Do Pull-Ups Hinder Potty Training?

Do you need pull-ups for potty training?


(I know this because I have a 100% potty-trained kid (he was 2.5 when we trained) and we didn’t use pull-ups.

At all.

Not one time.

(If you’re on a budget, I can hear you breathing a sigh of relief already. lol. Don’t fret! You can likely potty train your child for the price of one potty, 10 pairs of underpants, and a couple of loads of laundry. And it’ll be quicker without pull-ups too! You do NOT HAVE TO shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars on training pants in a process that will be drawn out for the next six months.)


So anyhow, what I’m saying is NO, you do not need pull-ups for potty training, they are not an essential potty training item!

But I think a much more important question is this:

Do pull-ups hinder potty training?

Well, I sure think they could… and even though I’m just a mom with a potty-trained kid, there are certainly experts out there who agree with me on this one.

And actually, multitudes of other moms will tell you that using pull-ups is a bad idea, too.

I want to say quickly that I am NOT boycotting pull-ups, and I do think there’s a place for them… but that place is NOT in potty training! (I will share below exactly how we potty trained without pull-ups.)

As for where we DID use pull-ups:

It was only AFTER day time potty training was complete, we started using them as “big boy pants” at NIGHT.

It’s important to understand that many toddlers are not developmentally ready to wake up when they sense that their bladder is full or hold their urine for 10 or 12 hours, making nighttime potty training a little more elusive than day time training. In fact, most children’s systems don’t mature enough to stay dry all night until at least age 5, 6 or even 7. Nighttime potty training is often futile, and that’s no fault of the parents or the child. (Source).

So, once we knew that our son FULLY understood that we don’t go anywhere but on the potty, we “rewarded” him by telling him he never had to wear baby diapers again, and he got to wear cool looking “big boy pants” at night.

He rarely wakes up wet, so we can often use one pair of pull-ups 2 or 3 times, which does really keep the cost down.

So I DON’T think pull-ups are all together terrible and I do buy them – but there’s a number of reasons I would never use pull-ups to potty train – but let’s start with the most basic reason why not to use pull-ups.

Ask yourself:

How are pull-ups different than diapers?

Well, they’re more expensive for one.

And they generally have bolder prints (and the back is marked “back” on some).

Oh, and you don’t HAVE to lay the kid down to put them on. You can “pull them up”. I guess that’s where they got the cute name. (But the KID can’t usually pull them up by themselves – they aren’t actually all that easy to get on!)

They leak a little sooner than a diaper might leak – they are not AS absorbant.

However, the differences between pull-ups and diapers end there.

The feel like diapers when they’re dry.

They absorb pee like a diaper.

They prevent feeling wet and uncomfortable, like a diaper.

They allow mom and dad to be a little lazy with potty training – because they are a diaper.

I can’t see anything here that’s helping with potty training… but

why are pull-ups bad for potty training?

Because they are confusing.

Kids are super smart. Kids at potty training age have brains that are WIRED for learning. This is when they’re learning MACHINES!

But if you’ve ever spent any time with a toddler, you know that they understand things more easily that are presented to them in black and white terms.

Good vs. Bad.

Happy vs. Sad.

Think about this- without being able to demonstrate a difference to them, why was it ok to pee in a diaper but it’s not ok to pee in a pull-up?  (Which feels and acts just like a diaper.)

WHY bother to go to the potty when there’s literally no consequence for peeing in the pull up?

And making them feel bad shouldn’t be a consequence! (Any parent who thinks belittling a child for having an accident in a pull-up when they’ve used a diaper all their life should be ashamed of themselves!)

There is a natural consequence to peeing your pants when you’re NOT wearing a diaper, however, and that is that you get wet and uncomfortable.

Therefore, it’s easy to demonstrate (and understand) a “good vs bad/ happy vs sad” situation between having an accident in your pants and getting to the potty on time.

Not confusing your kid will make potty training MUCH faster.

What is the point of pull-ups?

HONESTLY, the point of pull-ups is to help diaper companies continue making money off parents who know it’s time to transition away from diapers, but don’t really know how.


I’m sure there was a marketing guy who’s sole job was finding a way to maintain the revenue from parents who were about to STOP buying diapers – and he did a FANTASTIC job… because parents are busy, and it sounds EASIER to not have to deal with the messes that will inevitably happen when you leave diapers cold turkey.

Potty training feels daunting the first time you do it… moving to disposable training pants is a smaller step for the PARENTS to take.

Pull-ups make it feel easier for mom and dad. 

potty training without pull-ups

If you agree that pull-ups are probably not the best route for potty training, you might be wondering how to potty train without pull-ups.

This is what we did:

  • We talked about learning to use the potty for a few days before we started. When we changed his bum we would say “in two more sleeps, you won’t have diapers anymore and you will try to go poop on the potty!”
  • We kept the potty in the kitchen and talked about it a lot.
  • We took him to the bathroom with us, and showed him that we were using the potty.
  • We prepared OURSELVES for the week to come – embracing that messes were going to be a part of the process.
  • We planned it for a summer week where we could be outside a lot (LOL).
  • We planned to be AT HOME for at least 4 days.
  • We bought LOTS of underpants (I think maybe 14 pairs)
  • We woke up on potty training day, took off his diaper and told him that big boys ONLY wear diapers when they’re sleeping, and he was a big boy now!
  • We made a FREAKING HUGE DEAL about the potty and the underpants
  • We NEVER shamed him for peeing. At every accident, we said in a very neutral tone “when we have to pee, we go to the potty. It’s not good to pee in our pants.”
  • We NEVER put another diaper on him during the day. When we did have to go out, I accepted that accidents would happen, I packed extra pants + underwear. I also put a puppy piddle pad in his car seat to protect it. (He never did pee in the car seat.)
  • We let him get out of bed to pee as. many. times. as required. (I think this maxed out around 4 times per evening.) We didn’t say “just stay in bed and pee in your diaper”. We praised him for NOT peeing in his diaper. Remember, when you’re introducing new rules, you HAVE to prevent confusion.
  • The first day he peed in his pants about 8 times and pooped twice. He didn’t make it to the potty once.
  • The second day, I put him on the potty AS SOON AS he woke up – and had a DANCE PARTY when he peed.
  • Then I gave him chocolate. I told him that big boys get a chocolate treat every time they pee on the potty!
  • The second day, every time he started peeing, I rushed him to the potty. If we got even a little pee in the potty, he got a treat.
  • Same on the third day.
  • By the end of the third day, he was announcing that he had to pee, and dancing around in a panic, and we started making it to the potty on time now and then.
  • At the start of the fourth day, we could see that he was getting it, and that he needed more motivation to try harder to get to the potty EARLY, so we told him there’s only chocolate treats if we get ALL the pee in the potty. (I think you have to monitor your own kid and make the choice for yourself if changing the rules is a good move or a bad move.)
  • By the end of about a week, he was 100% trained! (We had some struggles with pooping that lasted a full two weeks, but I’ll write all about that another day.)

I think the most important thing we did was going cold turkey from diapers to underwear, and accepting that it would be a little messy.

If you’re ready to start potty training I STRONGLY encourage you to try this route! (I do want to warn you that CHOCOLATE treats may not be the ideal reward for a potty training toddler – the extra sugar turned our awesome toddler into a terrible-twos disaster, and we are thinking about using stickers next time haha.)

(Perhaps for children with developmental difficulties, the situation might call for training pants.)

This forum is a few years old, but MANY moms here share a similar sentiment about potty training with pull-ups, and even make statements like ” It took forever to potty train my son, once I decided no more pull-ups during day at all took a week of accidents and he was trained.”

Not surprising!

Related: How to Get a Toddler to Eat Vegetables 
Related: Why Our Toddler Goes to Bed at 10 pm 

What do you think? Do pull-ups prolong potty training in your opinion?

potty training mistakes

do pull ups hinder potty training?

potty training without pull ups


23 thoughts on “Do Pull-Ups Hinder Potty Training?”

  1. How long did your son have “accidents” after you began the process? My daughter is potty trained and we did not use pull ups but we’re 2.5 months in and she’s still having several accidents per week. I was considering sending her to daycare in a pull up – she attends 2 days per week.

    • He’s been trained for a year with 3 accidents, 2 of which were my fault because I didn’t put him on the toilet in the morning before putting him in the car. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful here!

  2. Hi. Im a mum getting close to potty training my 20 month old. I have been using pull up nappies since my little one started walking. I find these easier to get on my wriggler and I feel they leak much less than standard nappies.
    I believe this article may be a little mis-informed….. pull up nappies (which you seem to have described) are for making nappy changes easier. Training pants are a whole new level of nappy, designed to let the wet sit on the surface for a small time so the child understands the have wet themselves.
    Im not saying they’re any good as I’ve yet to potty training my boy, however I do feel it’s important for mothers and fathers to be provided full and correct info. May be worth a little more research…. may even change your future opinion of certain products

    • I agree. I don’t understand why anyone would think a pull up is not a nappy. I had to start doing stand-up changes with my son at 8 months as he WOULD NOT stay still or lie down for a nappy change. Pull ups were a brilliant (albeit expensive!) alternative in our situation. However, I have always viewed them as nappies and when my son turns 17 months in January we will be potty training and getting rid of the pull ups during the day.

    • In the United States, they are used for potty training primarily. We don’t use them as diapers because they don’t have nearly the absorbance of a diaper. They are not supposed to. They are not made to replace a diaper. They are specifically designed to assist in potty training. You can read all about it on the Pampers website. No need to say she mis-informed anyone, she did not. She gave her POV and backed it up with facts that she has linked in the article.

  3. I’m a parent of a 2 year old girl I totally agree with this article! Pull-ups will confuse the kid and delay the process. For girls, I think it’s easier. It took literally a day for us. We got our daughter new pretty undies and made a HUGE deal about them like the author said, and told her not to pee on them so that they wouldn’t get dirty. And she really loved the new big girl undies and felt really proud of wearing them and she didn’t want to pee on them. It actually worked.

    • Yes! I love that other people have had the same experience!! !

  4. What a great text! I totally agree. They need to feel uncomfortable to understand that if they don’t want to feel like that, they need to go to the potty. That’s it, cold turkey from diapers to underpants don’t is a clear command of what comes next. I couldn’t agree more. I am in the process now with my 2 years and 2 month old girl and she only pees when I let her with no pants, and now I will teach her with the undies that she will need to ask me or take her pants off to do in the potty!

  5. I agree pullups are confusing! My son is 3 almost 4 and I have been potty training him off and on for a year. We would try to go all day without pull-ups and only use them at bedtime. It never really last long because I would give up and he was back to pull-ups 24/7. Well now, he will be starting preschool so I had to suck it up and get rid of pull-ups altogether (not even at bedtime). If your child is 3-4 and they need to be potty trained for school,I recommend not using them at all! I brought bed pads and waterproof mattress cover just in case of nighttime accidents. No matter how hard it gets DONT GIVE UP!

  6. I’m interested in what you did at nap time? I’m assuming a pull up was used for napping and night sleeps?

    I like the potty pad idea in the car seat. We’re getting ready for this venture , but we do have boy girl twins so it’s going to be interesting 😄

    • we actually used baby diapers at nap tip + bed time – I did not want to introduce pull ups at all.

      • Hi

        I’m preparing to start potty training my 24 month old next month and I have a question about the messes… I have carpeting all through my home and when my son pees it’s not a little sprinkle it’s like he’s trying to water the plants lol. We tried to start the process a few month ago (big boy underwear, non intimidating potty seat, potty dances and songs, Stickers and treats) our first day went great! He was excited about the underwear and the potty, the praising. But the next day he lost his momentum and I honestly can say I got frustrated with the messes on the carpet and considered using pull-ups when we start to try again. So with the plan to start again I’ve been reading and that is one thing I don’t see anybody talk about when it comes to potty training. Do you have any insight on messes and carpet?

      • oh that’s rough!! I would personally wait until the summer OR plan to spend most of the first day or two in the bathroom if you can. (It will be a commitment, but it will likely not take more than a day or two before the messes at least minimize.)

  7. HEEELP!!! My son is already 3, he is already potty trained for peeing, we also use pull-ups only at night, he knows that even if he’s not asleep already and he has to pee, he has to go to the bathroom… But we have a big problem with poop, he doesn’t want to go poop in the bathroom, he has done it about 5 times since we started training (2 and a half) but that’s it… When he says he wants to go, we wait… we sing a couple of songs, we read a boo, etc… but eventually he says it is not coming out, so he goes back to play, and 20 minutes later, he says he has to go but there’s already poop in his underwear, sometimes he doesn’t even want me to change his clothes, because he hates when I have to clean him everywhere… I’ve tried everything, and when I’m lucky and he poops in the bathroom we clap, we hug each other and he says that we are happy because there’s no mess to clean and his dinosaur underwear is clean… I don’t know what else I can do!!

    • Ohhh thats honestly so hard… I would just do no underwear / pants at all for a week or so and see what happens!

  8. Hi there! Mom of 2 under 2 and first time potty training. My daughter is 21 months and we are heading into winter now (June in Southern Hemisphere). Because its so cold and we don’t want her running around with frozen legs, should we rather wait for summer and miss the “ideal window” or just deal with icicle legs for a week?

    • i would do icicle legs lol kids dont notice the cold the way we do! keep her inside and turn up the heat 🙂

  9. So we have done the 3 days commando. I started with the undies 1st and noticed that he would immediately go in his undies and wasn’t bothered by being wet. And he would go often. Since going commando he holds his bladder longer but now he’s completing holding it for poo. He waits until I put his nap time or bedtime diaper and immediately poops in that. It’s like he knows to hold it till then. He is 2.5 and doesn’t speak much so is unable to verbalize when he needs to go. We’ve been training for about 10 days. Wondering if we should stop and revisit when he is able to speak more.

    • We struggled with the poo for our daughter also – I would keep going with the training and just take it one thing at a time. Dont worry if he poops in his diaper at nap time. Once pee is no longer an issue, try bribing him to let it out on the potty before a nap!

  10. Hi! My son is 21 months and doesn’t really talk yet. Is it too young to teach him to use the toilet? He knows all about it and knows what it is. And also, would it be better to use a kids toilet seat over the toilet instead of a potty? (First time mum here) lol!

  11. When my daughter was potty training in pull ups she actually told me she didn’t need to use the potty because she had pull ups! Those were the last pack I bought!


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