My daughter has worn training pants at home ever since she became mobile and outgrew stationary diaper-free time on a fleece pad. When out of the house or with people who might not appreciate a wet lap, I used cloth diapers. Once my daughter began pulling up to stand, I quickly realized that pulling on pants was much easier than forcing her to lie down to put on a diaper, so I embarked on a search to find training pants that I could use for times when leaks from would be cause for concern (dinner parties at friends’ homes, sessions with her physical therapist, etc.). The final result of my search is that I have identified a spectrum of training pants with various attributes. I don’t claim to have sampled every brand on the market, but I’ve come close.
Level 6: Bulletproof
Level 6 (so far) includes only one brand of waterproof training pants with PUL outers and cotton inners (with absorbent layers in-between): Bumkins training pants. These guys have been reliably leak-proof even when my baby has released a large volume of pee while in a deep sleep. The Bumkins are extremely poofy, which isn’t so attractive, but I think this provides a larger surface area for absorbing pee and also works to prevent chafing and overheating. In general, waterproof pants tend to get hot and sweaty, so much so that sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between sweat and pee when checking pants with a finger (the difference is immediately obvious once the pants are off). I have 5 of these and take extras with me every time I go out. As with Bumkins All-in-One diapers, the prints are lots of fun!
Level 5: Waterproof – But Beware of High-Volume Pees!
Level 5 includes some of the other waterproof pants that I have tested: EC Store Waterproof Snap Pants, Bummis Training Pants, Kushies Training Pants, and EZ Pants. All of these have performed well for us, but don’t always hold a big pee without wicking and/or don’t perform as well when my daughter wears them to bed (but then again, even our most reliable cloth diapers are prone to leaks at times – it comes with the territory!). They are all PUL outers with absorbent cloth inners. The EC Store Waterproof Snap Pants (available with or without snaps) took several washes to ramp up their absorbency, but once they did, they worked well, and they have the trimmest fit of any PUL-outer pants; they are often my very first choice when we need waterproof pants. EZ Pants were a big splurge at nearly $30. I read fantastic reviews at DiaperPin and decided I should try them before I made a bulk purchase of Bumkins. They are well made and cute (mine are purple PUL outers with orange velour inners), but I like the fit and absorbency of the EC Store Snap Pants better. If you want to use Level 5 pants when you go out, be sure to take a change of clothes (which is always a good idea, anyway).
Level 4: Waterproof but Breathable
Level 4 includes my favorite training pants, EC Store Fuzzies, as well as EC Store Waterproof KISSes. Fuzzies have fleece outers – much more breathable than PUL – with absorbent cotton (hemp??) inners. They have an adorable trim fit and seem much more comfortable than the poofy and hot Bumkins. When they are wet and not changed relatively quickly, they tend to produce an overall damp feeling in the baby’s clothes as the wetness begins to move through the fleece barrier. EC Store Waterproof KISSes are trim and lightweight, but not nearly as absorbent as any of the other waterproof pants. None of the pants in Level 4 can be relied upon to withstand even a medium pee without wicking, so they should be used with some caution around EC-phobes or people who forget to check baby’s pants.
Level 3: Slightly Waterproof
Level 3 includes Bright Bots, and Imse Vimse Bumpy pants. Bright Bots, the first training pants we purchased when my daughter was first becoming mobile (around 6-7 months), are made from a cotton/polyester blend in every color of the rainbow with a slight waterproof barrier inside the fabric. Unless you have a huge pee, you won’t have a puddle with Bright Bots. Imse Vimse Bumpy pants are cotton outside and inside, with a slightly waterproof layer in between the cotton. Because they come in cotton, I like them better than Bright Bots, although the all-cotton leg ribbing tends to wick like crazy. Their absorbency seems to be improving with multiple washes. I stopped using Bright Bots because the synthetic fabric exacerbated heat and diaper rash. At this point, I mainly use them when my Level 2 pants are all in the laundry.
Level 2: Totally Comfortable, Totally NOT Waterproof
Level 2 pants are my first choice for baby to wear around home when we’re not going out. My favorites are EC Store Snap Pants lined with organic cotton with sewn-in microterry insert. The snap-on functionality is of personal importance to us right now since my daughter wears a shoe lift and brace that can make it somewhat challenging to extract wet undies when she is wearing her shoes and pants. That said, for around the house, I like Under the Nile organic cotton training pants and Gerber training pants. The Under the Nile pants are the ultimate in comfort for baby, with a loose fit, and the training pants do prevent most puddles. I like the thought of having organic cotton next to my baby’s skin, but I like the price of the Gerber pants, which are available at most discount chains (Target, K-Mart, etc.).
Level 1: Underwear
Truly getting rid of diaper bulk and giving your baby freedom of movement means graduating to underwear. (We still prefer nakey-butt to underwear around here, but this is liable to change with the colder weather.) I have two pairs of Under the Nile Size 1 organic cotton undies (available exclusively at the EC Store), which are absolutely adorable, but expensive, and my daughter was thrilled to find Sesame Street Elmo Underwear at Target.
By my choosing, all of these training pants allow babies to feel wetness. There are some pocket training pants on the market that wick moisture away from the baby, employing the methods of Fuzzi Bunz and other pocket diapers.
A word about poop…
Any serious EC veteran will tell you that there are always surprises in store. It seems that every time I say smugly to myself, “I haven’t cleaned a poopy diaper in months,” we end up with poop in pants (although it really has been several months as of this writing!). The downside of using training pants as EC backup becomes abundantly clear when poop is involved. Be prepared to clean up your child’s legs as well as his or her bottom. Try to cover your own lap if your child needs a place to perch while you get ready to clean him or her. If possible, move to a space before changing that is poop-friendly or poop-neutral (i.e. don’t try to do this over your mother’s favorite rug). Training pants like EZ Pants or EC Store Snap Pants that actually snap open definitely make it easier to clean up a poop. For me, the infrequency of missing poops makes me feel comfortable continuing to use cloth pull-ups.