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Hands-on Gear Review
Pampers Swaddlers Review
Price: $0.33 List | $0.23 each (in 124-pack) at Amazon
Pros: Quality, soft, good absorbency
Cons: Poor eco/health, price
Bottom line: Better than Huggies, but there are more compelling options
Pampers is one of the most famous brand-name diapers; it is widely available, has an average price, and Swaddlers is one of their most popular versions. In our tests it did well in absorption, scoring an 8 out of 10, and overall it ranked 8 out of 24 diapers tested. It's price was higher than Huggies Snug & Dry, but less than Huggies Little Snugglers, and Huggies green diaper Pure & Natural. However, its overall performance was better than any Huggies variety. Pampers failed to meet any eco/health metrics earning a score of 1 out of 10 for both. While it did perform better than average, it just wasn't a diaper we can recommend. With Earth's Best Tender Care scoring higher in our tests, we felt it was the better choice offering more eco/health attributes.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Absorption and Leaks
Swaddlers standout category in our tests was absorption. Nature Babycare earned a perfect 10 for absorption in our tests, with BAMBO Nature, our Editors' Choice, earning a 9. Both diapers however, were more expensive. In its price range, Swaddlers only competition was Swaddlers Sensitive which also earned an 8. Neither diaper offered anything for eco/health however, which made Earth's Best Tender Care and BAMBO Nature the two top contenders we tested if being green is as important as absorption. Huggies Snug & Dry came close to Swaddlers with a score of 7 and it is significantly cheaper.
The absorption test for Huggies Snug & Dry (left), Pamper Swaddlers (middle), and Nature Babycare (right) are shown below. The larger green area indicates more surface moisture; less green indicates better absorption.
The diaper dropped below average in our tests for leaks, with a score of 4 of 10. It had lots of company in this price range, with most of the diapers we tested scoring in the 4-6 range. Earth's Best Tender Care scored a 9, and was higher overall than Swaddlers, and was about the same price. The only diapers in its price range to score lower, were green diapers Seventh Generation Free & Clear and Huggies green diaper Pure & Natural. Both diapers were more expensive and ranked lower.
Comfort and Durability
Swaddlers did not earn a very high score for comfort in our tests. It received a 4 of 10, which placed it below average out of the diapers we tested. It earned 3 out of 5 for the softness of the materials used, and the back and side elastic softness compared to other diapers, but it lost points for the feel and positioning of the closure tabs.
All Pampers products have the same tab set-up, which places a relatively stiff material on the inside of the diaper, allowing baby's skin to rub on the connection point. We feel that the more comfortable diapers connect the tab on the outside of the diaper and utilize softer materials next to baby's skin.
Many competitors came in with higher comfort scores in our tests; including Huggies Little Snugglers and Pure & Natural, earning 6 and 7 respectfully. Cuties, one of our Best Value winners, earned a 6 out 10 in this metric, and it scored just slightly lower overall. But, with a price that is cheaper on average than Swaddlers, it might just be the better choice.
In the area of durability, Swaddlers fared better in our tests than it did in comfort with a score of 7. The diaper had a genuine quality feel and fit, with very few complaints of construction problems, or missing or easily broken tabs (common complaints for some diapers we tested). Out of the top 8 diapers in our tests, it did have the second highest score for this metric with only BAMBO Nature scoring higher with an 8. In its price range, Huggies Snugglers came in at 7 as well, with green diapers Earth's Best Tender Care (a Best Value Winner), and Seventh Generation Free & Clear both earning a 6.
Eco and Health
Proctor and Gamble's diaper brands Pampers and Luvs do not advertise eco-friendly claims like being biodegradable or free of chlorine, latex, perfume, or dyes. If you dig deep into the Pampers website FAQ, you can find a few cryptically worded, and well-crafted answers, which actually say nothing but sound super fancy. This sleight of hand wording left us scratching our heads about what Pampers means. For example, one FAQ on the Pampers site asks: "Do your diapers contain dioxin?"
Pampers Village's updated post from July 23, 2009 states:
Our suppliers use elemental chlorine free processes that do not result in the formation of dioxin. The methods we use to analyze for dioxin are the most advanced government-approved testing methods available, and can detect even minute amounts of dioxin, if present.
Purification of the pulp fibers used to make Pampers and Luvs is done to eliminate the impurities which would inhibit our ability to make clean absorbent fibers. By cleaning the fibers in this manner, we can make a better performing product with fewer raw materials, which has clear benefits for the environment. Whitening the fibers is a result of this process, but is not its goal.
Our opinion is that the above answer is unsatisfactory, and possibly misleading. Many competing diaper brands provide clear statements that their diaper is "chlorine-free"; while Pampers answer remains unclear. Pampers vague and non-committal answer only gives information about suppliers, but fails to tell us if the diaper is chlorine-free or not. Okay, their suppliers "use elemental chlorine free processes" and Pampers has "advanced government-approved testing methods," but are they chlorine-free? We don't know, and their answer doesn't tell us. Competing brands avoid vague and confusing answers, so we assume Pampers is intentionally not answering the question, and possibly trying to hide something. Is their carefully worded, vague yet scientific sounding, response a direct answer or intentional misleading fun with words?
In addition, Pampers claims it does not use dyes but uses "colorants" or "pigments" instead. They even claim color transfer from diaper to baby is "normal" and "safe". We feel that saying you are dye free, but using "pigments" or "colorants" is yet again just another way of misleading consumers who don't have the time, knowledge, or skills to pursue the claim further. While there may be a difference between the two, several dictionaries consider the words to be "synonyms", which means they are interchangeable and are essentially the same thing. If Pampers would like to clarify why their pigments are better or safer than dyes, that would be a good answer to the dye question, instead of just saying they a "Dye-free".
Overall, Sawddlers scored a 1 in both eco and health categories. With no claims to the contrary, and only vague, hard to decipher answers, we were unable to determine that Pampers offered anything up for the Earth or your baby. In its price range it was not a top performer; both Earth's Best Tender Care and Nature Babycare scored higher in our tests in both metrics, and both diapers scored higher overall, with Nature Babycare even beating Swaddlers in absorption with a perfect 10.
Parents looking for a popular name brand diaper are likely to be drawn to Pampers. With brand familiarity, and the appearance of hospital endorsement, it is easy to see why new parents would try Pampers almost by default. Cuties scored almost the same in every metric tested, with only absorption being lower in our tests and both comfort and durability rating higher. If its similar score wasn't enough to sway you, it costs less on average. It may not be a familiar brand, but it is almost as good and will probably save you money.
Overall Swaddlers ranked 8 out of the 24 diapers tested. It showed impressive scores for absorption and durability in our tests, but it came in below average for leaks and higher in price. While it has an overall quality fit and feel, the tradeoff is potential leaks, no pluses for baby health, and no consideration to the environment. All of which makes it a diaper not worthy of its popularity.
If brand name popularity is your driving factor we suggest Earth's Best Tender Care, a Best Value winner. It has a name consumers know, is a green diaper, scored higher overall, and has a similar price. If budget is a concern, consider our other Best Value winner, Cuties, which scored a 49 of 100 in our tests compared to Swaddlers 53 and is cheaper on average.
The photos below show the absorbency results for Cuties (left), Pampers Swaddlers (middle), and Earth's Best (right).
Swaddlers did score above average, but given its misleading and confusing marketing and diaper component explanation, along with very little consideration to baby's health and (we assume) the use of chlorine, dyes, fragrances and latex, it is not a diaper we recommend. There are diapers that are just as good and offer increased health benefits even on a budget.
Swaddlers Sensitive, Baby Dry, Cruisers and Baby Dry Extra Protection. We only tested the Swaddlers and Swaddlers Sensitive. Swaddlers Sensitive has a touch of aloe, a little less dye, and a poorer absorption. In general, there was little difference to merit the higher price. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could try the other varieties, but we feel that for the money there are better diapers available that offer more for baby and the Earth.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team
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