Baby Pull-Ups: What Are They, What Age To Switch & More

As a new parent, you’re going to do an astronomical amount of diaper changes and go through many disposable diapers.

As your exhaustion levels rise, you will likely start wondering how soon you can potty train your child.  

While the answer will vary pretty dramatically from child to child, experts stress the importance of waiting until your child is ready.

The good news is, you may not need to wait as long as you think to start the process.  

By making use of a transitional product, “baby pull-ups”, you can begin preparing your child for potty training a little bit sooner.

Treating potty training as a work-in-progress and adding this extra stage is also a great way to ensure success.  

What Are Pull-Ups?

Pull-ups are a transitional diaper type designed for use as you work towards potty training your child.

The main purpose is to start encouraging independence while still providing leak-proof protection.

The main difference between pull-ups and diapers is that pull-ups are designed to easily slide on and off so that children can put them on and take them off on their own.

Why Should You Use Pull-Ups Instead Of Diapers

should you use pull ups for potty training

So, what is the function of making the switch to pull-ups as part of your potty training journey? 

For starters, involving your kids in the process and giving them some independence is a great way to get them excited about potty training.

Kids will love helping out and will be more motivated to make the switch to “big boy/girl” underwear.  

Plus, learning to pull up and pull down their own pants is an essential skill that you will need to teach them anyway- both for potty training and for dressing themselves later down the line.  

Pull-ups will also make changes much easier for you. Once your child is old enough to be involved, they are likely to become quite squirmy and difficult about diaper changes.

If they can take some ownership over the process, you likely won’t have to fight with them as much and only have to clean up for them.

This will hopefully reduce the time spent changing too.  

Pull-ups can help to reduce and eliminate messes caused by accidents. If you were to skip straight to underwear from diapers, you would likely have extra cleaning and laundry to do.

On the other hand, Pull-ups are easy to change and are (almost) as absorbent as diapers are. 

They also reduce embarrassment for potty training children who may be upset at the mess if they have an accident.  

Cons Of Switching To Pull-Ups

are pull ups as absorbent as diapers

While pull-ups are a useful tool for beginning your potty training journey, there are a couple of pitfalls to be aware of before choosing to use them:  

Do pull-ups make bedwetting worse? 

While pull-ups are often an excellent solution for preventing messes and extra laundry caused by bedwetting, they may not be supportive of solving the actual problem. 

Unfortunately, children are able to use a pull-up like a regular diaper, meaning that bedwetting may continue.

Many parents state that children will choose to use the pull-up throughout the night versus making the trip to the bathroom if they feel they need to go.

In a lot of cases, the safety net of the pull-up creates reliance.

Eventually, children will need to be weaned off of the pull-ups to effectively stop bedwetting from happening, so many parents would recommend skipping the use of them at night.  

Do pull-ups prolong potty training? 

In the same way that pull-ups can lead to reliance issues when it comes to bedwetting, you might find that reliance on pull-ups causes your potty training journey to take a little longer.

Unfortunately, without the physical discomfort caused by an accident in regular underpants, there’s not much incentive to get up and use the toilet instead of using the pull-up like a diaper.

That being said, experts say that if your child is truly ready for potty training, this shouldn’t become much of an issue. If it persists, it’s possible that your child is just not ready to be potty trained.

Are pull-ups as absorbent as diapers? 

Most pull-up brands claim to be equally as absorbent as their diapers.

In some cases, they might even state that they are designed to be more absorbent since they are meant for overnight use by older children who need greater leak protection.

However, real parents would almost unanimously agree that this is almost never the case.

If you take some time to browse parenting forums (or just ask a friend with older kids), you’ll find that most parents find them to be less absorbent, with more leakages. 

Are pull-ups more expensive than diapers?  

Since diapers are already such a significant monthly cost, you might be wondering how the cost of pull-ups compares.

If you choose to incorporate them into your potty training plan, should you be budgeting for an extra investment?

In general, pull-ups are more expensive, but only by a few cents more per unit. If you only use pull-ups overnight or for a short transition period, the difference may be inconsequential.

But if you are using them all day long for several months, this extra cost can add up. 

What Age To Switch From Diapers To Pull-Ups 

what age to switch to pull-ups

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. Many experts recommend starting to potty train around two years old.

That being said, some children are ready as young as 18 months, and others are not ready until they are nearly three.

Rather than sticking to the “right age” to switch to pull-ups and start your potty training journey, pay attention to your child’s behavior.

When the time is right, there will probably be some tell-tale signs that your child is ready.  

Waiting until your child is ready to start potty training is definitely the key to success. Since potty training relies on self-motivation and independence, your child needs to be interested in the process.

If your child is not ready, they will simply continue choosing to use their diaper instead of making their way to the potty.

There needs to be enough interest and incentive to keep them engaged in the process. 

Signs Your Child Is Ready To Start Potty Training  

So, what exactly will your child do if they are ready to start?

While your child probably won’t tick off every sign, exhibiting a few of these behaviors is a pretty good indicator that it’s time to start preparing for potty training. 

Here are some of the signs to look out for, according to child development experts:  

  • Started to display interest in the bathroom 
  • Shown interest in “potty talk”  
  • Likes to be in the bathroom with you  
  • Can tell you when they are about to go to the bathroom  
  • Can follow basic instructions  
  • Has asked to use the potty/toilet  
  • Has decent fine motor skills (i.e., putting on some of their own clothing or shoes with some assistance)  

How To Transition To Pull-Ups

how to transition to pull ups

A quick google search will provide you with dozens of tips for beginning potty training with your toddler.

After all, making it fun, keeping them engaged, and using incentives are all essential in creating a positive experience and finding success.

That being said, there are a few that are specifically handy when it comes to switching to pull-ups:


If one of the main signs that your child was ready for potty training was an increased interest in talking about potty time, then it is important to keep encouraging this open discussion.

Explain what you are doing, what they are doing, and encourage them to tell you what they need.  

If you’re dealing with a toddler who struggles with bedwetting, let them know if you or your spouse struggled with it when you were younger. If you didn’t, make it clear that everyone has had an accident- even you.

Keeping this dialogue open will help your child communicate their needs with you and lessen the impact of regressions caused by embarrassment from accidents.  

Use positive reinforcement, not shame.

Accidents happen, and potty training isn’t instant – it’s a process.

Do your best not to shame your child if they make a mistake since embarrassment will only lead to regression. Instead, have them help you clean up and move on.  

You will want to focus on celebrating their successes – no matter how small – and incentivize them to keep trying.

You can do this with just your words (a high five and a “way to go buddy” can go a long way), or you can use a rewards system.  

No matter how you choose to celebrate, letting them know that you are proud that they made it through the night, asked to use the potty, or even pulled up their own pants will make a world of difference.  

Give them the best chance of success.

You need to make it easy for your child to succeed.

During the day, this might mean making the potty easily accessible to them by keeping the door open, putting them in pants that are easy for them to pull up and down, and offering additional bathroom trips.

This becomes increasingly important for nighttime routines, though it may look a little bit different.

A child who has just had three glasses of milk with a scary dark hallway to stumble down is far more likely to have an accident in bed.  

Be sure to reduce drinks right before bedtime, and give them a clear, well-lit path to the bathroom. Maybe even let them pick out a fun nightlight as one of their potty training rewards.

You may also want to consider waking them up partway through the night to provide them an opportunity to get up and use the washroom, though this isn’t ideal for every family.

If your child is easy to get back to sleep, this is certainly worth a try.  

Take breaks from pull-ups.

Since pull-ups are meant to be a transition product, it’s essential to give your child a chance to phase out of them once they have adjusted.

Rather than getting them used to their pull-ups and then stopping using them flat-out, consider giving them “nights off”.

Every so often, switch the pull-up out for some “big kid” underwear and see if they can make it through the night.  

You don’t want to rush this before your child is ready, but this will also help to reduce reliance and nighttime laziness.

Give them a chance to show you they can make it through the night (or day) without an accident. If an accident does happen, it’s no big deal – they can simply try again another night.  

Using Pull-Ups For Older Children 

It’s not uncommon for children as old as 12 years old to have bedwetting regressions.

Thankfully, you can use pull-ups to help tackle bedwetting in older children as well. You may need to shop around to find the right fit, though.  

Using a youth or teen-sized pull-up is a much better choice than a diaper, especially for older children, since this can be an embarrassing and upsetting problem for them.

We recommend seeking the advice of a doctor on how to best remedy their bedwetting problem, but the use of pull-ups should help drastically with cleanup, and reduce embarrassment caused by mid-night messes. 

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