Just about all western babies wear diapers. I'm pretty sure we all know that, but what you may not know is that the bigger the diaper the more difficult it may be for baby to walk.
Scientists compared the gait of 60 babies who wore either a thin diaper, a thicker cloth diaper or no diaper at all. Half of the babies were 19 month-old more experienced walkers, and half were 13 month-old beginners.
When the 13 month-olds walked naked only 10 fell, but when they wore cloth diapers 21 fell. When the babies wore the thinner disposable diapers, 17 fell.
The more experienced walkers, the 19 month-olds, were able to maneuver better. Among the babies who went naked or wore the thinner disposable diapers only four fell. Once they switched to the fuller cloth diapers, 8 fell. Both of the age groups took wider and shorter steps when wearing diapers as opposed to walking naked.
The study cannot predict if wearing diapers has any long-term impact, but it does suggests that giving baby a break from diaper wearing might speed up walking development.
Of course, that leaves a rather big problem what to do about the mess that your baby makes when left to wander the house au naturel. By the way, fresh air on the hiney is also good to cut back on diaper rash, so if you're inclined to give it a try you might wait till after your baby has a bowel movement or has urinated and then let him or her walk a bit without a diaper.
I remember when my child was between one and two years old and learning to walk " it was an exercise in futility trying to keep clothes on her because she loved toddling around naked. She rarely had diaper rash and learned to walk pretty quickly. Of course, diapers are necessary and she wore her fair share, but when we had some time to relax and hang out together off the diapers came. While I kept a close eye on her in case an accident should occur (actually there were only a few), she smiled, giggled and toddled around butt-naked while exploring her home.
The research was published in the journal of Developmental Science in September of 2012.
Source: Christie Nicholson, http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=diapers-hinder-walking-in-babies-13-01-23