Buyer’s guide to trainer pants

Does you toddler need trainer pants? Our guide will help you decide, and find the right ones if you do.

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  • What are trainer pants?

    ‘Trainer pants’ is a general label that can refer to one of four main product types, depending on who you’re chatting to! These are:

  • How much does your toddler weigh?

    Trainer pants have sizes that relate to your child’s weight, in the same way disposable nappies for babies do. You need to look at the labels on the different brands, because size groupings can vary a bit.  The weight ranges of sizes do overlap, so you might find you have a choice of two sizes. For example, the sizes for Sainsbury’s little ones pull-ons are:

    • Size 4 maxi, 7-18kg/15-40lb
    • Size 5 Junior, 11-25kg/24-55lb
    • Size 6 extra large, 16kg+/35lb+

    Reusable trainer pants are also sized, and these sizes may also vary brand to brand. The Bright Bots trainer pants are grouped into these sizes:

    • Small,18 months, up to around 12kg/26lb, 52cm waist, 84 cm height
    • Medium, 2 years, up to around 14kg/30lb, 54cm waist, 92cm height
    • Large, 2.5 years, up to around 16kg/35lb, 55cm waist, 100cm height
    • X-Large, 3 years and up, up to around 18kg/40lb, 56cm waist, 108cm height
  • Do you want reusable or disposable?

    Reusable trainer pants are a pull-on washable pant. They are often designed to look like pants that a ‘grown up’ boy or girl wears. The PVC lining helps to catch a wee, and prevent a large spill, but your child can still feel that she’s wet, so it helps her to learn and develop and understand what it feels like to have an accident. Reusable trainer pants are washable and usually hard wearing, so can be an environmentally friendly and cost effective alternative to disposable training pants.

    The downside is that this kind of trainer pant needs to be changed quite quickly once your toddler has an accident because it can’t take a large amount of liquid before starting to leak.  They can also be messy if you’re dealing with a poo. They aren’t that convenient if you’re going away where there are no washing facilities.

    Disposable nappy pants and trainer pants enable your child to practice pulling up and down her ‘underwear’, but they’re easy to rip apart quickly if you have a poo to clean up.  You have no washing to deal with and they’re convenient to pack and take away with you.  You also can pick a product from this range that lets your toddler feel when she’s wet herself, but that will still prevent leaks.

    This kind of pant doesn’t really look like a real pair of knickers and your child might still get confused about whether she’s in a nappy or not. You also might feel disposable options don’t fit with your eco outlook.

  • How absorbent do you want them to be?

    Absorbency varies between brands and styles, reusables and disposables. Ask yourself these questions to find out what you need from a trainer pant:

    1. Do you want your child to know that she’s wet herself? If so, look for potty training pull-up pant styles - these aren’t as absorbent so she’ll feel when she’s wet, and they can often have a design that changes colour to show her as well. Also, reusable trainer pants aren’t as absorbent, so good for alerting your child to the fact she’s had to wee.
    2. Do you want her to stay dry? Look for nappy pant styles – these pull on like pants but offer good absorbency.
    3. Are you trying to help her with poos or just wees? Look out for elastic cuffs around the legs, which may or may not be strong enough to hold poo. The stronger the cuff, the more likely it is to contain the poo. Disposable pull-up nappy pants typically offer better absorbency for all types of accidents, because they provide nappy-level protection.
    4. Are you using trainer pants in the daytime when you expect only the occasional accident? A trainer pant, with its lower absorbency, and elasticated leg cuffs that aren’t that strong will be a suitable choice. 
    5. Are you using trainer pants at night when you know she doesn’t yet wake up when she needs to wee?  A nappy pant or a specifically designed potty training pant for night-time offer the extra absorbency needed.
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  • Do you want to use them overnight?

    Most toddlers are potty trained in the day time first, with night-time dryness being a separate milestone that comes later. If you just need a pant at night, you’re unlikely to want something that just holds one wee, unless you’ve been trying night-time training for some time and want her to wake up wet (and perhaps the bed sheets, too).  Whilst you want a trainer pant that won’t be confused with a nappy, do look for a pant that’s more absorbent.

    For older children who are embarrassed by bed-wetting and want something that’s not a nappy but that keeps them comfortable and secure, look for a night-time pyjama pant or short specifically designed for older kids.

  • Where do you start?

    To help you make sense of what’s around and what will work for your child, we’ve undertaken in-depth reviews of disposable nappy pants, disposable trainer pants and reusable trainer pants.

    We’ve also got lots of potty training advice and strategies, plus check out the Potty Training Diaries, where methods and products have been put to the test by MFM mums.


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