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Like taking Elmo from a baby


Here’s the story of how Pampers dissed Elmo, made my baby cry and insulted my intelligence.

0406elmo.jpgOur tale starts on the changing table, a place every parent of a toddler visits at least five times a day. These visits aren’t a picnic for either party, but for some reason it’s the baby who gets the most upset. A child can have a bum full of you-know-what, and still she will resist a diaper change. The answer to making this experience more pleasant is a mix of distraction and humor.

We parents use the tools we have at hand, and since diaper cream and wipes aren’t too entertaining, I turned to the happy cartoon faces on her diapers. Pampers licenses the “Sesame Street” characters and on the front is a rotating cast that includes Cookie Monster, Big Bird, etc. On the back — until recently — there was a picture of Elmo is all his red, cheerful glory.

A while back, I started a little game with Pumpkin: I’d show her the back of her Pampers and say, “Who’s this?” She soon learned to say, “Elmo.” It was amazingly effective. I’d tried other games in the past, but nothing calmed her down as much as the sight of Elmo, merrily smiling at her.

Then, a few weeks ago, I opened an 80-count box of Pampers Baby Dry and was putting them in the diaper holder when I noticed, “Hey! No Elmo!” There was still the character on the front, but the back was plain white. I thought to myself, “Huh, I wonder if this is a mistake?” I didn’t get mad until the change made my baby cry.

This happened last week when Pumpkin was suffering from her first-ever bout with a stomach virus. We were upstairs in her room and I was giving her tiny sips of water every 15 minutes to prevent a repeat episode of sickness. She kept asking for water over and over, and I kept trying to distract her. The only thing that entertained her was pulling her socks from the bin and other mischief that I don’t usually allow but tolerated while she was so miserable. Then, she started pulling the Pampers from their holder. One by one, she turned them over and said, “Elmo? Elmo? Elmo? Elmo?” She looked at me as if to say, “What happened to Elmo?”

I decided to call Pampers and get an answer to that question. On Friday, I called the toll-free customer service line and asked what was up with the missing Elmo. (I didn’t identify myself as a newspaper reporter, just as a concerned mom.) The customer service representative told me this was a new change. She said they try new features from time to time. I said, “This isn’t a new feature, this is removing a feature.” She said that was the feature.

Then, this week I called the media line and got through to baby care spokeswoman Lisa Jester at Pampers’ maker, Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. I told her I am a newspaper reporter who planned to blog about her experience. First Jester said, “Elmo is still on the front, right?” Then she said, “We are always changing our design. We listen to customers.” I pointed out that the new design has a lot less printing overall and seems to be more about saving money on ink than pleasing customers. Jester said she would pass along my comments. “I’ll tell them Elmo has a fan,” she said with an intonation that was, how I can I put it? A little mocking.

Now, cutting out Elmo was undoubtedly a small change in the minds of the bean counters at Procter & Gamble, but it was a big deal here in the little purple bedroom at the top of the stairs in the Alterio home.

I went to the store recently and bought a package of Huggies. Let’s hope Winnie the Pooh has a better agent.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 6th, 2007 at 2:41 pm by Julie Moran Alterio. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Babies 0-12 months, Fashion, Gear, Learning, Media, Money, Parenting, Toddlers

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9 Responses to “Like taking Elmo from a baby”



  2. Amy Vernon

    We used Huggies pull-ups for a while for our toddler, and it was great because they had the Disney Cars theme on them. But that brand didn’t work out too well for us, and we switched to the Pampers, which has Spidey and Hulk. Our guy was a bit bummed out (ha!), but gradually forgot about it and is happy w/his superheroes now.

    My children have never watched Blue’s Clues, and we used Luvs, which uses the dog on them, and they never cared about it. I was just glad when they switched from Barney to Blue’s, because I’m morally opposed to Barney on the grounds that I would go insane if I ever had to watch a single episode (needless to say, my children haven’t ever, either).

  3. Chris

    I can’t believe you WANTED those Elmos on there. Diapers got all covered with cartoon characters in the six year gap between my two kids, and I for one don’t see it as an improvement.

  4. Mark

    Yeah, I’ve gotta go with Chris—you do realize that the cartoons on there are just guerilla marketing for the pottily-challenged, right? It’s tough enough trying to keep advertisers from jackhammering their way into our kids’ heads as it is, I see this as an improvement (at least until some other company ponies up more money to put their cartoons on my son’s behind.)

  5. Julie Moran Alterio

    Hi Chris and Mark: You made me laugh because I remember I had a similar reaction when I first started buying diapers. I didn’t realize how commercialized they were before I became a parent.

    In the time since, I have made my peace with Elmo, simply because of the smiles he brings to my daughter’s face. (It’s inexplicable to me, but if it makes her happy, it makes me happy.)

    You might want to check out what Greg at Daddytypes said after reading my blog post: He actually welcomes the Elmo removal because he hated the way colorful Pampers showed through white clothing. I have to admit that I can understand this as a plus. I remember rueing the colorful diapers last year when I put a white diaper cover on Pumpkin for her baptism.

    And Amy: I am 100 percent with you on Barney, whose name is not uttered in this house!

    And Shanna: I still think it is a defect! It’s a defective decision!

  6. NB

    Count me in for one who would rather have white diapers. Old school style. And we love the red furry god in this house, but not on the diapers. They look ugly sticking up from the pants.

  7. Steve C.

    i miss the cheaper kirkland,costco, diapers. they did the same job and were 10 dollars cheaper a box. luckily i dont have to worry anymore.

  8. Tara

    I actually called Pampers and THANKED them for taking Elmo off the back. As much as I love Elmo I hated that my child was a walking advertisement 24/7. I found myself buying 7th Generations when I could because they didn’t have print all over them. My child is colorful enough!

  9. Annie

    This Grandma says;SADLY companies market to infants.When i complained @ a Disney store about a kid skating, the manager kept saying THIS IS A KIDS STORE. I said your marketing to kids, toy stores are kids stores where they are told heres (a dollar amt) money or pick out a toy. I HAD TO PUT MY GRANNY SENSE IN . Ty


About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE


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