The Best Potty Training Pants and How to Use Them
Potty training pants ease the transition from diapers to underwear. Learn about the differences between cloth and disposable options, then check out our top picks on the market today.
Potty training is a daunting task for parents and children alike. Not only is your toddler learning to eliminate waste somewhere new, they’re also breaking a lifelong habit. "If you think about it, some kids are in diapers out of the womb before being fed. It's a habit that has to be broken,” says Jamie Glowacki, potty training expert and author of Oh Crap! Potty Training.
A variety of products—including potty training pants—can make the process easier for everyone. These garments ease the transition from diapers to underwear, thanks to their absorbent fabrics and do-it-yourself functionality. Keep reading to learn more about how potty training pants work, with tips for finding the best pair for your child.
Types of Potty Training Pants
While a slew of companies on the market tout potty training pants, they really come down to two varieties—cloth and disposable. Here’s the difference between them.
Cloth Potty Training Pants
Cloth trainers feel like big-kid underwear, but feature multiple layers of fabric in the crotch area. "That fabric absorbs pee so that you're not changing panties every two minutes when a little dribble comes out," says Glowacki. Yet they’re still made of a natural fiber, like cotton, that allows your toddler to feel wetness when they’ve had an accident. Cloth pants might appeal to parents because they're more cost-effective than their disposable counterparts, and they’re also gentler on the environment.
Glowacki recommends cloth training pants if a child is struggling with dribbling. "Dribbling is any wetness under the size of a half dollar," she explains. "If the panties are damp but not wet, that means it's dribbling. For most kids there is some dribbling in those first couple of weeks so I highly recommend cloth training pants."
Disposable Potty Training Pants
"Disposable potty training pants feel and function the same as diapers. Your little one typically won't feel much of a wet sensation after an accident as they draw moisture away from the skin," says Dr. Eboni Hollier, a Houston-based pediatrician board-certified in developmental, behavioral, and general pediatrics. "The main difference and benefit of disposable potty training pants is that a child can step into them like stepping into a pair of underwear. This may help your little one feel more confident and independent."
Aside from being more expensive and less environmentally friendly, disposable diapers have another major downside. “Because they essentially work the same as diapers, they don't allow the child to feel wet and uncomfortable after having an accident,” says Dr. Hollier. “This discomfort can be motivating to use the potty and therefore is an important part of potty training."
Dr. Hollier feels they are best used in the evening. "Most children potty train between 2 and 3 years of age and most are not able to stay completely dry at night, which is where wearing disposable potty training pants during sleep can help," she says.
How to Introduce Training Pants
Each toddler will be ready for training pants at a different time, although most children lose diapers between age 2 and 3. Glowacki breaks her introduction to training pants into blocks, beginning with leaving your child bare-bummed around the house at the start, then going commando with soft clothes. "You don't put on underpants right away," she says. "In my experience that's sort of a fatal flaw because undies are tight around the upper thigh and the waist, just like a diaper. There's muscle memory that happens. It's a layer of fabric that can feel similar to a diaper and the muscle memory is a cue, 'I put this thing on and I can just pee and poop in this.'"
Glowacki introduces cloth training pants or underpants in block four of her training philosophy, encouraging the child to roam around in just panties at home. She doesn't recommend pants with underwear at first, because "that double layer of fabric seems to mess up the child. It can also be a manipulation if the child can't get their thumb into both pieces of fabric, they can't get their pants down in time," she says.
Wondering if gender matters when it comes to wearing training pants? Glowacki says there really isn't a difference between potty training pants for boys and girls, because they're designed the same way. The most important thing is finding a pair that has multiple layers of fabric in the crotch. She does note that if you can find a pair featuring your child's favorite animated character, that can entice them to stay dry. "Character undies tend to do best because there's this integrity about not peeing on Elsa or whoever is on your pants," she says.
The Best Potty Training Pants
Not sure what training pants to buy? Check out our top picks.
Made with 100 percent cotton and six layers of padding, these washable training pants will keep your kiddo comfortable throughout potty training. The absorbent material and leakproof lining also save on clean-up time. Plus, we love the adorable designs!
These white training pants look simple, but they're made with a durable blend of cotton and polyester that will contain your child's accidents. They feel like comfy underwear, and your child should be able to pull them up and down with ease. The Gerber training pants are also available in a variety of colors and styles.
You might know Seventh Generation for their green cleaning products, but the brand also makes training pants that are perfect for sensitive skin. They don't contain chlorine bleaching, lotions, or fragrances. Parents also approve of the tear-away side panels for easy changing.
These classic training pants have all of the features that parents love: absorbent and leakproof fabric, easy-open sides, stretchy material, and a comfortable fit. Plus, the Mickey Mouse graphic will fade when wet, which will help your child get to the bathroom on time!
These training pants have multiple layers, a stretchy waistband, and a big-kid underwear feel. But parents especially love the eco-friendliness—the training pants are designed with plant-derived materials without fragrance, and they're also hypoallergenic.
Not only do these potty training pants have adorable designs, they're also ideal for the last stages of potty training. They contain four layers, which will make your child feel wet when they have an accident (but the durable fabric should still prevent leaks.)
Is your child mostly potty trained, but they still need a little extra help? Consider the Thirsties Reusable Cloth Potty Training Pants, which have four layers to catch small accidents.