Training Pants vs Pull-Ups: What Are the Differences, Pros, and Cons?

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A toddler boy running

Congrats!

You made it through all of the questions and surprises that come along with having a newborn–because now you have an extremely enthusiastic toddler on your hands!

Caring for a toddler comes complete with a whole new set of questions like:

  • When did he learn to say “no?”
  • What’s the best breakfast to give him a good start to the day?
  • What is the deal with this whole potty training thing?

Yes, nothing quite tops one of the biggest milestones your toddler will face, potty training.

In this article, I want to break down the differences between training pants vs. pull-ups and help you decide which one is right for you; and it might be both!

So…what is the difference between training pants vs. pull-ups?

The main difference between training pants and pull-ups is training pants are more like underwear (cotton or other soft-cloth, washable, designed for comfort) and pull-ups are more like diapers (more absorbent, disposable).

Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at this comparison.


Training Pants Explained

Training pants are similar to cloth underwear but are much more absorbent, making them a good transition between diapers and regular underwear.

Training pants can be disposable or washable and are designed to help absorb accidents until your child can reach the potty.

They are most often made of soft cloth to mimic the feel of underwear and have an elastic band all the way around just like underwear, making it easy for your child to pull on and off by herself.

Training pants come in an almost endless selection of styles and colors, so your child can choose ones that will make her excited about using the potty.

You can find everything on training pants, from Spongebob to Thomas the Train and from Paw Patrol to Dora the Explorer!

The main uses of training pants are:

  • They are a transition from diapers to regular underwear, almost like training wheels on a bike.
  • They are more absorbent than regular underwear, so when your child starts to have an accident he can feel it and make it to the potty without leaving behind too much mess. However, he still experiences the uncomfortable feeling that often goes hand in hand with an accident, making him more likely to want to make it to the potty in the future.
  • They encourage independence because your child can pull them up and down as she begins to get used to the idea of wearing underwear. Plus, she will have the freedom of being able to go potty when she needs to instead of waiting for assistance with her diaper.

Training pants come in different sizes so that you can find the perfect fit for your child.

Most pants will come with a size chart that can help you determine the right size for your toddler.

For the most part, training pants are used exactly like underwear, but they have an extra layer of absorption and protection to help minimize mess during the early stages of potty training.


Pros and cons of training pants

Pros

  • They provide a great transition: Training pants are a fantastic transitional tool between diapers and underwear, helping toddlers feel like they have made the move from baby diapers into being a “big” kid.
  • They foster independence: Children love to be able to put on their own clothes, and training pants provide the opportunity for toddlers to completely dress themselves.
  • They come in a large selection of sizes and styles: Training pants come in many sizes and styles, very much like underwear. Children can choose from their favorite characters, different colors, and all sorts of different designs.
  • They limit mess: Since they are more absorbent than regular underwear, the amount of clean up is limited when accidents do occur.

 Cons

  • They aren’t completely absorbent: Although training pants are more absorbent than underwear, they are not completely absorbent. This means that when accidents happen, and they will, you will most likely have some messes to clean up and will be washing a lot, but it still won’t be as much as with regular underwear.

Pull-Ups Explained

A toddler boy with pull up poking out of pants
Daniel Case [CC BY-SA]
Pull-ups are basically one step closer to underwear than a diaper. They are made of the same absorbent materials as a diaper and look and fit very similarly.

The main difference between a pull-up and a regular diaper is pull-ups have an elastic waistband so that they can be pulled up and down like underwear.

(Read more about pull-ups vs diapers here)

Pull-ups provide toddlers with the ability to use the potty (since they are easy to pull up and down) without having the worry of accidents since they absorb just like a diaper.

Pull-ups are usually found in the same aisle of the store as diapers, and although they come in various sizes, styles and patterns are more limited than those of training pants.

However, pull-ups do offer more styles than diapers.

The biggest benefit of pull-ups is that you can introduce the concept of using the potty to your child without having to deal with the hassle of multiple accidents.

The main uses of pull-ups are:

  • To introduce the concept of using the potty to your child
  • To help your child practice the action of putting underwear on and taking it off, without the worry of a mess from accidents
  • To give your child more freedom to use the potty when she needs to

Pros and cons of pull-ups

Pros

  • They offer protection from messes: Using pull-ups significantly cuts down on the amount of clean-up that usually accompanies potty training.  They can be a good choice for overnight too if your child is in underwear but still having accidents at night.
  • They provide an easy intro to potty training: Pull-ups can make the introduction to potty training a bit simpler since they keep accidents contained but still allow your child to use the potty when she needs to.
  • They require no washing: If you’re looking for convenience, pull-ups are disposable, so once your child has an accident you can simply toss them like you would a disposable diaper.

Cons

  • They can possibly be confusing for some children: It’s important to determine if pull-ups will work for your child as some children may feel as if they are still wearing a diaper. Therefore, some kids may continue to poop and pee in a pull-up and not see a need for going on the potty.
  • They can be expensive: Although the brand plays a large role in how much pull-ups will cost, on average, they are slightly more expensive than diapers. Plus, since you’re tossing them after every use, you’ll be spending at least as much as you were on diapers even though your child is using the potty.
  • They may leak: Even though pull-ups are made with the same absorbent components as a diaper, many parents find that they tend to leak when they reach a certain level of fullness; this can vary from brand to brand.

Wrapping Up

That about sums it up when it comes to training pants vs. pull-ups!

The biggest difference between the two is pull-ups are much more like a diaper, while training pants are much closer to regular underwear.

Ultimately, which you decide to use depends on your child’s personality and your own unique situation. No matter which training tool you decide on, be prepared to try out several brands before finding the one that works best for you.

And if you’re looking for more simple explainers on baby stuff, check out:

I hope this helps, parents, and good luck with your search!

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