How Parents Can Save in the Face of Disposable Diaper Price Hikes

The price of Pampers may be going up, but there are still ways to save on disposable diapers.
This baby's diaper may get a little more expensive.

The joys of child-rearing may be priceless, but disposable diapers certainly aren't. Families already spend an average of $1,000 a year on the staple of modern parenting, and this July Procter & Gamble, the parent company of popular disposable brands Pampers and Luvs, announced it would raise prices on Pampers products by an average of 4%. The price hike would go into effect sometime between October and December of this year. If making a brand switch to Huggies seems to make good financial sense, P&G rival Kimberly Clark also announced in July it may raise prices for its Huggies brand, though no new details have emerged about the size of the increase or its timetable. Together P&G and Kimberly-Clark account for 81% of the disposable diaper market for the U.S., meaning the vast majority of parents will likely see a hit to their wallets.

The current price of a single Pampers diaper ranges from an average of 20 to 52 cents, depending on the exact type and from what retailer you purchase (Huggies are similarly priced), and a newborn can easily go through anywhere from 8 to 10 diapers a day. The cost of keeping up with a baby's basic sanitary needs can typically last until preschool age, which means disposable diapers are a fixed monthly expense for parents in those first few years of a child’s life.

Why is Pampers getting more expensive

Neither P&G or Kimberly-Clark decided to raise prices on some of their most profitable products on a whim. But developments out of either company's control and shrinking profits have forced the companies to pass down costs to consumers.

The first is the rising cost of wood pulp, a necessary ingredient for disposable diapers (and many other consumable goods, such as paper towels and toilet paper). Why the price of this often-overlooked commodity keeps rising is complicated, but the fault lies with everything from last year's hurricanes wiping out paper mills in the U.S. to growing global demand, particularly from China, driving the price of hardwood pulp up by 60% and 20% for softwood.

The second reason Big Diaper feels it needs to raise prices lies in the bedroom—Americans just aren't having children like they used to. Just 3.7 million babies were born last year, a record 30-year-low for the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Less babies means less diapers are needed, which translates to less profits for diaper makers.

How to still save money on diapers

If you're a parent who's fed up with the high costs of disposable diapers, you have some options (other than picking up a pair of these for your baby).

Switching to a generic disposable brand can save you a considerable amount of money. We took a look at generic diapers offered by store brands based on price per diaper to compare cost difference.

DiaperAverage Price Per DiaperCustomer Rating
Target Up&Up14 cents4.25 out of 5 stars on Target's website
Wal-Mart Parent's Choice14 cents4 out of 5 stars on Wal-Mart's website
Kirkland Supreme Diapers22 cents4.5 out of 5 stars on Costco's website
Amazon Mama Bear25 cents4 out of 5 stars on Amazon's website
Pamper's Swaddlers27 cents4 out of 5 stars on Amazon's website
Huggies Little Snugglers31 cents4 out of 5 stars on Amazon's website

For some parents, there isn't enough of a difference between a Pampers diaper and a generic to justify the cost difference, while others will swear by a single brand as being the only one right for their child when it comes to fit and comfort. You should experiment with a variety of different generic brands by purchasing the smallest size available to see if a less-expensive option is a good fit.

Beyond the generic disposables that cost less than Pampers and Huggies, several boutique brands also exist on the market catering to parents wanting a more natural, environmentally-friendly diaper. Seventh Generation, Honest, Babyganics and Earth's Best each claim their product provides a superior, organic version of the disposable diaper, but the price often matches—or exceeds—those of Pampers and Huggies. For example the average price per diaper for Honest's diapers is 43 cents, far more than most of the products offered by P&G and Kimberly Clark.

Once you've identified a brand of disposables that's perfect for your little one, buying in bulk will save you money but be careful—babies outgrow sizes quickly. Brands sell diapers based on sizes pegged to a weight range, such as size 1 fitting babies weighing between 8 and 14 pounds. Like adorable (but gassy) snowflakes, babies are all unique, but the Mayo Clinic advises parents that a baby will usually double his or her birth weight in 5 months, with a gain of 5 to 7 ounces each week. From 6 to 12 months, a baby's weight gain slows down to between 3 to 5 ounces each week.

These are all average figures, so don't be worried if your baby either packs on the pounds or drops weight like a stone compared to the average numbers (so long as your pediatrician isn't worried). It varies by brand, but generally size 4 covers the biggest weight spread (between 22 and 37 pounds) with size 3 close behind (covering between 16 and 28 pounds). If you want to buy in bulk, try and double down on those sizes to get the most bang for your buck.

James Ellis is a former Staff Writer for ValuePenguin, covering credit, banking, travel and other personal finance topics. He previously wrote for Newsweek, Men's Health, and other nationally-published magazines.