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Wet Diaper Detection via USB Sensors, Twitter…?

high tech wet diaper detection via @chgdiapers

Remember hearing about the Huggies Tweet Pee concept last year? As cloth diapering families, most of you reading this know that a diaper should be changed as soon as it is wet – generally every 2 1/2 hours or more often. Both cloth and disposables can be worn for naps or even 12+ hours at night, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change baby often during the day.

tweet pee

When we used disposables, I had no trouble telling they were wet, since they developed a “squish” any time there was measurable liquid inside (they also smelled kinda funky when wet.) Cloth isn’t as easy, so I just aim to change every 2 or so hours.

The difference is that when you change a cloth diaper, you’re not throwing money in the garbage. As much as it pains me to see a child in a swollen disposable hanging down to their knees, I also know it pains that parent to throw away a diaper that could hold “one more pee.” I really do get it.

My first thought with Tweet Pee was that hey, maybe people would actually change their babies when they were wet. However, I doubt anyone would use it if it sensed moisture immediately. They’d assume the intent was just to get them to buy more diapers if it was suddenly telling them to change baby 8 times per day when they typically only changed 4.

So I am guessing that it won’t sense the moisture until the diaper is nearly fully saturated – a point at which any parent interacting with their child should be well aware that a diaper change is required. I have seen parents do the same “squish test” only instead of changing as soon as there was any wetness, they let it go as long as the diaper wasn’t full to the point of nearly bursting.

Of course – wireless signals and any amount of voltage (no matter how “low” or “safe”) beside my child’s genitals? No thanks!

The newest gadget on the block is a USB keychain that detects wet diapers. This is a little less frightening since it is not constantly next to baby, but I still wonder how wet the diaper has to be. In the video where the device worked through jeans, the wet diaper appeared to be swollen to the point that a casual onlooker could look at the baby and know it was wet, without touching it.

My fear would be that people would change baby even less often with these devices, and I can’t help but notice how many products are being made to reduce the need to touch or interact with baby. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our cradle swing for an occasional break (when babywearing wasn’t practical, to take a shower etc.) but babies need touch and at times, new products make it seem like children are an inconvenience to be managed.

I wondered what a doctor might think of these gadgets.

I don’t know enough about the TweetPee device or USB wet diaper detectors to make an entirely informed opinion as both still seem to be in the testing phase. From what I can gather however, the first device is radio-like in nature and transmits microwave frequencies that go directly in front of a young child’s crotch. The second device is simply placed next to the diaper to run a test. Given that, I would say that the second device would be safer than the first.

There hasn’t been enough research done to declare whether or not such exposure to a young child could increase the risk for disease. The general studies conducted regarding the connection between radio frequency exposure and things like cancer or leukemia provided no clear association, but it could not be ruled out. If there are any adverse effects, those could be exacerbated in young children simply for the fact that their bodies are still in the growing stage. All in all, I’d say it would be a good idea to avoid such devices and to simply check your kids’ diapers the old-fashioned way.” Dr. David Dragoo, Contributor at Money Crashers

I’ll stick to my cloth diapers and change them as often as I like without having to worry about the cost.

Have you had a hard time telling if a diaper (disposable or cloth) was wet? How did you check?


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Maria Moser
Maria is the mother of 3, writing about cloth diapers & going green. You'll often find her juggling her preschooler and typing 1-handed in between sips of cold coffee. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development and other services.
4 Comments
  • March 23, 2014 at 7:32 pm
    Reply

    The only time I’ve wished to have magic x-ray vision to detect a wet diaper was when we first started potty training. It’s pretty obvious when toddler is pooping in the diaper and you know their patterns. However I could never tell when he was wetting the diaper – it would have been moderately helpful to know.

  • March 19, 2014 at 5:25 pm
    Reply

    Excellent post! It bothers me too. I also hold a baby should be changed every couple hours (or each feeding, various ways to measure this). I also tell people all diapers are absorbent enough if you change them! It seems to me with all these advancements there is one spot where we are reverting to the hygiene level of medieval Europe; and that’s in diapering. I refuse to make an 8 layer cloth diaper because anything that absorbent is meant to not be changed, just like disposables. This is terrible technology.

  • March 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm
    Reply

    I have to say that it does disturb me to see nursery/daycare helpers going around the room squeezing the kids’ crotches to see who is wet/squishy.
    Some stay-dry cloth diapers I have a harder time feeling if it is wet, but we usually use prefolds or other natural fibers so I can easily feel or open up and see the wetness.

  • Bekah
    March 19, 2014 at 12:45 pm
    Reply

    Wow, the things they come up with. If it truly did sense any wetness, then I might consider the second one where you can do a periodic test. I’m pretty leery of the first that is constantly on baby. We do a combination of disposable and cloth (typically cloth when I’m at home and disposable at night or out and about; babysitter tends to do disposable unless she’s at my house. Probably 50/50 to 40/60 cloth/disposable). I buy the premium diapers that have a wetness color changing indicator, which does seem to change colors pretty quickly, and I also do the squish test. Fortunately, my babe really doesn’t like to be wet, so she lets us know pretty quickly. If we were doing only sposies, I’d definitely cringe at how many barely wet dipes we toss, but I know it’s better for her skin, and changing so often is probably why we haven’t had even a hint of diaper rash (she’s 4 months 1 week old).

    However, it is a lot harder to tell if she’s wet with cloth, especially some of the super absorbent hemp or multilayer dipes we have, and sometimes we end up completely opening up the diaper to feel, which is annoying if she was not wet because I took it off for nothing basically. This is where I would use that sensor, but again, I wonder if it would be accurate enough to tell. Since babe lets us know pretty quickly about being wet and is otherwise a very content baby, I generally just change her without checking first if she’s already eaten/had a nap, and she is almost always wet. So, that sensor is probably redundant for us, but I can see where it would be helpful for those with babes who don’t care about being wet and have a hard time like we do of telling whether the cloth dipe is wet without taking it off to feel.

    I do agree with your wondering about all these products that distance people from their babies, like it’s an inconvenience to care for a baby (yeah, it’s time consuming, but that’s what we signed up for! and babes grow out of that neediness too quickly anyway), and it’s just one more thing that “allows” parents to go back to work sooner and limits that much needed time holding & interacting with baby closely. No wonder so many kids in “technologically advanced” areas have issues with separation anxiety, etc., when they learn from early on that people want to get away from them…at least that’s how it seems to them.

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