When Your Child Should Stop Using Diapers

The jump from wearing diapers to using the toilet is a huge childhood milestone. Most children will complete toilet training and be ready to stop using diapers between 18 and 30 months of age, but this certainly isn't the case for all kids. Some children are not fully out of diapers until after the age of 4.

A child's developmental readiness plays a big role in determining the age when they're able to stop using diapers, but so does how their caregivers approach potty training. Below, read about some of the factors that can have an impact on the age when a child is finally ready to stop using diapers.

Understanding Developmental Readiness

Because each child develops at their own pace, the age when a child will stop using diapers can actually vary quite substantially. Some research indicates that potty training too early or too late in a child's life can lead to regression or delays, but the timing for each child is different.

Although studies show that the majority of children are physically and emotionally ready to begin toilet training sometime between the ages of 18 and 24 months, age is not the sole factor to consider when it comes to deciding if it's actually the right time to ditch diapers.

To know if it's time to stop using diapers and start toilet training, look for signs of readiness in your child, including:

  • The ability to follow simple instructions
  • Staying dry for two hours at a time
  • Showing interest in using the potty
  • The ability to sit on a potty chair
  • Asking for soiled diapers to be changed
  • Regular bowel movements
  • Showing interest in wearing underwear

Getting Rid of Diapers

Sometimes potty training setbacks and failures have less to do with a child's skill level or readiness and have more to do with your own actions as a parent. Whether or not a child has access to diapers can have an impact on how long it takes them to actually stop using diapers and start using the toilet.

Regardless of their age, keeping diapers around can signal to your child that you're not that serious about potty training and that you don't really expect them to use the potty. As long as diapers are still available to them, your child knows they have the option to keep using them. Because they're comfortable with using diapers and the toilet is unfamiliar, kids will often choose this route.

The problem becomes even worse if your child asks to use their diapers, because then you as a parent have to then decide whether or not to fulfill this request. Not giving in could lead to tantrums, but handing over the diaper could cause further potty training delays.

Keeping diapers out of your child's sight can help address this issue. If you think that your child is truly ready to be finished with diapers, store them somewhere where your child cannot see or access them.

Using Training Pants

Although they're a popular way to help transition from diapers to regular underwear, using disposable training pants like Pull-Ups can hinder potty training progress for some children and leave them wanting to wear diapers past the age when they are developmentally ready to stop.

For a child who favors going in a diaper when they have already shown that they can use the potty successfully, using disposable training pants is a bit like going from the frying pan into the fire. Disposable training pants are not as absorbent as diapers, so while they can give your child a place to go other than the toilet, cleaning up afterward can be more difficult than with diapers.

Nighttime potty training can take much longer than daytime potty training. According to the AAP, occasional bedwetting occurs in 20% of 5-year-olds and 10% of 7-year-olds.

It is not uncommon for children to use diapers or training pants well into elementary school as their bladders are still developing the ability to hold urine for long stretches. Deep sleepers also may need longer to learn how to wake up at night to use the bathroom.

If you use disposable training pants at night or during naps, try to use them only then, and stick to that rule. The moment your child wakes up, have them use the potty and put on underwear. Just like with diapers, make sure that you put the disposable training pants where they are not accessible to your child.

Addressing Potty Training Delays

Even once you remove diapers from the equation, it could still take time for your child to get the hang of using the toilet. If despite their developmental readiness your child still refuses to stop using diapers, it's worth digging deeper to see what's going on.

Potty Training Method

Evaluate whether or not the method of potty training that you're using is right for your child. Every child learns differently, so it is possible that a different way of potty training could lead to success. Some kids do better with a crash course, where others need rewards and plenty of positive reinforcement.

Fears

If your child seems afraid of the toilet or is scared to use a potty, they may be extra resistant when it comes time to stop using diapers. Talk to your child about their fears and reassure them that using the toilet is a normal part of growing up. If the issue persists, talk to your pediatrician to see if additional professional intervention may be necessary to address the root of your child's fear.

Medical Problems

Sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, your child may have a medical issue that's holding them back from becoming toilet trained. Have a conversation with your child's pediatrician to see if physical issues like a small bladder capacity, lack of muscle control, pain from constipation, or frequent urinary tract infections could be contributing to their potty problems.

A Word From Verywell

You may feel frustrated if it takes your child a while to become fully potty trained, but just know that they will get the hang of it in due time and will eventually stop using diapers. Accidents will happen, though, so take a deep breath, expect that it's going to be messy, and jump right in with both feet (and plenty of paper towels and laundry detergent).

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The American Academy of Pediatrics. Toilet training. Updated June 24, 2017

  2. van Nunen K, Kaerts N, Wyndaele J-J, Vermandel A, Hal GV. Parents’ views on toilet training (TT): A quantitative study to identify the beliefs and attitudes of parents concerning TT. J Child Health Care. 2015;19(2):265-274. doi:10.1177/1367493513508232

  3. Wyndaele J-J, Kaerts N, Wyndaele M, Vermandel A. Development signs in healthy toddlers in different stages of toilet training: Can they help define readiness and probability of success? Global Pediatric Health. 2020;7:2333794X2095108. doi:10.1177/2333794X20951086

  4. The American Academy of Pediatrics. Bedwetting in children and teens: Nocturnal enuresis. Updated June 26, 2019

  5. Kiddoo DA. Toilet training children: When to start and how to train. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2012;184(5):511-511. doi:10.1503/cmaj.110830

  6. Joinson C, Grzeda MT, von Gontard A, Heron J. A prospective cohort study of biopsychosocial factors associated with childhood urinary incontinence. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2019;28(1):123-130. doi:10.1007/s00787-018-1193-1