How to Choose Baby Diapers

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 22, 2022
5 min read

There are many types of baby diapers to choose from. It can be overwhelming to consider all of the different types and decide which is best for your baby, especially if you’re a new parent. Whether this is your first baby or you’ve had one or two before, you know that diapers are one of the most important accessories you’ll need to have for the newest member of your family. 

As a parent, you should understand the different types of baby diapers on the market. There are many different kinds, but they mainly boil down to the following types: 

Disposable Diapers

Disposable diapers are just what the name implies — diapers that you dispose of after one use. These diapers consist of an absorbent pad nestled in-between pieces of fabric. The pad itself contains chemical crystals that work to absorb liquid and contain it in gel form. These pads can usually hold up to 800 times their weight in liquid. 

Your baby can wear disposable diapers longer than cloth diapers when soiled without any discomfort. Some disposable diapers offer overnight protection, which offers even more absorption power and protection. 

Disposable Underwear

Disposable underwear is similar to disposable diapers except that disposable underwear is geared more toward older children, like those who are 4 years old or older. These diapers are a great accessory to have if your older child still has problems keeping a dry bed at night. 


Pull-up underwear is what you’ll want when your child begins learning to use the potty by themselves. It's easy for children to pull up and down on their own when going to the bathroom. 

These diapers are made to look and feel like ordinary underwear, but some are made to let a child know the moment they get even a little wet. This helps children learn when they need a bathroom break. 

Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers often come with reusable inserts that you can wash and reuse and are made from fabrics like cotton fleece, terry, flannel, and unbleached hemp, though other materials, like wool, can also be used to make these diapers. The fabric is absorbent, helping to keep wetness locked in. 

Aside from reusable inserts, other cloth diapers come with disposable inserts that you can throw away and replace when needed. Some are even flushable. 

All-in-One Diapers

All-in-one diapers are sewn into waterproof covers. They're perfect for quick changes and work well for overnight situations. They’re usually reusable, and some even come in a one-size-fits-all size that you can adjust as your child grows.

Fitted Diapers

Similar to disposables, fitted diapers have a narrower crotch and wide wings that fasten around your baby’s waist. Some fitted diapers have fasteners, some have snaps, and some have Velcro. 

There are even some fitted diapers that have elastic waists and legs and come with additional layers of absorbent material in the middle. 

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers have a waterproof covering, much like all-in-one diapers. The covering includes a pocket where you can insert a folded diaper or a washable liner. These diapers usually come with snaps or Velcro fasteners to stay closed. 

Unfolded Diapers

Unfolded diapers are rectangular in shape and are made of flat fabric that you can mold to fit your baby’s specific shape. These diapers are usually held in place with diaper pins or fasteners in three places.

Pre-Folded Diapers

Similar to unfolded diapers, pre-folded diapers are also rectangular in shape. But these diapers are not as big as unfolded diapers and can be easier to use. 

Pre-folded diapers need to be folded at least once, maybe twice, to fit inside a waterproof diaper cover. Still, these diapers are known for their versatility and ability to meet various absorption needs. 

If you’re a new parent who is shopping for baby diapers for the first time, it’s important that you realize that not all diapers are made equally. Some offer added features like: 

  • Fasteners: Fasteners will vary depending on the brand of diaper you buy. Some brands still use tape as a way of fastening diapers, but many diaper brands have switched to Velcro fasteners. Velcro fasteners are better than their tape counterparts because they're less likely to lose their sticking power.
  • Contoured fit: Not all diaper brands will have a contoured fit, but most do nowadays. This means that the diapers have an elastic piece around the waist and legs that will help prevent leaks and keep your baby comfortable even as they grow.
  • Lotion: A few disposable diaper brands put petroleum-based lotions in the liner of their disposable diapers. Some diapers even have light fragrances to keep your baby smelling fresh.
  • Stretchy sides: Similar to elastic waists and legs, stretchy sides will help diapers fit a baby’s body. This keeps your baby comfortable and helps stop leaks.
  • Wetness indicator: Wetness indicators are handy features that alert you to when your child needs to be changed. This will keep you from guessing and help keep your child comfortable, as you’ll be able to change them as soon as needed.

Parents have long debated which type of diaper is better: disposable or reusable. There’s no right or wrong answer, and both sides have valid points. It comes down to personal preference.

Disposable diapers offer efficient absorption, but this feature can do both good and harm to your child. While these diapers often keep your baby’s skin free from contact with their messes and are more convenient for parents who would prefer to spend less time changing diapers, they often make it harder to monitor how much your child is urinating. This can make noticing signs of dehydration difficult. 

Cloth diapers may be more comfortable than disposable diapers. They may also help prevent diaper rashes. On the downside, cloth diapers tend to be less absorbent and will require more frequent diaper changes. 

If you need diaper assistance, there may be an agency in your area that can help. Agencies like Diaper Banks provide help for families in need. 

If you’re having trouble finding Diaper Banks in your area, you can also reach out to local faith-based organizations and food pantries for assistance.

There are also diaper service companies that provide diaper delivery straight to the door of families in need. In addition to delivering new diapers, diaper services also pick up soiled ones for disposal or for laundering if they’re cloth.

You can buy diapers at general merchandise stores like Target or Walmart, pharmacies like CVS and Rite Aid, and online retailers like Amazon.