So, Pampers Pure Hybrid System… The hybrid system that isn’t anymore a hybrid system than disposable incontinence pads are. They’re disposable inserts on a cloth shell. I’m not sure about what everyone else thinks, but personally I’ve been under the impression over the years that a hybrid system is one which a shell can be used with both a cloth insert or a disposable insert. This system does not offer any kind of reusable insert; just look at the packaging. Is anyone actually surprised, though? Pampers is, afterall, a disposable diaper company. Let’s keep that in mind going forward. I made it a hybrid by using it with Bebeboo inserts when not using the disposable ones. I purchased these things with my own money back in April 2021.
So what’s the gimmick here? Well, you can reduce waste 25% and feel like you’re doing something worthwhile and it will only cost half your soul. Seriously, let’s break down the price:
Currently as of February 2022, 108 daytime inserts cost $39.99 which places them at 37 cents each. This doesn’t include the cost of the shell, which they charge an astronomical $24.99 each for. You can buy sets for a lesser price… but not much. You cannot use just one shell, of course. The lifespan of the shell is less than promising. In my own experience, it delaminated after only 42 washes. That puts it at about 60 cents PER USE. So now you’re up to almost a dollar per change. Compared to Pampers Pure disposables, which range from 33-65 cents per count (depending on size), one wonders… why bother? Even if the shell lasted as long as most other PUL shells, the price of just an empty Pampers shell equates to a USA made natural fiber all in one or pocket shell with inserts. On the more budget end, you can get a 6 pack of cheap cloth diapers on Amazon for just $5 more than one empty Pampers shell. For a quality shell, Bebeboo choice AI2 shells are half the cost of the Pampers shell and better made. The inserts cost virtually the same as the Pampers Pure disposable counterpart.
But $25 is buying you a quality shell, right? I wish I could say so. I had high expectations of Pampers. Dropping $25 on one shell is not an easy feat for a low income family and, honestly, leaves this impression that cloth diapering is just too expensive when that’s simply not true. My experience is ONLY MY experience, sure, but it wasn’t a good one. First impressions were disappointing. I had never tried Charlie Banana before, so I didn’t know what to expect from what is essentially just a rebranded CB shell. I liked the print and the softness of the PUL. I immediately questioned the back elastic. It looked relaxed, but apparently that’s how it’s supposed to be. It could be tighter. It was VERY loose on my 3 month old. The diaper itself has what I call “bra strap elastics” in the legs to adjust the overall rise/fit around the legs. I have never struggled so much with elastics before. I had thought the button elastics from Fuzzibunz was a bit of a nuisance, but this… this was finger-crippling to adjust. I almost gave up, it was so stupid hard. It made me not want to adjust the elastics ever again. I dreaded it. At least the leg fit was great! If it hadn’t been alright, I know I would have ditched the entire effort. The lack of rise snaps led to the excess rise fabric bunching at the top and making it tricky to snap the diaper on without trying to lay the fabric flat. While not a deal-breaker, this is a non-issue with pretty much every other modern cloth diaper than employs the use of rise snaps. The inside pocket of the diaper is located in a far-from-ideal place in the front. Perhaps it’s just my baby, but her poop would always go forward enough to cover the opening. I never wanted to reach through that mess to retrieve the insert I stuffed inside. No thanks. I used this diaper with both the Pampers disposable inserts and (mostly) my Bebeboo inserts. Stuffing the pocket diaper is annoying because the crotch is so narrow and the pocket less-than-roomy. This would not accommodate much more than the insert. The lining inside the diaper was super soft from the get go. While it quickly matted down from use, it still maintained that softness, which may have been the only thing I really enjoyed about the diaper. The plush inside, however, posed an issue with the Pampers disposable inserts which clung so hard to the shell that they often fell apart when I tried to remove the insert. If they weren’t falling apart, they deposited a sticky residue to the lining. When I contacted Pampers about it, their recommendation was to modify the inserts by folding over the ends to slightly cover part of the adhesive. While I took their advice, I made it clear to them that I should not have to modify a product to make it work with what it was designed for. That’s not my job as the consumer. Even after discontinuing the use of the inserts some 3 months prior to the end of my shell’s life, the evidence of sticky residue remains. I haven’t actively pursued trying to remove it as I wanted to see if it would just wash off over time. Even if I had found something that worked, that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. The residue remains.
Even though the shell seemed less than desirable, I kept it in my normal rotation. For science! I am a stickler about rotating my stash, by the way. I like to make sure diapers are evenly worn, plus it makes tracking usage super simple. Every 3 washes, each diaper in my stash has been used once. Clean, folded diapers aren’t deposited into the bins for use until they’re empty. I say all of this so you understand that this Pampers shell was used consistently and washed with everything else just like everything else. After 9 months and 42 washes, my shell delaminated. It already had a tendency to get wet pretty quick around the thighs, although I’m unsure why. However, with the last use, it wet right through the PUL when the insert inside wasn’t all that wet. Now, granted, I could probably still use it with the disposable inserts a bit longer, being that the disposable inserts don’t hold the wetness against the PUL as the cloth inserts do. However, in the cloth world, this shell would already be relegated to “swim status”… not something I like to do after only 9 months of use on a $25 shell. I contacted Pampers about it and I’m waiting on a response.
So what about those inserts? Well, they work okay. They’re comparable to the absorbency of the GroVia biosoakers. In fact, I have used them with other brands and find better success regarding the residue issue. Specifically when paired with a shell lined with AWJ (athletic wicking jersey) such as Bebeboo choice AI2s, the sticky residue issue with Pampers inserts nearly disappears. I think if someone had cloth diapers and wanted an easy option for caretakers/daycares, a small relief in cloth diaper laundry, is going on vacation, or so forth, this may be a nice purchase so that you can still use your pretty cloth diapers and maintain the solid protection cloth offers against blowouts without too much added laundry. However, Pampers’ boast in a 25% reduction in waste makes me wonder if they took the added laundry and the (short) lifespan of their shells into account. Furthermore, companies like GroVia offer Biosoakers, which are 100% compostable. Last year, piece for piece, Pampers Pure Hybrid inserts were the same price as GroVia Biosoakers. However, the price of Biosoakers has now climbed to 45 cents each. The GroVia shells are not necessary although their hook & loop shells really are amongst the most user-friendly for beginner cloth diaperers (it’s a word now), and their shells lasted me easily 200+ washes before I rehomed them (with intact PUL) for a new life elsewhere. They’re $17.95 new compared to Pampers’ $24.99 and, as much as I dislike a lot of aspects of GroVia, their hybrid system (and their Mighty Bubbles) are, in my opinion, their best products. Still, if your goal is truly to reduce waste and you’re able to compost the diaper inserts, GroVia is absolutely worth the extra expense. If you are looking for something convenient to use as a sort of half-break from cloth diapering, the convenience of Pampers disposable inserts are worth considering. However, watch out for the excessive sticky residue. I recommend folding the ends over a little to reduce the amount of adhesive making contact with the lining. I also recommend pairing them with a different brand pocket style diaper. The cheap ones on Amazon easily put Pampers to shame.
Pampers could do so much better. So. Much. Better.
This is why many seasoned cloth diapering parents look at Pampers’ Pure Hybrid system as a greenwashed effort from P&G to appeal to consumer’s desire to reduce waste, and why many even go as far as to accuse P&G of purposefully trying to convey this image that modern cloth diapers are too expensive, poorly designed, and a poor quality. I got a lot of flak initially when I pointed out some of the problems with the Pampers Pure Hybrid system because many people only wanted to see the positives of having (semi) cloth diapers on the shelves with a big company name on them. In the end, though, Pampers is still a disposable diaper company. P&G has been dipping their toes into the cloth world, acquiring Charlie Banana and with Tide’s release of a cloth diaper detergent. For someone like me, seeing cloth become more mainstream and available is like a dream come true. It’s my vision to see cloth and disposables as a side-by-side option in stores. When I saw that Pampers released this hybrid diaper option, I was excited! This is a step in the right direction! My concern is, though, that someone unaware of modern cloth diapers may be given a very poor first impression of them if they are introduced with the Pampers system. I’m not saying this will turn everyone off and only bad can come from it. I know there will be people who may try it, then take the step further into cloth, which is the desired results from advocates like myself! It just bugs me that I found the Pampers hybrid shells far more frustrating than almost every other brand I’ve tried, and I know that Pampers has the capacity to do far better… so it does, in ways, feel like a deliberate attempt to undermine cloth diapering… or, at best, their half effort only signifies how little they actually care.
Maybe I’m coming off as too hard, but only because I had very high expectations from Proctor & Gamble. As many billions of dollars as they make, I hold them to higher standards than the small shops I frequent for cloth diapers. I expect more from them.
I’m also not going to be disingenuous about what I see and experience just because we’re “stepping in the right direction”, especially if that first step is a half step right into a pile of crap. Complacency isn’t how reform happens. I won’t settle for subpar when I know there is better to be had for us all. I want to see P&G take a serious step in the right direction and actually mean it.
This system truly is the worst of both worlds. You now have the trash and cost of disposables with the laundry and costs of cloth diapers… and for what? A 25% reduction in waste at nearly a dollar per change? Pass.
I’ll update when I get a response from Pampers regarding the short lifespan of their shell.