there are a lot of interesting, weird, somewhat amazing things about china, but if you asked me to choose just one, i’d say it’s the bare-bottom babies. they are everywhere — these half naked, diaper-less babies, no more than 6 months old, just letting it all hang out. they’re on buses, they’re on subways, they’re just hanging loose at restaurants and shops and sidewalks, wearing crotchless onesies and — most of the time — nothing at all.
whaaaaa??? how is this possible? i’ve babysat my way through high school and changed thousands of diapers in my lifetime, and i know that babies need diapers. babies go poo and pee constantly — often, they go WHILE you’re changing their diapers. so, pray tell, HOW are these babies getting around town without leaving a long trail of urine and other unpleasantries? it’s a giant mystery. but i’ve been investigating, and this is what i’ve been able to gather so far.
bare bear with me, this may be a long entry. but i’ve been putting some thought into these mysterious bare-bottom babies, and i have a lot to say.
1. bare-bottom babies are potty trained. well, sort of. my friends who have been in these parts of the world longer than i have tell me that chinese babies are sort of like housebroken pets. babies seem to give some kind of signal that it’s time to go, and the mommies/daddies take care of it. this kind of training must occur really early, because i’ve seen babies who look barely 4-6 months old going commando.
2. bare-bottom babies go on the sidewalk. i shouldn’t generalize, because i’m sure there are plenty of chinese babies that don’t do their business on the sidewalk, but i’ve observed that when it’s time for bare-bottom babies to go, mommies and daddies just hold them over the street with outstretched arms. i wish i could demonstrate for all of you, because it’s kind of awesome. they — the parents? the babies? — have surprisingly great aim.
3. bare-bottom babies are low maintenance. you know how in america, you take a baby out for a 30 minute walk, and parents bring along huge bags and strollers full of diapers, wipes, milk, water, snacks, pacifiers, toys, blankets, change of clothes, etc., etc.? yeah, not here. bare-bottom babies travel light. we saw one dad take his bare-bottom baby on a 30-minute bus ride, and he didn’t even seem to have a pack of tissues on him. where are they going? where are they coming from? when’s the last time the baby did his business? what if the baby just started pooping on the bus?! but of course, the baby behaved perfectly and no such incident occurred. in fact, i have yet to see a single baby have an accident. i have never even seen evidence of a baby having had an accident in public. chinese babies are that awesome.
so, based on my investigation, i have concluded the following:
1. the disposable diaper-to-baby consumption ratio must be extremely low in china. i wonder how brands like Huggies and Pampers feel about the bare bottom baby phenomenon. how are they adjusting to these cultural differences? maybe china is simply not a big market for them for this reason? if babies as young as 4-6 months are practically potty trained, i can’t imagine how low the diaper consumption level must be (compared to the baby population) — especially for bigger sizes.
2. there must be virtually no market for products like Huggies Pull-Ups. in my marketing classes, we learned about how Huggies’ extensive market research helped identify parents’ pain points. the company figured out that potty training was an extremely stressful period for parents and toddlers, and by introducing a product to ease them through the transition, Huggies hit the jackpot. now, if chinese babies are virtually potty trained at 6 months, what use is there for a product like Pull-Ups? where are the pain points now?!
3. the market for baby stuff in general must be small. just think about all the crap that goes with diapers. you have diapers, then you have wipes, diaper bags, diaper genies, diaper rash creams, diaper caddy, diaper stacker, diaper this, diaper that. it’s endless. and these bare-bottom babies and their parents don’t need most of it. the minimalist in me (it’s a very small part of me, but i swear, it’s there) looooves this. i want to have a bare-bottom baby, too, so i can be free of all this nonsense. and just think of how much money i could save! did you know that an average child requires $1600 worth of diapers during his/her first 2 years? don’t even get me started on what those disposable diapers do to the environment!
so now, the question remains, how do you have a bare-bottom baby of your own? ok, ok, i know where babies come from, but i need to know, what is involved in training your baby to ride the subway for an hour without spraying everyone in the car? parents of bare-bottom babies, please share your secret! oh, China, i have so much to learn!
EDIT: i just learned that those “crotchless onesies” are actually called “split pants” (a much better name than the one i came up with). a lot of interesting info in this forum, where adoptive parents are discussing the diaper issue and babies from china.
UPDATE (April, 2012): i learned som etime ago that the Chinese parents use a “whistling” technique to get their babies to pee on command. they call it an “ancient Chinese secret” and this informative article tells you how it’s done. here’s an excerpt: As soon as the baby is strong enough to hold his head up and upper body rigid, which could be just a few months old, he is ready to be potty-trained. Take him to the bathroom and whistle a mono-toned whistle, raising the pitch slightly at the end. If the baby goes, reward him with praises, hugs and kisses. To encourage bowl [sic]-movements, make a two-syllable straining sound like “uh-uh”, with emphasis on the second “uh”. Also reward with lots of positive reinforcement if the baby does poop into the toilet.