- Diaper Intro
- Cloth Diapers
- Diaper Services
- Changing Tables, etc.
- Diaper Pails
- Diaper Cream
Ok, enough with the pleasantries. Let’s get down to brass tacks.
You are going to be changing your newborn’s diaper 5-8 times per day, and about 5-6 times a day for a 6-month-old. Your baby will be wearing diapers morning, afternoon, and night for the next 1-3+ years (about 5,000 in total), so it’s important to find a solution that works for you.
Unlike our parents’ generation (who trudged barefoot through the snow and used animal pelts for diapers), there are now many options available for diapering your baby: cloth diapers, disposable diapers, and diaper services. There are even some combinations thereof.
There are a few considerations to take into account when deciding which diapers to use, such as…
- Your gusto — If you are not using disposable diapers, there is more work required, so ask yourself where you stand on the gung ho/lazy continuum? It’s not just you, but anyone who will be changing your baby’s diapers: your partner, grandparents, and nannies/caretakers. Some day cares, for example, will only use disposables.
- Cost — A quick calculation: unless you are using a clean-at-home cloth diaper system, you will be spending *roughly* $40/month on diapers. Some diapers are cheaper, like store brands. Some are more expensive. You may decide – after getting pooped on multiple times – that a higher quality diaper is worth the extra money. Or maybe you’re into it. Hard for me to say, we just met.
- The eco-factor — The sad truth is that 3.5 million tons of diapers end up in landfills every year. While cloth diapers don’t end up in the landfill, they do require lots of water and power to launder. Some say the carbon footprint of cloth and other eco diapers may not be that much less, in reality. You can reduce the carbon footprint of cloth diapers by washing them in cold water and hanging them to dry.
What about the diaper itself? We do recommend fragrance-free diapers, as toxic chemicals can be lumped in with a “fragrance” so they don’t have to be disclosed on the list of ingredients (due to “trade secret” laws). We also recommend chlorine-free diapers, if you can afford it.
- Skin sensitivity — If your baby has sensitive skin, you may want to opt for Pampers Sensitive or cloth diapers.
- Boy or girl — Boys tend to pee more in the front of their diaper, and for girls, pee tends to collect in the middle and back. Boys often have leaky pee pee diapers because their little weenies point in a certain direction and they pee with direction and…force (ever seen a girl write her name in the snow? Didn’t think so). For boys, getting a snug fit around the thighs matters a lot.
Today, 83% of moms use disposable diapers. The reason is because they are so very convenient.
[Aside: Look, every time I throw a diaper in the trash can, I feel bad, okay? I am otherwise a very good citizen of the earth: I recycle and compost, I take mass transit every day instead of driving, I [used to] make baby food instead of buying it in the jar… but when it came to scooping poop from a diaper into the toilet, then washing a bunch of poop-stained diapers in the washing machine (for which I had to use COINS because we rented an apartment in the City), my head started to explode. I’m sorry, Mother Earth. I hope you’ll find it in your earthy heart to forgive me. I still love you.]
As a practical matter, if you want to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint, the best way to do it is by potty training early. For example, if you train at 2 years instead of 3, you are saving a YEAR’S worth of diapers! That’s great both for Mother Earth and for your pocketbook.
Many moms and nannies are now teaching their babies Elimination Communication (“EC”). EC has been practiced in Asia and other parts of the world for centuries and is making a comeback in America. Read here about EC, or the “diaper-free baby movement.”
- Pampers Swaddlers/Baby Dry/Sensitive ~ 20 cents ea+
In the hospital, Pampers Swaddlers will (probably) be the first diaper to hit your baby’s bottom. I am very happy with the performance of Pampers; they are soft, fit well, and they contain leaks. Pampers Swaddlers are incredibly soft and have an umbilical cord notch for newbies. They also have a line that changes color to indicate wetness. Swaddlers also comes in a Sensitive version. Pampers Baby Dry diapers are especially good for overnight because they are very absorbent (with 3 layers instead of 2) and contract with baby’s tummy overnight to ensure a snug fit. Lastly, Pampers Cruisers are designed to be less bulky for active, older babies and start at Size 3. All of that said, Pampers are not chlorine-free or otherwise eco-friendly. You can get similar performance with our favorite diaper, Earth’s best Tender Care (5, below).
- Huggies ~ 18 cents ea
Made by Kimberly-Clark, Huggies competes for the same high-end brand name market as Pampers. This is my least favorite diaper, but many seem to like it alright. Like Pampers, these diapers contain chlorine. Huggies also contain latex and fragrances.Huggies makes Little Snugglers for newborns, which are very similar to Swaddlers. Huggies Snug & Dry has an elastic waistband for a tighter fit. Little Movers are size 3+ for bigger, more active babes.
- Bambo Nature ~ 46 cents ea
A new-ish diaper on the scene, Bambo Nature is a legit eco diaper that performs very well. Just a warning, they are quite pricey!
- Luvs – Luvs makes a much cheaper diaper ~ about 13 cents each ~ and you get what you pay for. It’s a decent diaper, although not very well made. Coincidentally, Luvs and Pampers are both made by Procter & Gamble, Pampers being the premium brand and Luvs being the economy brand. If you’re on a tight budget, I would instead recommend a chlorine-free store brand, such as Target’s up & up.
- Earth’s Best TenderCare – These are my favorite diapers and a favorite among eco-moms. These hypoallergenic, chlorine-free diapers are affordable and perform exceptionally well. IMO, these diapers are the best combo of eco-friendly and absorbent. All of that, and they cost about the same as Pampers or Huggies.
~ The bottom line is that you may want to try a few different brands before deciding on one that fits your baby [and your budget!] the best. See if you can borrow a few from a friend or just buy the smallest quantity possible.
Store Brand Diapers
But alas, there are more to choose from than just name brands. Yes, almost all of the big box stores offer their own store brand diaper.
Parent’s Choice by Walmart is rated one of the worst, while Costco’s Kirkland diaper competes in the up & up range. Store brand diapers are considerably cheaper than name brands, so if money is tight, give them a shot. Speaking of which…
Is Money Tight?
One in three moms reports struggling to afford diapers. If you or someone you know can’t afford diapers and you live in California, please check out Help a Mother Out (we are a proud sponsor!).
For those on a tight budget, I highly recommend cloth diapers. Yes, I TOTALLY get that many people don’t have the time, energy, and laundry facilities to deal with CD’ing, but if you DO, cloth diapering will save you LOTS of money over the lifetime of the diaper years. Yes, cloth diapers are a more substantial up-front cost, but once you own them… they’re yours. You can often find them used or discounted with a little effort. For more on cloth diapers, keep reading…
From Whence Do They Come?
To save money, disposable diapers are best bought in bulk (see caveat below). For me, buying online is a worthwhile endeavor. I certainly don’t want to schlep huge boxes of diapers all around town.
Do you want 20% off diapers and free 2-day shipping? Umm, yeaah.
Amazon Family is a program I highly recommend, although it’s not as good as it used to be (formerly known as Amazon Mom). With your Amazon Prime membership ($99 per year with a free 30-day trial), you get free 2-day shipping, PLUS 20% off diapers when ordered with Subscribe & Save. The savings on shipping for last minute birthday and holidays gifts alone is worth it to me, but if you don’t shop a lot online, it may not make sense.
Now with your Amazon Prime membership, you also get Amazon Prime instant video (Downtown Abbey on demand, helloooo), Prime Music, Prime Photos, and access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. You can share your Prime membership with up to four people in your household.
If Amazon Prime doesn’t appeal to you, you can also order diapers (and stuff) from Diapers.com. The deal is that you have to spend $49 to get free 1-2 day shipping. This works fine as long as you can aggregate your items in order to get the free shipping.
For your newborn, you will start with a special size called Newborn, ‘N’ (there is no number). If you have a really small baby (less than 7 lbs.), you may even start with size ‘P’ (Preemie). Don’t buy too many because they will graduate to a size 1 in about two weeks!
From there, it goes from size 1-6, although you probably won’t make it past size 4 or 5 unless you wait a long while to potty train. Or your kid has a huge ass. Either one.
- When buying diapers in the first 3 months or so, don’t go toooooo crazy with buying in bulk. Your baby is growing exponentially during this time. If you buy two huge boxes of size 1’s, for example, you may end up giving half of them away (I did).
- When traveling with your baby, don’t schlep large quantities of diapers with you. Just buy them when you get there or order them online to be delivered to your destination.
Cloth diapers have come a long way since the pre-folds and diaper pins that our mothers used. Cloth diapering is a great, money-saving way to diaper your babe, not to mention SO CUTE!
Confession: I know nothing about cloth diapers, but my readers do (yay!). One of them was kind enough to write a summary for you [coming soon].
The world of cloth diapers is shockingly vast, with a whole new set of acronyms to learn. A really good intro to cloth diapers can be found here. You will come away from this video saying wow, so many options! I agree. You will potentially spend a couple hundred dollars buying all of the requisite setup gear, so *please* make sure you like it before you take the plunge.
gDiapers consists of a hybrid outer/inner system that also has a diaper cover and a washable, compostable (pee only) or flushable (with some work required) insert. You can use their cloth inserts (wash and re-use), or you can use their biodegradable/disposable liners.
The refills are 40-45 cents each, which is more than a whole disposable diaper, but they make sense if you can use the cloth inserts the majority of the time and the disposable inserts for travel, outings, and such.
Too much work for you? Shoot, I’m breaking a sweat just thinking about all this washing and re-using.
If cloth diapers appeal to you but not the obligatory work involved, you should consider a local diaper service. They will deliver cloth or compostable diapers (depending on the service) to your house every week and pick up the old ones. No fuss, no muss (what is muss anyway?).
If saving the Earth and not dealing with cleaning poopy cloth diapers appeal to you, check it out.
For all of the number twos in your baby’s future, you will need wipes. And LOTS of em. Don’t put a whole lot of thought into this; they are all pretty much the same (except for Huggies: hate ’em). Unlike diapers, stock up on wipes; you will need them for years to come.
For changing diapers on the go, I highly, highly recommend a changing kit, such as the Skip Hop Changing Station.
You can get away with not even having a diaper bag as long as you have one of these. With its portable wipe container and comfy pad, this is truly one of the most useful baby items. Ever. Munchkin makes a nice one for about $17; Skip Hop makes the Pronto changer (above) for about $30.
Now that we have dipes and wipes covered, let’s talk furniture. Yes, you can change a diaper just about anywhere. But you will be doing it so often, why not make it comfortable?
You need a good, sturdy surface on which to change your poopy princess (or prince). Ideally, you want it to be about waist-high or slightly higher. Anything lower and you’ll be straining your back.
The best approach, in my opinion, is to use the top of a dresser, which is already the right height (above). You can also buy a changing table made specifically for this, but when you no longer need it… it’s just an extra piece of junk, whereas a dresser you will use forever.
On top of your changing surface, you want to get a changing pad, like the Summer Infant Contoured Pad (pictured at left). The changing pad is shaped like a half-pipe so your baby stays in place during a diaper change. You can screw it into your changing table so it doesn’t move around.
You’ll also need 2 or 3 changing pad covers. They get soiled pretty quickly so you’ll need more than one. On top of the changing pad cover, you will also need a whole bunch of waterproof pads (the white pad) as an added layer of protection — these are much easier to wash than the covers. Get a whole bunch; you’ll be washing them all the time.
If you prefer something you can wash off directly, try the impermeable Keekaroo Peanut Diaper Changer (below).
For tossing stinky diapers on the go (especially while traveling!), get yourself a few rolls of disposable diaper sacks. We like Sassy and Munchkin (Arm & Hammer). Doggie poop bags work fine too. Keep them in your diaper bag for good measure.
You’ll probably want a special trash can for disposing of diapers. Moms seem to be really divided on this topic. Some say: yes, the right diaper pail will conceal the poopy smell. Others say there is no way to *really* hide the smell of poo. I fall into the latter category.
My method: For the first 6 months (while on the breastmilk/formula-only diet), you can put poopy diapers in your diaper pail without creating a gross smell. But after your kiddo starts real food? Forget it, all bets are off. Out of the 5 or 6 diapers you change per day, about 1 or 2 of them will be poopy.
I like to use my diaper pail for pee diapers only. For the poopy diapers, buy rolls of Arm and Hammer diaper disposal bags. Put your poopy diapers in the little bag and simply throw it out every night (outside, like in the big garbage can). Is it a pain? Yeah, sort of, but it’s the only real way to keep your nursery from smelling like, well, shit. Or you can just put the poop diapers in there and deal with the smell. Your choice.
If your goal is to get a trash can to conceal the smell, there are three that moms think work fairly well: the Diaper Champ (~$39, pictured left) is an inexpensive pail that uses regular tall kitchen trash bags (yay!). Simply place the diaper in the opening, then pull the handle so it drops down into the can. So easy and best of all, no squishing a poop-filled mess through a narrow slot, like with the Diaper Genie (yuck!), although I will admit you can still smell poop with this one.
Another favorite is the Munchkin Arm and Hammer Diaper Pail ($40), which wins the odor control contest. This pail requires special bags and uses a baking soda dispenser (which you also have to refill) to control odor. It does require a bit of diaper-squishing, but not nearly as much as the Diaper Genie. If odor control is a top priority and you don’t mind buying special bags, this is your go-to.
For the design-conscious, an awesome yet pricier diaper pail is the Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail (right). At $70, this sleek diaper pail comes in about ten different colors, controls odor quite well, AND doesn’t require special bags. If you have the money, the Ubbi is as good as it gets. And really? This is a worthwhile place to spend a little extra. If you have more than one kid, you could be using this for years.
**Don’t be freaked out by the (consistently) crappy ratings that most diaper pails receive (PUN intended). I think people’s expectations to completely mask the poop smell are too high, here.
Looking for diaper bags? I cover them here.
You don’t need to use any lotions or cream on your baby unless prescribed (much to the chagrin of your mother) — the only exception is diaper rash cream.
In the early days before the “real” poop starts (pre-solid foods), your baby will (hopefully) be a stranger to diaper rash, but keep some on hand just in case because you’ll need it eventually.
My favorites are Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (yes that’s really the name, which is why I bought it), Aquaphor, Desitin, and Aveeno, although my pediatrician friends tell me that A+D is the best for prevention and Triple Paste is the best for treatment. When your child inevitably gets his first stomach virus (and thus, terrible diarrhea), you will need boat loads of diaper rash cream. Just a heads up.
If you’re really squeamish about applying diaper rash cream, check out the Baby Bum Brush (no, not a joke).
Recap ~ you need:
- Diapers and wipes
- A small wipe container for your diaper bag
- A changing surface
- A changing pad, covers and waterproof pads
- A diaper pail
- Diaper sacks
- Diaper rash cream
Holy schnikies, that was way more than I intended to write!