As your baby grows and becomes more active, his diapering needs change. Try different brands and styles to find what works best, and keep these age-by-age guidelines in mind.
Newborns: Some parents like a diaper with extra stretch that will accommodate a newborn's rapid growth. You may also want to choose a style with a U-shaped hole cut out to make cord care easier. Since newborns make small messes and get changed very frequently, absorbency isn't a huge issue.
5 to 8 months: Starting baby on solid foods means messier diapers, so a good fit with no leaks is key. Baby may be sleeping longer as well; if he soaks through his bedtime diaper, try ones designed for overnight use.
9 to 24 months: Toddlers are on the go, so look for diapers with strong tabs and plenty of stretch. Change baby often to avoid diaper rash, which can flare up when he's in motion.
24 months and up: It's potty time! Some families like disposable training pants because kids can easily take them off and they're great for accidents. Others say that kids won't use the potty if they're wearing something that feels and acts just like a diaper. Experiment to see what works for you.
What About Cloth Diapers?
You'd think in our age of speed and convenience that cloth diapers would have gone the way of the black-and-white TV. But parents still use them for several reasons: They're reusable, environmentally friendly and, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Diaper Services, less expensive than disposables.
Most cloth-diaper families use a diaper service, which appears with fresh diapers (and launders the dirty ones!) on a regular schedule. Diaper services also provide a hamper and deodorant for your home, and sell diaper covers with Velcro closures so you don't need pins.
However, even cloth devotees often buy some disposables. If your baby makes a big mess away from home, the last thing you want is to carry around a soiled, smelly cloth diaper.
And disposables trap a lot of liquid within the diaper, away from baby's skin. Cotton diapers, on the other hand, may be less absorbent and could require more frequent changes. The choice is yours.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, January 2004.