What is the top-performing disposable diaper and why? We took 24 disposable diapers and put them to the test in a bum to bum competition to find out. Eleven of the top green diapers and 13 traditional diapers were put through a series of tests designed to compare the diapers relative to each other. Our goal was to determine which diapers performed the best and if there was any real difference between store-label brands like Walmart's Parent's Choice and top-brands like Pampers and Huggies.
All the diapers were put through a combination of hands-on and lab testing; then they were rated on a variety of performance factors relative to their competitors. The factors included the ever important Absorption and Leaks, as well as, the emerging in popularity categories of Eco-Friendly and Health among others.
This review will focus on disposable diapers, which remain the most popular choice due to their convenience compared to cloth diapers. However, when you consider that your little peanut is going to blow through roughly 6,000 diapers before mastering their toilet skills, we encourage you to think carefully about what you buy, where you buy it, and the environmental impact you'll leave in your wake.
Keep reading to find out what we learned from our tests, and how each diaper stacked up against the sometimes soggy competition.
|Total 24 products tested.|
The choices may seem endless when searching for a disposable diaper. It's impossible to know from glancing at the package how one brand compares to another in absorbency, fit, and comfort, or whether or not a more expensive diaper is worth the price. Our goal is to spare you this guess-work and aid in the decision making process. We hope this article, as well as our Best Disposable Diaper Review, will give you the information you need to make an informed decision you and your baby can live with.
In the Beginning
* First, consider your infant's needs as well your priorities. Every family has their own bottom line. Is it cost? Health? The environment? The perfect fit? Or do you just want it all?
* Second, don't buy in bulk until you are satisfied with a specific diaper's performance and fit.
* Third, wait to buy baby's first diapers until just before or after he/she is born and you know their weight. A few packages of newborn diapers (up to 10 lb) may be all you need before heading onto size 1 (8-14 lb).Ordering diapers online is a breeze and typically they can arrive at your doorstep before you even get home from the hospital.
* Important tip: European brands, like Nature Babycare, have their own sizing systems.
* Last, cost per diaper will be best once you are ready to buy in bulk.
Choose a Diaper that Exceeds in Absorbency
Absorbency is the most important trait of any diaper, disposable or cloth. Absorption covers how much liquid a diaper can hold, how well that liquid wicks away from baby and distributes throughout the diaper's core, and how well it continues to hold that moisture away from baby's skin. Poor absorption can expose baby's skin to persistent dampness, which can lead to diaper rash. Our absorption tests gave us some interesting insights into how each of the 24 disposable diapers we tested compared to one another both in absorption and overall function. In our testing, the two diapers that claimed the highest absorbency scores also claimed the highest overall scores: BAMBO Nature (our Editors' Choice) and Nature Babycare recieved a 9 and 10 out of 10 respectfully.
Please allow us to delve briefly into how diapers are constructed. In order to asses diapers fairly, it is important that we discuss exactly what they are made of. We want to make sure everyone is aware of the secret chemical ingredient that is used in almost every brand of disposable diaper. Whether a diaper is green or traditional, the absorbent core of the diaper contains SAP: Super Absorbent Polymer.
SAP powder (which looks like a very fine white sand) is sprinkled into the middle of the absorbent core layers between the outer cover and inner liner of the diaper. SAP is the meat of your diaper's absorbency sandwich; it provides the primary method of absorbing urine and wet fecal matter and trapping it in the core. Even green diapers like Bambo, Seventh Generation, Honest Company, and gDiapers rely on SAP for absorption and consider it safe.
Diapers are sized by the weight of your baby. However, much like baby's clothes, fit between disposable diaper brands vary. Most diapers help ensure a leak-free fit by providing a double elastic sealing edge; one edge just along the absorbent core, and one along the outer shell of the diaper.
However, despite this similarity, we found that not all diapers were equal in fit and they performed differently in leak tests. In our testing, we found that materials differed significantly from diaper to diaper and that this affected fit and leakage. Some were softer and conformed to the body nicely, while others were stiffer leaving small gaps that created a poorer fit. Our testing revealed two top scoring diapers in the leak category Earth's Best TenderCare (a Best Value pick) earned a 9 out of 10 and Broody Chick earned an 8.
Of course every baby has different proportions, so finding a disposable diaper with the perfect fit can involve some trial and error. Let's face it, even the best absorbing diaper may leak if the fit is not right. Parents may need to try a handful of brands to find the diaper that fits their baby best. Again, try to avoid buying in bulk until you find your "go-to" diaper, and remember to pay attention to the weight range so you know you are buying the right size.
Keeping your baby comfortable requires not only stellar absorbency and an adequate fit, but also materials that feel soft on baby's skin. Securing tabs need to stay put and should have soft or rounded corners. In addition, edges and seams need to feel seamless to avoid chafing. Becauese it is impossible to really know what you are getting your baby into without buying and comparing them all side-by-side, we reviewed these qualities for you. Of course, baby will be the first to let you know if there are issues, and as one of our little in-house testers did, might even start indicating which diapers they like the best (in case you are curious, he chose Earth's Best Tender Care over Huggies Snug & Dry).
Much debate surrounds which is more earth-friendly: green disposable diapers or cloth diapers. Some brands of disposable diapers are manufactured with attention to minimizing their carbon footprint. However, they end up in the landfill where even compostable diapers will fail to biodegrade if in a dark, airless environment. Alternatively, cloth diapers require lots of precious water and electricity to clean over and over. Nonetheless, if you and your family do not want to commit to cloth diapering, but still want to make an effort toward being eco-conscious, more green diapers exist than ever before. These options may include chlorine-free processing, use of renewable resources, boast minimal packaging, use biodegradable materials, and often contribute to charities in an attempt to offset their footprint. But, in our analysis comparing cloth vs. disposable diapers we concluded that cloth is a much better option for the eco-health minded parent (and also for the budget minded parent too).
One thing we can assure you of, is that you don't need to sacrifice quality to be more Earth friendly. In our tests of disposables, the green diapers were the top 5 performers, handily outperforming traditional brands like Pampers and Huggies on basic performance metrics like absorbency, leakage, and comfort.
Whether your child has chemical sensitivities, true allergies that require diapers free of perfume or latex, or you are just a parent that is concerned about minimizing your baby's exposure to synthetic chemicals, health-conscious qualities in disposables are now more commonplace. They can even be found in well-performing, more affordable options like Target's Up & Up, as well as high-end brands like BAMBO Nature (our Editors' Choice winner). One word of caution would be the industry's use of the word "Hypoallergenic", which is a non-regulated word that actually means very little and is not an indicator of a product designed with baby's health in mind. We at BabyGearLab believe that in this arena, less is more.
Our recommendations are:
New parents commonly price compare using newborn or size 1 diaper prices. However, we advise caution in using this approach. Here's why:
Based on our analysis of weighted average costs across six popular diaper brands, we believe the Size 3 diaper cost represents the approximate weighted average cost, and can reasonably be used as a practical approximation of the lifetime cost of diapers. You'll see in our reviews that we calculate an estimated diaper per unit price using size 3 bulk-volume diaper prices at Amazon (or other retailers, if not available at Amazon) to estimate a fair price. We did not include shipping price, because Amazon offers Prime which we feel is a bargain for frequent Amazon shoppers. However, in the case of The Honest Company diapers we did include shipping costs in calculating per unit prices, because there was no alternative to avoid those costs.
Some vendors offer additional discounts if you purchase a diaper purchase "subscription". If you have settled on a specific brand you are comfortable with, these subscription discounts can be smart and convenient. But, we urge you to avoid subscription pricing until you have determined which diaper works best for both you and baby. The prices we show are estimates; list or street prices do not reflect subscription prices.
Choosing a disposable diaper can be daunting. The sheer number of options available, and the inability to try them all can leave a parent confused and frustrated. We recommend that absorbency be your top priority and the rest will follow. In our tests, the diapers that scored the highest in absorbency usually scored very well in the other metrics. In addition, we feel that going green is the right thing to do (as well as an easy choice), since our testing revealed that most of the high-scoring diapers were both Earth and health friendly at a variety of price points sure to work with most budgets.