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Are Diapers Bad For Babies? Alternatives To Diapers And Dos And Don'ts For Parents

According to a report, 90 per cent of babies are exposed to highly toxic diapers. It has been suggested that this may lead to the development of grave diseases in later life based on research conducted in France.

In a study conducted by the ANSES organisation, 38 chemicals classified as "very severe hazards" were identified in best-selling disposable nappies sold throughout Europe. According to officials, most chemicals disrupt hormones, which means they cannot be considered safe [1].

So, what about the ones sold in India? How safe are those? Are diapers bad for babies? Let's take a look.

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Are Diapers Bad For Babies?

Dioxins, VOCs, fragrance, Tributyl-tin (TBT) and sodium polyacrylate are some of the most harmful chemicals in diapers. The following are some of the most common side effects of diapers for babies [2][3].

1. Skin redness and infection

This is the first and foremost symptom you can notice if your baby is experiencing discomfort while using diapers. This can later lead to itching, scratches and infections. So, never ignore this mild symptom because it is one of the important side effects of using diapers on babies.

2. Urinary infection

While using normal cotton cloth diapers, you have to change the diaper each time it is wet. But when you leave disposable diapers for a long time, chances are more that your baby will suffer urinary infections. This is more common among baby girls due to their anatomical peculiarities.

3. Allergies

The contents of diapers can be allergic to your baby. This can be the scents used to mask the foul smell or the gel used for extra absorbance. So, if you doubt the side effects of using diapers for babies, always watch for allergic reactions while using disposable diapers.

4. Suppressed immunity

The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in diapers can affect the immunity of your babies. A poor immune system can lead to frequent infections and inflammations. If your child is suffering recurring infections, watch your baby's diaper.

5. Diaper rash

This is commonly seen where the diaper comes in close contact with the skin, like in areas with elastics. The area becomes red, and sometimes there will be blisters. Due to inflammation, the area will feel warm when touched.

6. Fungal infections

Yes, diapers keep the area dry. But, if you are using diapers continuously for a long time, it can result in fungal infections due to moisture retention. This is one of the side effects of using diapers for babies [4].

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Diapers In the Indian Market: What Parents Should Know

Study #1

In a study released by a Delhi-based advocacy organisation, toxic phthalates were found in disposable baby diapers in the Indian market. In addition to their endocrine disrupting properties, phthalates also have serious health consequences.

As reported by Toxics Link, the study What's in the Diaper: Presence of Phthalates in Baby Diapers found phthalates in these products collected from local markets and e-commerce sites ranging from 2.36ppm to 302.25ppm. The study analysed 20 samples from 19 brands in a laboratory accredited by NABL [5].

As the tested samples did not mention ingredients and chemicals on the packets, the study urged the government to take immediate actions to phase out phthalates from diapers.

The government of India has set standards for five common phthalates - DEHP, DBP, BBP, DIDP, DNOP and DINP - found in a wide range of child products. But unfortunately, there is no such regulation in place for baby diapers in the country. Due to this consideration, the parent must select the safest product for their child [6].

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Study #2

In another study, a team of doctors from the Chennai Medical College near Samayapuram in Tiruchi studied 600 children under five who were seen in the outpatient department over four months [7].

The study aimed to determine if parents knew how to use diapers and what complications their children faced. For example, as a result of not changing the diaper frequently, the child is more likely to contract urinary tract infections or e-coli if there is faecal matter present, explained one of the study's authors.

Furthermore, the study revealed that more than 95 per cent of parents were unaware that prolonged use of diapers could harm a child. In addition, many people were unaware of the proper disposal of diapers. Used diapers containing faecal matter were discarded.

Several studies have demonstrated that diapers can cause skin rashes in babies and toxic infant syndrome. In India, there is no certification agency for infant products. According to the Public Health Department, a proposal to have women SHGs produce diapers did not take off [8].

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Alternatives To Diapers

Diaper liners: Diaper liners can be easily purchased in the market and placed inside the cloth diaper. If they become soiled, they can easily be changed and flushed [9].

Cloth diapers: Cloth diapers can be used for your baby. These are beneficial to your baby's health and skin and can also be reused. Cloth diapers come in a variety of styles; organic cotton ones are particularly absorbent [10].

Eco-friendly diapers: Disposable diapers are sometimes necessary for parents. You can choose from eco-friendly diapers and disposable diapers that are soft to your child's skin.

Diaper Dos And Don'ts For Parents

  • You should provide six to eight hours of open-air time per day.
  • Dry the wet skin of the baby by air.
  • For cleaning in the winter, use cotton and water. Cotton should be dipped in water and dabbed on the baby's skin without rubbing it.
  • Using water instead of baby wipes are recommended to clean whenever possible. You should only use baby wipes when travelling or if water is unavailable.
  • Apply coconut or olive oil to the baby's skin during the dry season. Doing so will form a protective layer around the skin, preventing diaper rashes [11].
  • Baby powder tends to dry the skin, which increases the likelihood of rashes in the baby. Therefore, it is possible that applying baby powder will aggravate the rash [12].
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On A Final Note…

In a way, yes, diapers are bad for babies. Although it is convenient since babies tend to urinate often and you cannot clean them every time, using diapers for 24 hours can be dangerous for your child. Surprisingly, diapers were originally designed for overnight use only. Still, due to the convenience of having to change their clothes daily, we have adopted them for daily use.

When the diapers are full and overflowing, they are not absorbing any more liquid, which may cause rashes in babies. According to doctors, parents should check the baby's diaper every third hour to determine whether or not it is wet and change it as necessary. After a diaper becomes wet, you should change it within one hour. Additionally, try to use eco-friendly disposable diapers or cloth diapers.

To prevent skin infections and allergies, the baby should be left without diapers multiple times a day.

Story first published: Monday, July 25, 2022, 16:50 [IST]
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