Favorite Diapers, Best Diapers, The Business of Diapers: The Diaper 411

Although I do not proclaim to be a diaper expert (who would really want that title anyway?)… I have compiled some data on this “dirty little industry” for Kim’s Finds, and I would like to share some of the findings.  You see, buying diapers is a big deal to families everywhere, as the #1 or #2 single largest expense in a new baby’s budget. Therefore, you… the consumer…deserve to be armed with information about how this whole diapering business works.

Did you know?

  • The diaper industry is pretty much cornered by two companies: Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark. Oligopoly Alert!!
  • Luvs are made by the Pampers manufacturer Procter & Gamble for a target market of Moms who prefer a cheaper, older style of diaper without elastic waist band.
  • Costco’s Kirkland diapers are made by Huggies manufacturer Kimberly Clark. They are technically an older generation Huggies.
  • Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Albertsons, and other national stores negotiate with PG and KMB for a version of their private label diapers each year. Therefore, the diapers you buy at Sam’s Club, Walmart, or Target may be an older KMB diaper, PG diaper, or a regional generic brand.  This means that the manufacturer and quality of the diapers change each year, so don’t waste your time reading out-dated Mommy reviews on private label diapers.
  • Pampers and Huggies premium and supreme brands do represent the leading edge of diaper research & development. However, we are talking about poop & pee catchers here….so if your baby doesn’t leak using a cheaper brand, then buy the cheaper brand. By going with a generic or store brand, you can save about 10 cents a diaper, or nearly $200 a year.
  • For private label/store brand diapers: retailers will intentionally put their own higher profit margin private diapers at eye level and scatter lower margin name brands to the top and bottom of the shelves.  Thus, front and center does not mean “the best”, or even “the cheapest”…it means “the most money for us”.
  • Baby stores, such as Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby, intentionally make you walk past their high margin items to get to the diapers and baby food section. They know that you could be tired, frazzled parents who don’t have time to price compare. You just know that your baby is out of diapers, and he is also getting too big for his infant car seat. You think, “Sweet! I’ll just grab a seat on my way out, and we can check that off our list!” By the way, online diaper retailers do this too. They would love nothing more than for you to pay $60 more for your car seat… because you are pleased to have 2-day diapers on your doorstep (Diapers.com is not a price leader in diapers for this reason, as well).
  • Amazon.com purchased Quidsi Inc., owner of Diapers.com, for $500 million in November 2010. In the longer term, this basically consolidates online retailing of diaper products (bad for the consumer). However, in the shorter term, Amazon is offering some pretty good deals to lure customers into diaper subscriptions (see below).
  • Wal-Mart sells 30% of the disposable diapers purchased in US each year, so you can imagine that the “Bully of Bentonville” has ensured that Wal-Mart is the price leader in diapers.
  • 60% of people who buy diapers also buy beer (yes, the classic “data mining” example). So do not think it is by accident that beer…and chips (for frazzled parents) are frequently placed next to diapers in the Supermarket.
  • Diaper manufacturers have profited greatly from delayed potty training practices in the US.
    • In the 1950s, almost 100% of children wore cloth diapers and 95% of children were potty trained by 18 months.
    • In the 1980s, approximately 50% of children wore cloth diapers, while 50% wore disposable diapers. 50% of  children were potty trained by 18 months.
    • Today, roughly 90-95% of children wear disposable diapers and only about 10% of children are potty trained by the age of 18 months.
    • Today, the average age for potty training is about 30 months, with the age ranging from 18-60 months.
  • Training pants, or Pull-Ups, are big money makers for diaper manufacturers. Not only do they generously extend the life cycle of the consumer, they are also 35% more expensive per unit than regular diapers (about 15 more cents per diaper), with margins greater than 20%. Thus, a budget conscious parent might consider using training pants only at night, or once their child has mastered using the toilet fairly well.

Opaque Pricing

  • PG and KMB do a masterful job in making grocery store aisle “per diaper cost comparisons” just about impossible. They put (ridiculously) odd numbers of diapers into their various packs and sizes…allowing only the parent with a calculator and an obscene amount of patience the ability to properly price compare.

Deals on Diapers:

  • Sign up online for manufacturer’s coupons to be sent to your home. Then carry them in a coupon holder that stays in your purse, or mail the coupons to your online diaper retailer (for instant reductions).
  • Consider buying a warehouse membership at Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s simply for the benefit of buying large boxes of diapers and wipes. Use the store coupons whenever possible.
  • Join Amazon Mom and save 30% on select diapers and wipes when you sign up for Subscribe & Save. This includes the standard 15% Subscribe & Save discount plus an additional 15% discount exclusively for Amazon Mom members, plus FREE Two-Day shipping. My husband and I also like that when you join Amazon Mom, you receive FREE Two-Day Shipping with Amazon Prime for the first 3 months of your membership (for all Amazon products). Your Amazon Prime benefits can then be extended up to one year from the date you joined Amazon Mom by spending $25/month in the Baby Store (includes diaper purchases).

Helpful Tips for New Parents:

  • Before you buy a Warehouse-sized box of diapers for your newborn, try a few different brands. Then price compare by dividing the price of a pack by the # of diapers inside.
  • Sizing (for new parents): some babies go through tremendous growth spurts through diaper sizes 1 and 2, so plan carefully (especially if you are purchasing warehouse sized boxes of diapers).

Finally, here is some additional diaper information for new parents (compiled from various sources):

Best Diapers for Newborns
(tailored to your baby’s needs)

Pampers Swaddlers – softer brand

These are what many hospitals use
Three sizes fit babies up to 18 pounds
Extra padding in back (great for inactive “Back is Best” babies)
Fold-down section for navel area
More expensive than store-brand diapers
Not available in larger sizes

Huggies Lil Snugglers – better for bigger eaters/leakers/breastmilk poop-up-the-backers

Swaddlers are softer, however Huggies Lil Snugglers worked better for our big baby (with big pees and runny breastmilk poops)
Elastic strap in back keeps in the “runny mess” (especially for breastfed infants)
You can sign up for Huggies coupons to be sent to your home
More expensive than store-brand diapers

Best Diapers for Older Babies (best for leaks)

Huggies Snug and Dry (Little Movers are documented to be terrible for leaks!!)
Pampers Little Cruisers (high end choice, pricey but works well)
*Budget Choice: Kirkland Brand (Costco)

Eco-Friendly Disposable Diapers (an oxymoron?)
Earth’s Best TenderCare
Do you care about helping the environment, but you just can’t commit to cloth diapers? Well this brand can offer an opportunity for a compromise (for an extra 10 cents per diaper). These environmentally friendly disposable diapers are not treated with chlorine bleach and are partly made with renewable resources, such as corn and wheat. Personally, putting corn and wheat on my baby’s bum bum does not help me feel too much better about filling up the nation’s landfills with diapers. They are still diapers.

Best Overnight/12 hour diapers

Huggies Overnights – These are a God-send for a healthy peeing baby.  By 7 months old, our breastfed daughter was taking in who knows how much milk…and would wake up soaking wet by 3 or 4am.  Aaah! Bring on the Overnites… which are well worth 40 cents each.  In addition to issues cause by heavy volume, you might also have a little leaker. Whatever the cause… skinny legs?  a side flopper? or a crib scooter?  You will be glad to have your child wearing Overnites when the leaks get to be too much, too often.

Pampers Baby Dry – These diapers are really thin, yet 10-12 hours later your baby’s diaper remains packed (but not leaky). The tabs on these diapers are also extremely flexible, expanding and contracting as baby sleeps. The Pampers brand also has a strong, powdery baby-type scent, so if you do not desire the smell, then you might want to skip the fancy Pampers brands.

Best Cloth Diapers
BumGenius One Size (approx. $16-18 each)

Easy to put on
Absorbent insert material
Snap-down front to adjust size
Fasteners wear out over time
May not work for heavier babies

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