What is “the best” diaper? It’s the eternal question that every pregnant mother, new parent, and mother of many has asked. Ask your friends, and they’ll all have different answers. Ask in a Facebook Mom group, and you’ll be overwhelmed with all the responses. Ask Amazon, Target or any online retailer, and their stars are all over the place. Different popular Mom blogs have a different “Best Diaper of the Year” every year. Are Best Diaper awards really just a popularity contest? So how on earth are we supposed to know which one is the best one really?
When my son was born, I was obsessed, worrying about the chemicals in (pretty much everything) diapers. I read every “green” and “eco” blog on the first three pages of Google. I ordered HUGE cases of popular eco disposable diapers (back then daycare didn’t accept cloth diapers). Found out the first brand I tried was super stiff. Another case of diapers leaked like crazy. The third case I bought worked great until I looked at the price.
I’ll go ahead and save you some hours of Googling and tell you what I know about diapers and the chemicals and what’s important.
- Fragrance-free and dye-free. Fragrance-free, because why cover-up that natural ‘why-can’t-you-bottle-this clean baby’ scent. And if the pee/poop stinks that bad, no fragrance is going to cover it and you’d better get a fresh diaper. And dyes are unnecessary and can cause rashes.
- Chlorine-free is a must. Luckily, more and more diapers are chlorine-free now, so that’s an easy fix.
- SAP (Super Absorbent Polymersodium polyacrylate) is the magical “thing” that makes diapers absorb. Pretty much all disposable diapers use it. It’s such a controversial topic, and the internet is full of scary “clickbait” stories. But when you really check out the research, SAP is pretty harmless and really useful. Some brands, like Babyganics and Eco by Naty, even Huggies, use less SAP by combining it with other, corn or wood-based absorbents. If you are still concerned about SAP, then choose a brand that minimizes its use.
Another option is cloth diapers, though not always as eco and non-toxic as you may think. If you go true-eco with cloth, you may need to limit yourself to organic cotton, organic hemp, and wool. Cloth diaper with PUL, Zorb, microfibers all contain plastic and are often dyed. Microfiber’s been in the news lately about pollution from the plastic washing out of the microfiber. Now that’s another topic for another day, but it’s worth considering. But cloth diapers are super cute, and it’s a ‘buy once and move on’ expense. Until you have an absorbency issue….or a leak issue….or you see a super cute must-have new pattern… But I digress. A new perk that wasn’t really an option when my son was born: Many childcare options in this area are now accepting cloth diapers. Diapering also doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor (ok, the diapers are, but to use cloth part-time and disposables part-time is not only necessary sometimes, but it’s also pretty common!).
SO, how do you choose which disposable diapers to use? Which diaper is truly THE BEST?
Answer: It depends. (you totally read this far down to find THAT answer? Stick with me, I’ll give you more, I promise)
A good fit is essential to avoid leaks. And your baby is a different size and shape than every other baby (see, that’s why I said it depends!). If the diaper is too big, you’re going to have leaks. If the diaper is too small, you’re going to have red marks, tape let go and pooplosions. Some diapers are stiff and don’t really snuggle baby, leaving gaps for fluids to exit. Others are fit and trim to take up less space in storage and under clothes. Some are more bulky and thick but hug every curve. As the baby grows and changes, they may thin out or chunk out, and diapers may fit differently.
Yes, absorbency determines if you have to change immediately after a pee or if it can wait until you get home from the grocery store (and if you can make it through naptime). BUT, the best absorbency doesn’t matter if the first pee shoots right out that little gap into mom’s shirt.
So, how do you find a diaper that fits your baby and fits your budget and eco-priorities? Don’t just guess like I did!
- Try out some diapers first. “Borrow” a few from a friend? If she swears by her brand, ask her for a few to try out.
- Some diaper sample options, like Diaper Dabbler, let you pick mini-sized packages to test out the options.
- Sometimes if you email a company directly, they’ll send you a free sample, and add your name and contact information to their marketing list. But they don’t all have this program and don’t have samples available all the time.
- Watch out for subscription-based “free trials”. They may be convenient and wonderful but are super expensive if you forget to cancel/adjust your order. And shipping charges always apply.
- Keep an eye on weight class and sizing. Weights on the packagings are just guidelines, not hard-fast rules. Size 2 in brand A may fit like Size 2 in brand B. So sometimes just switching brands can keep you in the smaller (read: cheaper) size.
- Don’t buy in bulk until you’ve found your fav brand. THEN you can start analyzing the best deal, whether it’s coupon-stacking, watching the sales, or Amazon Prime/Family. Amazon is super-handy with its 2-day prime and cheap, humongous boxes, but buying in bulk won’t save you money if leaky diapers mean you’re doing more laundry.