MFM Insider – how nappies are made and baby-tested

We went behind the scenes to see exactly what goes into making a nappy. There are a few parts we’ve been sworn to secrecy on - and where cameras and mobile phones dare not follow - but here’s what we can tell you…

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Layla, still busy in the Playground Lab!

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MFM’s Reviews Editor getting involved with the skin dryness test.

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Cup of jelly? Nope, just what remains after a cup of water gets swallowed up by a scattering of the granules found in Pampers nappies.

As Reviews Editor for MFM, I take a keener interest than most in nappies – and I’ve had more than my fair share of conversations about exactly what kind of poo a nappy can handle! But even my jaw dropped when I was allowed behind the scenes at Pampers research and development centre in Germany.

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Whether you’re a fan of the revamped Pampers Active Fit with Dry Max, still misty eyed for the old version or a lover of a competitor’s brand, you’ve got to give Pampers full marks for the effort it puts in. Pampers started working on its latest nappy 10 years ago – about the time were we all busy thinking about Y2K, the new London Eye and that Millennium Dome.

From initially talking with parents about what they wished a nappy could do, to developing the technology to deliver that, the Pampers process is lengthy.

To start with, the nappies are made by hand, costing about £20 to £30 each! Ever seen that Shreddies cereal ad, where the nanas are knitting the Shreddies? That’s what it looks like, but with more white coats and hair nets!

These handmade nappies are tweaked and refined, with 1,300 babies and parents coming to the centre to be testers. They just spend their time playing in the aptly named ‘Playground Lab’, then head to the skin lab where the dryness of their skin is measured. I mucked in and decided my skin’s dryness should be measured too – just the back of my hand, don’t worry! I can happily report it’s just like a wand lightly touching your skin. Sadly, I wasn’t rewarded with a sweetie like 19-month-old Layla, my fave baby tester of the day, was. Darn it!

On site, small production runs can be done, so bundles of nappies can be tried out by 1,200 local mums and dads. Each week, 35,000 to 40,000 used nappies are returned to the centre to be analysed. I’m relieved to say, I wasn’t allowed to go into the used nappy lab because of the super hygiene measures that are followed. Phew!

Over in the science lab, I felt like I was watching a magic show. The bit inside the nappy that does all the absorbing has been fine-tuned by Pampers – I saw what looked like a few pinches of sugar swallow up a whole cup of salty water. And while this bit is the really eye-catching stunt, it was seeing how this works once it’s inside a nappy that helped me understand how one disposable could have more than 60 patents related to it (some granted and some pending).

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My nappy knowledge has now reached new heights. And while that’s good news for all of you reading MFM’s in-depth reviews, spare a thought for anyone unlucky enough to get sat next to me at a dinner party!

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