Potty training without Pull-Ups?

I would love to have Judah potty trained before Baby 2 arrives in September. At almost 2 and a half, he is definitely showing interest. But every time we’ve tried, as much as he wants to get it, it seems like his brain and his bladder just aren’t on the same page.

He frequently asks to go to the potty, and I take him, but nothing usually happens when we get there. It’s a big game. I know he needs more direction and something other than diapers to help him make the connection, but I’ve been putting it off for weeks hoping that I would start to feel better.

I do feel a little better now (somewhat), but more importantly, my husband will be on vacation for a month in May and June, so I’ll have some help. We’ve decided to give it a shot and see if Judah is ready with a little guidance and more intensive efforts on our part.

I know that putting him on the potty while he continues to wear regular diapers is pointless. Those dang things just keep them so dry (great for newborns, not great for potty-training). He needs to feel when he’s wet to make that connection. I considered putting him back in cloth diapers, but I need something that’s easy on and off so we can manage quickly or he can do it himself.

Pull-Ups are the most popular option, but I just can’t get over the price. Twenty five to 30 cents a diaper?! And that’s for the generic brand! We currently pay about 16 cents per diaper for the Target-brand diapers we’ve used since Judah switched out of cloth at 12 months, so doubling our diaper cost is a tough pill to swallow. Especially since the few times I’ve put him in Pull-Ups, they’ve leaked terribly. Plus I really don’t like how similar to diapers they are. I feel like he needs something new and different to help him understand that it’s time for him to try to stay dry.

I also considered reusable training pants like these Flip training pants. They’re easy on and off, but I’ve heard conflicting reports from friends who’ve used them about how effective they are (according to some, the liner shifts and causes leaks). I’m also having the same problem with price. They’re a little more affordable than the all-in-one training pants I’ve seen for $15-$20 each since the cover can be used a few times before washing, but the reusable inserts cost about $6 a piece. If I bought two covers and 12 inserts, I’d pay almost $100 for the whole system. Probably still less than I’d pay for a few months in Pull-Ups, but still. Yikes. Especially since I’m not even sure how well they’ll work.

Several people on my Facebook page suggested DIY options. I found this tutorial for DIY cloth training pants that involves modifying Gerber training pants (the kind that are basically cotton underpants with a little extra layer of padding where it’s needed) to add a few extra layers of flannel and a waterproof outer layer. I like that they look and feel more like underpants, which I think will make a big difference for him psychologically. Plus they’re less bulky. They will definitely leak, but I’ve yet to hear about a training pant that doesn’t. It seems like that’s kind of the point — if they’re as effective as diapers, there’s no incentive for kids to stop wetting them. At least these won’t cost a fortune! They should cost about $2.75 per pair. I can make a dozen for what I’d pay for a few weeks’ worth of Pull-Ups. That seems a lot more doable for something that my toddler is going to pee on.

I haven’t made them yet, and I obviously haven’t tested them, so I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed at the prospect of starting this process, though, so I’m curious how you did it. Did you use Pull-Ups? Or are you one of those brave people who went cold turkey with diapers and just cleaned up messes for a few days until it clicked? (I can’t even imagine that right now, though I do hear it’s effective.) Send me your potty-training advice and encouragement!

12 thoughts on “Potty training without Pull-Ups?

  1. Jes

    I told you what we’re using with Josiah, the bluberry trainers that a friend is letting us borrow. but at $16/each there’s no way i would have bought them. With the girls we’ve just gone cold turkey. What i learned after 2 girls is that when they are really ready, there wont be much mess to clean up. Josiah has shown interest in the potty and has gone on the potty way before he was fully ready to give up diapers, so I was cleaning up A LOT of messes with regular underwear.

    Lexi went cold turkey earlier than Caylee did, Lexi also transitioned to underwear for the night after just 2 weeks of no diapers. Caylee STILL (2 years later) wears diapers to bed on occasion. I can only imagine all the time I would have spend cleaning up messes had I put Josiah in regular underwear from the day he first started randomly using the potty.

    1. Karen Post author

      Thank you! Another vote for the cold turkey method. Sigh. I suppose I shouldn’t rule it out entirely, but I am just so scared of it (especially since boys are notoriously tough to train).

      1. jane

        Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo also wrote a post about potty training her 2.5-year-old. She also asked for suggestions from readers, and there were a couple of things I bookmarked for the future. Also,the book “diaper Free Before Three” has a great tutorial on the how-tos of it all.

  2. Kasey

    We aren’t there yet, but my friend’s son basically trained himself at 23 months so tey went cold turkey. In looking at the cloth options I’m intrigued by the flips, but can’t bring myself to buy them. I think we’ll probably use the gerber trainers on one of my school breaks as a compromise with the cold turkey method. If you decide to modify I’m interested to see how that works out.

  3. Kacie

    Hey, at least you have a lot of hard floors! You could even roll up your throw rugs for a little while, and just keep him off furniture unless it is covered in a towel or something.

    But push liquids. Many many learning opportunities can be a great thing.

    His first pee accident? Play it up like it was so cool that he just peed, and run him to the potty and have him sit. And talk about next time, we try to get to the potty before the pee comes down our leg. lol.

    You can do this!

  4. Jenica

    In our experience, the only thing that works is going straight to underwear. It’s a rough few days, but it clicks. I also recommend having your husband do the whole thing. I was not effective at all. I get too nervous about accidents and too upset and they KNOW. Steve got G potty trained pretty much in a day.

  5. Mary

    With my daughter, we first tried pull-ups but she just peed in them, like they were diapers. It was pointless. So we went to underwear so she actually felt what happened when she peed. And we stayed home most of the day for a few days or so until it clicked.

    My son (now 5) was soooo much easier than my daughter (now 7). I’m not sure if it was his personality that made it easier or if it was that we had more experience since he was our second kid.

    Of course, we had the inevitable messes to clean up, but wood or laminate flooring sure makes that easier. And we had them stay off the furniture.

    We used pull-ups for nap and bed time and for when we went out of the house until we knew they could hold it long enough to get to the bathroom.

    I really think the straight to underwear approach worked best for us because we didn’t need to spend any extra money and the whole process went by faster because they learned to make those connections more quickly.

    Don’t be scared. It really isn’t as bad as it seems. And if days go by and it’s not getting any better, then you may need to hold off and try again in a few weeks or so. Good luck!

  6. Jennifer

    I have never used pull-ups as a method of potty training. First you let them go naked. Then you do underwear but no pants for awhile at home. Lots of tries, lots of rewards, lots of praise. If he is ready it should happen fairly easily, if he is not, then take a break for a couple of months and then try again. Mine potty trained at 26 mo, 22 mo, 4.5 yr (major issues!) and finally 26 mo again.

  7. Hannelene

    I let my older guy run pants free for a week. Needless to say we didn’t leave the house. I set the timer for 30 minutes and put him on the toilet every 30 minutes. He was 2.5 at the time. After that, we went to underwear. In the 9 months since, I’ve cleaned up maybe 10 accidents?

    I did get pull-ups for night-time, and he still uses them at night, but since he mostly wakes up dry, I reuse them a few times. I figure we put them on right after bath time, so how dirty could it be?

  8. cheryl

    My sister in law waited until it was warm to train my nephew. ( I have two girls) She had him outside, naked (LOTS of sunscreen!) with the little potty. He hated the feeling of it running down his leg, so it only took few days!! They use pullups at night. Their doctor told them boys go through growth spurts where their bladders can’t keep up for a while. Good luck!!

  9. Linda

    Okay, so for full disclosure, I do not have kids nor have I ever attempted to assist in potty training. But, after reading his and all of the responses, I have a thought…what would happen if you put on regular underwear with a pull-up/diaper OVER them? The underwear would feel wet, but the pullup would stop the leak. Not sure if it would work, but thought I’d throw the theory out there. Maybe worth a test?

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