No, I’m not necessarily suggesting you try it on your baby, but I find it fascinating to know what was used for diapers historically.
From the west coast to the east coast, you can find cattails growing in wetlands and at the edges of ponds. Native people used the down from mature female cattail flowers around their babies for warmth and for absorbency. The fluff of cattails was used as a natural baby diaper.
When the cattail flower is green, it can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. (Just in case you are looking to expand your diet.) The mature female flower is the soft brown part that looks like the tail of a cat. When this flower is picked mature, it can be torn apart or left to explode into a mass of soft bits that allow the seeds to float on the air and spread far and wide.
I had heard about people using cattail down in diapers, and I wanted to see how well cattails absorb fluid. You can see the steps I took in images below.
- Down (catch it before it blows away). Very silky.
- Pour water out and use the cattail down to sop up the water.
- The outside doesn’t feel very wet, but the inside absorbs.
- When I squeeze, the water drips out and the outside feels dry again.
- As I try to get the sopping fluff off my hands, it starts to dry at the edges and blow away.
- The down that is soaked the most is difficult to get off my hands. For those who used cattail down for diaper and menstrual absorption, I can’t quite imagine how difficult it must have been to get rid of it all again. Maybe you just get in the river and let it wash away.
I can see that cattail down would make an absorbent baby diaper. It even feels like it could be dried out and used again. It’s sticky when wet, though. If I had a choice, I would rather use it away from the skin as stuffing for a toy or inside a pillow or mattress for fluffy bedding.