Expensive little tushies

By Mir
June 21, 2006

I was recently exchanging some email with the lovely and talented mc, who—in addition to being pretty—had an adorable baby about six weeks ago. The kicker is that (I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, mc!) Baby Ess’ due date was actually today, but she was just impatient, I guess. Anyway! On to the question!

While I’m here, I may as well ask a total new mom question for the site: what’s the cheapest place to buy diapers? And from my limited experience, I’m looking for Pampers, since even the Huggies we tried caused multiple leakages, and the ensuing costume changes, in one day. But if there are other cheap brands out there that would actually work for a baby with skinny little legs, I’d love to hear about ’em.

Ahhhhhh, diapers. Gosh, I miss those. HAHAHAHAHA! Sorry. I crack myself up. Heh. Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh! Right. Diapers.

I’m not going to get into a washable vs. disposable argument, here. Let’s assume everyone is capable of making that decision for themselves, and I support you either way, because I’m pretty sure we all have better things to do than to belittle each other’s choices when it comes to our children’s rear ends. I do think that the ease and affordability of cloth diapering has increased about a trillionfold in the last few years, but that’s neither here nor there. There are merits to both, blah blah blah; this question is about disposables. You there, with the cloth diaper—be nice or take it outside.

Back when I had two kids in diapers, during the Pleistocene Era, the cheapest way to stock up was my local warehouse store—hands down. Cases of Pampers (power to the skinny-legged babies, mc!) were priced under cost, and as you could use coupons on top of the low prices, there was really no better way to go.

Right around the time when my oldest was finally giving some indication that she would not, in fact, be going to Harvard in diapers, apparently the big diaper manufacturers decided that they didn’t want warehouse stores using their products for loss leaders any longer. As a result, the price of a case of diapers jumped about $10, bringing it in line with the cost of buying at Target or Walmart type places.

This was aggravating, because I had to come up with a whole new strategy, and for some reason my infant and toddler weren’t amenable to immediate toilet training. Brats.

The first thing I did was to sit down and evaluate my brand loyalty. I, too, was a Pampers devotee. I never could understand people who insisted Huggies were the best—on my kids, Huggies always resulted in my pondering the nature of baby neck folds, and never in a good way. *shudder*

Anyway. If you favor a major brand, the first thing you need to do is go to their website and sign up for coupons and promotions. This is one item where coupons really do add up, and I know that both Huggies and Pampers are great about sending coupons out like clockwork. They also tend to publish coupons in newspaper circulars and such. If you use coupons for nothing else, use them on diapers. You’re going to be buying more diapers than you ever thought possible, so just get into the habit now.

In conjunction with coupons, of course, keep your eyes peeled for sales. The tricky thing with diapers is that you want to stock up, of course, but you just never know when Junior is going to have a growth spurt and you’re going to be left with twelve packages of diapers that don’t fit. That makes the Baby Jesus cry, when that happens. So be judicious when you stock: Buy a few packages in the current size (more if baby just moved up, less if she’s been in that size for a while) and a few packages in the next size.

But before you pledge yourself to the Cult of Designer Diaper, start buying a package here and a package there of cheaper and store brands. Just as all babies are shaped differently and work in some diapers and not others, some store brands are nothing more than cotton fluff and defective velcro and some are pretty good. I can’t tell you “use this one” or “that one is the best” because it really does depend on your baby’s shape and, uh… habits. (Long live the euphemism!)

I do recommend that everyone at least try Luvs. Again, back in the dark ages—and this has changed, and I know it, so don’t send me mail detailing the 26 points on which they differ now—Luvs and Pampers were pretty much the same diaper. I used them with my daughter happily, for years. Then my son came along, and the diapers were updated and changed and subjected to ancient weave-modifying rituals, I don’t know, and suddenly the Luvs leaked and leaked and leaked.

The nice thing about Luvs is that they are not kidding around with that “leak-proof guarantee.” I called them up and before I knew it, I had coupons for two or three free packages, and half a dozen dollars-off coupons, besides.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—why would I want to get some more crummy diapers?? My point is that it’s pretty much low-risk to try this particular brand. Even crummy diapers are handy for a day at home or in a pinch. And sometimes the size 2 diaper that leaks on your kid’s size 2 butt actually works fine in a size 3. I mean, this isn’t as complicated as finding women’s jeans, but you do have to play around with the sizes a bit.

And that brings up another important point: Don’t assume you’ll want one brand, forever and ever, pee without end, amen. There’s nothing wrong with having “going out” diapers and “staying home” diapers. Or—if that just sounds bizarre to you—having daytime diapers and nighttime diapers. Now, sure, you can buy diapers marketed as nighttime diapers. Depending on your baby, you may find you really do “need” those for overnight. Or you may find that store-brand during the day and Pampers at night work just fine. Or that you can skip the nighttime brand simply by going up a size at night. It’s all about experimenting.

(No, no. Not that kind of experimenting. Wasn’t that what got you into this baby situation in the first place?)

Last but not least: Keep online shopping in mind. Amazon regularly does diaper promotions of the “get so much money off with minimum purchase” or “spend this much and get a gift certificate later” variety. Drugstore and Walgreens sometimes clearance out the big-name brands due to old packaging or whatever, as well. Nearly everywhere you can order diapers online is also a place you can get free shipping if you spend enough money. The trade-off of not being able to use your coupons is often acceptable given the savings in gas money.

If none of this sounds good, there’s always elimination communication. Then you don’t need diapers at all! Just 24 hours a day wherein you’re willing to hold your baby over the toilet! WHAT FUN!

(See? Diapers totally sound awesome now, price be damned.)

I hope that helps, mc! Nibble those delectable smooshy baby cheeks for me!


  1. I too had skinny kids and used Pampers. I agree with everything said, especially going to the site for coupons. I just wanted to add one thing. If you have a problem with one diaper in an entire pack- call. The tab breaks- call. Don’t like the new color they are experimenting with- call. Leak- call. Pampers is wonderful about sending out coupons for replacement packages. I didn’t do this 100% of the time, but when I did they were wonderful about helping me. They will want a code off the package, but when I didn’t have it- it wasn’t a big deal.

  2. We used to stock up on diapers at BJ’s wholesale club. They sell ’em by the case, and the prices were always good. We started with Pampers and Huggies, but eventually switched to the Luvs brand. We tried them and thought they performed just fine, plus they were cheaper than the other 2 by a good bit. We’re expecting another baby in the fall so I guess I better go renew my membership…

  3. Pampers all the way baby! We used to live in Cincinnati (P&G’s headquarters) and there were always rumors of moms who had diapers for life through consumer trials.

    I bought through Costco. I really liked having a huge case so it felt like I was buying less as I wasn’t running to the store weekly for the little packages of 35 or whatever.

  4. Up here we have an awesome store-brand called President’s Choice, which are half the price of Pampers. LOVE them for during the day and since Troll Baby pees and pees and pees all night, I use premium Pampers for nightime and they hold a ocean of pee, keeping nighttime wakings to a minimum, and allowing for the occasional sleep-in… great post Mir!

    Can’t wait to hear about baby wipes too. Those store brands are no better than wet store-brand dryer sheets. I feel am not a fan of shit all over my hands, so I buy the Pampers brand and boy oh boy $$$! However, Huggies brand has their wipes so interlocked together, you use twice as many so Pampers is the better brand in that case, I find.

    Here’s a thought for saving money on baby-butt products: toilet train them from birth. Pffft….I’m kidding! (Though there are people who start at 4 months – I read it on the internet somewhere…)

  5. this is fabulous — thanks for all the help! i never thought to sign up on the website … trotting off to do that now. oh, and in case you’re curious, costco doesn’t even carry pampers any more. bummer. will try the online shopping thing, too.

    also, mir: excellent memory! today is both ess’ due date *and* her six-week birthday.

  6. As much as I hate Wal-Mart their brand of diapers Dri Bottoms, were very cheap, and fit all three of my (differently-shaped tushies) babes very well.

  7. we’ve had all skinny babies and excellent luck with MOST store brand ones. I did buy one store’s that were not good. But my experience is that ALL diapers leak occasionally … and many store brands are just as good as the expensive ones. At least for my skinny-legged kids.

  8. As a woman on the edge (literally) of potty training, I’m please to say I’m on the downward slide of this diaper thing. Mir is 100% right on all her points. I’m a huge fan of the daytime vs. nightime diaper thing. Until two weeks ago when we went to underpants, we did Pull-Ups in the day and a diaper at night. The sad report is that as of about 7 months ago, Costco stopped carrying Pampers. Now, I am hugely loyal to Pampers, up until I could no longer buy them by the case for $30. I tried Costco’s case of Huggies and their own brand. They are OK, but dang it, I miss my Pampers Cruisers. Here’s one piece of hope I will throw out there: As the kid gets older the cheaper brands seem to do better. I don’t know if it was the size 2 butt not working — but I’m better with the cheaper ones as of size 5 and 6 than I was in newborn and size 1.
    Oh and before I forget, if you are Pampers person, seriously try to go from Swaddlers (stretch size NB to 2) to Cruisers (size 3 and UP) over the Baby Dri’s — they strech and move so much better — AND because of the give, you can tighten them down on skinny babies (which is mine — poor child needs the diaper to help keep his pants up).

  9. My little one is now 7 but we used Walmart brand diapers on him until he potty trained, and that was through chubby and skinny phases. I agree with Mir, why not try a small pack at first before you “commit” to a year’s supply? Worked for us!

    By the way Mir, I am delurking because I love your new site. I am a relatively new single mom and coping with going from 2 relatively good incomes to one has been quite an exercise. Thanks for all the tips!

    How about this for a research topic: Any suggestions for making food stretch. I already know about adding black beans to ground beef meals to make it stretch. Any other ideas out there? My grocery bill is killing me and my son can eat as much as two full grown men. Help!

  10. For both kids, I found that Pampers were best up to size 2. Once we went into size 3, the Sam’s Club brand (Smiles) or Target brand (I believe they are made by the same company as Smiles) work GREAT. They are soft, they don’t have that weird diaper fragrance, they hold in everything, etc. I also love Target brand wipes – the ones that are modeled after Huggies natural care work great for us. For my daughter, we made our own wipes out of Viva paper towels, but that is so not happening this time around.

  11. One thing I did for a friend of mine who was getting ready to have her first babies (twins! ahhhh!) was do a diaper drawing at the shower. Included in the invitation was an opportunity for the guest to bring diapers or wipes of any size, of any brand, to the shower. (in lieu or in addition to a gift) For each package brought their name was entered in a drawing for a nice door prize. This provided her with a huge selection of other brands of diapers that she wouldnt necessarily have tried as well as a stockpile.

  12. I love Pampers, but they got expensive very quickly. I am a huge fan of Parent’s Choice at Wal-Mart. Half the price of Pampers and just as good, IMO.
    I do, however, splurge for the Pamopers wipes. Nothing better.

  13. I’m going to kick in for the Smiles brand from Sam’s Club, but keep in mind, my (almost) 2 year old is a a chunk!

  14. Target-brand diapers have served us very well, from the chubby 5-month-old phase to today’s current scrawny-toddler phase.

    And it’s summer, so letting the tots roam diaper-free is actually not a bad idea. No diaper/heat rash that way, either.

  15. We’ve had good luck with BJ’s brand diapers for both a boy and a girl. Both were around 50-75th percentile for weight and height for their ages, and didn’t have a lot of leaks.

  16. Not only did I sign myself up on the websites for coupons, but I signed my mom up too. She would either use them for the diapers she keeps at her house or pass them along to me.

  17. I’m going to jump on the Smiles (Sam’s club brand) bandwagon here. We used those with both of our children, (one chubby, one not so much) and they worked better than any name-brand diaper we tried.

  18. Thought I would throw in my 2cents.
    SOME Costco’s still sell Pampers, you just have to be willing to hunt around or use their website.
    The Kirkland Diapers (Costco) are to all extent and purposes Huggies diapers, at half the price. I was thrilled to discover this.

    The Costco wipes have recently changed and are REALLY good, as well as being significantly cheaper than brand name wipes.

    Thanks for the great blog Mir!

  19. If you live near a Kroger, their Ultra Comforts brand diapers are wonderful! Extremely stretchy, with elastic not only on the front and the back of the diaper, but also on the tabs. They leak less on my kidlet than any other brand we’ve tried.

    I have to admit I’ve been really discouraged about how hard it is to buy inexpensive diapers. When I was pregnant, all I heard about is how warehouse and discount stores use diapers as loss leaders, and that you can get great deals. But the BJs near me is roughly the same price as Target, and both are nearly as expensive as the grocery store when it has sales.

  20. Do the big diaper companies offer “freebies” with their UPC codes any more? I got all kinds of free t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even little baby sneakers for sending in proof-of-purchases from Huggies and Pampers. Of course, my “babies” are in their teens now…

  21. Mir you are funny! Making the Baby Jesus cry! hee hee

    My advice:
    Try to pay less than .20 per diaper. A calculator is your friend. Under no circumstances should you pay more before your kid is 18 months old.

    Don’t be afraid to buy store brands (I have reviews on my blog).

    Don’t be fooled by bulk buys/warehouse clubs. Get out your calculator and do your per diaper cost. Typically jumbos are cheaper than supermegas per diaper. Doesn’t make sense, I know.

    Always use coupons. There are lots of forums out there where people are willing to trade brand x coupons for brand y coupons. Don’t forget about coupon trains, too.

  22. I love your new site, Mir! For my first two children, I too was devoted to Pampers, but with a third one on the way, I don’t know if they are in the budget. Thanks for the informative post!

  23. Pampers has a freebie program that ends at the end of the year. You save the little stickers with the serial number on them that are inside the package and record them at Pampers.com. You accumulate points and earn toys.

  24. I think people have a misconception that cloth diapers are difficult. They really aren’t and save a ton of money. I think they perform better too esp for newborns. Especially if you have another child.

    We used disposable with our first (of four) and I liked Huggies or Wal Mart brand.

    Nice enough? 🙂

  25. hey hey now, don’t knock Elimination Communication until you’ve tried it.

  26. I am a huggie fan myself, when my ds was younger we used the supreme with no problems. We have since tried some store brands and have found cvs(supreme) and rite aid make very good diapers. I also shop the sale of the week with coupons for the name brand ones.

  27. Earlier, someone mentioned the question of wipes… we are tried and true loyal to the Target Brand wipes. They are just the right amount of thick/thin and have enough moisture on them to get the job done. They seem to be rather large, or at least not folded a lot, so you don’t have to spend time trying to make it big while holding down a squirming youngin’. Recently, Target started selling about 12 “bricks” of them in a cardboard box, so you can stock up rather easily.

  28. With my first I spent TONS of money on Pampers; I almost felt as if that brand was mandatory and that I was a low life scum bucket mom for even CONSIDERING any other brand. But then my 2nd baby came and I gave up my Pampers obsession and went out on a limb and tried Luvs. The stars didn’t fall from the sky, the world did not come to an end and my baby stayed amazingly dry! But then my third baby came and by that point after being subjected to WAY too many diapers by that point I came to the conclusion that diapers are basically just turd catchers and end up in the trash anyway so why not go on an even riskier limb and try out White Cloud diapers (Walmart’s house brand)I have used them religiously ever since (a whole case of over 100 diapers costs under $15!!!)
    Although I still secretly long for those baby-powdery smelling, lovely Pampers I will never go back…with age and experience comes wisdom. Leave the coupons and expensive warehouse club memberships at home and go White Cloud!

  29. I was a die-hard Huggies fan until my son hit size 3. He has literally leaked out of every diaper so far! We’re off to Target TODAY to get size 3s, thanks the the suggestions on this site!

  30. Every six weeks or so, Babies-R-Us sends out a circular with a coupon for either 15% off or $5 off (it works out to about the same savings) off of cases of Pampers and Huggies. Even better, they’ll let you use your manufacturer coupons on top of the store coupon, so you’re saving about $6.50 a case. And that, as far as I can tell, gets you Pampers that are a whole lot closer to the price of the store brands. And since the coupons come every six weeks or so, you can stock up and guesstimate the size pretty closely. And, if you screw up on sizing, BRU will let you exchange diapers for diapers…

  31. I’ve enjoyed reading the replies to this threat. I have a two year old son that has been potty trained for a week and a half now with no accidents (I thank my lucky stars as he is even getting up at night to use the potty). Anyhow, right as I am getting my child out of the diapers, I recently found out I have a new one on the way.

    Now that I’m planning on the arrival next January, I’m remembering back to how awful it was the first month with my son in diapers. I was using the Kroger brand the first month and it seemed like every time I fed him in the middle of the night, I was also changing his sheets, outfit, and diaper. After he was into a size 3 Kroger worked fantastic, but I then, however, discovered Walmart (Dri Bottoms)…even cheaper, and they worked better.

    Point being, I think this time around I’ll invest in the Pampers for the first several months and then move to the cheapies.

  32. I am currently all about the Pampers, bought at my Sam’s Club, or Target with a coupon. This has me finally considering breaking down and trying some cheaper, store-brands for experimentation. My little guy really fills his Pampers at night though, and I hadn’t even thought of the nighttime diapers! They may cost more, but will be worth the reduced laundry time to me. To answer Daisy’s question, Pampers does have a program right now, “Gifts to Grow” where you collect points (by going online and entering codes from stickers inside the diapers and wipes packages) to redeem for toys (I know, do we really need any more) and some assorted coupons that I haven’t really researched (not enough points collected yet).
    And, to complete my two cents worth, Target brand wipes seem to me to be identical to both Huggies and Pampers, depending on the type that you buy. I prefer the Huggies-style wipes,(the quilted,nice and cushy and soft) as I feel I use less than when I was buying the Pampers (name brand) Sensitive (which I must say were so gentle to my little guy’s skin when he was a newborn).

  33. We swear by Safeway diapers and Pull-Ups (in the midst of potty-training right now) and Costco wipes. My 2 year-old daughter is a skinny little thing and they work great.

  34. We’ve used both the generic brands and the Pampers (currently using Pampers but only because we’re suckers for the points). We’ve really never had major leakage issues with either one, but I think we’re abnormal there. It’s always seemed like the only time we ever had issues was when we didn’t get them on right.

    I certainly think that trying the generics first makes the most sense.

  35. My son is 6 months old, and we’ve been with Pampers. I’ve tried other brands (Huggies, Smiles, Publix brand) and each time I’ve switched we’ve dealt with diaper rash. Never had it once while in a Pampers diaper, so I’m sticking to it.

    When he goes up in sizes, I do a try-out swap with friends who have kids the same age (we each buy a small package and divide it so we can try all the different brands without committing too much money).

  36. I hate the smell of pampers, so we’ve always used huggies, white cloud or costco brand. My youngest is a heavy wetter and has to be changed 2 or more times a night, regardless of what brand we use. When my babies are newborns, I cut the wipes half. Their bums are so tiny that they don’t need a washcloth-sized wipe!

  37. I personally love Luvs. I hate White Cloud (Walmart brand) – the tabs rip off by themselves, making a diaper obviously useless. I’m not a Huggies fan for the same reason – they never fit any of my six babies right. Although I do love the Good Nights from Huggies at nighttime for the toddlers.

    For my area, the cheapest place to get Luvs is Walmart. Our Tops market (could be Martin’s in other areas) will have sales on Huggies/Pampers, and then you can use a coupon with it as well. Our Tops always gives me $3 off coupons for Pampers, so when they go on sale, sometimes I can get a whole pack for under $5. 🙂

  38. The first pack of diapers I bought as an expectant mom was the Wal-mart brand. I love them. I also the love the Target brand and since I prefer the Target shopping experience to the Wal-mart shopping experience, that’s what I buy now. I used to love Huggies when I had coupons but lately the tabs have been ripping off (the change of size maybe?) and nothing annoys me faster than having to wrangle the kid into diaper position only to have it fail me.

    I love the many brands/sizes of diapers idea as a shower gift. That’s truly thoughtful because each baby is shaped differently at different times. I received a bunch of newborn diapers tied to a wreath frame with sample packs of butt pastes here and there and that was a great thing too. By the time the wreath was empty my baby was onto the regular size 1’s. The BEST butt paste I found, though, is the Palmer’s Cocoa Butter brand. It isn’t fish oil based so when you use cloth diapers (and we do that too) it doesn’t ruin them or make them smell like fish. It makes the babys butt smell like chocolate. What could be better?! And it works SO well. Angry red spots literally disappear by the end of the day.

  39. My daughter is skinny too and no real bottom on her to hold diapers up either. We have used the Toys-r-us brand for a while now and they fit, don’t leak and are a lot cheaper than the name brands.

    We cloth diaper at home and use disposables at day care and I recommend the petite toddler sized Fuzzi Bunz for the skinny toddler in your life.

    For diaper rash the best thing is plain old olive oil. We keep a little bitty tupperware container of olive oil in her changing table and it works like magic.

  40. I use Luvs. They’re $20 for the big box, I had a $1 off coupon. The triple coupon day allowed me $3 off.

    Would someone explain how the price for ‘each’ pamper works. I am willing to find out what bargains are out there.

  41. Big Lots. Have not read the comments, b/c I am short on time. But I recently found Pampers at BigLots in the large, warehouse size box (96 diapers, I think) for $16.99. Best price I have EVER found.

  42. One thing I’ve noticed, especially on the Huggies, is that they need to be de-glued a little bit before putting them on the baby. Run your finger along the ruffle-y edge and loosen it from the inner blue fold and it will fit the baby’s junk a little better and hopefully prevent leaks.

    Also, instead of buying all these packages to test, try trading with other moms. I would happily give another mom a dipe out of my bag if she nicely asked – but then I’m kinda crazy and usually have about a half-dozen in there.


  43. can someone summarize what is the best diaper to fit a chubby baby. My ds is 5.5 months and weighs around 22lb already. I have been using costco huggies and was about to buy the kirkland brand, but now I’m not if they are made by huggies.

  44. We tried several “cheapies” when my 6 month old was born. Only because they were given to us in samples or from a baby shower. After that, we ( I really mean my husband) were stuck on Pampers. But here recently Pampers has been leaving sores in the crease of her legs. It didn’t make her uncomfortable, but it was just enough to irritate me. Finally I have convinced my husband to go to White Cloud. We’ve only used them for maybe a whole 24 hours and they seem to be working fine. I have also tried Parent’s Choice and have swore to never buy those again. They didn’t hold up to the explosive diapers hardly at all. I mean, all diapers leak at some point, but these leaked majorly.
    I was also committed to Huggies Diaper Wipes. Now, I’m solely hooked on Parent’s Choice, wipes. They are just as good as Huggies and seem to last longer also.

  45. If you haven’t yet, try out the store brands. We’ve used Wal Mart and Target store brands for both of our children (a boy and a girl) with very good results. Of course, there is an occasional accident, but I found that to happen with the pricey diapers. I would rather put up with the occasional accident than pay those high prices.

  46. Hey ladies. I read most of these comments, but not all, so I don’t know if this website has been mentioned or not. When ordering off the internet, give 1800diapers.com a try. You can buy huge cases of Huggies, Pampers, Luvs, or Seventh Generation (which I know nothing about). I did a price check on Pampers, and I found that I’d pay the same price per diaper from the website, as I would from Wal-Mart with a coupon. The website also offers free shipping for order $50 or more. Buy a case or two, plus some wipes, and you’ve got free shipping!

    I’ve tried just about every diaper, and I haven’t really found a preference. I just really didn’t care too much for the Luvs because they didn’t have a stretchy waste, and my daughter is a little chunky. I’d still use them though, if I had a coupon.

    When it comes to store brands, I have tried White Cloud, Target’s, and CVS’s. I liked them all. Hubby didn’t care for the White Cloud ones because he kept ripping the tabs, but I didn’t have a problem.

    Case in point, I’ll buy any diaper if I have a coupon for it. I’ll probably begin to buy from that website too, as I can pay the same price as I would with a coupon.

    I would like to try cloth diapers in order to really save the bucks, but hubby doesn’t want to deal with the hassle. Maybe by the time we have a second child, he’ll come around to the idea.

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