If you are a new or expectant parent, your first diaper purchase can seem daunting, with dozens of different brands, styles and sizes lining the shelves.
Finding a diaper is not always an easy fit—there’s a lot to think about besides size.
How well can it absorb pee? Will it give your child an allergy? Is it going to trash the planet?
But before you go into analysis paralysis, here’s our guide to navigating the world of disposables.
1. Size and Fit
Sounds straightforward, right? Yet you’ll probably need to test several brands and sizes before you find the perfect size and fit—and then your baby will go and grow!
Start by knowing your baby’s weight, as this is how brands define their sizing. Each brand will probably have slightly different size charts and these can also vary between countries.
Diapers should fit snuggly around your baby’s waist, butt and legs without any gaps, sagging or bunching.
If it’s too large or small you’ll end up with discomfort, little leaks or even the dreaded blowout (watch for this once you start on solid food).
In the first few weeks, try out a few different options to see which one works best for your baby. Plus remember they’ll outgrow their size much quicker than you’d think!
Putting aside size and fit, some diapers just outperform others.
The biggest reason is absorbency: how much liquid a diaper can hold, how well it can wick away pee from the skin, and how it distributes this across its layers.
The more absorbent your diaper, the more likely your baby will stay dry and rash-free.
Most diapers’ absorbent cores are made from a ratio of cellulose (to soak up the liquid) and super absorbent polymers (SAPs) to help dry this out.
If your newborn is constantly sitting in a very wet nappy, despite many changes, then you might look to another brand.
Other performance traits to look for include durability (they need to last more than a few hours), closure tabs with strong adhesives, and a soft material that conforms to your baby’s shape.
3. Skin and Allergies
You may notice that your infant’s skin is irritated, despite finding a diaper with the right fit and function, and changing them diligently.
This could be because your child is sensitive or even allergic to a certain substance in the diapers.
Don’t worry—this is fairly common. You may need to switch to a brand that is designed for sensitive skin, or one that switches out the toxins for more natural ingredients, to help alleviate the symptoms.
More serious irritations and allergies could be caused by the potentially harmful substances in some mainstream diapers.
Many of these contain inks with heavy metals, wood pulp that has been bleached with chlorine, hormone-disrupting fragrances, and other nasties your baby will be sat in for nearly 24 hours a day.
Even if your child is not showing any sort of reaction, the chemical composition of conventional diapers is something to consider.
Companies are not legally required to disclose their diaper ingredients but there are brands on the market who are willing to be more transparent about their make-up.
5. The Environment
Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day of being new parents that we forget to look at the big picture.
Diapers require a lot of resources to produce, and then the 4,000 or so each child uses in their lifetime will end up in landfill—where they require at least 500 years to decompose.
If this is important to you, due diligence will find brands that have green product certifications and have made the effort to lower their ecological impact.
Alternatively, you could experiment with reusable diapers or hybrids that include a much smaller disposable insert.
There is a lot to think about when selecting diapers, but ultimately it is up to you as the parent to weigh up your priorities and see what works with your lifestyle and budget.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different options and find a happy nappy solution that works for both you and your baby!