Becoming a new parent means a lot of changes. You may not be eating, sleeping, or showering on the schedule you're accustomed to, but in exchange, you're acquiring some pretty remarkable skills. Before long, you've found the exact combination of rocking and shushing that calms your baby, learned all five verses of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", and perfected the one-handed swaddle. Then there's the diaper change. Even if it may seem like a complicated multi-step process requiring four hands at first, pretty soon you will be doing it in your sleep. (Sometimes quite literally.) And yes, it's a rule of newborns: As soon you put on a fresh, clean diaper, they will immediately poop. Wipe, cover, repeat.
Between the birth of your baby and potty training, your baby will go through a lot of diapers. You will likely use more diapers than anything else (except possibly baby wipes). So it goes without saying, you'll be quite familiar with diaper buying, and choosing diapers that work best for your baby is pretty important. They need to fit properly to prevent leaking and ensure comfort. They need to be absorbent to prevent leaking and ensure comfort. They need to be soft and wick wetness to prevent rashes and ensure comfort. And they need to come in bulk.
The History of the Diaper
Since the introduction of the disposable diaper in the late 1940s, parents have had a number of different options that made for convenience, cleanliness, and relative ease of use. Before that, people had to rely on cloth diapers, which can be traced back, in some form, as far as the 16th century. The cotton diaper, fastened with a safety pin, became popular in the 1800s, with the first mass-produced ones introduced in the U.S. in 1887. (Cloth diapers have seen a resurgence in recent years, as some parents have been concerned about the environmental impact of disposable diapers. We’ll cover that category below.)
The first attempts at disposable diapers involved plastic covers over cotton diapers, or paper stuffed in a cotton diaper and worn in conjunction with rubber pants. Then came disposable cotton pads worn inside plastic undergarments. The demand for time-saving diapering options that could be mass produced increased as more women began working outside of the home. Several large companies entered the market, and diapers resembling what we see now were introduced. (The ever-popular Pampers brand was launched in 1961.) Thanks to high demand and competition among the various manufacturers, many design improvements have been made since then, such as double gussets for better fit and containment, resealable tape, an hourglass shape for less bulk, and the introduction of super-absorbent polymers in the 1980s.
The modern disposable diaper typically consists of three layers: a waterproof outer layer, a super-absorbent middle layer, and an inner liner that transfers wetness to the absorbent part. Those years before potty training (and honestly, after; see: overnight pullups) can be such a blur, but your family will always remember the exploding diapers and leaky incidents. While it will be funny to reminisce about them at your child’s high school graduation party, it’s not so much fun living it. So choose well!
Important Questions to Ask When Diaper Shopping
How many diaper changes do babies need per day?
This answer changes over time, but with newborns, you can count on at least eight to 12 diaper changes a day. In fact, the baby may fall into a predictable routine: wake, change, eat, sleep. During those overnight hours, each feeding is usually accompanied by a change as well. As your baby gets older (and they start sleeping longer stretches) the number of diaper changes will decrease. As they say, never wake a sleeping baby.
What size diaper should I get?
Diapers come in multiple sizes, generally from preemie/newborn up to size 7, which fit children over 40 pounds. (Brands will recommend sizes based on weight.) Of course, one brand may fit better than others, so you may need to do some trials. You’ll learn fairly quickly if a diaper doesn’t fit properly. If it’s too big, there may be gaps around the legs, leading to leakage. And if it’s too small, it won’t provide enough coverage, leading to leakage.
What causes a diaper to leak?
Not all diapers are designed the same—and neither are babies—so the first step is finding the right match. And even when you do find the right fit, nothing can stop leakage if the diaper’s been left on too long or your baby has a particularly explosive BM. If, however, you haven’t been having any problems with leakage for weeks, and suddenly, you have a few leaky diapers in a row, it might be time to go up a size. Babies grow so quickly, you may not have even noticed that yours has moved up a diaper size.
How do I prevent diaper rash?
It's not uncommon for the diaper area to become red and irritated. Diaper rashes can happen for a number of reasons: prolonged exposure to moisture, sensitive skin, or friction from an ill-fitting diaper. But one way to help prevent rashes is using a barrier cream with each change. Get into a habit of a thorough wipe, allowing some time to air dry, and then applying the ointment or cream, which will help protect the skin. Some popular options including thick ointments, such as Aquaphor, or zinc oxide creams, such as Destin.
Where do I throw out dirty diapers?
Given the number of diapers you’ll be going through, it’s wise to invest in a good diaper pail for your nursery. The ones on the market today have several features that help to contain odor. Though the big ones are convenient, it might be a good idea to buy a smaller one—to encourage you to throw out the bags and replace them more frequently.
Before you know it, you’ll be looking at potty training. And believe it or not, there may be days when you wish your kid were still in diapers! Now let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of diapers you may need: cloth diapers, newborn diapers,nighttime diapers.