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 a 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.



  • Inexpensive
  • Reusable
  • Easy for child to pull up and down
  • Thin enough that child feels wet and dirty
  • More like what adults wear


  • If a child has an accident, an entire change of clothing is often necessary
  • Creates a lot of laundry
  • Doesn't protect surfaces when in the car or on an outing

Cloth Training Pants


  • Reusable
  • More expensive than underwear, but less expensive than disposable training pants
  • Thick enough to sometimes protect surfaces, but thin enough that the child still feels wet or dirty


  • Sometimes not thick enough to protect outer clothing, so a change of clothing may be necessary in case of accidents
  • Creates a lot of laundry
  • Sometimes will not protect surfaces when in car or on an outing
  • Less like adult underwear
  • Can be difficult for a child to pull up and down

Disposable Training Pants (Like Pull-Ups)


  • Protect outer clothing when accidents occur
  • Can be a good transition out of a diaper if the child is uncomfortable with underwear
  • Disposable
  • No Laundry
  • Protects surfaces when in a car or on an outing


  • Expensive
  • Have to go to the store when you run out
  • Child often doesn't feel the wetness and is less aware
  • Feels like a diaper, so the child may feel no difference between being in diapers and learning to potty
  • Sometimes difficult for children to pull up or down
  • Not at all like 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.

Ultimately the decision is up to you. Each child has his own temperament, so there is no true one-size-fits-all method out there. 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!

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