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Liz Callahan Schnabolk

The Best Types of Training Pants for Your Potty-Training Child

Potty training, here you come! But before you and your toddler can claim victory, you’ll need to decide which training pants to use. Here’s the 411 on how to choose.

After two-plus years of changing dirty nappies, you’re likely really (really!) ready to say so long to diapers. No matter what potty training method you choose—and there are many!—you’ll definitely need something to cover your kid’s bum during this transition (at least when he’s out and about). So what are your options?

What you choose will depend largely on what’s working for your child, what stage you’re at in potty training and what you’re up to that day. We sorted through all the crap (so to speak) to get you the lowdown on the best training pants, and how to make the right decision for your family.

Types of Toddler Training Pants to Choose From

Deciding what kind of training underwear to go with? Whether you opt to use cloth or plastic training pants, disposable pull-up diapers or go straight to toddler underwear, here’s a breakdown of the choices—and a few of our favorite training pants to try.

Toddler Underwear

No matter how you start out potty training, eventually your kids will end up in regular ol’ underwear. (Promise!) Many experts, though, actually encourage parents to forgo the transition options and use these right away. Here’s why: “Kids who use underwear are most likely to be aware they had an accident, therefore making training much more speedy,” says Adriana Vermillion, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based potty training expert known as “The Potty Whisperer.” Make things easy on yourself and choose something your kid is going to be psyched to wear! Go for patterns with trucks, unicorns, your kid’s favorite colors—you get the idea. (Boys can wear either regular briefs or boxer briefs; try both and see what they like.)

Toddler underwear to try

Photo: Courtesy Gymboree

Buy it: Gymboree’s Construction Boxer Briefs 3-Pack, $17, Gymboree.com

Photo: Courtesy Gap

Buy it: Gap’s Fairy Days-of-the-Week Bikini Briefs, $30, Gap.com

Cloth Training Pants

If you’re not quite ready to go all-in with undies, cloth training pants will be your potty training BFF. They’re basically regular underwear that feature extra layers of absorbent and/or water-resistant fabric to provide some accident protection. They won’t hold in a full-blown-stream situation, but they’re really helpful if your kid doesn’t make it to the toilet exactly on time.

“The point of training underwear is to help with the mess,” explains Michelle D. Swaney, CEO of The Potty School in Costa Mesa, California, and author of The Complete Guide to Potty Training. “Training underwear simply absorb more of an accident so less gets on the ground.” (We’ll call that a win!) Also important: These reusable training pants let kids feel the wetness when they dribble and also understand the consequences of not heading to the toilet, both of which are crucial to potty training success.

Cloth training pants to try

Photo: Courtesy Luvable Freinds

Buy it: Luvable Friends Baby Cotton Training Pants, $10, Amazon.com

Photo: Courtesy Hanna Andersson

Buy it: Hanna Andersson’s Training Unders 3 Pack In Organic Cotton, $30, HannaAndersson.com

Plastic Underwear Covers

Sometimes also called potty training pants, the point of these is to go over your toddler’s regular or training underwear. This method is generally considered a little outdated and not the most comfy for your kiddo—but waterproof training pants definitely have their place, especially when you’re on the go. “The instances that I would recommend a plastic outer diaper would be for travel, for the first few days of transitioning back to preschool after potty training, or for nap/overnight training,” Swaney says.

Potty training pants to try

Photo: Courtesy Potty Patty

Buy it: Potty Patty’s Waterproof Pull On Pants, $10, Pottypatty.com

Photo: Courtesy Gerber

Buy it: Gerber Childrenswear’s 2-Pack White Waterproof Pants, starting at $5, Amazon.com

Disposable Training Pants

You probably know these simply as pull-up diapers! They’re pretty darn close to what your kiddo is already wearing, but they look a little more like undies and have stretchy sides so kids can (theoretically) pull them up and down themselves. “It’s important to know that a pull-up is not much different than a diaper,” Vermillion says, “so training with them may be slower and less effective.” Kids won’t learn from their accidents, since there won’t be any. Plus, they won’t get a “wet” feeling if they dribble a little and therefore may miss their cue to head to the loo. But they’re obviously popular for a reason—they’re mess-free! This means they’re a good pick when you’re traveling or out somewhere without easy bathroom access, or at night (which really is a whole different potty-training ball game).

Disposable training pants to try

Photo: Courtesy Honest Co.

Buy it: The Honest Company’s Training Pants for Toddlers, $11, Honest.com

Photo: Courtesy Pull Ups

Buy it: Huggies Pull-Ups Girls Learning Designs Training Pants, $24, Amazon.com

Published September 2018

Plus, more from The Bump:

How to Potty Train Girls and Boys

10 Top Potty Seats for Your Toddler

14 Best Potty Training Books for Toddlers

PHOTO: Amy Hilbrand