Diapers vs Training Pants for Potty Training Explained

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Diapers and pull ups and underwear, oh my!

Potty training your toddler is no small task. 

It seems simple to us, but it’s asking quite a lot from your baby!

Because of that, accidents happen and are a normal part of potty training. No wonder parents get frustrated during potty training time!

If you already weren’t frustrated enough, there’s also a myriad of products out there that are supposed to help you and your toddler on your potty training journey.

You’ve got training pants, underwear, pull-ups, and diapers as your options for potty training toddlers.

Let’s take a look at some of the differences between training pants vs diapers for potty training.

The main difference between diapers and training pants is when they’re best used. Diapers are disposable, super absorbent, and harder for your toddler to pull up and push down themselves — they’re mostly used before you start potty training, or for nighttime accidents while potty training.

On the other hand, training pants are mildly absorbent, reusable, washable, and easier for your toddler to use all by themselves. They’re best used toward the end of potty training when accidents are fewer and farther between.

Let’s find out more!

Diapers Explained

Chances are, your baby has been in diapers since within moments of being born. 

Most diapers people use today are disposable. That means you can throw them away when they get soiled.

Disposable diapers are great for those of us who don’t want to deal with cleaning diapers off — a messy, no-fun job for sure.

Cloth diapers are diapers you can reuse by washing.

Inside, there’s super-absorbant, multi-layered fabric to catch any pee or poop from your baby.

You first need to spray off any solid waste into the toilet, then they go through a few wash cycles in your washing machine (follow your specific brand’s washing instructions), then they are hung to air dry.

Diapers are best used when your toddler is not potty training. That’s because they are strapped tight to your toddler’s waist in order to prevent leakage.

This also prevents your toddler from sliding the diapers on and off easily.

During potty training, it helps some toddlers if they’re able to independently go to the bathroom by themselves. Regular diapers might make this frustrating and hard.

(This is why pull-ups were invented. Read more about diapers vs pull-ups here.)

Continuing to use diapers during potty training also might discourage your toddler from attempting to use the potty at all, since it’s what they are used to and they won’t feel the wetness and discomfort as much as underwear or training pants.

In a pinch, diapers can work while potty training (and may be necessary at night for a while), but they are not ideal.

Usually, you’ll want to graduate from regular diapers when your child is around 2 years old.

Pros & Cons of Diapers for Potty Training


  • They prevent accidents. Diapers usually do their job well keeping all the pee and poop contained. This means less headache for you, and less time cleaning up messes.
  • They are great for nighttime. Your toddler may still be sleeping all night and waking up with a wet diaper during potty training. This is fairly normal up to about age 4. Keeping diapers on your toddler while he or she sleeps is a good idea until they can wake up with a dry diaper.


  • They aren’t different enough. Your toddler might need a more physical indication that it’s potty training time by swapping out diapers with some new training pants or underwear.
  • They are too absorbent. Absorbency is key when your baby can’t go to the toilet by themselves. You want the most absorbent thing on your baby’s bottom to prevent diaper rash. However, you want your toddler to feel wet during potty training so they are motivated to prevent that uncomfortable feeling and go to the bathroom themselves.
  • They are difficult for your toddler to take on and off. Potty training is a step towards independence. Diapers are not easy for your toddler to independently maneuver, making them a poor choice for potty training.

Training Pants Explained

If you’ve never seen training pants before, you might mistake them for underwear.

Underwear and training pants look similar, however, they are a little bit different.

(Read more about underwear vs training pants here.)

Training pants are somewhere between underwear and cloth diapers. While they are more absorbent than underwear, they are not as absorbent as cloth diapers.

They are entirely made of cloth with an absorbent extra layer of cloth sewn in. They come in a variety of patterns and colors, which your toddler will love!

Training pants are best used when your toddler has got the general hang of potty training.

Maybe they are still having little accidents here and there and need a little absorbency for the occasional dribble, but for the most part, they’re not having consistent accidents.

Training pants are perfect for little accidents because they don’t let leakage happen. Big accidents are more for pull-ups or very patient parents!

When training pants get wet, they will not absorb as much as diapers do.

This will allow your toddler to feel the sensation of being wet and uncomfortable, which can be a big motivator to use the potty next time.

You can find training pants at any major store that sells baby and toddler items. 

(Learn more about training pants vs pull-ups here.)

Pros and Cons of Training Pants During Potty Training


  • They prevent leaking from minor accidents. Potty-trainer-in-training? Not a problem for training pants! Most small accidents are absorbed by the multiple layers of cloth inside the training pants.
  • They come in colorful patterns. If you’re trying to get your toddler more excited about potty training, it’s worth buying a set of training pants that they would like. Better yet, take them to the store with you so they can pick out their own!
  • They give kids a “big kid” feeling. Toddlers usually feel very empowered by being viewed as a “big kid” or anything that gives them some more independence. Training pants make them feel like they’ve accomplished something great (which they have)!


  • Training pants are not the most absorbent. There’s no getting around it; toddler training pants are not the same as diapers. They cannot be used interchangeably, and you should make the difference clear to your toddler.

Wrapping Up

To wrap up, it should be clear by now that diapers and training pants are not the same thing and have wildly different uses.

Diapers come before potty training and are difficult for a toddler to use if they are trying to use the potty independently.

Training pants come towards the end of potty training and are basically just a more absorbent pair of underwear.

In the middle of your potty training journey you’ll want to include the use of pull-ups, for sure.

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Hope this helps!