Making the Big Switch: Transitioning from Diapers to Training Pants
by Katherine Bontrager
One of the first steps parents take as they face potty training is determining if their little one is really ready to begin working toward real underwear. And for many, the next step is helping their child transition from diapers to training pants. But how should parents encourage their child to make this switch?
A good way to start is to build on your child’s excitement and interest in potty training (if your child is there yet!) “I used Pull-Ups® Training Pants to transition my son, George, into potty training,” says Garden Logan, a Philadelphia mom. “He knew the difference between training pants and diapers and loved the characters ... and he has older cousins who wore Pull-Ups® Training Pants, so he was excited to start wearing what they had.”
Dr. Christopher Cooper, an associate professor at the University of Iowa and director of pediatric urology for the Children’s Hospital of Iowa, thinks this sort of excitement or curiosity is important for introducing training pants to a child.
“When the child is showing interest in toileting and starting to stay dry, it’s a good time to start using training pants,” says Dr. Cooper. “It may be easiest to introduce them at bedtime and then, if needed, during the day ... again, the key is to wait until the child is interested in toilet training.”
Once your child is interested, it’s a good idea to help him or her become familiar with training pants. For example, the Pull-Ups® brand recommends having your child practice pulling her training pants on and off by herself before starting to use them. This way, your toddler will be familiar with the routine. Once the up-and-down movement has been mastered, consider giving your child a chance to sit on the toilet — first with the pants on and later with them off. Then explain to your child exactly how the training pants work.
And remember, once you’ve made the big transition to training pants, try not to confuse your child by switching back to regular diapers. Accidents and setbacks will happen, but don’t let them discourage you or your toddler!
Encouragement Can Do Wonders
So what do children need at this stage to ensure they’ll make those final steps to being fully potty trained? “[Give them] encouraging reminders to try and go to the bathroom so it becomes a habit,” advises Dr. Cooper. “Don’t punish children for any accidents, though. Instead, reward and support children for going to the bathroom or at least trying to go.”
This is advice Dr. David Fay, a family physician and associate director at the Waukesha Family Practice Residency Program in Waukesha, Wis., agrees with wholeheartedly. “In my experience, using a low-key, positive reinforcement style approach results in the greatest success,” he says. “I’ve had success with a small bowl of individually wrapped toys purchased from a dollar store [and] placed on the toilet. Each successful void or elimination allows the child to open a gift. Children and parents have enjoyed this approach, and it often works fairly rapidly.”
It’s important to remember that age will have a big impact on how readily a child will adapt to training pants first and then real underwear, though some experts say some of the studies on age and potty training tend to offer mixed conclusions. “Some studies show it’s better to start early, some late,” says Dr. Fay. “About all the studies agree on is the fact that girls complete toilet training before boys. Despite this lack of useful information, nearly all children achieve their goal. This likely means that whatever means one chooses will result in the desired outcome.”
So introducing your child to training pants can be as unique as your toddler is. What will most appeal to him or her? Would he react with excitement to the idea of shopping for training pants? Will a favorite cartoon character catch her interest? Taking your child’s unique personality into consideration will help you answer these questions and help you find the potty training routine that will work best for you and your child.