Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Disposable nappies for ever?
One of the weekend papers had an article on disposable nappies. A researcher and lawyer was quoted as saying that "misguided expert opinion and disposable nappies have led a generation of parents to put off daytime toilet training, missing a window of opportunity for an easy escape from nappies when children are about two, and creating a host of environmental and social problems". And a new edition of Robin Barker's book The Mighty Toddler will include a more structured alternative to the default 'laid back style' of toilet training. Barker is quoted as saying that "This business of it drifting on to age four is ridiculous. I don't think that children were meant to be walking around in padded panties full of poo all day long. The biggest problem are all those extra nappies going into landfill. And people are losing the skills of toilet training". (I liked the alliteration!)
It is all very interesting. Of course my baby caring days are long past, as my youngest child is now 35, and now I am just an interested grandmother. Disposable nappies were only just becoming available when he was a baby, and I used them only when travelling or when on holidays. At that time, councils refused to accept disposable nappies in their rubbish collections (although I bet no rubbish collector ever checked). But I have always wondered about the environmental effects of both cloth nappies and disposable ones. Lots of water and detergent are used to wash nappies, and obviously disposable nappies are thrown into the rubbish (probably with the poo being removed only rarely) and so there are all these plastic coated things piling up in our rubbish dumps. No one seems to know which system is better from the environmental aspect. Obviously disposable nappies cost heaps more. The cost does not seem to matter to many parents. Disposable nappies certainly seem to be easier. Although I think if I had my time over again I would still use cloth nappies. They were not really a hassle.
But I have observed that toilet training now happens at a later age. The littlies are not troubled by discomfort, and thus seem to have little incentive to become toilet trained. Perhaps this leads them to ignore the messages their maturing bodies sent them. Staying dry overnight takes longer. My mother used to remark (there's going back a bit) that you never saw a kid on a bottle or wearing nappies once they'd started school. (My brother kept his evening bottle until the day he turned five.) But I wonder now.
Grandmotherly advice is not always welcome, so I hesitate in general to offer it. But if the wheel is turning full circle, it is an interesting development, and I still wonder about it all.
Apropos of past versus present, my husband asked me this morning what I would have spent a government handout on if we had been given one. I was puzzled and had to think. We did receive a first homes savings grant, which was a big help. But it had to go on the cost of house and land and I think the limit on the total cost was $14, 000. It certainly was not discretionary expenditure. We could not have used it on Christmas presents or on a cruise holiday. People had fewer possessions and means of enjoyment. A whole different world it was then. We had a bit of a laugh about it all.