Training Pants

How to Use Training Pants

Traditional training pants were always real clothing–a step toward underwear. They were used during potty training, hence the name. They pulled on like underwear and offered layers of cloth for absorbency in case of an accident. They probably should have been called “training underwear” since “training pants” is kind of confusing because they are not pants–they don’t have any legs! Some parents have said the name should be nightime underwear, padded underwear, or potty-learning underwear. What ever you call them, all training pants offer absorbency to hold one wet. That is the key difference between training pants and diapers.

There are a multitude of variations and styles of training pants. Some training pants are merely absorbent, while others are both absorbent and waterproof.  Most pull on and off easily like underwear. Some have snaps on the sides like cloth diapers for ease of removal in case of a poop miss. Some have a pocket for adding a soaker. Some are designed to look like boxer shorts or other styles of underwear.

Using Training Pants for Elimination Communication:

Observation and Communication

When you are just getting started with your EC practice, an observation period is the first and most important step to learning your baby’s elimination patterns. Ideally you will allow some time to observe your baby totally naked. But if this is impractical or if you can only do this for a short time, absorbent training pants can be used for the observation phase, as long as they are not waterproof.  The goal during the observation phase is to make a sound that you want your baby to associate with peeing (you may want to use the same sound or a different one for pooping, it is up to you.) When you notice your baby is peeing, when the training pants become wet, you will respond by saying “pssss” or other signal that you have decided to use.  When you finish your observation period and your child is still wearing dry training pants, you can add a waterproof cloth diaper cover on top.

A newborn wearing absorbent training pants.

Pottying with Training Pants

Training pants are usually meant to be pulled up and down like underwear. When your child needs to use the toilet, you can simply pull down your baby’s pants and training pants in one motion. If your child is a toddler, you can teach her to do this herself. If you are in a public bathroom or other place with nowhere to lay down your baby, you can hold your baby in one arm and pull the training pants back up with the other.

Moving Toward Potty Independence

The physical feedback of feeling wet helps with the learning process, especially for those children who previously used disposable diapers or certain modern cloth diapers with “stay-dry” fabrics.

Although training pants are typically used for toddlers transitioning from diapers to underwear, many parents practicing Elimination Communication start using training pants right away when their baby is a newborn.  If you are practicing EC and removing wet diapers right away, there is really no need for diapers, most of which are designed to hold a lot!  (Especially disposable diapers, which frankly, I do not recommend to anyone because of the chemicals and SAPs (Super-absorbant polymers) which delay potty learning– except for infrequent or emergency use- kind of the way you might use paper plates for a picnic but reusable, washable plates at home).

Not sure whether to use waterproof or non-waterproof training pants?

Here is what works for a lot of people:

  • Waterproof training pants when away from home or when grandma wanted to hold him, etc.
  • Non-waterproof the rest of the time- for easy communication and immediate changes when wet.

For newborns and babies who cannot yet stand, a drop-flap training pant or training pant with side snaps in case of misses is very convenient.  Non-waterproof diapers such as fitteds without covers, or prefolds tucked in to a diaper belt are also great choices at this stage, as are any diapers because most babies this age don’t mind laying down for a diaper change.

Imse Vimse
Imse Vimse

When your baby can stand, drop-flap trainers and diaper belts are still very convenient and pull on/off training pants become usable at this stage as well.

Toddlers who are ready to learn to pull their own pants on and off often enjoy the underwear-style training pants which support their need for independence.