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The Best Diapers, According to Parents and Nannies

Photo: Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Images Collection via G

People who have babies in their lives are all too familiar with the occasional diaper blowout (for the uninitiated, that’s when the grimier contents of said diaper spill out of it). The right diaper can make a huge difference in preventing leaks from happening, but with so many different brands and types on the market — and all babies being different — figuring out which one works for your little one can be tricky. That’s why Jennifer LaBracio, gear editor at registry site Babylist, recommends buying a small amount from a few different brands to try before committing to one. “It’s a little trial and error because you want something that is snug around the legs but not too tight, and you want something where the waistband cinches nicely but doesn’t dig in,” she says. “The fit is just going to be different depending on your child and your child’s body shape.” To help you navigate the diaper aisle and narrow down your sample size, we spoke to 32 experts — a.k.a. parents and nannies — about their tried-and-true disposable diapers, from everyday picks to overnights to ecofriendly options that will keep your baby comfortable, dry, and clean.

Best overall diapers

Pampers Swaddlers were the most recommended diapers among our experts. Thirteen moms (including Strategist editor Alexis Swerdloff) and caregivers agree that Swaddlers are reliable and comfortable for the baby. Lindsay Thomason, CEO of the Nanny League, rates Pampers Swaddlers as the overall best diaper on the market, saying, “I love how soft and durable they are. My almost 1-year-old twins have never had a leak.” Nathifah R., a nanny with SmartSitting, agrees, saying that they are “super absorbent.” She particularly appreciates the wetness indicator, which she says is always accurate but “will also let you know when [your] baby is only a little wet by not fully changing colors.” She adds that “the fit is always comfortable for your baby and the price point is perfect for most households.” SmartSitter Shirley R. and mom of two Joo Lee Song both like how soft and absorbent they are, while sales consultant and mom of two Grace Lim likes how lightweight they are and the fact that they “don’t restrict my daughter from going about her business.” Swaddlers are hypoallergenic and free of parabens and latex. It’s worth mentioning that Pampers, as a brand, got the most mentions across all categories. A total of six types of Pampers came recommended, including Swaddlers Overnights, Baby-Dry, Cruisers, Pure, and Easy Ups (more on the latter two below).

Best less-expensive overall diapers

Parents also love diapers from Target’s in-house brand Up&Up. Publicist and mom Sonya Casino used Pampers Swaddlers until her son was about a year — “and then a couple friends told me on separate occasions that they switched to Up&Up and liked it more.” She also notes that, depending on the quantity you get, the diapers are significantly cheaper — about 13 cents a diaper compared to about 24 cents for Swaddlers. She uses Up&Up diapers for day and night, and finds that they are quite absorbent for both instances. Three other panelists also recommend Target’s diapers; Strategist senior editor and dad Peter Martin likes Up&Up’s overnight diapers, in particular.

Best ecofriendly diaper

The Honest Company’s diapers came in a close second, with 12 of our panelists recommending the brand’s regular diapers. (Three people, including this writer, vouch for the brand’s overnight nappies, as well — more on that below.) Parents and caregivers love that Honest’s diapers are an ecofriendly option, since they’re made with plant-based materials and designed with “sustainably harvested fluff pulp,” according to the company. They’re also hypoallergenic and contain no latex, chlorine processing, fragrances, or lotions. Heather M., a sitter with SmartSitting, says that the diapers “not only hold well and prevents leaks, but are also made for sensitive skin, which I’ve found most babies have.” Vox Media director of brand strategy and mom Abigail Aronofsky calls Honest diapers “the holy grail for us,” adding that she’s never experienced any leaks. “We used Pampers with our first and they were fine, but Honest are better in every way,” she says. Several of our experts also noted how much they like all the cute patterns the diapers come in. Says SmartSitter Lottie G., “I love choosing which print to use each time I’m changing diapers.” Singer and mom of three Sarah Gregory agrees, saying that they’re “cute-looking for summer, when they’re in only diapers anyway.” Honest also offers a subscription service that a couple of our panelists mentioned as being convenient and a good way to save money. Says professor and mom of two Lucy Collins, “I love the subscription service. It just makes it so easy and I don’t ever have to think about buying diapers.” Mercedes Kraus, mom and executive editor at Curbed, agrees: “The subscription model and very cute patterns are hard to match.”

Best less-expensive ecofriendly diaper

For an ecofriendly option that’s slightly more affordable than Honest’s diapers, consider Pampers Pure line, which offers the same protection as Pampers Swaddlers, but are a more natural alternative. Pampers Pure diapers, which three of our panelists, plus this writer, stand by, are made with cotton and other plant-based materials, and they’re free of chlorine bleaching, fragrances, parabens, and latex. They also offer up to 12 hours of protection and feature a wetness indicator like the Swaddlers. Fritzie Andrade, director of video at New York and mom, tried all kinds of diapers before finding one that worked best for her daughter. “We ultimately found ourselves happiest with Pampers Pure,” she says. “It doesn’t have that powdery diaper smell that other diapers have, it has the line that alerts you when they’ve gone so you don’t have to shove your finger in, and it gets her through the night without waking her up, ever.” Curbed’s editor-in-chief and mom Kelsey Keith agrees, saying that they are a “great overnight option and SUPER absorbent. I don’t think we’ve experienced even the slightest hint of a blowout.”

Best overnight diaper

Once your baby starts eating solids, you may want to put them in overnight diapers when they go to bed. LaBracio explains that because “they’re taking in not only breastmilk or formula, but also actual food, you tend to see a lot of people complaining about diapers leaking at night. By that point, the baby’s sleeping longer or through the night, but they’re also loading up on food before they go to bed, so you need a diaper that’s really gonna hold up.” Her choice is Honest Co.’s overnight diapers, which offer up to 12 hours of protection. She says that they’re “really absorbent” and a “little more natural” than the bigger brands’ offerings. Five others agree, including this writer. Lottie G., who also swears by Honest’s regular diapers, says that they are “great for sensitive skin, which can be bothered throughout the night.” She also likes that they absorb so much pee. Nathifah R. agrees: “They keep the baby comfortable all night — no squishy diaper to wake them up.” She adds, “The sleepy sheep design is a cute little addition and makes organizing daytime and nighttime diapers much easier.” Says Kraus: “Honestly, I’m sometimes shocked when I see just how much pee they capture.” As far as sizing goes, LaBracio says it’s a good idea to size up from your normal daytime diaper for maximum absorbency (ensuring that the diaper is still snug around your baby’s legs and waist).

Best less-expensive overnight diapers

Four of our parents and caregivers also recommend Huggies OverNites as a great option for nighttime. Sitter Heather M. says that they’re great for preventing leaks, and keeping the baby dry and comfortable through the night. “Every family I sit for uses this brand,” she says. Gregory, who opts for Pampers during the day, says that Huggies OverNites “wins for sure” when it comes to bedtime. They offer up to 12 hours of leakage protection, a snug and secure (but soft) fit, a wetness indicator, and they’re cheaper by 11 cents per diaper than Honest’s overnights. (Like Pampers, Huggies got a bunch of recommendations; parents also like Little Snugglers, Little Movers, and Pull-Ups, which we touch on below.) If even an overnight won’t cut it for your particularly thirsty child, you may want to consider using a Sposie Booster Pad, which looks like a menstrual pad that you put inside a diaper for extra absorbency.

Best subscription diapers

Hello Bello was started by actor couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard last year to provide premium products at affordable prices for every family. The company’s ecofriendly, plant-derived diapers are hypoallergenic, as well as free of lotion, fragrance, phthalates, latex, and chlorine processing. And like Honest’s diapers, they’re made with sustainably harvested fluff pulp. They’re available in a money-saving bundle that comes with seven packs of diapers (there are 119 to 245 diapers total per bundle depending on size, and you can choose from a variety of patterns), plus four packs of wipes; the bundles start at $65 and go up depending on add-ons like shampoo and lotion, offered at 15 percent off when you buy in the bundle instead of individually. Shirley R. likes the fact that they are, in addition to being plant-based, “very absorbent and very affordable.” Mom and managing producer of video at Vox Media Valerie Lapinski agrees, saying that the monthly bundle is “a really good deal” after having done a cost-analysis comparison of other “natural” diapers-and-wipes bundles. She also appreciates that the company “donates diapers and supplies to asylum-seekers and other struggling families.” Babylist’s LaBracio says that Hello Bello, which is also available at Walmart, is growing in popularity because of its price point and the fact that they are free of many additives that are in traditional diapers. “A lot of people I know have used them and liked them,” she says.

Best training diapers

While some parents believe that using diapers during potty training can delay the process, others like the convenience of pull-on diapers for their kiddos. Four of our panelists recommend Huggies Pull-Ups for the variety of character patterns they come in and how easy they are to use. Says sitter Heather M.: “They hold well, cause no leaks, and not only are the toddlers able to pull them up and down easily, they can’t undo the Velcro section, as it is a long strip. I’ve never run into a single problem with this diaper.” Sitter Shirley R. agrees, saying that they are “easy to put on, and stretchy enough to still be comfortable for older kids.” For Song, the familiar character designs are a plus because they allow “toddlers to choose and have some say in the potty-training process.” The pattern fades to indicate when the diaper is wet, and Velcro sides allow for quick cleanups if necessary. (A couple of parents pointed out that they didn’t like the Pull-Ups’ Velcro sides and said that Pampers Easy Ups were a bit more comfortable for their kids; since they have elastic waistbands, they fit more like underwear.)

Best generic-brand diapers

From a cost-saving perspective, parents love diapers from Costco’s in-house brand Kirkland Signature. Three of our parents (and a bunch of this writer’s friends) swear by them. Mom of two Namie Kim says they’re “the best price” and hold pee well, and Elspeth Rountree, mom of two kids and engagement editor at Vox Creative, agrees, saying, “I’ve tried them all, and I always go back to Costco-brand diapers (and wipes). They get the job done, and at the right price point, and hold up well.” Martin, whose daughter used to use Pampers Swaddlers, switched to Kirkland after doing a bunch of research. “I like that they are 20 percent cheaper than Pampers and, in our experience, do just as good of a job.” While you need a Costco membership to buy them, you can access the store by way of Instacart (or you can find a friend or family member to grab a box for you when they go).

Best swim diapers

If you plan to take your baby into the water, you’ll need special swim diapers. A word of caution: Don’t use regular disposable diapers in the water, or else the absorbent gel will become bloated and eventually burst and make a huge mess. Disposable swim diapers don’t have the absorbent gel and don’t, in fact, absorb liquid at all — they’re meant to hold poop only. That means, yes, babies pee in the swimming pool even when they’re wearing diapers. Both Huggies and Pampers make an inexpensive disposable one (two moms told us they prefer Pampers Splashers over Huggies Little Swimmers), but swim instructors agree that a reusable one is better. When we asked them about the best swimming gear for babies, two different instructors recommended Finis’s swim diapers. Said Brendan O’Melveny, chief aquatics officer and baby swim specialist at Imagine Swimming: “They’re simple, effective, and have a wide range of sizes, colors, and prints to choose from.” For extra protection, you can pair a disposable one with a swim diaper cover from Happy Nappy, which the two swim teachers also swear by. Made of neoprene, it features thick leg bands and waistbands to ensure everything — a.k.a. poop — stays locked in. (It should be noted that while disposable swim diapers from Huggies or Pampers are available at most drugstores, the Finis diaper and Happy Nappy swim diaper cover are not.)

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The Best Diapers, According to Parents and Nannies