Today in "what has been bugging Kristina for no good reason..." I started thinking about Roman babies (as I am missing mine while in the field) and wondering if the Romans had diapers. After all, by the Imperial period, they'd invented flush toilets, so why not pinned cloth diapers? But my internet connection at work is not terribly reliable, and I couldn't wait to get back to the apartment, so I posted the question to Twitter and Facebook.
A slew of classicists responded on Twitter, and Facebook gave me more of an anthropological view -- namely, in many parts of the world, today and in the past, babies simply didn't wear anything. They pooped and peed when and where they needed to. Not to be ethnocentric or arrogant on the part of the Romans, but considering Imperial Rome was huge and urban, and considering their understanding of toilets, hygiene, and the like, I didn't think mothers (or nurses or slaves; probably not dads, of course) would go for the always-pooping infant.
Here are some of the bits I gleaned from crowdsourcing this question... no definitive answer, but a bunch of directions to go in:
Jane Draycott (@JLDraycott), Roman historian and archaeologist, chimed in with a bunch of tweets:
- "The Roman Toilet Handbook has sections on chamber pots, children's toilet habits, & a photo of a child's potty!"
- "The most recent research on Roman swaddling: [by Emma-Jayne Graham] http://www.open.ac.uk/people/eg4439 ."
- "Soranus talks about the correct form of swaddling, and there are lots of swaddled baby votive terracottas."