The best diaper has:

  • Good absorbency. Fewer leaks mean less dirty laundry, happier babies and happier parents.
  • A trim fit. Bulky diapers inhibit movement, especially for older babies and toddlers.
  • Secure tabs or snaps. Closures should keep diapers secure, and toddlers shouldn't be able to undo them.
  • Comfortable material. Look for soft, breathable materials and well-fitted elastic that won't leave red marks on skin.
  • Materials that won't irritate your baby's skin. Finding out whether your baby reacts poorly to a particular diaper requires trial and error, but frequent diaper changes are the best way to prevent rashes.

Know before you go

Will you use disposable or cloth diapers? Disposables are convenient, and they're widely available in groceries and big-box stores. They're also more expensive. Some feel cloth diapers are gentler on the environment, and they will save you money in the long run. However, they require constant washing and drying, and may not be as absorbent as disposables. You also may want to check out diaper pail options before you decide.

If you want to use cloth diapers, which type best fits your lifestyle? There are four main types of cloth diapers: all-in-ones, pockets, fitteds and prefolds. All-in-ones are easiest to use because they are one piece, and absorbency is built in. They may be the most expensive, however. Pocket diapers require you to stuff inserts into the diaper, but it's easier to customize absorbency, and they may be less expensive. Fitted diapers are simple absorbent layers that are already fitted to your baby, but because they aren't waterproof, they must be paired with a diaper cover. Finally, prefolds are simple cotton squares that you must fold and secure to your baby. Most people prefer to use a diaper cover with them, though you can also secure them with pins or another fastener. They are the least expensive cloth-diapering option, but may be the most time-consuming.

Does your child have sensitive skin? Babies can get rashes in both disposable and cloth diapers. Whatever you choose, your best defense against diaper rash is good fit, good absorbency and frequent diaper changes. If you use disposables, consider trying hypoallergenic brands that don't use chlorine, dye, latex or perfumes.

Do you dislike the thought of absorbent gels touching baby's skin? Disposables, including those branded as eco-friendly, use some sort of superabsorbent polymer (SAP). Occasionally, these absorbent gel beads may leak out of the diaper and wind up on your baby's skin. No studies have found that SAP is unsafe in diapers, but some cloth-diaper advocates insist it's not worth the risk.

Do you care how the diapers look? If you're using cloth diapers, the sky is the limit -- they're available in an array of patterns and every color of the rainbow. Most disposables feature cartoon characters, animals or graphics printed on a white background. If you prefer a plainer design, look into eco-friendly disposables or store brands, which tend to be simpler.

Buying tactics and strategies

Don't stock up before your baby is here. It's tempting, but think again: Whether you want to use cloth or disposable diapers, the first brand you try may be a dud.

Once you have a winner, buy in bulk. Particularly for disposables, it's cheapest to buy a lot of diapers at once. But don't go overboard: A growth spurt may mean your child needs another size more quickly than you expect.

If you're buying cloth, consider one-size diapers. Cloth diapers that come in just one size are adjustable enough to fit your baby almost from birth through the toddler years. Not buying multiple sizes will save a lot of money, but keep in mind that you might not get quite as close a fit.

More expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. If you buy disposables, consider trying store brands. If they work for your child, you'll save big over premium brands. If you want to use cloth diapers, try prefolds. They have a longer learning curve, but they're just as absorbent -- if not more so -- than pricier cloth options.

Track prices online. posts a weekly roundup of the best diaper and wipes deals. When you find a store or website that's offering a good deal, check for coupons or discount codes that can deepen your savings.

If you buy premium disposable brands, check out loyalty programs. Pampers and Huggies offer deals, discounts and prizes through their loyalty programs. To participate, go online to enter codes found on the products.

Consider whether disposable training pants are worth it. They're expensive, and some parents say they're simply diapers in disguise. Training pants should be just absorbent enough to contain small messes but still encourage your child to use the toilet. Check out cloth options to save money and potentially speed the potty-training process.

Back to top