Diapers vs Pull-Ups – the lowdown on which to pick and when

toddler strolling on the beach in diaper

Need to make a quick decision regarding your baby’s potty training undergarments? Not sure about the difference between diapers vs pull-ups? While both have their benefits, I hands-down recommend diapers. To find out why exactly, you’ll have to keep reading. Here’s a clue: it’s got to do with absorbency, comfort and leakage.

I’ve done a lot of research lately as we started with potty training with my daughter and I had to be prepared. Your little one will wear undergarments for their first precious few years. Mine is 1.5 years old now. Comfort, cleanliness, and dryness are key. While the changing surface and wipes you use are important, nothing is as important as the type of undergarment you put them in.

What’s the Difference Between a Pull-Up and a Diaper?

They are highly comfortable in both design and function. They both typically contain wetness indicator technology and assist in absorbing your baby’s business. The biggest difference is the elastic band that is found on pull-ups. This makes it easier for you or your little champ to pull down and pull up their “diaper” without taking it off completely – just like pants. When you’re in the potty training phase, this is exceptionally handy.

When Should I Use Diapers?

Diapers are used for newborns. They come in a range of sizes and brands and can be used from birth up until your little one begins potty training.

Diapers are typically designed to fit snugly and be easily taken off. They either slide up and down the body similar to pull-ups or include tear-away side tabs. Diapers offer more padding at the back compared to pull-ups as they’ve been designed for use when infants are lying down or sleeping. They’re ultra-absorbent and can be used right up until your child is ready to attempt using the toilet.

Thereafter, some parents opt to replace diapers with underwear once their little one is totally potty trained.

When Should I Use Pull-Ups?

For most parents who find themselves entering potty training season, pull-ups are the answer. This can be any time between 18 to 24 months – give or take a few months on either side. And when your child gets larger, your no longer little one might need pull-ups bigger than 5T or larger.

Pull-ups act as a potty training tool for your older baby or toddler. They are undergarments designed to be similar to normal underwear so that your child can gain more independence whilst potty training. Pul- ups are more discreet than diapers and can easily be pulled up and down as needed thanks to the nifty elastic band featured in its design.

Some daycares and preschools might request that you bring some pull-ups with velcro sides, so that’s another reason why you might need to consider using pull-ups.

Unlike underwear, pull-ups are absorbent so they can protect your little one should an accident strike and they don’t make it to the potty in time. There are differences between pull-ups for boys and girls in terms of design and the location for absorbancy so make sure you get the right one.

Examining the Pros and Cons of Each Option

As is the case with every baby item you buy, you need to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of each option. Your experience also largely rests on the brand you pick. Undergarments are particularly important so here’s what to consider.



  • Available in cloth, disposable or swimming options
  • A little less pricey than pull ups
  • Contoured to hold your baby’s bowel movements better than pull ups
  • Multi-layered liquid absorption design
  • Said to leak less than pull ups, especially overnight


  • Less colorful and visually stimulating than pull ups
  • Prolonged use of a wet diaper can lead to rashes
  • Require parent’s help with removal and putting on

Pull Ups


  • Contoured fit to avoid leakage
  • Encourages toddlers to be confident and independent whilst potty training
  • Typically feature fun, colorful designs
  • Multi-layered design to maximize liquid absorption
  • Waterproof exterior layer


  • A little more expensive than diapers
  • Reportedly much less absorbent than diapers
  • Said to leak more than diapers – especially overnight

How Do I Know if My Child is Ready to Make the Change from Diapers to Pull-Ups?

Generally, once your child hits two years old, they can change from diapers to pull-ups. However, when it comes to potty training you need to consider aspects other than their age such as their physical and psychological development & their achievement of milestones to guide you. Look out for some of these telltale signs that your little one isn’t so little anymore and needs to upgrade to pull-ups:

  • Comprehending and following simple instructions
  • Attempting to or removing their own pants
  • Staying dry in his or her diaper for two hours or more
  • Taking themself to the bathroom
  • Communicating with you as to when they need to make a wee or poo
  • Eagerness to use the potty or toilet

Brands to Be Aware Of

As you can imagine, the market is flooded with brands that offer diapers and pull-ups. Because of this, it can be extremely difficult to pick the right brand for your needs. There are many brands out there that produce great undergarments including the following.

Diapers to Be Aware of

Huggies Snugglers

Huggies Size 2 Diapers, Little Snugglers Baby Diapers, Size 2 (12-18 lbs), 180 Ct (3 packs of 60), Packaging May Vary

Pampers Swaddlers

Pampers Swaddlers Diapers - Size 1, One Month Supply (198 Count), Ultra Soft Disposable Baby Diapers

Luvs Triple Leakguards

Luvs Triple Leakguards Diapers, Size 3 (168 Count) - Packaging May Vary

Pull Ups to Be Aware of

Pampers Easy Ups

Pampers Easy Ups Boys & Girls Potty Training Pants - Size 2T-3T, 74 Count, Training Underwear (Packaging May Vary)

Pull-Ups (the originator of pull up pants)

Huggies Little Movers

Huggies Little Movers Diapers, Size 4, 70 Ct

Seventh Generation Training Pants

Seventh Generation Baby & Toddler Training Pants, Large Size 3T-4T, 88 count


Are pull-ups as absorbent as diapers?

Yes and no. Confusing, I know! Pull-ups are designed using the same absorbent materials as those found in diapers. While some parents claim that certain pull-up diaper brands offer greater absorption compared to diapers, this is questionable. Pull-ups have been made with toddlers and nighttime use in mind but they have also been known to absorb less and leak more. It all rests on the brand you pick, so do your homework before making a decision.

Do pull-ups hinder potty training?

Once again, yes and no. While some toddlers thrive on the fact that they have more control over their own diapers, others may get confused. It’s useful when your child can pull down their own diaper, which mimics pulling down their underwear as they would before sitting on a toilet. But the fact that they can “go” in pull-ups defeats the purpose of teaching them not to do their business in their undies but rather on the toilet. It’s a catch 22.


So which is better – diapers or pull-ups? I consider diapers to be the best option but I also completely understand that every baby and toddler is unique.

Diapers can be extremely effective due to their maximum absorption and minimal leakage features, in addition to the fact that they can be worn at night with less worry of leakage.

In my opinion, when your child is successfully potty training you can make the switch straight from diapers to underwear and skip the pull-ups. It’s all dependent on your set of circumstances and your little one’s age and stage – find the solution that works best for all three of these. Another situation we’ve been struggling with is finding a solution for our daughter who’s at the stage of not using diapers anymore during the daytime, however nighttime underwear such as a Pampers Ninjamas or Goodnites can still be handy.

Last update on 2024-06-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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