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Narrow down the type of diaper you want, and go from there.

Diapers are a necessary evil of your child's first years. You're going to be changing a lot of them, so finding a reliable brand is worth a little effort. Of course, absorbency is key -- top-notch absorbency will keep your child comfortable and cut down on the number of diapers you have to change. Fit is also important: A too-loose diaper will let messes escape, while a bulky one can inhibit movement and show under clothes.

There are a dizzying number of diapers on the market and all have their proponents and detractors. What works best for your baby may not for your friend's child. You'll want to narrow down the type of diaper you want to use -- disposable, cloth, eco-friendly disposable or training pants -- and go from there.

For ease of use, choose disposables. Simply toss them in the trash or diaper pail whenever they're dirty -- no rinsing, washing and drying required. Readily available in every grocery or big-box store, disposables are easy to travel with, and absorbency is generally more reliable than with cloth. You may even find that some child-care providers require you to buy disposables when your baby is under their watch.

Disposables might be pricier than cloth diapers. Convenience comes at a price: You can spend $2,500 or more by the time your child is out of diapers, estimates ConsumerReports.org. Indeed, sticker shock prompts many parents to consider cloth diapers, which can be washed and reused. Depending on the type of cloth diaper you choose, your upfront costs will potentially be higher -- some cloth diapers can cost $20 or more each -- but long-term savings can make up for it, especially if you use the same cloth-diaper stash for more than one child. However, to really save big on cloth, you'll need to do the laundry yourself. Diaper services that do the dirty work for you are convenient, but they'll eat up your savings in a hurry.

Cloth diapers might not be gentler on the environment. Certainly, cloth diapering keeps mounds of disposable diapers out of landfills, and it takes a lot of energy to manufacture disposable diapers. Still, consider this: You'll use a lot of power and water to run your washing machine getting those diapers clean. To leave the smallest possible footprint on the environment, you'll want to use an energy-efficient washer and skip the dryer -- not only will line-drying make cloth diapering greener, but it will help you save on utility bills and extend the life of your diapers.

For some, eco-friendly disposables or hybrid diapers are a good middle ground. If you like the idea of environmentally friendly diapers but remain wary of cloth, eco-friendly disposables offer a third option. Many parents say these allow the convenience of disposables and the smaller environmental footprint of cloth. Unfortunately, the big downside here is cost -- you'll pay more per diaper for an eco-friendly disposable versus even premium traditional brands.

Many eco-friendly disposables aren't as widely available on store shelves, so you may have to order them online. Also consider how eco you want to go: some brands are biodegradable and compostable, while others are not. Hybrid diapers are somewhere between eco-friendly disposables and cloth. They feature washable covers that can be used with disposable inner liners that are often flushable, biodegradable and compostable, too.

Training pants should provide some absorbency -- but not too much -- for potty-training children. Cloth training pants are designed to look and feel like underwear, with a little extra protection built in. Disposable training pants are similar, but many feature tear-away sides to help parents deal with bigger accidents.

ConsumerSearch has analyzed more than a dozen expert reviews and hundreds of owner reviews to evaluate diapers and training pants by performance and materials. The result is our picks for the best diapers and training pants available. One is sure to be a good fit for your child.

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