Whilst 2020 has thrown a number of curveballs at us, things have certainly improved in the potty training world since the 1800’s - so at least we can be thankful for that.
We no longer give babies laxatives to encourage them to go to the toilet on a schedule, nor do we swaddle them in animal skins. Over the years in the Western World, we have wrapped our babies bottoms in cloths of all sorts to absorb waste ranging from cotton, muslin and the famous terry towelling. But, how has potty training actually evolved over the years? At Pottiagogo, we take a look at the history of potty training and how it has changed over the decades.
What was Potty Training like back in the 1800s?
In the late 1800s, the bottoms of babies were covered in cloth diapers that were typically made with safety pins secured with cotton or linen. Supplies and services were also minimal, so when a child had wet themselves, the nappy would often be hung up to dry. However, for accidents of the solid variety, the cloth would be thrown into a boiling pot of water.
Infections raised a greater threat as individuals became more conscious of bacteria, and proper toilet training grew as a top priority. Parents would also resort to dramatic steps to educate their children in order to prevent additional work: enemas, suppositories, and physical coercion were enlisted in an attempt to teach children to use the toilet at younger ages.
The Evolution of Potty Training
Terry towelling nappies were all the rage back in the day, and to an extent they have made a comeback due to the environmental benefits associated with them. Historically, they did require an element of hands on cleaning, so the invention of the washing machine in the 1930s was welcomed, but nappy innovation didn’t stop there.
That being said, with the changing of the times after World War II, the need for more practical nappies was ever-increasing, as mothers wanted more freedom from washing nappies so they could work and travel.
The Rise of the Disposable Diaper
To meet the demand for more practical nappies, along came the invention of the disposable nappy. Valerie Hunter Gordon was the inventor who created the first ‘Paddi’ in 1947, after she became fed up with the endless washing of traditional nappies.
Her prototypes were handmade out of old nylon parachutes, tissue wadding and cotton wool. These days nappies are typically made of layers of cotton, hemp, bamboo, microfiber, or plastic fibers such as PLA or PU to make them extra absorbent. It is a huge industry with reams of brands on offer. There is huge demand for them, as the average baby gets through 4,000 disposable nappies by the time they are potty trained.
The Future of Potty Training
Some estimates suggest 3 billion disposable nappies are thrown away every year in the UK alone, which equates to 2-3% of all household waste and lots and lots of carbon emissions.
The ease of use of a nappy may explain why there are so many used and discarded every year, but it also contributes to delayed potty training and could explain why recent reports suggest that more children are not being able to control their bladders before they start school at the age of 5. All the more reason to potty train as soon as possible!
P.S - Oh how the mothers post-World War II would have loved a travel potty!