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I get asked "What's the deal with training pants?" at every class I teach. Today I'm going to tell you exactly what the deal is, and why you might want to get a few pairs (yep... its time to learn from one of my personal potty training faux pas!). One thing I want to make clear is that Pull-Ups are NOT training pants. They are advertised as such, but they are really just diapers that go on like underwear. They are not recommended for potty training, unless perhaps you are still using diapers at night, then by all means...
So, what exactly ARE training pants. When my daughter was potty training, I could not figure their purpose out for the life of me. I had read that going commando (a.k.a. pants with no underwear or training pants) was the clearest and best signal to a child that they are not wearing diapers, helping them to stay dry and let you know when they need to go! So that's what I did, and it worked extremely well for us until one day...
We were on Step 3 (Phase 1) of potty training "The Tiny Potty Training Book" way, so it was time to venture out into public for some longer diaper-free outings. I decided that it would be fun to go to one of the library's daytime kids programs that day, and I had it all figured-out... My daughter could pee right before we left the house, we would take a short drive to the library, the program is about 25 mins long, another pee right afterwards and then we drive back home. A foolproof plan, I thought! To make a long story short, she would not pee before leaving the house, nor upon arrival at the library. So we went to the program regardless, and let me remind you... she is not wearing any training pants. Just a pair of jeans. JEANS!! (Somebody should have told me to use absorbent outer pants, at least). She was having a blast at the program, the most fun she had ever had at one... and I didn't want to break it up for a potty-break. I was sweating, I was watching the clock... every time she came near me I would ask "do you need to use the potty?" A MAJOR mistake I now know, because of course she just looked at me like I had 2 heads and kept playing.
Finally the program was over. We had made it! Until I started putting her boots back on and "WHOOSH" the worlds biggest pee came flooding out of her pant legs, into her boots and all over the floor. The *ahem* carpeted library floor. I did my best to clean it up with the cloth pre-folds I was still carrying me, and had to call over the library staff to let them know, and all the other parents were still their getting their kids into their winter gear. Embarrassing!!! Obviously there were a lot of things I could have done differently, but barring the alternatives, if she had at least been wearing training pants I could have avoided a big puddle on the floor!
There are two main types of cloth training pants available:
The thinner, padded underwear type. These are great for everyday wear if your child is doing well in trainers/undies (as opposed to going commando). An accident in this type will result in wet pants for sure, but they will absorb a lot of the wetness, reducing the chance of a puddle. And the pants being wet is a good thing! Your child will receive appropriate feedback and discomfort, and you will be able to tell immediately if your child has wet his or her trainers.
The thicker waterproof type. This type of training pant has more absorbency and has a PUL layer sewn in. They are designed to hold one (small) pee. The advantage of this type is, of course, less mess! But it is likely that pants get a bit wet. You would probably not want to use this type on a daily basis if possible, as they are more diaper-like. These are best used for specific situations where you would not want a big mess, like church or a long car ride, or situations where you will not be paying a lot of attention to your child, like a big family party. This type is typically made by cloth diaper companies and can be found at online retailers or any local stores that carry cloth diapers.
You should start using training pants once your child has already been working on potty training for a few days or you can continue having your child commando in pants for a couple of weeks if that is working well for you. Following the Tiny Potty Training Book approach, you would start trying underwear or training pants at home in Step 3 (approx. day 3-10 of potty training, depending). Using underwear-like products too early in the potty training process can cause confusion as your child may mistake the sensation of training pants/underwear for a diaper and accidentally begin having more regular accidents at first.
How long you should continue using training pants is up to you, but in general, if your child begins to depend on them to soak up a bit of pee, you will want to discontinue using them right away. The other consideration is the age of your child. Often when doing Elimination Communication, parents choose to use training pants rather than diapers some-or-all of the time with their baby. In this case, you might use training pants for a year or more. However, if starting potty training after about 18 months, you will likely want to use them anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months, except possibly in unique situations where you really need that added protection. Otherwise, thin cotton underwear will be your best choice for avoiding regular accidents.
Do you have a favourite cloth training pant you want to share? Let me know in the comments!
Hi! I'm Danielle, your friendly neighbourhood potty specialist.