have preferred Donovan’s disposable paper diaper option. Because let’s face it, the modern disposable diaper is convenient and super absorbent, it is terrible when it comes to the environment. Disposable diapers take 500 years to fully decompose. That’s horrible. You might want to check out the new cloth diapers that they are selling they are much better than the ones from long ago. And in fact, there are a lot of people taht are starting to switch. It’s cheaper and better for the environment too.



    • Over the decades there has been numerous upgrade to the product and this will continue. The need to upgrade or improve diapers was born from the idea that there were some deficiency with the product as it was. The product no doubt will continue to evolve as manufactures are aware that the product may not be 100%. So we look forward to future development of disposable diapers.

  3. This is quite interesting. I never there could be so much to learn about the disposable diaper. Donovan sounds like an interesting woman. I would have enjoyed talking to her. She certainly would not settle for less with her baby. I get where she is coming from on that point.

    I do have a question though. What direction do you think the future of the disposable diaper will take? Since I am a millennial, I worry about the environmental impact of our everyday products. They can take quite the toll. I look forward tor reading your answer.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    • Over the decades there has been numerous upgrade to the product and this will continue. The need to upgrade or improve diapers was born from the idea that there were some deficiency with the product as it was. The product no doubt will continue to evolve and improve as manufactures are aware that the product may not be safe on the environment. So we look forward to future development and improvement of disposable diapers.

  4. That’s a pretty interesting history on diapers. Had no idea, well, never actually thought about it, it was such a struggle for the inventor of disposable diapers to get a backer and manufacturer for them. That’s amazing…..you’d think someone would have thought it would sell like crazy. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>