Pull-ups are a billion-dollar industry, and for good reason. When they hit the market twenty years ago, parents were thrilled to have a product that helped their kids transition out of diapers without having to cope with piles of laundry from all the accidents. These days, parents continue to shell out between $30 to $100 a month for pull-ups.
But do they really help with potty training?
It would be in the industry’s best interest to have you keep on using them for months or even years after initial potty training has started. But as far as I’m concerned, pull-ups are a big waste of money— and worse, they greatly prolong potty training.
1. One of the main tips I give for potty training is to have your child help with the cleanup if he has an accident. That means he takes off his own wet pants, brings them to the washing machine and even helps put in the soap and turn it on. Pull-ups prevent your child from having that wet, uncomfortable feeling against his skin if he goes pee in his pants, so why would he stop doing it?
2. Kids will wait to use them. If you use a pull-up at naptime or when you’re about to go out, your child might just adjust and hold it in until you put on the pull-up. Our youngest son would always wait to go poo until he had his pull-up on at bedtime. He actually started holding it in to the point that he got so constipated we had to give him a suppository.
3. Kids can become just as dependent on pull-ups as they were on diapers. In the case of our son, after months of wet pull-ups every night I started to suspect that it was just a matter of laziness on his part. I decided to put the theory to test. We threw out the pull-ups, covered his mattress with plastic and told him that he needed to get up and go to the bathroom in the night or to hold it until morning. It took a few weeks, with some nighttime wetting, but within the month, he was no longer wetting the bed and was diaper-free.
There are a couple of exceptions. I do suggest using a diaper or pull-up at nap and at night until your child has successfully remained dry, or you decide that it’s time to test your child’s ability to go all night diaper free. Also, if you are going for a long car ride or a plane trip and will not be able to get to a bathroom whenever your child has to go, it’s fine to use a pull-up for a recently potty-trained child.
The trick with potty training, as with so many aspects of parenting, is consistency. Once you make the decision to go diaper-free and commit to potty training, give it 100% and don’t look back. You might have a few weeks of extra laundry, but before you know it your child will get the hang of it.
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