Pull-up diapers are usually the first step in the potty training process. Parents may be be looking forward to no more diapers, but they also know that potty training can have a few bumps and quite a few leaks along the way. Luckily, today’s pull-up diapers have great fit, good absorbency and some helpful extras, such as wetness indicators.
* Note: One company (Huggies) owns the pull-up name, so you will see this type of diaper labeled in different ways. Many companies simply call them training pants. In this article we use the terms pull-ups, diapers and training pants interchangeably, with the understanding that all of them refer to a disposable diaper that can be lowered for toileting and then pulled back into place.
Pull-up diapers are more expensive than standard diapers, but if your child is really ready for toilet training, you won’t have to buy them for too long. Sometimes children are able to toilet successfully most of the time during the day, but you don’t want to risk a urine-soaked bed at night.
In that case, you might use regular underwear or training pants during the day but go back to a pull-up at night. Some parents also use pull-ups for road trips or other times when bathrooms aren’t readily accessible. If you don’t do it too often, your toilet-trained child shouldn’t regress.
Here are some of the brands you should be looking at, with their pros and cons. For purposes of comparison, we linked to pants in the 2T-3T size range in a medium-sized package, when available.
Keep in mind the features that are most important to you and best suited for your child as you decide which are the best pull up diapers.
Our Top Picks
- Reasonable price point
- Cute Disney prints
- competitively priced
- soft and cute
- features a pleasant baby powder scent
- Price point comparable to Huggies and Pampers
- Good compromise between training pants and diapers
- Reasonable price point
- Cute Disney prints
- competitively priced
- soft and cute
- features a pleasant baby powder scent
- Price point comparable to Huggies and Pampers
- Good compromise between training pants and diapers
*All product links in this article will take you to the latest prices on Amazon.com, scroll down for our in-depth reviews below.
Looking for Readiness Signals
There’s no point in investing in pull-ups until your child is showing signs of potty readiness. You’ll just be stuck with pull-ups that your child can outgrow before they are ready.
Children reach this point at different times, so instead of thinking about your child’s age or noticing that other children are potty trained at a particular age, look for signs of readiness in your child.
The first factor in toileting readiness is bladder maturity. You shouldn’t push a child to start using the potty if his or her little body isn’t ready. The first sign that you may be getting there is when your child starts staying dry for two hours or more.
Another signal is that your baby is sometimes dry in the morning. As they mature, most children transition to urinating only during waking hours, as grown-ups do.
Some children, however, will have nighttime accidents long after they have mastered toileting during the day. It can work both ways. Dry nights and extended periods of dryness during the day are both readiness signals. You do not need both signs in order for you to get started on potty training.
Awareness of urine or stool in a diaper is another early sign of developing readiness. Your child may tell you that he or she is wet or dirty, or ask for a diaper change, or simply try to remove the diaper.
Diaper awareness happens when a child can show through words, motions or body language that urination or defecation is about to occur. At first, this will happen only when the event is imminent. As time goes on, your child will give you earlier warning.
These physical changes are important, but you’ll need to get some other signals, too. If your child is interested in the potty chair, or interested in other people going to the potty, that can be a good sign.
Your child also needs some cognitive and verbal skills in order to go through the process. For example, it is helpful if your child can obey a simple command. It’s also healthy if your child can ask questions and communicate emotions, even in a very basic way, during the training process.
Developmentally, children also need to be able to stop focusing on whatever they are doing long enough to recognize that they need the toilet. They need the maturity to give up the pleasure of playing in order to stay dry and clean. Many children will have occasional struggles with these issues for years.
So much for your child’s readiness. How about yours? Parents who are planning potty training should look for a period of time when their lives are fairly simple, or as simple as they are going to get.
Most shouldn’t attempt it at a time when they are overly stressed, overly fatigued or have other issues going on in their lives. Some parents like to schedule potty training during the warmer months, so that baby can wear just pull-ups, or pull-ups and a shirt. But if the readiness signs occur, you should probably move even if the weather’s not quite right.
The Role of Personality
Just as children get ready for potty training at different times, so do their different personalities affect the way they handle potty training. The Huggies website gives five different personality profiles and pairs them with an animal name.
For example, a child who fits the profile of a Squirrel is energetic and easily distracted. You can have success with this kind of child by turning potty training into a race and a game.
A child who is more of an Owl, thoughtful and detail-oriented, may buy into a sticker chart or enjoy a phone app that helps with training.
Just as your child’s personality plays into potty training, the parent’s personality plays a role, too. Parents are adults, however, and should not show frustration or anger on those days when toilet training goes badly.
If one parent is more patient than the other, let the more patient parent take the lead role, although both will need to be involved to some degree. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a helpful guide for parents about potty training.
Are Pull-Up Diapers a Necessary Step?
Of course, as with all parenting issues, there are a lot of different opinions about pull-up diapers. Some parents feel that they are so much like regular diapers that children can’t really tell the difference.
These parents prefer to put their child in cloth training pants or even regular underwear for the training process. A few even let their children run around in the buff. These approaches are fine for families who don’t have a lot of rugs or upholstered furniture, but most parents want to avoid getting pee or poop on their household furnishings.
Pull-ups can be a nice step between regular diapers and cloth training pants. You can help your child see pull-ups as an important step in several ways.
- Each time you take off a regular diaper and put on a pull-up, point out the difference. It may help if you buy pull-up diapers in a distinctive color or with a special character.
- Let your child practice lowering and raising the pull-ups, and give rewards for doing it successfully. Verbally emphasize that pull-ups are for children who are getting bigger and learning to go to the potty.
- It may help to cue other family members so they can participate in the process. Recruit a sister, brother or grandparent who can get excited about the transition to pull-ups.
Because pull-ups are an intermediate step between using diapers and using toilets, they aren’t always as absorbent as parents are accustomed to. That’s because they are designed to catch an occasional accident and not to hold hours’ worth of urine.
If you are trying to encourage your child to stay dry, you are defeating the purpose if you don’t change wet diapers in a timely manner. Still, diaper companies will tell you that their training pants are good for 12 hours or good for overnight use. Take those claims with a grain of salt.
What to Look For in Pull-Up Diapers
So you’ve decided to give potty training a whirl and buy some pull-ups. What should you look for?
All parents want pull-ups that are leak-resistant. It’s also important for them to be comfortable for baby and easy to pull up and down. You don’t want pants that are scratchy or irritating to the skin.
Another feature that matters a lot to some parents is whether the pants are true pull-ups or whether they fasten on the sides with tabs. The kind without the tabs are more like real pants, so perhaps they are a better choice for those who are serious about potty training.
The main drawback, however, is a somewhat serious one. When your child requires a change, you can take the old pull-up off by tearing down the sides. You cannot put a new one on without removing pants and sometimes your child’s shoes. That can be a bit of a big deal for parents who are often in a hurry.
Due to this disadvantage, some daycare centers require that disposables have tabs or other reclosable openers. If your child is in daycare, check with them before switching to a pull-up without tabs.
Some parents will want pull-ups that are free of dyes and perfumes, or those that have been manufactured without chlorine. There are no diapers that are 100% organic and natural, but there are some that are largely plant-based with only a few synthetic elements. Some parents will opt for those.
Some manufacturers of diapers and training pants have separate products for girls and boys. Others are gender-neutral. Those who differentiate between boys and girls say that the area of maximum absorbency should be different for boys and girls – in front for boys, in bottom and back for girls.
Many parents who have used these products, however, say that they cannot tell any difference in absorbency and say that they use the boy and girl products interchangeably.
Of course, those products that do have a girl version and a boy version usually have traditional designs for those versions, often princesses for little girls and super heroes for little boys.
A Word About Pricing
Prices for diapers and disposable training pants follow a fairly predictable pattern. The leading brands, such as Pampers and Huggies, are competitively priced. Add extra absorbency, as with overnights, and the price usually goes up by about one-third.
Move to a “green” diaper, and the prices go up again. Generally eco-friendly diapers fall into two tiers. The highest priced brands are about double the price of a mainstream brand.
Below that tier there is usually a second tier that is more reasonably priced, clocking in at about 50% more than the mainstream brands. That second tier is aimed at those who want an environmentally friendly product but who balk at the high price of the premium brands.
If you like a particular diaper but don’t like the price, there are several ways to save money. You can use a subscription service, redeem coupons, shop the sales and buy in bulk. Some brands have loyalty clubs or cards that reward repeat buyers.
Best Pull Up Diapers
Let’s begin with the brand that actually owns the term pull-ups. Huggies, made by Kimberly-Clark, has long competed with Procter & Gamble’s Pampers for dominance in the diaper marketplace.
When it comes to pull-up diapers, Huggies scored a coup by patenting the name. It also has some pretty amazing content on its website. But the bottom line, not to be punny, is whether the diapers do what they are supposed to do, and most users say that they do.
Huggies is one of the brands that has pants for girls and pants for boys. In addition, the training pants come in two types: Cool and Learn, and Learning Designs. When a child urinates, the Cool and Learn pants cause a slight delay before the liquid absorbs into the diaper.
This allows the child to briefly experience a feeling of cool wetness. This sensation is supposed to help children succeed in toilet training by helping them make the connection between bladder release and the sensation of wetness.
The Learning Designs Huggies are also designed to help children recognize when they are wet. The designs on the diapers fade when the child is wet. This is a feature that several different diaper companies use. In theory this feature provides an incentive for kiddos to stay dry.
Most users said that these devices didn’t really seem to help their child in the training process. A few users reported that the Cool and Learn training pants did help their children recognize the sensation of urination.
Huggies Pull-Ups have Velcro-style closures at the side that can be opened and reclosed. While these aren’t technically tabs, they should satisfy daycare centers and others who want to be able to change a diaper without undressing the child.
The pull-ups are nicely elasticized for comfort and for easy-up and easy-down. They come in three sizes: 2T-3T for babies 18 to 34 pounds; 3T-4T for those between 32 and 40 pounds and 4T-5T for those weighing in at 38 to 50 pounds.
Pampers Easy-Ups are cute training pants that look and feel more like panties than diapers. They are made of a soft material and actually look a lot like regular panties because they are true pull-ups rather than having the closures on the side. Getting to wear these cute pants with adorable designs instead of wearing diapers could be a strong motivation for toilet training.
Although they do not have reclosable tabs, Pampers Easy-Ups easily rip down the sides so that a poopy diaper can be moved without sliding it down the legs.
The waistband is stretchy all the way around for a comfy fit. The extra stretch makes it easy for children to pull down their own training pants, which is an excellent skill for potty-training children to practice.
Pampers Easy-Ups have boy and girl designs featuring Disney characters. The pants offer several features to prevent leaks. They have channels for extra absorbency and Dual LeakGuard Barriers for more secure leg holes.
Pampers recently transitioned its Easy-Ups to a new sizing system.
- 3 (the old 2T-3T) is for babies 16 to 34 pounds.
- 4 (the old 3T-4T) is for those between 30 and 40 pounds.
- 5 (the old 4T-5T) is for those weighing over 37 pounds.
If you’re not quite ready for toilet training, but you have an exceptionally active baby, you may want to try Huggies Little Movers.
They are designed for children who are so active that they don’t want to lie down for diaper changes. They could also be a good choice if you have a smaller-than-average baby who is ready for potty training.
Fans of these slip-ons say that they hold more than traditional disposable training pants. Some users even swear by them for overnight.
The absorbency is due to the patented Leak Lock system, which the company says is good for up to 12 hours. Little Movers have reclosable side tabs as well as the stretchable sides that let you lower and raise them quickly.
Huggies says that this is basically a diaper that looks like training pants. They aren’t quite as easy to get on and off as the regular disposable training pants, so they may not be good for toddlers who are learning to go to the toilet by themselves.
Cute Disney characters are a plus. Little Movers come in four sizes: 3 for babies 16 to 28 pounds; 4 for those between 22 and 37 pounds; 5 for those over 27 pounds and 6 for those over 35 pounds.
The Honest Company, the eco-friendly company founded by celebrity actress Jessica Alba, offers cute training pants with a difference. Most materials used in The Honest Company’s diapers are sustainable and naturally derived.
The absorbent core does contain the synthetic material known as SAP (sodium polyacrylate or super absorbent polymer), but it is combined with sustainably harvested fluff pulp.
The Honest Company’s training pants have inner and outer layers that are plant-based for extra gentleness. The company produces the diapers without the use of chlorine, latex, lotions, fragrances, optical brighteners and many other chemical products that diaper manufacturers use.
Like the Pampers Easy-Ups, The Honest Company training pants do not have tabs on the side but can be ripped down the sides if baby has a messy poop. Moisture cuffs lessen leaking, and the slim fit works well under clothing.
The training pants are not specifically for boys or for girls, but the prints do come in traditionally girly choices (unicorns and fairies) and boyish designs (dinosaurs, construction machines), as well as in more gender-neutral prints (animal superheroes, ABCs).
Choose from size 2T-3T, for up to 34 pounds; size 3T-4T, for 32-40 pounds; and size 4T-5T, for 38 pounds and up.
Another maker of eco-friendly products for baby, Seventh Generation has been making and promoting plant-based products for almost 30 years.
Like The Honest Company, Seventh Generation uses as many natural products as possible in its products and fully discloses the synthetics it uses.
The absorbent core of the training pants contains wood pulp fluff and plant-based materials combined with SAP. The wood product comes from sustainable sources, and all Seventh Generation Diaper products are fragrance free and made without the use of chlorine.
The prints on the pants are cute and gender neutral, featuring a fox and an orangutan doing fun things. The main print is on the front, so you never have to wonder which way the pants go.
The pants have tearaway sides instead of tabs, so they look more like real training pants but can be removed easily in case of a messy diaper.
Seventh Generation training pants come in three sizes: size 2T-3T, for up to 34 pounds; size 3T-4T, for 32-40 pounds; and size 4T-5T, for 38 pounds and up.
Like the other “green” diapers and training pants reviewed, the Naty by Nature BabyCare training pants are manufactured without chlorine and are free of latex, fragrance and most other chemicals.
Like the other eco-friendly choices, Naty does use some synthetic components for which there is not now a natural replacement.
A Swedish mother and lawyer founded Naty in 1994. She was concerned about the environment but unwilling to give up the convenience of disposables. The stated goal of the company is to get to a diaper that is 100% natural.
Reviews indicate that these pants are superior in absorbency. There’s a patented center channel for better absorbency and improved leak protection. This brand uses the tear-away sides rather than tabs.
Sizing for the Naty pants is slightly different from the range of most American diaper manufacturers. The ranges for all three sizes are as follows: size 4, for 18-33 pounds; size 5, for 26-40 pounds; and size 6, for 35 pounds and up. The company’s diapers are gender-neutral.
Headquartered in Denmark, Bambo Nature is known for creating eco-friendly products. The name leads some to assume that the company uses bamboo in its products, but Bambo is short for “bambolina,” which was the original name for the company’s products.
Some parts of Bambo Nature diapering products do contain synthetics, but the company uses plant-based, sustainable materials whenever possible.
The absorbent core of these training pants contain wood fiber and SAP, and the pants feature a breathable back sheet. The pants are manufactured without chlorine and are free of known allergens and harmful chemicals.
There’s a simple print on the front to help you tell front from back and a sticky area on the back to aid in folding up the used product.
Bambo Nature disposable training pants do not have tabs on the sides but instead feature side panels that can be ripped for easy changing.
The training pants are designed to be thin and flexible for greater comfort, but users say that they may not be absorbent enough for naps and nighttime. They come in only two sizes, size 5 for 26-44 pounds and size 6 for over 39 pounds. They are gender-neutral.
Another eco-friendly option is Earth’s Best Tots Training Pants. Like most “green” diapering products, Earth’s Best uses natural materials when possible.
These pull ups contain some synthetic materials, but at a minimum. The company website states that their training pants are chlorine free and made with renewable resources. The company also states that they are free of latex, dyes and perfumes.
Earth’s Best Tots pants feature tear-away sides, stretchy waistbands and a wetness indicator. The company claims to have a “strong, reinforced leakage barrier,” but many users complain of leaks, perhaps because they expect training pants to hold as much as a standard diaper.
Earth’s Best products are gender-neutral and feature a cute alligator instead of a syndicated character. The training pants come in these sizes: size 2T-3T, for up to 34 pounds; size 3T-4T, for 32-40 pounds; and size 4T-5T, for 38 pounds and up.
If you’re looking for training pants with many of the same qualities as the eco-friendly brands, but at an affordable price, you’ll be thrilled with Cutie Pants Toddler Training Pants.
These training pants are manufactured in Pennsylvania and Georgia, and the manufacturers focus on attention to sustainability and responsible sourcing. They are free of latex, fragrances and elemental chlorine.
The inner layer is hypoallergenic, with soothing Vitamin E, botanicals and aloe. The diapers do not, however, use plant-based materials and avoid synthetics to the extent that the major “green” diaper brands do.
Cuties have stretchable sides, but they also have easy-lift tabs to simplify checking for wetness and stool. Each diaper features a character that fades when wet, to increase your child’s awareness of bladder function.
Cutie Pants are available in the following sizes: 2T-3T, for up to 34 pounds; 3T-4T, for 32-40 pounds; and 4T-5T, for 38 pounds and up.
The Cuties brand is a product of First Quality. This Pennsylvania-based, family-owned company has been making diapers, including the Allnites overnights, since 2008. First Quality offers a money-back guarantee on all its products.
Although they are designed for children who are potty trained but still occasionally wet the bed, many parents use Goodnites as training pants.
Made by the trusted Kimberly-Clark brand, Goodnites have 40% more absorbency than regular disposable training pants, which makes them perfect for those who have leakage problems.
According to the manufacturer, Goodnites’ design holds more urine rather than bowel movements; however, some users report that the pants handle stool well, too.
In a similar vein, the manufacturer states that they designed these for nighttime use, but some parents find that they work well for daytime, too.
Goodnites come in girl and boy versions. They feature Disney prints for girls and super heroes for boys but are also available in more grown-up versions for older children.
They come in the following sizes: XS for those 28-45 pounds, S-M for those 38-65 pounds and L-XL for those over 60 pounds.
There’s a lot to like about this product, in addition to its cool name. Pampers UnderJams have the same niche as the Goodnites by Kimberly Clark.
UnderJams’ design is inconspicuous for older children, with no crinkly sound and a low waist that doesn’t show. Parents who choose to use these as training pants report greater absorbency, with many saying that these are more absorbent than Goodnites. They are also perfect for children who are late potty trainers.
This underwear has tear-away panels on the sides. They don’t have babyish characters but do have designs, and come in boy and girl versions. They come in these sizes: S/M for those 38-65 pounds and L-XL for those 58-85 pounds.
Best Pull Up Diapers: And the Winner Is!
For a combination of innovative features and high absorbency, Huggies Pull-Ups get the nod. The side openings capture the best of both worlds.
Pull-ups look like training pants but have the easy-change features of a diaper. The Cool Learning feature that signals children when they have urinated may not work for all children, but perhaps it will work for yours.
Absorbency is good as long as you realize that training pants in general aren’t meant to hold a day’s worth of urine. And even if you don’t end up choosing Huggies, you really should visit the website for its wealth of information about potty training.
If you hold out for a “green” diaper, the Naty by Nature Babycare has superior absorbency. The company is committed to creating products that are ever more environmentally friendly, and the training pants are more expensive than mainstream brands, but not outrageously so.
If your child produces a lot of urine and you want to try one of the nighttime training pants, the GoodNites and UnderJams are fairly evenly matched.
Your child is a unique creation, and you may have to find what’s best for him or her through trial and error. For the average child, however, Huggies Pull-Ups are a nice fit.