When it’s time to say goodbye to diapers, it’s time to say hello to something else. Eventually this something else will be regular underwear, but it’s not always the best solution right away, unless you enjoy cleaning urine off of your couch (and floor, and bed, and everything else). Enter potty training underwear.
Why Potty Training Pants?
The purpose of potty training pants is to help make that transition from diaper to real underwear. For this reason, you want a product that is somewhere in between. It needs to look and feel like underwear as much as possible in order to encourage a change in your child’s behavior. But it also needs to provide at least a little bit of the absorption you’d get from a diaper, because no kid is going to get it right immediately. Accidents will happen!
It’s also a good idea to have training pants that are easy for your child to pull down and back up without help so that they can make it to the toilet in time and go without help. When it comes time to select the right training pants for your kid, you have two basic options: disposable and reusable. Each has its merits.
The Best Disposable and Reusable Underwear and Training Pants for Toddlers
Prefer disposable or reusable? We’ve covered both. Here’s a look at our favorites in both options:
The best thing about disposables is that they’re–you guessed it–disposable, so there’s no need to clean gross fluids off of fabric when there’s an accident. On the other hand, because they’re disposable they tend to feel a lot like diapers. This can make potty training more difficult for some kids. And because you have to keep buying them, they also cost more in the long run than their reusable counterparts. So that’s another aspect to consider.
Huggies Pull-Ups Cool & Learn
When you think of disposable training pants, you probably think of Pull-Ups. But this version of the classic has one slight upgrade. When the pants get wet, it sets off a cooling reaction to make the wet pants uncomfortable, which can aid in the potty training process.
As is their trademark, these Pull-Ups include the easy-open sides that can be readjusted for a tighter or looser fit. The pants are even designed with Disney characters to make kids excited to wear them. The designs fade when the pants get wet, providing kids with further incentive to stay dry. For nighttime use, be sure to look for an overnight version.
- Adjustable sides
- Cooling reaction makes accidents uncomfortable
- Disney designs fade with wetness
- Feel like diapers
- Not for bedtime use
Pampers Easy Ups
Softer than Pull-Ups with a more cottony feel, these disposable training pants are very absorbent. They’re designed to work both day and night! The waistband is stretchy all the way around, making it feel more like real underwear. And they’re easy to pull up and down like underwear, too.
Unlike Pull-Ups, Easy Ups do not have re-closable or adjustable sides. However, the sides do tear easily to avoid having to pull soiled pants down over your child’s legs. And best of all–for your kid, anyway–they come come in several cute designs, including Thomas the Train and Hello Kitty.
- Softer, cottony feel
- Stretchy waistband all the way around
- Can be used day or night
- More costly over time
- May still feel like a diaper
Reusable potty training pants are good because they feel more like real underwear. This can help kids with potty training by serving as a reminder that they can’t go in their pants anymore. But when they do have accidents, training pants are designed to prevent big messes in the same way as disposable ones. Other than the obvious drawback of having to clean them after accidents, the big downside to reusable training pants is that they’re not very dependable for nighttime use, so you’ll want to also buy diapers or disposable pants for bedtime.
MOM & BAB Training Pants/Underwear
Made from soft cotton on the outside and a terry cloth lining on the inside, these have the look and feel of real underwear but have the benefit of additional absorption. Their three layers can absorb as much as 30 milliliters of urine and, combined with the snug fit of the leg openings, allow for small accidents without making a mess of your furniture.
The theory is that when your child starts to go in this underwear, they will feel the wetness–which is intentionally uncomfortable–stop what they’re doing, and run to the bathroom to finish going. However, these training pants will obviously not be able to contain the contents of a full bladder, so they’re not ideal for naps or bedtime (or for children with no real bladder control).
- Look and feel of real underwear
- Can absorb as much as 30 ml of urine
- Big accidents will leave a mess
- Better for later stages of potty training
Charlie Banana Extraordinary Training Pants
The best thing about these training pants is that they’re waterproof on the outside, helping to keep leaks from, well, leaking through to your kid’s real pants. Inside, however, is a soft organic cotton layer to make them feel as comfortable as real underwear. And, because they’re waterproof, they also work great for swimming if you want to hit up the pool or beach during potty training (but don’t want to revert back to diapers and risk confusing your kid).
These training pants are relatively thin, which means they don’t look bulky under your child’s clothing, but it also means they aren’t equipped to handle large amounts of either liquid or solids. For this reason, they’re better for kids with a little more control. Of course, you could also add a liner of some sort–disposable or washable–for extra absorbency at the beginning. Just don’t rely on them for bedtime!
- Waterproof outside
- Soft interior feels like real underwear
- Can double as a swim diaper
- Won’t contain larger accidents
- Not for bedtime use
Best Bottom Training Pants with Inserts
Designed exactly opposite from the Charlie Banana training pants, these have a waterproof inside and a cotton outer layer, which makes them look more like real underwear. Obviously, a strictly waterproof interior would be problematic, which is why these come with three fabric liners that attached with two small snaps. This is the greatest selling point for these pants, because the liners prevent you from having to change to a whole new pair of underwear every time there’s even the smallest accident.
The inserts are made of absorbent microfiber and are wrapped in soft flannel with cute patterns, so your child can feel just enough wetness to know they had an accident. And best yet, they come in a variety of sizes and materials so you can customize the feel and and absorption rate to fit your child’s needs. You can buy the training pants and inserts separately, or you can purchase them together in a “training kit.”
- Liners customizable by absorbency and material
- Look a lot like real underwear
- Only need new liner, not new underwear, after accidents
- Could get costly stocking up on liners
- Not for bedtime use
EcoAble Convertible 3-in-1 Cloth Diaper Hybrid
While this option is technically touted as a cloth diaper, one of its designed uses is as a training pant for potty training. The smallest size holds babies 8 to 25 pounds, while the medium size ranges from 15 to 35 pounds, and the large goes from 35 to 60 pounds. And best yet, each of the sizes can also be adjusted for the best possible fit. Snaps along the waist and down the front of the diaper allow it to be tightened or loosened as well as lengthened or shortened.
The snaps on the side allow parents to easily remove the pants after an accident, and the elastic waistband makes it easy for kids to pull them down when it’s time to use the bathroom. Even the absorbency of these pants is adjustable! An insert can be either snapped in or tucked into small pocket openings for nighttime use or for children who are new to potty training. Once a child has begun to show more control, you can remove the insert and the micro mesh lining of the pants themselves can contain small accidents.
- Adjustable width and height for best fit
- Can be used day or night
- Waterproof outer layer to protect clothing
- Feels and looks more like a diaper
- More expensive than other re-usables
As with all things kid-related, there are so many options to choose from when you decide to take the potty training plunge. Disposable diapers are clearly the most convenient option for parents. However, their diaper-like look and feel can make it hard to convince your child that they aren’t, in fact, diapers. For my money, I prefer the reusable training pants, specifically the Best Bottom Training Pants with Inserts. The customization options alone are reason to go for them. And you can always use disposables for bedtime if you’d like a little extra peace of mind! If you’re not sure if your child is ready to potty train, read our potty training readiness tips. And be sure to read about our favorite potty seats and toddler toilets.