Does Potty Training With Underwear Really Work?

A toddler playing with toilet paper.
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Potty training with underwear is likely one of the multitude of methods you'll hear about from other moms when planning for this important milestone. Some parents swear by this effective (yet messy) approach while others prefer the pull-up route.

What works and what doesn't when it comes to potty training is entirely up to you and your child. Still, it never hurts to learn about the pros and cons of using various undergarments during potty training.

Underwear Pros and Cons

  • Inexpensive

  • Reusable

  • Easy for child to pull up and down

  • Child feels wetness or dirtiness

  • More like what big kids and adults wear

  • Doesn't protect clothing

  • Doesn't protect surfaces (furniture, car seats)

  • Creates a lot of laundry

Cloth Training Pants Pros and Cons

  • Reusable

  • Less expensive than disposable training pants

  • Child can feel wetness or dirtiness

  • Offers some protection for clothing and other surfaces

  • Doesn't always protect clothing or other surfaces, such as furniture

  • Creates a lot of laundry

  • Less like big-kid or adult underwear

  • Can be difficult to pull up and down

Disposable Training Pants Pros and Cons

  • Protects clothing when accidents occur

  • Can be a good transition step between diapers and underwear

  • Disposable

  • No laundry

  • Protects surfaces like furniture and car seats

  • Expensive

  • Have to go to store when you run out

  • Child is less aware of wetness or dirtiness

  • Feels like a diaper, so can be harder for child to learn to use a toilet

  • Sometimes difficult to pull up or down

  • Not like big-kid or adult underwear

You may choose one method exclusively, which is often recommended so that it promotes consistency and eliminates any confusion. Or, you may choose to use underwear during the day and disposable training pants at night or during naps, as many parents do. This is a good strategy since children often gain control during sleep much later than they do during waking hours.

Each child has his own temperament, so there is no true one-size-fits-all method.

Ultimately the decision is up to you. Don't be afraid to try a method and then switch to another if one is plainly not working. Once you find what works, stick with it, keep going, and have patience. Your little one will be going "pee pee on the potty" in no time!

By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.