Battle for Baby's Bottom: Diaper Wars Heat Up

Fighting for the dollars that come with diapering precious bottoms.

ByABC News
July 26, 2010, 1:17 PM

July 26, 2010— -- By the time the average American child is potty trained, her parents will have shelled out upwards of $2,000 on diapers. That's more than 27 billion disposables consumed nationwide each year.

But with the ongoing decline of the U.S. birth rate, the two industry giants, Pampers and Huggies, are socking it out, fighting for the dollars that come with diapering those precious bottoms.

The battle was pitched decades ago. In 1960, Pampers aired its first television commercial, riffing on "This Little Piggy," and touting Pampers' seven layers of material designed to hold in whatever came out of baby's bottom.

Five decades later, Pampers are about half as bulky, the company said.

Diaper companies spend millions of dollars every year to design the thinnest and most absorbent product, trying to gain loyal customers along the way.

Procter & Gamble, Pampers' owner, granted "Nightline" access to the company's never-before-seen research and development center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Here, more than 500 scientists, chemical engineers and seamstresses are trying to improve the look, feel and effectiveness of their products.

Their work is top secret. High-level executives don't even have access to every room. Digital locks control all laboratory doors, restricting access only to those who need to enter. And the locks track all comings and goings.

"This is serious business," said Kerri Hailey, associate director of research and development. "Absolutely, security is serious business everywhere. It's diapers."

Pampers' scientists work on prototypes for new diapers, which are tested for things like how they feel, stretch-ability, flexibility, durability and how they smell -- before and after baby does his business.

"We want to make sure that as babies are scooting around and moving, that the product stays together as its intended," Hailey said.

And that's all before they put real babies to work testing the products in real time.