There are good disposable diapers, there are fantastic disposable diapers, and there are diapers that probably should not even be sold in the first place.
When choosing a diaper brand for baby, many parents just go with what they're used to—whether that's the Pamper's Swaddlers you get free from the hospital (genius marketing play, btw) or whatever brand your sister/bff/favorite blogger recommends because it's what she used on her baby. (That recommendation is probably fine, but read on for a possibly better one.)
The fact is, most people don't do the ridiculous side-by-side testing I've done on diapers because most people don't understand what a huge investment diapers are. While each $13 single-pack purchase seems benign enough, you're likely going to spend over $2000 on diapers over the lifetime of your baby—likely more than the cost of your fancy stroller, car seat, and crib combined!
Basically, choosing a fantastic disposable diaper is an important purchase decision, and I'm here to help you make it. These are my favorite brands, optimizing for various priorities.
- Coterie – The Absolute Best & Softest Disposable Diapers ($3000 – $4600)
- Dyper – The Super Soft Biodegradable Disposable Diapers ($2800 – $4300)
- Pampers Pure – The Best Print Disposable Diapers ($1900 – $3100)
- Target Up & Up – The Best Budget Disposable Diapers ($750 – $1200)
These big numbers you're seeing? Those are the total cost of ownership for each brand of diaper over the lifetime of your baby. Scroll to the bottom to understand how I got these numbers.
The Best Disposable Diapers
Coterie diapers are incredible. Soft like your favorite cozy blanket, Coterie diapers are extremely well-made and fit beautifully at every size. They are free from all the nasty stuff (fragrances, chlorine, phthalates, parabens, dyes, lotions, VOCs, and heavy metals), are extremely absorbent, and only come in minimalist-friendly white. They are also expensive, running anywhere from 36 cents to 76 cents per diaper depending on size. Overall, Coterie diapers will cost about $3000 over the lifetime of your baby, though that number decreases steeply if you potty train earlier than the American average of 30 months (since the 76 cent diaper is the largest, size 6.)
The only downside is that Coterie diapers are not compostable, but from an “earth friendliness” and sustainability perspective, the company does partner with several non-profits to give back and help make the world a little better. (This is what the vast majority of “green” diaper brands do.)
Everyone hates the idea of adding to a growing mountain of landfill, and Dyper actually does something about that. Their diapers are compostable at certified compost facilities, and they're launching a new program to ship your diapers off to compost if you don't live near a compost facility yourself. (This is incredible, btw.)
The diapers themselves are soft (though not as soft as Coterie diapers), free from all the nasties, are very absorbent, and come in white. Again, these diapers are expensive, running between 28 cents to 68 cents per diaper. Overall, Dyper diapers will cost about $2800 over the lifetime of your baby, though—again—that number decreases steeply if you potty train earlier than the American average of 30 months (since the 68 cent diaper is the largest, size XL.)
Despite what Google search queries will have you believe, “organic diapers” aren't a thing. And most companies claiming to be “green,” actually aren't green at all. But compostable diapers are just about as green as they come, and Dyper is a great brand doing great things for babies and the world.
For a disposable diaper that's free from nasties (chlorine, fragrance, and parabens) and not nearly as expensive as Coterie and Dyper brands, Pampers Pure diapers are a fantastic choice. They're absorbent, soft, and come in a variety of cute prints. They are not compostable and—despite the greenish-colored packaging—they are not any more environmentally friendly than most other diapers. They run between 27 cents to 47 cents per diaper when bought in bulk, costing you about $1900 over the lifetime of your baby.
Pampers Pure diapers can be ordered at a discount via subscription on Amazon Prime. They are also conveniently stocked on most supermarket shelves, so even if you prefer a different diaper most of the time, Pampers Pure are the way to go in a pinch. See the full review here.
Target Up & Up diapers are nothing to write home about, but they're totally serviceable and are free of sulfates, parabens, petroleum, perfumes, and dyes. They are reasonably absorbent, soft enough, and come in patterns you can totally live with. Running between 13 cents to 18 cents per diaper, Target Up & Up diapers will cost about $800 over the lifetime of your child. They are absolutely the best disposable diaper out there at this price point.
If you're serious about saving money on diapers, especially if you plan to have multiple children, you might seriously want to consider cloth diapering. It's not as hard or gross as you think it is, and although it will cost you about $800 to cloth diaper your first baby in the very best diapers and do the laundry for those diapers, it'll only cost ~$400, the cost to do laundry, for any subsequent babies. That's a huge savings!
But I digress…
More Great Disposable Diapers
There are many more disposable diaper brands, and below are a few that are also good (though not as wonderful as my four top picks above for various reasons noted here).
- Bambo Nature ($0.35 – $0.60 / diaper | $1900 – $3000 total) – When purchased at a subscription discount on Amazon Prime, Bambo Nature diapers are significantly less expensive than Dyper diapers, which are my favorite compostable option. Coming in at the same price as Pampers Pure diapers over the lifetime of your baby, Bambos are similarly super soft, absorbent, well-made, and free from all the junk that can irritate sensitive bums. The only major downside is the cutesy (but not all that cute) animals printed on the front panel of each diaper. [full review]
- Parasol ($0.27 – $0.58 / diaper | $2000 – $3200 total) – Soft, absorbent, chemical-free, and available in great artist prints, Parasol diapers look great and perform well too. They are comparable to Pampers Pure and Honest Co. diapers in style, function, and price. These diapers are neither organic nor biodegradable. [full review]
- Honest Co. ($0.25 – $0.49 / diaper | $1800 – $2800 total) – These diapers are a fan favorite. They come in cute patterns, are free from irritants like chlorine and fragrances, and they do their job well. They tend to be a bit stiff and can have a bit of a factory smell coming out of the packaging. They are also not as “eco-friendly” as their marketing might lead you to believe, and they are neither organic nor biodegradable. [full review]
- Poof ($0.28 – $0.57 / diaper | $2500 – $3900 total) – A compostable diaper that comes in very limited (and mostly unattractive) prints. Although this diaper technically checks all the boxes, I prefer Bambo or Dyper at this price point.
- Nest ($0.47 – $0.60 /diaper | $2800 – $4400 total) – Nest diapers are compostable, soft, absorbent, and free from fragrance, chemicals, and common allergens. They are the same price as Dyper diapers, but I slightly prefer Dyper's minimalist design (no graphics) to Nest's cutesy rainbow bird situation on their diapers' front panel.
- Andy Pandy ($0.36 =- $0.57 / diaper | $2500 – $4000 total) – These diapers are very similar to Bambo diapers. They are soft, absorbent, and compostable, but they are also significantly more expensive (and harder to buy) than Bambo diapers. [full review]
- Naty by Nature Babycare ($0.31 – $0.56 / diaper | $1700 – $2600 total) – The least expensive compostable diaper option, Naty diapers are absorbent and free from chemicals, dyes, and fragrances. They also tend to be a bit stiff and can fit awkwardly, especially in the newborn size. [full review]
- Abby & Finn ($0.23 – $0.38 / diaper | $1600 – $2500 total) – Like most diapers at this price point, Abby & Finn diapers are stiffer than others but also perfectly serviceable. They use some misleading marketing about pricing to make their diapers seem less expensive than they are, which is obnoxious. Although the average price of their diaper may be less, what actually matters is how many diapers you will be using at each size and at each price point (which my total cost of ownership calculation takes into account). In fact, Abby & Finn diapers are more expensive than 7th Generation and only slightly less expensive than Honest Co. diapers.
- 7th Generation Free & Clear ($0.25 – $0.46 / diaper | $1300 – $2100 total) – The best thing about these diapers is that they’re available pretty much everywhere and they are chlorine, dye, and fragrance-free. On the downside, these diapers are pretty ugly (and dyed to be that way), are not particularly eco-friendly, and are not nearly as sturdy or absorbent as other diapers reviewed here. [full review]
What Didn't Make the Cut
These are a few popular brands we do not recommend. For in-depth reviews of each product, check out the full product review.
- Kit & Kin ($2100 – $3300 total) – These diapers are stiff and plastic-y. There are better options at this price point.
- Earth's Best ($1400 – $2600 total) – An easy go-to for those who want to feel like they're making a conscientious choice for the environment while still saving some coin, these diapers won't work for those with corn or wheat allergies, but they're a pretty decent eco-friendlier diaper otherwise. [full review]
- Pampers Swaddlers ($1200 – $2400 total) – Although these diapers are soft and used by many hospitals around the country, they contain artificial fragrance, a substance known to negatively affect the endocrine (hormone) system. Pass. [full review]
- Babyganics ($1100 – $2100 total) – Leaky and not organic (or compostable for that matter) despite the “ganics” in their name. [full review]
- Huggies Little Snugglers ($1100 – $2200 total) – Automatically disqualified because they contain artificial fragrance (a known endocrine disrupter), we also aren’t in love with the super commercialized Huggies/Disney connection (perhaps that makes us bah-humbugs?) and the fact that dyes from the diaper can come in contact with sensitive baby skin. [full review]
- Kirkland Supreme ($1000 – $1700 total) – Some parents just want to cover their babies’ bums in the cheapest poop collectors available. Kirkland diapers are cheap, but they also contain dyes, fragrances, and chlorine bleach– all bad things. [full review]
- Luvs ($700 – $1200 total) – Leaky, poorly designed, poorly made, and full of chemicals and fragrances. If Luvs are all you can afford, seriously consider opting for modern cloth diapers instead. They're cheaper and not as difficult as you think they are.
Total Cost of Ownership
Total cost of ownership is the best way to calculate how much diapering in any one brand is actually going to cost. I calculated the total cost of ownership for each brand using the cheapest available price (subscription or bulk pricing) and a few arbitrary averages, knowing full well that no baby is average. I used approximate weights from height/weight charts to determine how many days the average baby would be in each diaper size and assumed each baby would be in diapers for 30 months, which is the average potty training date. (Obviously potty training earlier or later will change how much you'll spend on diapers.) These are the numbers I used.
- Five Newborn diapers/day on the low end and fourteen Newborn diapers/day on the high end, for 40 days
- Seven Size 1 diapers/day on the low end and ten Size 1 diapers/day on the high end, for 60 days
- Seven Size 2 diapers/day on the low end and ten Size 2 diapers on the high end, for 110 days
- Five Size 3 diapers/day on the low end and eight Size 3 diapers/day on the high end, for 160 days
- Five Size 4 diapers/day on the low end and eight Size 4 diapers/day on the high end, for 180 days
- Five Size 5 diapers/day on the low end and eight Size 5 diapers/day on the high end, for 365 days.
Note: There is no one universal “best,” especially when it comes to parenting. These are “The Best Disposable Diapers” based on Also Mom's strict criteria, detailed here.