How much do diapers cost?

“Good luck paying for diapers!” I think I heard that over 30x when I was telling coworkers and friends that we were pregnant (and personally I was fretting over Child Care costs, but that’ll be a different article.)  As baby JR has traversed the diaper landscape, and is sitting in a comfortable size 3, I was curious to analyze how much we spent on diapers already and forecast how much we can continue to spend going ahead. Thus, I decided to write Diapernomics, the economics of diapers!

To do our analysis, I needed 3 main things:

  1. How fast do babies grow?
  2. How many diapers a day do babies use?
  3. How much do the diapers cost?

Baby Growth

So why does growth matter?  As a quick recap, diaper sizes are based on the size of the child, not the age.  Newborns (N) diapers are for those less than 10lbs, Size 1 is 8-14lbs, etc. These sizes are pretty standard and work for both Pampers Swaddlers and our generic brand, Up and Up.

Next, I needed to know when the child will grow into each size.  To get this, I did a quick google search on ‘infant growth charts’ and found the CDC table that the pediatrician uses every time you go in for a checkup.

The CDC has both a girl chart and a boy chart.

For our analysis, I am assuming the 50th Percentile for figuring out when the baby will change sizes, your mileage may vary.  For example, JR came out at 42 weeks and completely skipped the newborn size!

Based on this, the babies wear newborns for the first 2 weeks, then go up a size at 2.5 months, 6 months, and 20 months, and either are potty trained or move on to size 5s at 34 months.

How many diapers a day?

According to the average newborn uses 10-12 diapers a day (JR personally used about 12), 1-5 months old they need about 8-10 diapers (JR used 10), and from 5-12 months old, they only use about  8 (that was right on the money!). So, I fully agree with this chart and we’re going to use baby JR’s numbers.

Given when they change sizes and how many a day they use, we get the following graph

Boys and girls use the same number of newborns and size 1’s as each other, but since girl’s stay in Size 2 an extra 45 days, they will use less size 3s when they get to them (they’ll be down to 8 diapers a day).  Size 3 has the most for boys because they wear them for six months of the first year, even though he’s only using eight a day, then size 2 and 1. Diapers can be bought in varying quantities with the bulkiest buys generally having cheapest per diaper value.  When I was researching, they do not sell ‘month supplies’ of newborns size because the expected amount is only 2 weeks. Up and Up will sell you the closest to the expected needed of 180 with their “Giant Pack Size” (which has 176), whereas Pampers will only sell 140, which may make you a few diapers shy.  (Protip from this dad, never be shy on diapers.) I’d recommend having the big box of 1’s at the ready as well when you buy your box of newborns. Finally, the crux of the matter.

How much do the diapers cost?

As briefly mentioned, for this final analysis what we’re going to look at is the cost of diapers and the variations based on what diaper you’re buying.  I looked at: Pampers swaddlers, (I call them the Cadillac of Diapers), and Up and Up (Target store brand). Generally, the biggest box of Pampers is the “Month Supply” and the Up and Up’s “Bulk Plus Pack.”

While the counts per box vary between the companies and between the sizes, the general rule is Pampers is around $50/box and Up and Up is $29/box.  Another difference is that I could not find the “Bulk Plus Pack” for Up and Up for size 1 or 2.

This graph quickly shows that if you’re going with the name brand, it is going to add up.  An interesting note is that because Pampers does not sell the larger box of Newborns, that the price per diaper is higher than size 1.  From there out, both brands follow a pretty similar trajectory of increasing cost per size. Pampers increases not just at a higher unit cost per diaper, but also at a higher percentage.  (Size 1-2 increases by 6.3% vs 2.4% for Pampers vs Up and Up, respectively.)

How much do diapers cost in the first year?

With cost per diaper, when the child is supposed to move up a size, and the amount of diapers they use per age calculated, we can finally put it all together to get our forecast for “How much do diapers cost in the first year?”

This graph shows that while diapers start out high, with Pampers being around $100 and Up and Up being $60, and they get lower throughout the year and finally settle down at 7 months to $65 and $30, respectively.  So even though our price per diaper goes up, the usage goes down to about 8 per month.

Now that I have my monthly budget numbers, what can I expect by end of the first year?

If you’re anything like the average, Swaddlers will run you about $900 by then end of 12 months, whereas Up and Up will cost you closer to $435.  (Girls will save about $10 in that year because they move to size 3 later.) Which one is better, I cannot say, but I’m sure your baby will let you know! Good luck parents and future parents and don’t forget to clip coupons!


For those true data geeks (like me!) who would like it all in one graph


vurtil opmer · February 5, 2020 at 5:14 pm

I do trust all the ideas you’ve offered for your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very quick for newbies. May just you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

Daphne Bellefontaine · March 6, 2020 at 3:13 am

Hi, the Diapernomics – Babylytics article it is well written and is very useful.

When was the last time your baby slept through the night…
or fell asleep when you needed him to? –
Your baby is wonderful!! 🙂 Kiss you All!

What's the average cost of disposable diapers per year? - My Mom's a Nerd · July 1, 2019 at 10:48 am

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