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The do’s and don’ts of diapers

Baby’s bottom is a precious commodity. Commit these diaper tips to memory and save yourself time, trouble, and expense.

Woman changing baby's diaper

Read up on these do’s and don’ts of diapers so you can make the most informed choices for your little one.

Navigating the diaper aisle

Although the diaper aisle may seem daunting, it’s not bad once you know the system. “It’s like diapers by numbers,” says Craig Swinson, father of two-year-old Cruz, who explains that the large numbers on packaging – typically 1, 2, and 3, relate to diaper size, which is calculated by weight in pounds.

“You’ll need the newborn size for a brief period of time – don’t stock up on those,” advises Scary Mommy Jill Smokler. “Size 1 will stick around until the baby is 12 pounds. Size 2 fits babies 12 to 18 pounds. Once the baby is in size 3 at 16 to 28 pounds, you’ll really have the hang of things. Then it’ll be time to think about potty training – diapers will seem like a pleasure cruise!”

Keep in mind that diaper-sizing is not the same across all brands. “It’s like adult clothes,” says Swinson. “Certain manufacturers size up or down.”

Dawn Anderson, mother to a one-year-old, bought two cases of diapers because they were on sale but they were a horrible match for her daughter. “What works for one child may not work for another,” she says. Before fully committing to one diaper, buy small boxes of several brands to determine what’s best for your child’s bottom. Amakeda Ponds, mother of three, noted absorbency, fit, room for comfort, and mobility for various diapers. “Through stained clothes, soaked laps, and bed sheets, I learned that each brand has its place.”

The scoop on cloth diapers

Cloth diapered baby

Maureen Smithe, mother of two, uses cloth diapers exclusively. “The cheapest option is 100 percent cotton ‘Chinese pre-folds’ – the typical, old-fashioned cloth diapers many people think of,” says Smithe. With this style, parents will need to buy various sizes to accommodate baby’s growth.

“I rely on a pocket diaper. It’s super easy to use and the materials are very absorbent and resistant to staining,” says Smithe, who washes the diapers every three days on the hot/heavy duty cycle in her washing machine. Her diaper of choice also has snaps so they can “grow” with baby. “My five-month-old can wear the same type of diaper as my two-year-old.”

But, for many parents, the convenience of disposables is worth any compromise when it comes to a newborn. Swinson says, “We tried the washable cloth diapers to no avail. You need the ease and speed of disposable diapers. Buttons and snaps and Velcro are daunting to a first-time parent at 3 a.m. with a dirty diaper in hand. I needed something I could take off and put on my son in my sleep.” Claudine Wolk, author of It Gets Easier! and Other Lies We Tell New Mothers, also supports disposables: “Taking care of a newborn is tough enough. Put the environmental guilt on the shelf for now and make use of one of the most wonderful inventions of all time.”

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Diapers to fit your lifestyle

There’s no way around it – you will spend a lot of money on diapers (although Smithe says that using cloth may save anywhere from $1,800 to $3,000). To hold on to a few dollars, “Call the diaper companies and request coupons. Combined with store sales, you can save a pretty penny,” says Smokler.

Kristen Lohman Burris, mother of two toddlers who works full-time, shares her favorite find: “ drop-ships my children’s diapers to me within one to two days. I always order enough to get the free shipping so it saves time, money and gas.” Smithe adds, “Amazon has a great selection of cloth diapers,” and they’re often available at smaller retailers like independent baby boutiques.

Whether you choose disposable or cloth, Swinson says, “Diapers are all trial and error. Some work better than others based on the activity and body of the child. My son was a little chunk nugget when he was born so for a while one brand worked better than the others. As he grew, he became more active, his legs got skinnier, and we had to switch brands.”

Like everything else about parenthood, diapering teaches you to become more flexible and learn how to, well, go with the flow.

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