30 March 2013

My Trip to the Pampers R&D Centre in Frankfurt

In February I was taken on a flying visit to the Pampers R&D Centre at Schwalbach, Frankfurt.

It was great to spend some time with my long-time blogging buddies Amy and Karin, as well as other bloggers, journalists and the Pampers PR team from Hill & Knowlton.

We were given a disposable nappy history lesson and a tour of the huge facility, by the head of R&D, Dr Frank, and Ioannis from P&G Baby Care.

My children are well out of nappies, but I found this trip fascinating. I loved the 'science bit'. We watched blue liquid being poured down a tube and onto a couple of nappies. The recently launched new Pampers Baby Dry nappy soaks up the liquid at an impressive rate. Researchers had found that when babies are sleeping on their backs and then pee, they can wake up and struggle to get back to sleep if they feel wet. The new Extra Sleep Layer enables more liquid to be absorbed, faster than before.

It can take up to ten years to develop a new nappy. I know, ten long years. It is painstaking, careful work. I was surprised how much Pampers care about producing a quality product. Families in Frankfurt are supplied with free nappies and give Pampers regular feedback. Every morning sixty babies are brought into the facility, still in their overnight nappies, to have their skin moisture tested. There is also a play room, where babies' movement is observed and again moisture readings are taken.

This little boy was a real cutie pie

One thing that I found fascinating was discovering that the gel crystals, that absorb the liquid in the nappy's core, are harmless. On the odd occasion that one of my children had a truly sodden nappy and some of the gel escaped I used to worry that they were getting harmful chemicals on their skin. Dr Frank was genuinely upset that this had happened - it's not supposed to - but I did explain that this had happened to a bouncing three year old over night. Still, it was reassuring to know that these crystals are similar to those used to bulk out diet foods (not so reassuring if you eats those diet foods I guess), but still, harmless.

You can see a little of what we saw on this video. See if you can spot the sensory rooms where you can experience what the world looks like from a baby's eye view. We all enjoyed ourselves in those.


Another highlight of the trip was meeting (deep breath) Pampers Village Parenting Panel Sleep Expert, Wendy Dean.

Wendy answered all our sleep questions. I wanted to know whether you should wake child when they're having a nightmare or night terrors. Wendy's answer was no, leave them, as they will probably not remember by the morning. If they wake up, however, obviously go to them and comfort them.

I also asked whether you should ever wake a sleeping baby. I always used to wake mine from their afternoon naps so that they would go to sleep at bedtime. A routine suited me. Wendy agreed with my approach. Looking back now, I can see that I was pretty inflexible. I would never go anywhere at nap time, unless my child would be able to sleep at their usual time. Having said that, from when both boys were about six weeks old Andy and I had our evenings to ourselves.

This led to me asking about long-established routines. My children (aged 5 and 4) still go to bed at 7pm and usually wake up at 6am. I'd love them to sleep until 7am. Or rather, I'd love to sleep until 7am. Wendy thought they were getting enough sleep and so suggested a later bedtime. She did warn that it could take a month for a new routine to establish itself. I may wait until the summer holidays to try this as Presley and Cash may be too tired if they're at school every day.

Here is Wendy answering a few of the most common baby sleep questions.

Disclosure: All travel, food (including one of the best steaks I have ever eaten, at the Radisson Blu hotel in Frankfurt) and accommodation expenses on this trip were paid for by Pampers. Thank you to Pampers and Hill & Knowlton for looking after us so well.



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