When to Transition from Diapers to Underwear

Diapers to Underwear

The transition from diapers to underwear is an important milestone in a toddler’s life. Deciding when to make the switch to underwear can be challenging for parents, as every child develops at their own pace. Some kids may be ready to transition as early as 18 months, while others may not be ready until 3 years or older.

There is no set age when all children should stop wearing diapers, but there are signs parents can look for to know when the time is right. In his blog post, we will discuss the skills children need to be able to use underwear successfully, signs that indicate readiness, tips for a smooth transition, and how to handle accidents during this process.

Skills Needed for Underwear

Using underwear instead of diapers requires a specific set of skills that allow the child to recognize bodily urges and control their bladder and bowel movements. The following abilities are important prerequisites for underwear success:

  • Staying dry for extended periods during the day – This shows bladder control is established. Many experts recommend a child stay dry for at least 2 hours at a time before switching to underwear.
  • Bowel movement regularity – Regularity makes timing trips to the toilet easier. Constipation or loose stools may mean more accidents.
  • Awareness of the need to urinate/have a bowel movement – Being able to recognize these urges means the child can get to the toilet in time.
  • Ability to pull pants up and down – This allows independent toileting once on the toilet. Fine motor skills must be developed.
  • Understanding the purpose of the toilet – Knowing that the toilet is where pee and poop belong is key to motivation to use it.
  • Willingness to use the toilet – The child must be ready and willing to start using the toilet on their own. It is difficult to force toilet training.
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Signs of Readiness

When you notice the following signs, your toddler may be ready to say goodbye to diapers:

  • Staying dry for longer periods during the day
  • Having regular, well-formed bowel movements
  • Showing interest in the toilet, trying to copy others’ bathroom habits
  • Giving physical or verbal cues before having a bowel movement such as grunting
  • Having a dry diaper after naptime and overnight
  • Asking to use the toilet or potty chair
  • Showing discomfort with soiled or wet diapers
  • Able to pull pants up and down independently
  • Displaying a desire for independence in self-care activities

How to Transition from Diapers to Underwear

There are several steps parents can take to smoothly guide their child through this process. Being patient, staying positive, and allowing the child to set the pace is key to making potty training a success.

1. Introduce Underwear

Start getting your child used to the idea of underwear. Buy some cute, character or color-themed pairs and let your child check them out. Have them practice putting underwear on over their diapers. This step helps the child get comfortable with the new feeling before going diaper-free. Buddying up with a friend who has already transitioned can also show them that big kids wear underwear.

2. Try Commando

Letting your toddler spend some time each day at home bottomless, without a diaper or underwear, helps them recognize urges to go. Praise them for telling you when they need to use the potty during this commando time. Accidents may occur but this tactic lets the child gain bodily awareness.

3. Take Frequent Bathroom Trips

Initially, you may need to remind your child to use the toilet every 30-60 minutes. Watch for any behaviors that may indicate they have to go, like holding themselves, squatting, or making faces. Calmly take them to the potty at the first sign. Making a toilet routine by taking scheduled breaks can preempt accidents.

4. Have Patience

Accidents will happen during the learning process. Never scold or shame a child for wetting their underwear. Stay calm and reassuring. Let them know it’s okay and to remember to use the potty next time. Progress may be slow but forcing things risks setbacks. Let your child set the pace.

4. Use Nighttime Protection

Having your child wear absorbent nighttime training pants or a diaper to bed allows for worry-free sleep during this transition. Nighttime dryness may take longer to achieve. Don’t rush it. Let your pediatrician know if bedwetting persists significantly past potty training.

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5. Provide Motivation

Kids respond well to treats, praise, special outings, and fun potty training charts with stickers marking successes. A new pair of character underwear or a fun prize can be earned for staying dry. Whatever motivates your child, use it to encourage potty use, not to penalize accidents.

6. Stay Positive

Potty training can try any parent’s patience, especially when it seems never-ending mopping up accidents. But avoid conveying disappointment, frustration or anger to your child. That instills worry and shame which hinders progress. Stay upbeat and reassuring. With time and practice, using the toilet will click.

Tips for a Smooth Transition

Switching from diapers can be challenging but following these tips can make it easier on parents and toddler:

  • Wait for signs of readiness – Moving too soon can stall progress. Stick with diapers if your child resists.
  • Take it slow – Gradually transition them to wearing underwear before going diaper-free.
  • Set up a potty chair or adapt a toilet with a seat insert for their size. This makes it easier for them to utilize the toilet independently.
  • Encourage practice runs fully clothed so they learn the routine. Praise successes.
  • Dress in loose clothing they can easily pull up and down themselves.
  • Remind them regularly to use the potty and provide positive reinforcement such as treats or stickers when they do so successfully.
  • Schedule regular toilet breaks to prevent accidents – such as first thing in the morning, before naps, after meals, and before bedtime.
  • Limit fluid intake in the evenings so the nighttime diaper stays drier, longer.
  • Use nighttime diapers or pull-ups if wetting at night is still an issue.

Handling Accidents

Despite your best efforts, accidents are bound to happen during this learning process. When they do:

  • Stay calm and reassuring – getting upset can cause child to feel ashamed which hinders progress
  • Help clean them up matter-of-factly – don’t punish for accidents
  • Praise successes, not just the absence of mistakes
  • Remind them to use the potty next time they feel the urge to go
  • Evaluate if there are gaps in understanding the process and communicate it clearly
  • Consider backing off and waiting if they show signs of distress or regression
  • Consult your pediatrician if struggles persist beyond a few weeks

The transition from diapers can be frustrating but by arming yourself with patience and staying positive, you can set your little one up for success with this important milestone. With time and practice, using the toilet independently will become a habit for your toddler.

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The switch from diapers to underwear symbolizes a toddler’s growth into a more independent, capable child. While every child will start this transition at their own pace, parents can watch for signs of readiness and employ various techniques to facilitate the process. With persistence and a positive approach, soiled diapers will soon be a thing of the past. Learn here more about kids’ potty training and healthy growth lifestyle.


What age should I start potty training?

There is no set age that is right for all children. Most experts recommend starting between 18-24 months, but every child develops at their own pace. Look for signs your child is ready like being able to follow simple instructions, staying dry for extended periods, and showing interest in the potty.

How do I know if my child is ready to transition from diapers?

Signs of readiness include being able to stay dry for 2+ hours, having regular bowel movements, communicating the need to go, being able to pull their own pants up/down, showing interest in the potty, and displaying discomfort when wet or soiled.

Should we go straight to underwear or use pull-ups first?

Many parents find using disposable training pants or reusable cloth pull-ups can ease the transition. They feel like regular underwear but have absorbency for accidents. However, some find pull-ups confusingly similar to diapers and prefer to go straight to regular underwear.

What is the best potty training method?

Popular methods include the “3 Day Potty Training Method”, using stickers or treats to motivate, and going diaper-free (“naked” training). But what works best depends on your child. Staying positive, consistent, and responsive generally helps the process go smoothly.

How should I handle potty training accidents?

Accidents are totally normal so stay calm if they happen! Comfort your child and gently remind them next time to try using the potty. Avoid punishment or shaming. Praise successes and be patient as they learn this new skill.

How long does potty training take on average?

It varies greatly for each child. Some show readiness and progress quickly within a few weeks. For others, it takes several months to stick. Try not to compare your child’s pace to others. With consistency and encouragement it will click.

Should I wake my child at night to potty?

Waking them can help some children develop nighttime bladder control quicker. But for sleep-deprived families, using nighttime pull-ups a bit longer may be preferable. Talk to your pediatrician if bedwetting remains an issue after daytime training.

What if my child regresses with potty training?

Regressions are common if life gets disrupted – new sibling, vacation, starting preschool, etc. Respond calmly and be understanding. Temporary setbacks are normal and with patience, you can get back on track. Avoid expressing anger or frustration.

When can I expect my child to be fully potty trained?

Daytime training often takes a few months but varies per child. Nighttime training tends to take longer – anywhere from 6 months to 5 years old. Try not to compare. Focus on staying positive through the process, and speak to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.