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amazon diapers1After using an app to scan a code on the package, I learn that the diapers I’ve been using for the past four days on my 15-month old son were produced by a 132-year-old company called Irving Personal Care in Canada’s Moncton, New Brunswick.

Meanwhile, the wipes were made in the U.S by Nice-Pak Products, a family-owned company for 55 years in Mooresville, Indiana. In that small town of fewer than 10,000 residents, the wipes were moistened by water from the White Lick Creek Aquifer. The chamomile is sourced from Lewisville, Texas, from a company with over 30 years of experience harvesting and manufacturing extracts.

Amazon Elements WipesBut these diapers and wipes aren’t from one of the major baby products manufacturers: They’re from Amazon. Last week, the Seattle retailer launched its own private label called Amazon Elements, and over the weekend, I was one of the first to give them a test drive.

With this launch, Amazon intends on standing out from the pack by producing an affordable, yet high-end product that’s all about being transparent — not organic. That explains the detailed information about the sources of the materials used in the product. It’s a key difference, but one that Amazon is hoping will give parents similar peace of mind in a very competitive category of household products.

During my short test, I concluded that the diapers were effective, well-designed and priced right. My son, Dylan, who often experiences leaks during the day or night, did not have any blowouts, rashes or other undesirable yuckiness. I also determined that the price for diapers and wipes is comparable to what we are currently paying for Costco’s private-label Kirkland brand.

But I will not likely order them again, and I have a hard time recommending them for other reasons.

Amazon has tied the Elements brand to its Prime program, so you have to pay $99 a year for the right to buy them. In addition, to get the best prices, you either have to subscribe to save, or make a bulk purchase through Amazon Pantry, which incurs additional shipping fees. I view these options as too cumbersome. However, I do acknowledge that for other customers, who are already participating in either of those programs, it will likely be a convenient way to buy diapers or wipes.

In full disclosure, I did not purchase the ones I tested, but I was given a bundle of both diapers and some wipes from Amazon for the purposes of reviewing the product.

The Diapers: Look ma, no pee!

amazon vs costco diapers
Amazon launched its own line of diapers (pictured left) that will compete with other private labels like Costco’s Kirkland brand (pictured right).

First, let me say that I’ve used my fair share of diapers.

If I were to guess, I have bought more Pampers than anything else over Dylan’s life, but more recently, I have switched to Costco’s in-house brand called Kirkland. Other brands I’ve tried along the way include Huggies, Luv’s and Target’s up&up, so I’m well-versed in a spectrum of offerings.

The Amazon Elements diaper has an elastic waistband that comes illustrated with a brown bear, trees and a mushroom. There’s also paw prints crawling up both the front and back. The illustrations are cute, but they are way more cartoonish and mainstream than the images found on the diapers by The Honest Company, which come with edgy pictures, like skulls and crossbones.

As for texture, these diapers are different than any other diaper I’ve used. For starters, they are so shockingly thin, I couldn’t imagine how they would hold a sippy cup’s worth of water, much less a whole meal worth of you-know-what. But this is where the diaper really excelled. It’s possible that I just didn’t test them long enough, but in my four days, they stood up to my son’s well-hydrated and well-fed nature.

Blow-outs are not only common for us, but I’ve grown to expect them. During my tests, we did not soil one single pair of pants. If you are looking for effective and sleek, these may be the diapers for you.

Amazon Elements LogoOne way it may have accomplished this is by fitting so snugly to my son’s body. I would describe most diapers as being boxy or square, but these diapers were very flexible, fitting well to his contours. After an hour of wear, they seemed to be perfectly adapted to his curves, looking more like a Speedo swimsuit. The sleek fit was definitely something I had to get used to seeing, and had me worried initially, but after a couple of days of use, it didn’t seem to be a problem.

As for overnight use, I cannot be an expert. I’ve been trained to proactively change a diaper during Dylan’s regular 3 a.m. wake-up and feeding, and I used one or two Kirkland diapers when they were more convenient in my sleepy state.

Amazon Elements Soft & Cozy Diapers come in seven sizes from Newborn to Size 6 and in small and large bundles of varying amounts. Of the 11 online reviews, customers give the diapers three out of five stars. One complaint that is repeated is a “burnt rubber” smell when the pack is first opened. That’s not something I noticed.

The wipes: Too little coverage

Amazon's baby wipe is smaller than the Costco Kirkland brand.
Amazon’s baby wipe is smaller than the Costco Kirkland brand.

When it comes to wipes, I’m not terribly picky. I found that Amazon’s wipes stood up to vigorous wiping while also being sensitive enough, but we’ve never had any issues with sensitivity. One thing worth mentioning is the size of these wipes. They are smaller than the ones sold by Costco, by less than an inch in width according the packages (although in this picture you’ll see the top wipe from Amazon also falls short in height).

While that seems minor, I noticed the smaller size right away, and I think I would prefer the extra coverage that a larger one affords.

Amazon Elements Baby Wipes come in three styles: Fresh Scent, Sensitive and Unscented. They also come in both standalone packs of 80, and the option to buy refills for plastic tubs.

The technology and transparency

amazon wipes qr codeAnother nice element to these diapers that some parents will find attractive is the transparency.

I really have no clue where the diapers I’ve been buying come from or what they are made of, but in the case of Amazon Elements, it’s easy to find out all of the above. Amazon is not claiming to be organic, so for that reason parents who prefer brands like The Honest Company or Seventh Generation may not consider these an alternative. But compared to the run-of-the-mill brands, they offer way more information than you’ll know what to do with — and it’s all accessible from your mobile phone.

Each bundle of diapers and pack of wipes includes a unique code, which you can scan using the standard Amazon mobile app on your iPhone or Android phone. (Or, if you are one of few who bought an Amazon Fire phone, just Firefly it!). The code will provide you with the product’s origins, date and place of manufacture, date of delivery and ‘best by’ date. The app will also help you easily re-order, write a review, or contact Amazon with more questions.

Scanning a QR code on the Amazon's wipes provides information on where the ingredients come from.
Scanning a QR code on Amazon’s wipes provides additional information.

The QR code is a neat gimmick, but I find it a little unnecessary. Presumably, you’ve already purchased the diapers, so you would no longer feel the need to research the product’s origins once you get the package. But maybe it is designed to be used by visiting friends or relatives who are seeing the product for the first time?

More important is the information itself. Not knowing really what to think of the deluge, I conducted a couple of online searches. I first looked for “Mooresville, Indiana,” where I learned that its a small town (population 9,580 to be precise!), and then I searched for the town’s aquifer, where the most interesting fact I found is an urban legend about a nearby railroad bridge that is reportedly haunted by the ghost of an Irish immigrant.

Fascinating stuff, but not exactly pertinent to my son’s health. But clearly for some parents, knowing the origin of the materials in the products will trump other things, namely price.

Cheap, for some customers

amazon diapers priceThis is where I have to give Amazon the most demerits. It gets complicated — and fast.

First, it’s worth noting that to qualify to buy these diapers, you must be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $99 a year. The other option is to become an Amazon Mom, which also costs $99 a year, but gives you 20 percent off diapers, including these ones. (You do not have to be a Prime member if you are already an Amazon Mom.)

From there, there are three options: Buy the diapers in bulk to receive free shipping; agree to a monthly subscription to receive free shipping; or buy a smaller package of diapers as part of a bulk service called Amazon Prime Pantry, and pay $5.99 for shipping.

I did the math for a package of Size 4 diapers, and found that prices range from as little as 22 cents to as much as 29 cents a diaper.

The lowest price was through an Amazon Mom subscription, which means that diapers will automatically come to your home on a regular basis based on your preference. Under these conditions, 160 diapers cost $35.99, which pencils out to 22 cents each.

Since my husband is the Prime account holder, and I only enjoy the benefits of free shipping through him, I would have to pay $99 to become an Amazon Mom. (Update: Amazon wants me to know that if my husband adds Mom to his account, then I will be able to get 20 percent off diapers, too.) For other people like me, you can buy 160 diapers for $44.99, or 28 cents apiece on a one-time basis, or subscribe for a 5 percent discount, which means paying $42.74, or 27 cents each.

costco diapersThe most expensive option was to purchase a bundle of 40 diapers through Prime Pantry. Those diapers cost $11.49, or 29 cents each. On top of that, you will also have to pay $5.99 for shipping. Diapers only take up 6 percent of the box, leaving you enough room to order other items, which may help you justify the additional cost.

As you can see, the choices are pretty perplexing. Wipes add another layer of complexity. Pay $10.99 or 2 cents a piece as part of an Prime Pantry order, or subscribe and pay 50 cents less. (Note: A one-time purchase also costs $10.99, so there’s no point in doing a Pantry order.)

This complexity results in a high bar for simply trying out the diapers and wipes. Plus, most moms like experimenting with smaller packs first to see if it’s something they would want to buy in bulk, but at $11.49 a pop, plus $6 in shipping, that’s a high price to pay for a trial.

Finally, I did compare these prices to Costco, and they stack up nicely to the cheapest price available. Costco charges $39.99 for 180 Kirkland diapers, which translates into 22 cents each. Wipes cost 3 cents each and come in bundles of 100. And, if you don’t feel like driving to the store, visit Costco.com, where the shipping is free.

Amazon Elements: a strong start to a bigger retail play

amazon_babydiapers_behind_boxesBecause of the pricing complexity, it’s hard to recommend that other parents spend as much time as I did figuring out how they compare to other diapers and wipes on the market. But if you are already a frequent Amazon shopper, and find subscription services handy, then these diapers are worth trying. Despite their weight and thinness, they stood up nicely with no leaks during my short test period.

Following the announcement that Amazon would be offering diapers and wipes under its own brand, many came to the conclusion that this was a play against Amazon’s own partners, like Pampers and Huggies.

That may be true from on the business side, but as a consumer I see it a little differently. By offering household items under the Amazon name, this gets it one step closer to being a full-service retailer. I’m accustomed to shopping at stores, like Costco or Target, which offers their own brand of items for a reasonable price. In that way, Amazon needed its own line in order to be competitive. I don’t hear a lot a chatter about how Target or Costco intends on putting Huggies out of business, and I don’t see why that’s different in Amazon’s case. It’s about selection.

While Amazon isn’t giving specifics about future plans, the company does hint that Amazon Elements will ultimately become a broader line of “everyday essentials.”

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