The Big Five-Oh-Oh

What were you doing 10 a.m. September 13th, 2003? We were changing Trixie’s 500th diaper. 500 diapers. Five Hundred. Trixie hit this milestone on her 44th day in this world. I shouldn’t be surprised, because I knew she was averaging more than 11 a day leading up to that point. Still, it’s shocking to see such a large number. And that number will, of course, grow into the thousands by the end of the first year. Even if she stabilizes at 6 diapers a day starting today, we are looking at 2,448 by 7/31/04. At 8 a day it will be 3,072. If the average climbs to 10 a day, it will be a mind-blowing 3,686 diapers before she even turns one year old.

Cumulative Diaper Totals

You get better at changing diapers, but it’s an evolutionary struggle. She’s constantly growing and requires more milk which leads to an increase in the scale of waste. And just as a balance is struck in managing these changes, she’s grown into a new diaper size and you’re temporarily back to square one.

However, all things considered, life has gotten easier as the number of diapers that cause major laundry or clean-up problems have proportionally decreased. These “Hassle Diapers,” which can be either poopy OR wet diapers that have spilled out, can be seen leveling off when compared to the cumulative diaper totals [see above].

On a monthly scale the diaper hassle picture is constantly improving. But the “Cumulative Diaper Totals” chart is misleading because on a day-to-day basis the development hasn’t been nearly as smooth or predictable. The true on-the-ground picture of the diaper struggle is messy, erratic and random [see below]. This daily time-series reveals improvement, but details the setbacks and relapses along the way.

The trend that becomes evident in “The Diminishing Diaper Hassle” chart is that it’s not the number of diapers that matters; it’s the amount of inconvenience involved. You can change 15 diapers in one day, but if nothing leaks or spills out, it’s not that big a deal. Conversely, you could have only 5 daily diapers, but if each one explodes all over the couch, you get a little worn down. Eventually, the blue area should whittle away to nothing, marking the point that diaper duty becomes an invisible, non-issue. This almost occurred for a single day on both September 5th and 12th, when there was only 1 diaper rated “Hassle” on each day.

The Diminishing Diaper Hassle

[note about data collection] Daily data was not rigorously collected prior to August 21st. However, the total number of diapers is known for that time period, and the distribution has been estimated based on memory. This accounts for the graphing discrepancy between the smooth, stepped plateau before the 21st and the erratic, organic whipsaw that follows in the above chart.
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17 Responses to The Big Five-Oh-Oh

  1. schaff says:

    MacNeill, you’re back in a big way. It was worth the millions of dollars in hurricane damages just to give you the mental space to prepare this important document.

    Tufte, eat your heart out.

  2. cynfred says:

    Man that’s alot of diapers! Do you guys use cloth or sposies? When I saw you many diapers you went through in less than 2 years I’m thankful that we use cloth on my daughter.
    If you don’t use cloth you should consider switiching. Its really easy. You can launder them yourself or get a diapering service. I hardly get a diaper that creates a poop blow out unless I don’t put a diaper cover on.

  3. FrumDad says:

    Cynfred — I can’t find it right now, but I’m pretty sure this was discussed (and discussed and discussed) in the comments somewhere. Maybe BenMac or one of the Pink Blazer Irregulars can help out with this.


  4. FrumDad says:

    Sorry, but the power of my 9th grade English teacher compells me to edit my most recent comment.

    …pretty sure this issue was discussed…
    …can help out with locating that discussion.

    Mr. C would fail any paper that had, “this,” without a noun immediately after it, and 20+ years later I can’t forget the lesson.


  5. Maddie's Mom says:

    As a 9th grade English teacher, I salute you, FrumDad; and, more importantly, I salute Mr. C.

  6. haeshu says:

    i also commend you, but live in a world of grammatical misery being married to an english major. i like to think of my lack of capitalization and punctuation as my little rebellion…

  7. benmac says:

    FrumDad: You are always setting good examples for everyone on the site. Whether it’s reminding new readers to ‘play nice’ or correcting grammar. My hat is off to you.

    I’m especially impressed because I actually didn’t plan to respond to this person. The comment was a little bit too ‘loaded’ and I didn’t feel like dealing with it. thanks-

  8. cynfred says:

    I’m sorry if this comment was “loaded” to you whatever that means. I honestly wanted to know if you use cloth diapers. Looking through the site I realized you didn’t. I’m just a cloth diapering addict. Sorry if you took offense. I meant no harm. Seriously I just love cloth diapering and love to open people up to the idea. Its so much fun and you can buy so many cute prints. I don’t care if people use cloth or sposies. I call them sposies because I can’t spell the other word and you don’t have spell check. As you can see I’m a bad speller. I just don’t want you take offense. I’m a nice person really. It kind of hurt my feelings that you saw it as “loaded”

  9. cynfred says:

    I found the debate on the cloth diapers. I can see why you don’t want to discuss this. I’m sorry for bringing up again. Like I said earlier I don’t care wheter or not you use paper diapers. Sorry if I sounded like I was being judgemental.

    I read that you are taking her to go to the potty. That is awesome! Have you ever heard of elimination communication?
    We’re doing this with our daughter. She is very responsive to it.

  10. Becky says:

    Cynfred: Not that I can speak for Ben, but I think he saw it as “loaded” because it is a question that can cause a lot of controversy. I am going to make a gross generalization, that I am sure many people will ream me out for later, but many cloth diaper people are fanatical. Some like to quote statistics on how long the disposables will sit in land fills and how people who use them are ruining the planet. I am guessing that Ben, having clearly already made his choice of using disposables, did not want to get into a discussion such as this. He probably felt that the question was “loaded” because it was setting him up for the disposable/cloth debate that he had no desire to entertain at this time. He can feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

  11. benmac says:

    cynfred: My apologies. There are times that I don’t respond to comments because I feel (correctly or not) they are too judgemental, or the person is looking for a fight. I’ve also found that the cloth v. disposables topic can get pretty charged. And there have been many previous flame/troll comments concerning diapers. In this case, it sounds like I jumped the gun.

    Again, I didn’t mean to make you out to be a bad person. I hope you will accept my apology, and I appreciate you trying to set the record straight. No hard feelings 🙂

  12. cynfred says:

    Becky~I’m no fanatical. Just an addict. It bothers me that people are so judegmental when it comes to parenting choices.

    Ben~ 🙂 Again I’m so sorry for bringing up a hot topic. I really didn’t realize it was that hot.

  13. haeshu says:

    not to stir the pot even more, but as an employee in an environmental consulting firm, we tend to discuss conservation issues and what not. anyway, i have read/heard that using cloth diapers actually has more of an environmental impact (becuase of laundering, etc) than disposables. if you dont believe me check out this link

    it seems very ttu-esque to me with the graphs.

    as a mom, i myself use disposable and have cloth ones for burp cloths. i use the cloth whenever collette has a bad diaper rash and needs to air out without peeing all over the house. so i guess thats my two cents on the topic.

  14. Maddie's Mom says:

    Since haeshu added her two cents, here’s mine: We use disposables. When men stop driving huge gas-guzzling suvs, I’ll consider switching to disposables. I don’t think it should be up to new mothers to save the environment. We have enough other things to worry about, like is Trixie’s bug really just a 24 hour one? Will she sleep better tonight? I hope so!

  15. haeshu says:

    amen maddies mom! i never thought about it that way, but it makes sense. leave it to moms to try to fix everything…

  16. Hmm says:

    As I haven’t seen the flame wars (if any) on this topic yet here, I won’t comment much on the cloth vs. disposables debate. However, I do find cloth diapering with a diaper service to be easier than disposable in that I don’t have to run to the store all the time to get diapers. Better organized people probably don’t have this problem – I’m definitely not one of them. If we had to WASH the diapers, esp. considering we share one washer and dryer with 5 other households, three of which have kids, I’m not sure I could stick with the cloth.

    Again, not critical of the choice to use disposable nappies, just saying that I find the cloth overall easier. We do like the idea of cloth but personally I can’t be fashed to over-think other parents’ every decision. There are more important issues around. As I like to say, what a first world problem this is…

  17. kNo says:

    I think the claim that cloth diapers could be worse for the environment due to laundering, is bogus. You could use that argument against silverware…
    we’ve been using cloth diapers since our daughter Una was born 7 months ago and although we’ve had very few “hassles”, I have to admit it gets old. I just can’t stand the alternative. Just tonight though, I discovered G Diapers and I think they may be the answer: cloth diapers with biodegradable (flushable/compostable!) inserts – I’ll report back after they arrive and we’ve had a chance to break them in – wish us luck.