Diapers, believe it or not, are a very controversial topic. Much like breastfeeding, people strongly hold their position for a number of reasons. You have to consider the cost, sustainability, quality, and many other concerns when deciding whether cloth or disposable (or a combination) makes the most sense for your family. Once you've made that decision, it doesn't get much easier. There are dozens of competing brands and each one offers multiple variations on their products! Not to mention, you have a growing, living thing - the style and cut that fits your stationary newborn might no longer work for your active crawler!
For those of you using or considering disposables, here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for your diapers. I'll touch on some aspects that matter for the big two, Pampers and Huggies, mentioning the store brands now and again. The discussion might help you "pick a side" so to speak, and give you a hint when it's your diaper and not your baby that is the problem.
The price of diapers is one of the most confusing variables of the first year. On top of the difference in cost between brand names and store to store pricing, the actual numerical size of your diaper impacts the per diaper cost. I will use a Pampers Swaddlers "Giant Pack" at Walmart as an example. This chart shows, $39.97 a box means a huge range of price per piece:
As you can see, as your baby grows, so too does the cost of diapers. Fewer fit in the box. But it gets more complicated than that... If you've ever heard about sight line marketing, you know that the products a store most profits from are right at eye level. Diapers are the same. Pampers Swaddlers in the "Economy Pack" is located on the very bottom shelf and on a later page online. They sell for $33.87, despite there being more in the box. 186 in the size 2 box. Yes, 54 more diapers for $6.10 less, taking the price per piece down to .18 each.
The more I talk to other moms about their diaper choice (it does come up), the more apparent becomes the importance of shape above all else. A well fitting diaper lasts longer because there is less fear of leaking or other diaper problems (like tearing during crawling or bunching during sleeping). Pampers has a tendency to fit higher up the back, and slightly tighter on the legs for a lean baby. Huggies is a more compact shape with bigger leg holes. You might have to try it for yourself, so get a sample or one from a friend before buying the bulk sized box. Don't forget your local store brand, if they are on sale. You might be surprised! A friend of mine found that the only thing that ended her daughter's poo-spolsions was the now defunct Target Up-and-up brand! The search begins again...
Some diapers seem to smell differently than others, and that factor plays a role in the brand a family prefers. I have often been told that Pampers has a very faint floral or powder like fragrance that Huggies does not. I agree, and I like that. Much of what happens in there isn't very nicely scented, so why not? If you like the cut, but are worried about irritation, almost all brands (including Pampers) make organic and/or sensitive versions of their products.
When it comes to long outings and night time, absorbency is the key. A lot of brands have special variations with an extra layer for extended use, for which they charge a premium. They might be branded as overnight, since arguably that's the longest junior spends in one diaper, but they are perfect for long car rides and other outings where a quick change isn't ideal. Keep in mind, if your little one is constantly leaking, your problem might be shape, as previously discussed, or even size. If you went up too soon, or long over due, the fit will cause trouble.
If you were lucky enough to have a diaper shower, you've probably had enough trial and error to know what works for your baby. If not, be experimental early on, while it's still cost effective to buy smaller packs and your baby is less mobile. Otherwise, clip coupons and always stock up when they are on sale. Buy a size ahead if the price is right! If you're brave and spot a deal, use your bargain brand on a few days while you're at home while you test their efficiency. There can be some, let's say "surprising" results.