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Hands-on Gear Review
Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive Review
Price: $0.35 List | $0.31 each (in 128-pack) at Amazon
Pros: Absorption, soft, moisture wicking
Cons: Poor eco/health, price, aloe lotion
Bottom line: Not that different from Swaddlers regular
Pampers is a famous brand-name diaper that it is widely available, it has a higher than average price, and is a popular version. In our tests it did well in absorption and leaks, scoring an 8 and 6 out of 10, respectfully. Overall, it ranked 7 out of the 24 diapers tested. It's price was generally higher than both Huggies Snug & Dry and Little Snugglers, but less than Huggies Pure & Natural; plus, it outperformed all Huggies offerings. Pampers failed to score well in our eco/health metrics, scoring 1 out of 10 for both. While the diaper did perform better than most of the diapers we tested, it still wasn't a diaper we can recommend. Earth's Best Tender Care scored higher overall and costs about the same on average; it also offered better eco/health scores and had clear language on its package and website, all things Pampers failed to offer.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive is a brand name diaper that is popular with many parents and "endorsed" by many hospitals. It offers soft materials, a wicking liner to keep baby dry, an aloe additive on the inside liner, and great absorption. It has breathable sides and a wetness indicator. It ranked 7 out of the 24 diapers we tested, and it had a slightly higher than average price.
Absorption and Leaks
Swaddlers Sensitive did well in our tests for absorption. Nature Babycare scored a perfect 10 for absorption, while our Editors' Choice award winner BAMBO Nature, earned a 9. Both diapers offered more in our tests for the eco/health category, which made them better options overall than Sensitive. Huggies Snug & Dry came close to Swaddlers Sensitive score for absorption, scoring a 7 of 10, plus it was cheaper.
The absorption test for Huggies Snug & Dry (left), Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive (middle), and Nature Babycare (right) are shown below. The larger green area indicates more surface moisture; less green indicates better absorption.
For our leaks tests, the diaper did better than it's sister diaper Swaddlers, earning a score of 6; this was also better than most diapers in its price range, with only Earth's Best Tender Care scoring higher with an impressive 9. Lots of diapers scored lower in our tests than Sensitive, with most traditional diapers falling below the mark. The only exception was Pure n Gentle Ultra with a score of 6. However, the absorption score for Ultra was anything but ultra, so it isn't really competition for Swaddlers Sensitive.
Comfort and Durability
Swaddlers Sensitive did not do well in our tests for comfort. Earning only a 4 of 10, it placed below average out of the diapers we tested. It earned 3 out of 5 for softness, and the back and side elastic earned extra points for being nicer when compared to the other diapers, but it lost some points for the positioning of the closure tabs whose anchor points are rough and rub directly on baby's skin.
All Pampers diapers have the same tab anchor location. This places a stiff material next to baby's skin. We felt that more comfortable diapers connected the tab on the outside creating a softer inside.
Several diapers came in with higher scores for comfort, including one of our Best Value picks, Cuties, which scored a 6 out 10. With a significantly cheaper price on average, it is arguably a better choice for the money in our opinion.
In our durability tests, Sensitive fared better than it did for comfort with a score of 6; the diaper had a quality fit and feel. Out of the top diapers we tested, only two diapers scored higher in this metric; BAMBO Nature scored an 8, and Earth's Best Tender Care a 6.
Eco and Health
Pampers and Luvs, both made by Procter and Gamble, do not market their products as eco-friendly; claims like being biodegradable or free of chlorine, latex, fragrance, or dyes do not show up as part of their packaging, advertising, or websites. If you look hard enough on Pampers website, you will find well-crafted responses, which really say very little but sound very reassuring. This deceptive word craftsmanship made us wonder what Pampers has to hide.
For example, one question on Pampers site was: "Do your diapers contain dioxin?"
The answer Pampers supplied was not clear, worse still, it didn't really answer the question.
Pampers answer 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.
We feel that the answers they offered are unsatisfactory, and possibly confusing or intentionally deceptive. Many competing diaper brands make clear statements about their diapers; they offer information directly on the package about whether or not it is "chlorine-free". Pampers answer is unclear at best, and intentionally evasive at worst. First, their answer only gives information about suppliers. Second, it fails to tell us if their processes or end product, the diaper, is chlorine-free or not. So, we know their suppliers "use elemental chlorine free processes" and Pampers itself has "advanced government-approved testing methods," but is the diaper chlorine-free? We don't know, and their answer doesn't explicitly tell us. For the most part, other brands use clear and precise language when explaining what their diapers do and do not contain. This left us to assume that Pampers is intentionally being vague and hoping no one notices. Is their carefully worded, pseudo-scientific response to the direct question an honest answer, or a misleading ploy intended to distract parents from the fact that they failed to actually answer the question?
Pampers also claims it is free of dyes. However, it does state that it
Overall, Sensitive scored a 1 for our tests in the eco and health categories. Making no understandable and clear claims to the contrary, we were unable to determine if Pampers offered anything positive in regards to Earth or baby. For its price range, Pampers products were both at the bottom, sharing the score with Huggies Snugglers. Both Earth's Best Tender Care and Nature Babycare scored higher in our tests for these categories and both diapers ranked higher overall.
Parents looking for a popular brand name diaper might be drawn to Pampers. With brand familiarity, and popular use, many parents try Pampers almost by default. Swaddler Sensitive's price is above average, making it similar to some green brands. Even if being green isn't your motivator, it is hard to ignore the green options that had higher overall scores, were better for baby, and didn't cost much more. With an overall rank of 7 out of 24, Sensitive isn't a bad diaper. However, it just wasn't the best diaper. Given Procter and Gamble's misleading marketing and lack of transparency, coupled with a low eco/health scores in our test, there are just better diapers available that feel like less of a gamble.
If a good budget diaper is what you are looking for, Cuties scored almost the same in most categories we tested; only the absorption score was lower and both comfort and durability rated higher. If Cuties scores aren't enough to snag you, it also costs less per diaper than Sensitive. It isn't a familiar brand, but it is a good product and will likely save you money.
Overall, Sensitive ranked 7 out of the 24 diapers tested; it scored well in our absorption and durability tests, with a respectable score for leaks. While it had a quality fit and feel, the tradeoffs were added lotion, poor health and eco scores, and a fairly high price for what it offered. Our test indicated that maybe its popularity had less to do with its actual specific qualities, and more to do with its well-known name.
If brand name recognition is important to you, or you feel it is indicative of a "better" product, we urge you to consider Earth's Best Tender Care, a Best Value pick. It is a brand name consumers are familiar with, it offers far more for baby's health, it scored higher overall in our tests, and costs about the same on average. If you don't care about brand names that much, but your budget is tight, then our other Best Value winner may be more your speed. Cuties scored a 49 of 100 in our tests, compared to Swaddlers Sensitive's 58, but it was significantly less on average per diaper.
The photos below show the absorbency results for Cuties (left), Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive (middle), and Earth's Best (right).
Sensitive did score above average in our tests. However, we strongly feel that given its confusing marketing, and lack of transparency on diaper elements, that it is a diaper you should avoid. With very few considerations to baby's sensitive developing systems it is not a diaper we recommend. There are several diapers that scored just as well, that have increased health benefits.
Swaddlers, Baby Dry, Cruisers, and Extra Protection. We only tested the Swaddlers and Swaddlers Sensitive. In general, there was little difference between the two we tested to merit the higher price of Sensitive over regular Swaddlers. If you are feeling curious, you could try the other types. However, we feel there are better diapers that offer more, for a lower price, without the gamble of misleading marketing.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team
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