Diapers vs Pull Ups – When to Make the Switch?

As your baby becomes a toddler and gets closer to potty training, you may start to wonder what the deal is with diapers vs pull ups and when to transition to pull ups?

Diapering your little one takes up a lot of your time, budget, and headspace during the first few years of their life.

In fact, it’s estimated that in the first year alone your baby used close to 3,000 diapers!

So should you make the switch to pull ups? Do pull ups hold as much as diapers?

Today, we’re going to unpack the main differences between diapers and pull ups, look at the pros and cons, and help you decide if and when you should make the switch.

What are pull up diapers?

Pull up diapers, more often referred to as pull ups or disposable training pants, are made from the same material as diapers but pull up and down like underwear.

They are made to look and fit more like real underwear and often come in fun colors and designs that kids love.

Pull ups are most often used by kids who are very close to potty training or are actively potty training.

They go up and down with ease to promote independence on the potty.

The idea is that the pull up contains the mess of accidents often associated with potty training in regular underwear making the process easier on the parent and less upsetting for the child.

Some parents choose to use pull ups throughout the whole potty training process while others just use them at night.

Some parents use them in the months leading up to potty training to start helping their child have more independence around toileting but remove them once active potty training begins.

What’s the difference between diapers and pull ups?

Disposable diapers and pull ups are made out of the same material and pull ups are essentially just a different style of diaper.

However, the differences involve a little more than that.

Here are the five main differences in terms of design, absorbency, price, size, and usage.

  1. Diaper vs Pull ups design

The most obvious difference between pull ups and diapers is in their design.

Diapers open at the sides and are secured in place by two tabs.

They do not easily pull up and down, but rather need to be undone to come off easily.

This makes them great for babies and young toddlers because once the diaper is on it stays put.

Pull ups on the other hand have an elastic waist band and are designed to be pulled up and down, like a pair of underwear.

This makes them perfect for standing up changes in older toddlers and for little ones using a potty.

They usually feature rip away sides for changing particularly messy accidents.

  1. Absorbency: Are pull ups as absorbent as diapers?

Diapers and pull ups are both made of multi-layers of absorbent material and contain a waterproof outer layer.

However, the jury is still out on whether pull ups are as absorbent as diapers.

Some brands claim to be more absorbent than diapers and are designed for nighttime toddler use.

However, anecdotally, many parents claim that pull ups lead to more leaking than diapers. A lot of this depends on what brand of pull up you use (source).

Just like with diapers, this can involve some trial and error.

Certain brands work better for some kids than others. It depends a lot on your child’s size, and how much and how often they typically pee (especially at night).

  1. Price: Are pull ups more expensive than diapers

Pull ups are more expensive than diapers, but the price difference isn’t as significant as you might expect.

I expected natural diaper brands to expensive when you switch from diapers to pull ups, and that was the case with Bamboo Nature diapers.

Here’s a handy comparison chart of the most popular diaper and pull up brands on the market today. 


I used size 4 diapers and size 2T pull ups because these fit roughly the same size child and found all pricing via Amazon.

I used the most economical prices for each brand where possible by looking at boxes with the highest diaper and pull up counts.

  1. Size: what are pull up diapers sizes? 

As you probably know, disposable diapers are available in sizes 1-6. These sizes are based on weight ranges. Size 1 diapers are for babies from 8-14lbs and the largest diapers, size 6 are for little ones over 35 lbs.

Pull ups on the other hand are sized similarly to clothing, but also have a corresponding weight range.

Most brands offer four different pull up sizes:

  • 12m-18m (14-26 lbs.)
  • 2t-3t (18-34 lbs.)
  • 3t-4t (32-40 lbs.)
  • 4t-5t (28-50 lbs.)
  1. Usage: Can you use pull ups at night?

You can use pull ups at night, but compared to diapers they are probably not going to be as absorbent for overnight use.

While many brands will tell you that they are as good as diapers for overnight use, most parents agree that this is simply not true.

Pull ups are probably best used at night for little ones who are mostly potty trained and only occasionally wet themselves during the night. Otherwise, you will probably run into issues with leaks.

When to start using pull ups?

Usually, parents start using pull up diapers when they begin potty training their little ones, or around 2 years old.

With my kids, we went diaper free at home to teach our kids to go to the potty and used pull ups when we are travelling outside. 

When you get them, introduce them to your child as training underwear.

Let them practice pulling them up and down and explain that they are there for accidents, but the goal is to go in the potty.

If you decide to go this route, it’s best to just use pull ups during the day in the beginning and still use diapers at night until your child is more confidently using the bathroom. Then you can switch to pull ups at night, too.

For some kids, pull ups help them feel more independent and downplay the discomfort and upsetting feeling of having an accident. They can work really well.

On the other hand, some kids will just treat a pull up like a diaper which can delay and draw out potty training more than necessary.

Pros and cons of using pull ups vs diapers

Diaper pros:

  • Readily available, probably what you’re already using
  • More absorbent and better for overnight use

Diaper cons:

  • Don’t allow for independence as well as pull ups
  • Make stand-up changes more challenging
  • Aren’t a potty training aid

Pull up pros:

  • Can be used independently by toddlers
  • Catch the mess of accidents
  • Come in gender specific colors, have fun characters and designs
  • Come in sizes up to 5t
  • Can be a potty training aid for some children

Pull up cons:

  • Slightly more expensive than diapers
  • Are essentially just diapers
  • May result in leaks, especially overnight
  • Can elongate the potty training process for some kids because they are too similar to diapers

Diapers vs. Pull Ups, will you make the switch?

At the end of the day, switching to pull ups isn’t something that all parents do or even needs to be done.

If you think that pull ups will be useful for your child or in your potty training process, great!

Give them a try.

On the other hand, many parents choose to skip pull ups completely and go cold turkey off of diapers in order to make potty training a bit faster.

Only you can decide if making the switch makes sense for your family, but with the information in this article you have a better idea of the key differences, similarities, pros and cons of diapers vs. pull ups to help with your decision.

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