Diapers vs Pull-Ups

young child wearing a diaper while playing

From the minute you tell the world you are going to be a parent, people around you start queuing up to make diaper changing jokes. Everyone has something to say about diapers, but there aren’t nearly as many stories about pull-ups. So what are pull-ups and when do you use them? Are there any advantages to pull ups over ordinary diapers? Let’s take a look at diapers vs pull-ups in more detail.

What’s the difference between diapers and pull ups?


Diapers are a type of underwear, usually worn by babies and toddlers, to collect their poop and pee before they learn to use a toilet. Usually, to get the right fit, an adult will lie their child down to put on a diaper and secure it in place using the two flaps. They can be disposable or reusable and come in different sizes to fit your baby as they grow.


Pull-ups are underwear for older babies, toddlers and young children. A child steps into two leg holes and pulls them up just like a pair of underpants, hence the name. They are typically disposable and have a looser fit than a diaper. They also come in a range of sizes to suit your child.

When should I use pull-ups instead of diapers? What age should you switch?

There is no rule that says you ever have to use a pull-up. That being said, many parents find that pull-ups are helpful as their children gain independence and start potty training. It is common to introduce pull-ups in tandem with the start of potty training, this can be anywhere from 18 months – 3 years old based on each child’s individual readiness. However, some parents just prefer using pull-ups and start using them from around 6 months onwards.

If you do choose to use pull-ups as part of your potty training plan, there is no rule to say that you can’t ever use diapers again. Many parents rely on a hybrid of pull-ups, underwear and diapers while their child adjusts to using the potty. You will find the right combination that works for you and your child, with a little bit of trial and error!

Do pull-ups work as well as diapers? Are they as absorbent?

Many pull-ups are just as absorbent as diapers and there are specific night-time designs to cope with a longer overnight stint. Pull-ups have elasticated sides to fit over a child’s legs and hips and do not fit as snugly as a diaper with their adjustable tabs. This is the point though, so that children can pull them on and off themselves. However, sometimes this relaxed fit can lead to more frequent leaks, especially for number twos.

Most pull-ups have easy to rip sides to help to change your child’s pull-up with the least mess, but not all, so it is worth checking out each brand’s design first. It is challenging to change a poopy pull-up without those all-important, easy to rip sides.

Do kids feel wet in pull-ups?

Not really, pull-ups are designed to absorb urine and keep kids dry. They will begin to feel uncomfortable when the pull-up becomes full and heavy, just like they would in a diaper.

Are pull ups bad for potty training?

There are lots of voices that claim that using pull-ups slows down potty training. It is also argued by some that pull-ups are not necessary at all. You can go straight to underwear, or have your child wear nothing at all from the waist down and remove another barrier to getting to the potty in time.

However, you may find that using pull-ups at night or for long journeys is beneficial for your kid while you both adjust to potty training. Do your research and then see what works best for your family in practice.

Being in a pull-up might not feel any different to wearing a diaper for your kids, after the initial excitement of pulling it up themselves. This can hinder potty training because your kid is used to being in a wet diaper already and it might not bother them in the slightest. They may just continue about their day in a wet pull-up as they offer the same level of absorption. Therefore, they might not have any incentive to use the potty and instead continue to soil themselves in a pull-up every time.

Of course, each kid will respond in their own way to potty training. Some kids will want to go on the potty regardless of what they are or aren’t wearing. If you choose to try pull-ups and your kid is still peeing and pooping in them often, it might be time to think about another option.

Can you potty train with diapers?

Yes, technically you could. As mentioned above, it is well argued already that diapers and pull-ups have a lot of the same functionality and solve the same problem. You might choose to continue to use diapers overnight when you start potty training.

It is common for children to reject diapers once they start potty training though as they are on their way to becoming “big kids”. Getting rid of the diapers and moving towards underwear or pull-ups symbolises growing up and part of growing up means using the potty. This is a powerful exercise in itself that can set the right mindset to kick start potty training for your child.

Photo by anitapeppers at Morguefile.com

Are pull ups good for night time?

During potty training, pull-ups are a popular choice for kids to wear at night time. Most kids get to grips with using the potty during the day time well before the night. Wearing a pull-up at night can be a nice in-between option for your child while they adjust to their new found bathroom freedom. They feel more grown up than a diaper and still perform the same job, namely keeping the bed and your child dry overnight. 

As with all of these things, there is a counter argument for not using pull-ups at all during potty training. Some parents choose to rip off the bandaid and go diaper and pull-up free right away at night. The theory here is that a diaper or pull-up takes away the discomfort of wetting the bed from your child. They rely on the pull-up at night and tune out their body’s need to use the potty. This can delay using the potty overnight for some children and prolong the use of pull-ups. In the event that this is the case for your child, it may be a good idea to stop using them.

How do you wean off pull-ups at night?

Set yourself up for success and try these tips:

  • Limit fluids an hour or two before bed
  • Build up to it. Encourage your child to try going to bed without a pull-up and follow their lead when they are ready to do so. If you face resistance, stop and try again in a few weeks.
  • Use a mattress protector or sheet to prevent damage from leaks
  • Wake your child up right before you go to bed (10 or 11pm for example) and lead them to the toilet to pee. Then put them back to bed.
  • Praise your kid when they make it through the night with a dry bed.
  • Stay positive when they do wet the bed.  Remind them it is okay and it takes time to learn.

Do pull ups hold poop?

All in all, pull-ups do not hold poop as well as a diaper might. The elasticated sides mean that pull-ups can move around more than a diaper and cause more leaks.

Pros and cons of diapers


  • Adjustable tabs make diapers a lot easier to fit to your child’s body. This is more likely to prevent leaks.
  • Poop filled diapers are easier to change than pull-ups because they are designed to open up completely.


  • Kids need an adult to help take them on and off. This means they can’t dress themselves and need more help to get on and off the potty.
  • They are associated with babies and not with potty training. This can make potty training seem like a distant dream for some children who are happy to keep wearing diapers.
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Pros and cons of pull ups


  • Kids can use them on their own. They benefit from the independence of being able to dress themselves, and get them on and off easily to get on the potty.
  • For some families pull-ups are helpful for the transition to potty training, especially at night or when travelling.


  • Pull-ups protect children from the discomfort of soiling yourself which can slow down potty training.
  • They are usually disposable and are an additional waste item, plus it is another expense for an item that your child may not need.
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diapers vs pullups