Not all diapers are created equal.

There are different brands, of course, some of which are very good and some of which are almost useless. Adrian has some reviews on the site already, and I’m sure more of those will be forthcoming.

But there are also different kinds of diaper, designed to serve different purposes.

Depending on your needs, you may do just fine with one brand and model of diaper for your entire life. But for many people, a well-stocked diaper drawer is the best way to make sure you’ve always got the right diaper for the right task.

Here are some different “roles” for diapers, and some suggestions on what you might want in your diaper drawer to fill those roles:

Basic Diapers for Public Wear

If you’re diapered regularly or semi-regularly, you’re going to be spending a decent amount of time wearing diapers under your ordinary street clothes.

Those basic day-to-day diapers should ideally be comfortable and reliable. Some wearers may also want them to be discreet, with a relatively slim profile and low waistbands.

Disposables are your best option here unless you’re very dedicated to the cloth-diaper side of things. It’s nice not to have to bag a wet diaper and take it home with you. Cloth diapers also tend to make a much thicker bulge — not necessarily a problem if you don’t mind being visibly diapered, but it does make trousers an awkward fit.

I generally recommend a reasonably slim, medium-absorbency diaper for people who are out in public. If you’re moving around a decent amount, a big, thick, overnight-style diaper is likely to get tugged loose and start leaking before it’s really reached its full capacity (and, once again, it’ll leave a bigger bulge).

Despite the marketing (which always seems to involve smiling old couples on bicycles), I don’t recommend pull-up styles, at least if you’re wearing trousers. They’re easy to tear off, but putting a new one on in a public restroom is quite the logistic challenge. You’re better off with tape-style diapers for on-the-go changes.

All Day At-Home Diapers

When you don’t have to worry about changing, leaking, or visible bulges so much, your diapers can get more heavy-duty.

A thick diaper makes life around the house a lot easier. You can throw it on and leave it on for most of the day, as long as you’re willing to wear a wet diaper (if you’re not, and you change as soon as you wet, a lighter diaper is pretty much always the better choice for you).

I use both cloth and disposables for my at-home diapers, and both work well. Cloth is nice in that it’s reusable and you can simply layer cloth diapers until you’ve reached the absorbency you want, but it also requires washing after use, and the plastic underwear that goes over cloth diapers can become uncomfortable over time.

If you go the disposable route, don’t be shy of the “overnight” styles — they work just fine in the daytime too! It’s a very low-maintenance approach that lets you go about your daily routine without paying much attention to your diaper.

Overnight Diapers

The heaviest diapers are usually marketed as “overnights.”

That said, unless you’re fully incontinent and pee a lot at night, they’re often overkill. More casual diaper-wearers who may wake and wet a little in the night can generally get by with a regular brief-style diaper from a decent brand. People who only spot a little can even downgrade to pull-ups or liners.

There’s no real one-size-fits-all solution on this one. Your wetting habits (and the amount of padding you like to feel at night) determines your overnight diapers. But don’t automatically assume that, because you’re going to bed, you need something labeled “overnight.”

Discretion Diapers

From time to time you want to keep your diaper discreet.

Maybe you’re new to wearing them in public, or maybe you really don’t want to ruin the line of your evening gown. Whatever the cause, this is where the light pull-ups and even liner-style padding comes into play.

There’s really not much more to say on that one other than to know your limits — change frequently, and bring more spares than you think you need if your control isn’t good.

Babyhood Diapers

For those that like a little regression play, can diapers get more babyish than the basic store brands? You bet they can.

Everyone’s got their own feelings on cloth vs. disposable; for my part I think cloth is great when you want a babyish feel. The thick padding and the safety pins are extremely childish, especially if you add a cute pair of plastic underpants over everything.

There are also companies making adult diapers with babyish prints on them, and guides out there for how to make your own transparent “clings” that will stick to diapers as well. If you can’t find or don’t want to pay for those, a really crinkly brand can still go a long way toward a babyish feel (some of the cheaper store brands are actually good for crinkling — though not for much else).

Sample List: The Well-Stocked Diaper Drawer

All clear as mud? We’ll finish off simple — here’s a sample list of one person’s diaper drawer. Yours may vary a bit depending on your needs, but the key thing here is to be thinking about all the different times, places, and ways you wear your diapers. Make sure you’ve got the right one for each job!

Sample Diaper Drawer for One Person

  • 2-3 packs of medium-absorbency, brief-style disposables – Day to day wear
  • 1-2 packs of heavy-duty overnight disposables – All-day around the house wear
  • 1 pack light pull-up style disposables – For discreet situations, quick errands, and light-wetting overnight wear
  • 5-6 heavy cloth diapers – For all-day wear, heavy-wetting overnights, and baby play
  • 5-6 pairs plastic underwear – For use with the cloth diapers; 1-2 in childish patterns/styles for baby play

In addition to the diaper, you may want things like small packs of wet wipes (handy for changes in public restrooms) or a tin of baby powder for at-home changes. Keep it all together — that way, whenever you need a diaper of any sort, you can reach right in and find the one that fits your situation.

Got a favorite diaper for a specific task? Let us know in the comments!.