Is my toddler ready for underwear?

Training pants vs underwear – how do you know when your toddler is ready to change over? By Kim Bell


Despite the plethora of advice out there, potty training is not a science. Different tips and tricks work for different toddlers. Your friends, and family, may have strong opinions about what toddlers should wear while potty training, but this is a personal decision and you should choose the best option (or combination) that works for you child. Of course, you may not know what the best option is, until you get started.

ALSO SEE: Our top tips to make potty training easy and fun

Heres a few pointers to help you on your way.


Some toddlers show an interest in potty training early (around 18 to 20 months), but they are too young to have full control of their bodily functions. Perhaps they get upset when they are wet. Your child may be at daycare, or he may be a heavy sleeper. Some parents also like using pull-ups when they are out. With a disposable pull-up, everything is caught and contained. They are not meant to replace nappies, which means that they need to be changed as soon as possible if your child does have an accident. They can, however, give a peace of mind to both you and your child.


  • They make going to the toilet or potty easier, due to the soft stretchy sides.
  • They are a step away from nappies and towards potty training, and your toddler may be encouraged by being a “big girl” or “big boy”.
  • If your toddler is already showing potty-training interest, pull-ups will act as tool to help prevent accidents rather than a crutch.
  • They have great designs and patterns that make them attractive to your child.


  • They are generally more expensive than nappies as there are fewer in the pack.
  • If you child is reticent to potty train to start with, this may prove more of a hindrance than a help as they draw the liquid away from your toddler’s skin, and may delay the potty-training process.

Training pants

 These are cloth versions of pull ups. They have padding that helps absorb some of the liquid, but not all. Your potty-going child may be keener to wear training pants than pull-ups, as he may view pull-ups as being for babies.


  • Offers some protection against accidents, and provides minimal absorption.
  • Are more budget-friendly.
  • Washable and reusable.
  • Are thin enough that your child still feels wet or soiled.


  • You need to wash them!
  • Accidents may still occur, which may embarrass your child.
  • May be harder for your child to pull up or down.

ALSO SEE: 6 common potty training questions answered


Some children take time to get ready for potty training, and wait until they are 24 months or older. You may find that you are battling to motivate your child, even if they have shown interest in using the potty or toilet. While some children feel the wetness, or need to pee and rush for the potty, others are quite happy to stay wet or soiled. In these cases, disposable pull-ups and training pants may hinder the process more than help it. Underwear may be the answer. Accidents will still happen, but your child will respond quicker, as they have no choice but to stop what they are doing, and be changed.


  • Budget-friendly.
  • Washable and reusable.
  • Easy for your child to pull up and down.
  • Thin enough that they feel wet or soiled.
  • Just like what Mom and Dad wear.


  • Accidents are messy.
  • You may need to change clothes as well as the underwear.
  • Doesn’t protect surfaces when you are in the car or out and about.

Often parents will use disposable pull ups or training pants when out or at night, and underwear at home.

Going Commando

Potty-training expert and author of Oh Crap! Potty Training, Jamie Glowacki, shares that there is nothing wrong with letting your toddler go commando if that is what is working for them. “Underpants are snug around the waist and thighs and if you introduce them too soon in the potty-training process, the muscle memory of the [nappy] will just take over. You will end up with a lot of accidents.” She adds that the concern is regarding bacteria and possible infection, if your child doesn’t wear underwear. “Undies are just a layer of fabric. Most kids are in soft, cotton pants at this age and pants are just a layer of fabric.” Plus, the chances are that due to your toddler being, well, a toddler, you are probably changing their pants and clothes often. “All commando does is removes one layer of that fabric. If your child is choosing commando over undies, it’s fine. Just be sure the clothes are being laundered. That’s all. And as always, our little ones are always looking for control and choice.”

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