Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Skinny On: Diapers

Ok so any way you cut it, you’re going to spend a lot on diapers over the next few years. Might as well get over the sticker shock now.  Consumer Reports estimates that you’ll spend between $1,500 and $2,000 by the time your child is diaper free; more if you go with the organic/eco friendly diapers that are biodegradable and chlorine free.  However, there are ways to save if you take some time to look around and compare.  Since most of you are working and probably don’t have that kind of time, I did the leg work for you and made a diaper comparison chart for 9 diaper vendors (3 wholesale clubs, 2 baby superstores, 2 discount stores and 2 online stores.)  I compared only the most popular diapers (Pampers, Huggies, Luvs).  I tried to compare apples to apples as often as I could, but you know how hard the companies make it to do this.  I highlighted the best priced diaper in each category. 
The diaper comp chart is at the end of this article.

What size should I buy? How many should I start out with?
Most baby sites recommend only buying a small pack (50) of the Newborn size diapers since they usually only go up to 10lbs and size 1 diapers start at 8lbs.  So, if you know your baby is going to weigh in over 8lbs, you might not even want to bother buying the newborn size! 

Diaper Sizing
Pampers Sizing
Huggies Sizing
Luvs Sizing

N   Up to 10lb
N Up to 10lbs

N Up to 10lbs
1     8-14 lbs
1   8-14bs

1  8-14lbs
1-2 Up to 15lbs
2  12-18lbs

2  12-18lbs
2    12-18 lbs
3  16-28 lbs
3  16-28lbs
2-3 14-22 lbs

Should I stock up on size 1 before the baby is born?
Probably not.  You might want to start out with a small pack of sensitive size 1  diapers and small pack of regular size 1 diapers.  I needed to use Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive on Sophie for the first few months because her skin was too sensitive for the regular scented ones.  (I also loved the little pee pee line on the diaper that indicated when the baby was wet.) So see what works on your baby and then stock up.  If you really want to have a big supply ready then buy a big box of Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive, Huggies Pure & Natural, or Seventh Generation.  They are all made for sensitive skin and should work.

How many diapers will we go through a day?
Your little munchkin will go through 10-12 diapers a day for the first month or so.  As the baby grows and can go longer between feedings you usually move down to about 8-10 a day, then about 6 by the time the baby is 1.  Those are just ballpark figures though - every baby is different. 

Why does each brand offer so many damn types of diapers?
Because we are suckers.  Diaper companies know we obsess over this stuff and by making little changes here and there they can get us to spend more.  Ok, that’s just my opinion. 

So Pampers and Huggies have their premium line for newborns that go from size N to 3.  Pampers line is called Swaddlers New Baby and Huggies is called Little Snugglers. Within that they have regular scented and non-scented sensitive diapers.  Then the next step down are the Pampers Baby Dry and Huggies Snug & Dry.  Luvs keep it simple and offer one type of diaper.  Once the babies are into size 3 diapers, Pampers Swaddlers are replaced by Cruisers and Huggies Little Snugglers are replaced by Little Movers. You jive?

Is one type of diaper better for girls/boys?
Crazy as it may seem there are many people that swear by Pampers for girls and Huggies for boys.  I don’t know if there is research on this, but on most of the baby forums women post this.  Consumer Reports even makes mention of it.  Evidently Pampers leak more on boys.  Is it true? you’ll have to try for yourself.  I have a girl and I do love Pampers—hated the Huggies.  But that’s just me.

What is the issue with Pampers new “Dry Max” technology?
So a few months ago Pampers introduced Swaddlers and Cruisers with new “dry max” technology.  It’s not a whole new line - it’s supposed to be a better version of their current diapers. The dry max diapers utilize the same absorbent gel as the older diapers but the diapers are 20% thinner because the gel is embedded on the diaper instead of being poured into the bulky padding (Webmd).  I have not had any problems and have not heard any complaints from my friends yet, however there are thousands of mothers who claim the diaper caused their baby to break out in a severe diaper rash – some said it was like a chemical burn.  I’m not saying you should avoid Pampers, just wanted to let you know the issue.

Is it better to purchase diapers at the store or online?

Wholesale Clubs
Well if you have the time to do the shopping then buying in bulk from a wholesale club, like BJs, is very cost effective.  I say BJs because they definitely have the largest and best priced selection in Northern VA.  Costco’s selection was awful.  However, you have to decide if it’s cost effective for you to join a wholesale club.  Annual fees range from $35-$50 so if you are just buying diapers there – it might not be cost effective.  I get my diapers, wipes, formula, coffee, paper products, etc there so it works out for me.  The wholesale clubs also offer $3-$5 off diaper coupons every few months.

Babies R Us & Buy Buy Baby
I really don’t like buying my diapers here. They don’t have the best prices and they only occasionally have coupons that make it worthwhile.

Target & Walmart
Target and Walmart also have good prices, but the Target’s in our area had a larger selection.  Target’s diapers also go on sale and they occasionally have coupons. &
If you’re working and totally pinched for time, it’s probably easier and more cost effective for you to order online. and deliver to your door and you can set up an automatic delivery schedule.  Very convenient. often has an offer going on and has free delivery on orders over $49 (so just order your wipes and diapers together).  I’ve found that the prices and selection on Amazon are not as stable as, however if you subscribe you save 15% on your orders and get free delivery—which would make their prices comparable to BJs.

Supermarkets/Convenience Stores
While both put diapers on sale from time to time, the packages are very small and usually don’t compare to the savings you get at the discount and wholesale stores.  I saw a woman buying a bunch of diapers and formula at the Teeter a few months ago and I desperately wanted to throw myself in front of her cart and tell her not to do it.  Only buy diapers and formula at the supermarket if you are in a pinch or if they go on great sale—otherwise you are wasting your money.  You’ll pay a lot more  

Where to buy diapers in the DC area:

BJ’s Locations
Alexandria, Fairfax, Woodbridge, Fredricksburg
Waldorf, Columbia, Bowie

Costco Locations
Arlington, Springfield, Fairfax, Potomac Mills, Chantilly, Manassas
Beltsville, Gaithersburg

Target Locations
Columbia Heights
Alexandria (2), Falls Church, Skyline, Springfield, Fairfax, Manassas, and a whole lotta other places
Rockville, Columbia, Gaithersburg, etc

Babies R Us
Alexandria, Falls Church, Woodbridge, Waldorf, Chantilly, Silver Spring, Sterling

Buy Buy Baby
Rockville, MD
Springfield, VA

Alexandria, Burke, Fairfax, Woodbridge, Manassas
Waldorf, Columbia, Germantown, Landover Hills, and more

Sam’s Club
Woodbridge, Sterling
Waldorf, Gaithersburg, Laurel, etc

Click here for the Diaper Comps spreadsheet:


** ok I am having some technical difficulty attaching the chart.  
For now, if you want it, shoot me an e-mail:

Comments? Questions? Additional info? Let me know!


  1. What? Not brave enough to tackle cloth diapers? :) Due to allergies, we used cloth diapers until Ian was six-months-old. We used disposables if we were going be away from home for a while. The diaper service, we were in Atlanta at the time, made it super easy and the cost was about the same. Happy to give lessons on changing a cloth diaper!

  2. Awesome breakdown and totally appreciated :)
    Thanks a million :)
    Any chance you're up to tackling baby bottles and/or formula next? I'm totally lost there!

  3. Mere: Yes, I am a coward. Plan to do it, but haven't looked into it yet. You might have to give me a primer or write the post for me!

    Mic: No prob- Here's the timeline for comparison posts
    Next week: wipes
    Week of 14th: formula
    Week of 21st: diaper cream
    Will get to bottles in July--shoot me an email if you need info before then and I can do a quick rundown

  4. Great post. What about Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS? Rite Aid is about to have an amazing sale next week and if you have certain coupons it makes buying the smaller packages much cheaper per diaper than the larger ones. Too bad it is for Huggies and I am a Pampers mom.

  5. Casey- good point. For the most part regular priced diapers at convenience stores come out to be .15 to .20 more per diaper. When then go on big sale like this week at Rite Aid and CVS, they are more comparable to the discount stores-especially if you only need a 36-64 pack and not 100+. I didn't include b/c I feel it takes more time and isn't always worth the effort for a lot of people to track diaper sales at convenience stores. I still may add them to the chart when I get a chance. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I am wondering if you have any information about cloth diapers. I don't want to contribute all of those diapers to the landfill, nor do I want to spend thousands on the disposable biodegradable organic once - so cloth diapering seems to be a good choice that no one talks much about.