The True Cost of Generic Diapers

Before our son was born, we had a baby shower in which we asked everyone to bring a small package of a different kind of diaper in newborn and stage one sizes. We actually made a list of them, giving the harder to find ones to closer relatives and the easier ones to more distant friends. After the shower, we found ourselves with a huge assortment of diapers.

After using them for a while, we quickly found ourselves gravitating towards a small number of brands. Most of the other diapers leaked, broke with only minimal force applied to them, or (worst of all) had explosions up the back of them. This caused all sorts of problems, including having to toss out largely unused diapers, tons of extra costs for laundry and wipes, and extra time spent dealing with them as well.

In the end, it became clear that most of the “generic” brands (and a few of the “name” brands, too) were repeatedly failing us, causing great additional cost per diaper and time spent dealing with the poor diaper quality.

The problem is that most diaper buyers don’t consider total cost of ownership when purchasing diapers. They see the store brand on sale, think “a diaper is a diaper,” and toss it in their cart. It’s true that in many cases generics work just as well as name brands, but this is not true of diapers.

We eventually wound up exclusively using Pampers Swaddlers (and their “older baby” version, Pampers Cruisers), simply because we have never had a failure with them and coupons are extremely easy to obtain. Even with coupons, we paid (and still pay) a decent premium per diaper over the generics, but our total cost of ownership per diaper (adding in extra wipe costs and extra laundry costs) is only slightly more than generics, plus we have much more time to play with our child instead of cleaning up his disasters.

This philosophy holds true for most purchases: don’t just buy the cheapest version without thinking; step back and consider the total cost of ownership for a moment or two.

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  1. rkt88edmo says:

    This is so true. Even within the pampers family, the non-cruiser diapers just do not fit the same and provide the same leak protection for our daughter.

    Peace of mind and less time spent scrubbing excremement out of clothing.

  2. gp says:

    With our first child we went with the Pampers premium brand after having bad experiences with Huggies and Luvs. We never considered a generic. With our 2nd son, we are using the Wal Mart brand(Dri Bottoms) for about 1/2 the price. Just this week we went to Huggies Overnight since his diaper would occasionally leak by morning. But I noticed the same issue with the Huggies Overnight and that diaper cost twice as much. So for about one leak a night, I think that is a fair trade-off.

  3. Lisa Knight says:

    To get around that leak overnight I bought a supply of the old rubber pants! I managed to pick up a bunch at yard sales. They fit great over the generic diapers when we needed them to. Of course neither of my kids slept (or sleep) all the way through the night, so we were changing the diaper in the overnight.

    I used the Walmart (Yellow bag) diapers with both kids & just couldn’t see the value in using the pricier ones (I was given bunches as gifts too).

  4. RG says:

    I have ALWAYS used the WalMart brand for my three children. On the occassion that I used the name brands, I did not notice that they did any better. There were still explosions up the back no matter what diaper I used. However, with the WalMart brand, they never leaked through at nighttime where the Pampers ALWAYS did.

    I used cloth for a while, they still leaked and there were still explosions.

    Maybe other people have better luck with name brands but I cannot for the life of me feel good about throwing away 27 cents per diaper on the more expensive brand name ones. That 27 cents per diaper adds up!

  5. Derek A. Muenzel says:


    I also tried out a lot of different brands trying to find a cheaper alternative to the name brands but always came back to Pampers. They were easier to put on (the tabs stretched – some of the cheaper ones would rip off with the same amount of pressure) and contained mess better. Recently, my son turned one and even with the Pampers Cruisers has been wetting the bed during the night. I decided to try out the Pampers ‘Baby Dry’ and that solved the problem and is a much better idea than putting two Cruisers on him (which works but of course doubles the cost).

  6. Amber A says:

    After three babies and using lots of different brands of diapers, I have found that Target brand diapers work very well and are half the cost of Pampers. (Pampers may work slightly better, but not enough to pay double!) To avoid leaks all I had to do was be very meticulous about how I put the diaper on, making sure it was snug and even. I also changed diapers every three hours and avoided all wet leaks. If I had a leak during the night, that told me it was time to use one size larger for night-time diapers. Worked like a charm!

  7. Yvette says:

    I’m a mom of two boys ages 2 and 3.
    There is no better bargan than the Sams Club Training Pants. They cost $20 for a pack of 80 and they are just as absorbant as the Pampers or Huggies brand which are double the price.

  8. A Santos says:

    I really dislike pampers, i am definately more of a huggies fan. Pampers are scented and overall they seem cheap. Huggies, or the costco brand are my absolute favorites, i cannot imagine paying the high prices of pampers considering how crappy they are.

  9. Melissa says:

    While my DD was in diapers, we stuck with Target/Publix diapers. Yes, she had more ‘blowouts’ in her younger days… but something in those diapers would cause her eczema to break out… so the laundry cost went up, but I didn’t have a kiddo with a itchy bum!

  10. Shauna says:

    We use store brand diapers and I haven’t noticed any difference in performance. We absolutely cannot use pampers and luvs because the perfume is too strong and my daughter has respiratory problems. Huggies are fine but are really no better than the store brand. With both my kids, blow-outs happened no matter what when they were on breastmilk only. The only kind of diaper that didn’t leak was cloth. We are back to disposables now and I just can’t justify spending twice as much on huggies. The mickey print is cute but in the end, that’s the only thing that makes them different.

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