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Apr 27

The Myth About Disposable Training Pants

Potty Training - ProductsOften we don’t think about where the information we read or hear comes from, or about the motivations behind the products we use and the information we consume.  Big companies exist to make money.  They hire doctors, celebrities and marketing experts and do their best to make us think that their products are right for us.  They manipulate the information we access with their own biased studies, steering us in the direction that helps them make more money.

Diapers and training pants are made by big companies who are driven by the motivation to make money.  Do they want your child to be potty trained early?  Or at all?  I think what they want is your child to stay in diapers for a long time (3+ years of diaper revenues per child is pretty good money!)

Notable doctors who have written very popular books on the subject of potty training (e.g. Dr. Brazelton and Dr. Spock) suggest a child should decide when they no longer want to wear diapers.  Dr. Brazelton appeared in commercials introducing larger (e.g. size 6 and 7) Pampers brand disposable diapers, which makes it possible for us to keep our kids in diapers longer.  I personally find his credibility a bit suspect when Proctor & Gamble are lining his pockets by paying for his research and health care projects.  Of course Brazelton would be behind “readiness” checklists that make it seem like your child has to stay dry for hours and say “mommy I need to use the bathroom please” before you should start potty training!

 

Where are you getting your information?

When you get emails from Pampers (after signing up for their newsletter or points program), you know the source of the information you’re reading.  But when you’re on mom-oriented websites reading “readiness” checklists and potty training advice, do you think about the fact that Pampers might be that site’s number one advertiser?  There are extremely popular websites that we trust for honest information, but if it would put their advertising revenue in jeopardy, they aren’t going to tell you that:

  • For many kids training earlier rather than later can be a key to success
  • For many kids disposable training pants like Pull-Ups or Easy Ups are hindering the training process instead of helping you and your child reach your goals

These two factors might influence you to steer away from training pants or start training earlier, and that would mean less profit for the big diaper companies.

 

The disposable training pants industry is big money but when the economy suffered in recent years, many families decided that it was an unnecessary expense.  They ditched the training pants and found their potty training happened faster.  Maybe a bit messier, but it was faster.  So let’s discuss why training is often faster without the use of disposable training pants.

 

Why Are Disposable Training Pants Counter-Productive in Potty Training?

In my opinion, there are several factors why training pants can actually make it harder to train your child, and make the whole thing a longer process.

Not Able to Feel WetPotty Training - Pampers Easy ups

In order to stay dry, a child has to be aware that they are wet and:

  • Realize that before they got wet there was a “feeling” that it was coming
  • Learn to control that feeling in order to prevent getting wet
  • Learn to get themselves (or get help to get themselves) to the potty or toilet to release

 

Disposable training pants, just like diapers, wick away moisture quickly so that the child does not feel wet.  This is counter to the training process.  When I started potty training with my first child at 20 months, we dropped the diapers and went straight to underwear.  On the morning of day 1 he didn’t even know he was peeing when it was happening!  Potty training is just that… “training”.  I had to stick close to him like glue, catch him in the act, and teach him that he was peeing.  He had to learn what it felt like when he was peeing, and the aftermath, which is the feeling of being wet.  Children in disposable diapers are not often aware of the sensation of being wet.

"Cool Alert"

“Cool Alert”

Learning Designs & Cool Alerts

There are some training pants with “learning designs” – pictures that fade when the training pant is wet.  Do you look down at your underwear to determine if you wet yourself?  The training process needs to be as natural as possible and teach your child the difference between the feelings of being wet and dry.

Other training pants have “cool alerts” – a chemical material inside the training pant that suddenly goes cool when wet.  It stays that way for a few seconds and then goes back to normal.  My feeling on this is the same learning designs; completely unnecessary, not value-added, and unnatural.

 

Too Similar to a Diaper

Some children can be taught to treat training pants like underwear if there are also actual underwear being used in their potty training routine.  Other children will treat the training pant exactly like a diaper, and they’ve known for a long time what to do in a diaper – pee and poop in it!  So you might as well still be using diapers, because they are cheaper than training pants.

Some parents reserve underwear for when the child is completely accident free after months or years in diapers and training pants.  I have seen things work much quicker when underwear are introduced FOR training, rather than AFTER training.

 

Confusion – Going Back and Forth Between Underwear and DiapersPotty Training Diaper Change

Going back and forth can have consequences; the child now has a choice between being a “big boy” or “big girl”, or waiting for the next diaper or training pant as an opportunity do their business.  I have seen children who wait until bedtime to poop every single day because that’s when they get a diaper or training pant.  Some children withhold urine for 8-12 hours in a battle of wills with their parents.  A friend’s daughter used to throw outright tantrums when she had to pee or poop.  She refused to sit on the toilet and instead begged for a diaper.

 

Some parents are on the right path with training via a bare bum or underwear method, but then unknowingly stall their own potty training progress.  They come up against a “hurdle”, like a long road trip, at which point they put the child in training pants or a diaper for convenience.  If your child has an easy-going temperament, this might be okay.  For other children, this will start you back at training day #1 or worse.  Now you have given them a choice… use the potty, or use your training pants.  Suddenly it seems much easier to just “go” in the training pants than to listen to your body and visit the potty.

 

Conclusion

If a child is under age 2, in my experience you can use training pants for nights and naps while using underwear for awake time, without too much confusion or negative side-effects.  But training pants should be pulled on like underwear, and called “night underwear” or “sleep underwear”.  Don’t store them in the same place you used to store diapers, and ditch your change table so that all changes are now done standing up.  You have to make them different for your child to believe that they are different.  If your child is relatively easy-going, you might also be able to get away with using them for the odd “hurdle” (road trip, air travel) without causing detrimental effects.

For children over the age of 2 years old, the most efficient and effective training plan will usually tackle nights and naps at the same times as days and go cold-turkey to underwear or a bare bum method.

Training pants are a convenience product for parents, not a training product for children.  If you are going to use them in your potty training plan, tread carefully.  Cloth training pants are a much better option if you want something more absorbent than regular underwear to minimize messes.  These are great when used for naptime, outings, or daycare, but avoid them on the first few days of training.  I like Blueberry (thicker) and Gerber (thinner) the best.  Amazon.com links are embedded below:

 

 

 

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  1. Karen

    This is a great blog. I have shared it with my Facebook friends. I think we all just believe the marketing that pull-ups are the next logical product when you are moving toward potty training, but now I see why I’ll want to skip them altogether. Thank you!

    1. PW

      Thanks for sharing this blog on FB, Karen!

  2. Celeste

    I love your blog! I have started potty training again! He did wonders with my parents, but not so much with me and hubby. 🙁 He has training pants, but I haven’t used them yet! he is still in pull ups (which I don’t like, but they keep my carpets free from urine and other messes). But I will start with the training pants next week! It’s going to be an adventure….gosh!

    1. PW

      Celeste – thanks for stopping by.
      How are things going?

  3. Mod Bots

    Great blog post. I agree with pull ups being to similar to diapers. They need to feel themselves leaking into their underwear. Training pants are the way to go completely.

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