Diapers are an absolute necessity when it comes to having a baby. Your baby will be wearing a diaper 24/7 for the first few years of her life. There are a number of factors that go into making a diaper a good one. Parents are faced with the decision between disposable diapers or, the eco-friendly but less convenient, cloth ones.
If you're overwhelmed with product choices and brand names, we've narrowed down what's important to consider in this buying guide. We've also included our top and trusted recommendations, like Huggies Little Movers, which will stay put on crawlers and toddlers.
Considerations when choosing diapers
Disposable diapers are designed to be thrown away after each diaper change. They're made from synthetic materials, like polypropylene, that are layered for maximum absorbency and leak protection. Because they don't need to be laundered, they are extremely convenient. They're easy to use and easy to travel with. On the downside, they produce a lot of waste, and, over time, they rack up in cost. Many contain chemicals like sodium polyacrylate and chlorine, and some even contain traces of a harmful chemical called tributyltin.
Cloth diapers are reusable and are designed to be washed after each diaper change. They're a lot better for the environment because you won't be throwing them away. In the long run, they're more cost-effective than disposable ones. If your baby has sensitive skin, cloth diapers are made from chemical-free natural fibers, which reduces the chance of diaper rash. They're also arguably more comfortable to wear. On the downside, cloth diapers are labor intensive — they must be washed and dried — and are inconvenient when you're out of the house, especially if you have to carry a soiled one around.
Absorbency: A diaper needs to hold urine without leaking and contain waste for a short period of time. In general, cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposable ones; although you can purchase separate inserts for reusable diapers to increase their absorbency. The absorbency of disposable diapers varies from brand to brand, so reading user reviews can help narrow down your choices.
Comfort: You want to select diapers that don't feel scratchy or itchy to your baby's skin. Disposable ones are more prone to feel this way; though, there are brands that feature softer-feeling materials — often at a price increase. Cloth diapers are naturally soft as well as breathable and will cause less irritation.
Fit: Fit is an important consideration, especially to prevent leaks. Diapers should fit snugly but not so snugly that they cut off circulation. While there is no universal size for diapers, they are sized according to your baby's weight range. The weight range for a particular brand of diapers can be checked on the package. However, you may find that some brands fit your particular baby better than others. Also remember that your baby will grow, so practice restraint when buying in bulk.
Fragrance: Many disposable diapers are scented to counteract the unpleasant odors associated with dirty diapers. However, these synthetic fragrances can irritate sensitive skin, so opt for diapers free of chemical fragrance if your child is prone to allergies or rashes.
Cloth diapers cost between $5 and $20 for a single diaper — and it's recommended to have 20 to 30 on hand at any given time. Disposable diapers cost between 11 cents and 67 cents apiece.
Q. What kind of fastenings are on disposable and cloth diapers?
A. Disposable diapers feature sticky tabs to fasten the diaper in place. Reusable diapers may feature Velcro, snaps, diaper pins, or an updated safer version of the diaper pin called "snappies."
Q. How can I reduce skin irritation but still use disposable diapers?
A. Select disposable diapers without chlorine, dye, or fragrance. Sometimes a rash isn't "diaper rash" but is actually irritation to one of these chemicals or the material of the diaper itself.
Diapers we recommend
Best of the best: Huggies Little Movers Diapers
Our take: Name-brand disposable diapers that provide reliable protection for mobile tots.
What we like: Stays put on crawlers and toddlers. Absorbent and durable. Don't leak overnight. Firm adjustable fastening tabs.
What we dislike: Not the softest disposable diapers out there.
Best bang for your buck: Luvs Ultra Leakguard Diapers
Our take: Budget-friendly diaper that protects against leaks and offers comfort.
What we like: Leakguard core. Secure fit with wider fasteners. Design makes changing quicker. Comfortable.
What we dislike: May not hold up overnight. Noticeable fragrance.
Choice 3: Parasol Natural Baby Diapers
Our take: A chemical-free more eco-friendly disposable diaper with a soft plush feel.
What we like: Stylish designer prints. Fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. Sourced from sustainably managed forests.
What we dislike: On the pricey side. May leak and sag for some.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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