Perhaps the first thing that jumps to mind when a non-parent hears the word ‘baby’ is nappies. The thought is off putting: changing nappies is repugnant. Who would want to deal with the waste products of another being? It is bad enough dealing with your own.
The simple answer is, nobody. Given the option, nobody would want to change a nappy. Thankfully, people do it though. Someone even changed mine.
Changing Small’s nappies was not as bad as I had anticipated (most of the time). In fact, in the early days, when there was only milk being ingested, the waste products were particularly inoffensive, which gave me a long break-in period to get used to the process before anything really bad turned up.
Within a few weeks I was able to strip down my Small, clean it and re-dress it, in the dark, in less than a minute, whilst still 95% asleep. I lived by a military mantra: Look after you Small soldier! Your Small is your best friend. You will eat with it, walk with it, work with it, sleep with it and crap with it!
So, by the time Small was weaned I was well honed in the skill of nappy changing and was able to effect a nappy change, even in hostile territory, in a very short span of time. This was good because with solids came aroma and consistency. The more varied the input of solids, the more varied the aromas and consistency. Fortunately the nappy open phase only lasted a minute and I could deal with it; even if it might have been several times a day. It was not that bad. Strangely though, the thought of changing another Small’s nappy is still as distasteful as ever.
In the early days, cleaning was with water and cotton wool. Once Small’s skin had toughened up a bit I was grateful to move onto baby wipes. These are one of the best inventions EVER. Man’s landing on the moon is of little significance in terms of human achievement compared to the creation of baby wipes. No parent should be without baby wipes at any time whilst is charge of a Small.
Most nappy related clean-up operations could be accomplished with two baby wipes. First the unsoiled part of the nappy itself was utilised to remove the vast bulk of any solid matter adhering to Small’s skin. Next the first baby wipe was used to remove the residue solids, taking care to delve deep into any folds of skin where secreted matter could gather and fester. Then the second baby wipe made sure all skin was spotlessly clean.
If any poo remained on the skin it led to nappy rash, which made the next poo and change painful for Small and dramatically noisy for me. Incidentally, the best nappy rash treatment I discovered in the UK was Metanium, which is available in the US through Amazon.
Sometimes Small would produce a three baby wipe deposit and occasionally four were required. These episodes often involved slight leakage from the nappy which meant a change of vest and, if the leakage was extensive, a change of trousers or baby suit.
Rarely, I was treated to a cataclysmic, Krakatoa style explosion of poo from Small. Nappies were unable to contain these seismic events and a tsunami of slurry would surge up Smalls back, sometimes reaching as far as his shoulders. Some eruptions measured up to eight on the baby wipe scale. In extreme cases baby wipes had to be abandoned and Small was stripped down and held under the shower. This is one reason I always had a spare set of clothes when we were out and about.
We got through a lot of nappies. My supermarket trolley was always half full of nappies and baby wipes. The other half was full of formula milk, ready meals, wine and pain killers. And once Small had mastered product recognition, toys.
When I stopped to analyse the actual number of nappies consumed by Small it was quite frightening. I would estimate that Small got through an average of 5 nappies a day (many more than that when Very Small). Small was in nappies for at about 2½ years so that is 5 x 365 x 2½ = 4,562.5 nappies.
We had 3 Smalls so that was a total of about 13,500 nappies.
Now, if it took me an average of 5 minutes to change Small, including the time to get to the changing area and return to where I was before the incident, that meant I spent a total of 67,500 minutes or 1,125 hours changing nappies.
Put another way, if an average working day is 9 hours then I spent 125 working days or 25 working weeks changing nappies. 25 WORKING WEEKS SPENT CHANGING NAPPIES!! With holidays that is half a working year on a constant conveyor belt of nappy changing.
Even if I reduce the average change time down to 3 minutes it is still 15 working weeks – nearly 4 months doing nothing but changing nappies.
Similar sums can be done for feeding and rocking and playing and swimming and washing and cooking and cleaning and tidying the garden and shopping and… Now I know why I always felt so tired and never had any time to myself or to spend solely with my wife.
Looking at cost can be equally scary. Prices vary but at the time our Smalls were in nappies they cost about 20p each, which doesn’t sound too bad. Multiplied by 13,500 though, it means we spent £2,700 on nappies.
It reminds me of the SpongeBob episode were Patrick and SpongeBob find a lost infant clam and look after him. Patrick goes out to work and SpongeBob plays mother. After a fraught day Patrick returns and is cudgelled into changing a nappy. He reluctantly does so and then utters, “It’s not that bad”. SpongeBob then starts opening cupboards etc. revealing all the dirty nappies. This gets steadily more ridiculous until he opens the window to show a mountain of nappies outside.
Okay, an exaggeration for a day, but not so unrealistic over a lifetime.
Incidentally, pre-Small I had not heard of SpongeBob but once Small reached cartoon age I discovered it channel flicking. Thereafter I encouraged him to watch it because it is funny and entertaining for adults, at least the first 5 times.
Though a laudable concept we didn’t even contemplate washable nappies. Heavens knows how our parents coped with no disposables and no washing machines. My mother used to borrow the neighbour’s twin tub (one tub to wash and one to spin) once a week to do the whole family’s washing. Nappies had to be hand washed daily.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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