Our Baby Class

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Flats and Handwashing Challenge Day 3: Open Prompt, or A Historian's Thoughts

Welp, it's day 3 of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge, and for us in the blogosphere, that means we had a choice on our blog topic for the day.  Some people are writing about using flats in daycare and others are writing about the reaction of other caregivers. But, my mind keeps going around the idea that flats are THE diaper of history (at least Western history).  A discussion popped on on Facebook about how the challenge reminded some of us of scenes from "Call the Midwife," the British show about mid-20th century midwives in working class London.  On top of that, I've been thinking about Kimberly Rosas' recent post about vintage diapers.

"There was a clear and obvious disdain for the waterproof covers; it was inferred that parents using them full time were lazy and cared more for their own convenience than their child’s." 

In images of diapered children from the time before disposables, few are wearing any sort of cover over their diapers.  In "Call the Midwife," the babies wear "terry squares," which are the flats still common in the UK today.  In fact, Princess Charlotte will be wearing terry squares folded origami style.

In my own life as a historian, I've done a bit of reading about 18th century cloth diapering.  And although I did find the use of wool "flannel squares" to be worn over the diaper, these were not shaped diaper covers such as we would use today.  Nor were they used universally, as some deemed covering diapers an unsanitary practice.

Although I'm well acquainted with the waterproofing properties of wool, when I imagined leaving baby completely coverless, I have to admit that I imagined pee everywhere.  Then, during this challenge, I enjoyed seeing the cute flats that I had bought, and thought--what the heck? I have hardwood floors, I'm already potty-training a toddler, and it's 80 degrees.  Let's go coverless and see what happens.

Cuteness.  That's what happens.  I've been using the diaper bag fold (more on folds in a future post) with the excess fabric around the legs rolled in.  The rolling creates a tighter seal, hopefully preventing any escapes of less than solid waste.  So far, it's been doing an excellent job--even better than my prefolds.  He hasn't let loose while coverless, but none of my covers have gotten dirty yet.

But what about the pee?

Well, they are surprisingly absorbent.  I do need to be mindful and check frequently.  But we have had no crazy leaks.  As soon as there is the slightest hint of dampness, he gets a diaper change.  And really, that's probably a good thing!  With something thicker, like a terry square, you'd have even longer between changes.

Thinking back to how babies spent their time through history--Western babies have spent a lot of time in cradles and then prams.  This means that compression leaks were less likely, and a waterproof cover (wool or rubber) would be primarily used when baby was on furniture or being held, to protect from inadvertent leaks.

How about for the modern lifestyle?  Modern life is frequently hectic.  It might not always be easy to check regularly before the fabric soaks through.  As a babywearer, I'm not going to wrap my baby without some kind of cover.  Well, I take that back, I did put him up on my back in a buckle carrier for a few minutes yesterday. I did keep reaching back to feel the diaper though.  Still, when I'm at home, especially when it's warm, I think I might keep going coverless. It's definitely better for his skin.

Photo notes: Little Boy is wearing a modern wool cover in both photographs, both because of my previous fear of going cover free and because his diaper was fastened with a Snappi instead of straight pins.

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