Pull Up Diapers: What Is The Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Most parents spend a great deal of time worrying about what is best for their children; so, wondering whether or not diapers or pull-ups are best is pretty normal. But when you are overwhelmed with information, you are lacking sleep, and you are chasing around a toddler it is normal to be overwhelmed and ask yourself “what is the difference between diapers and pull-ups?”

In most cases, there is no reason to worry because every family and every child are different. The below information will help you decide whether diapers or pull-ups—or a combination of the two—is best for your child.

Are Pull-Ups Diapers?

Pull-ups represent a milestone for babies that are transitioning to being toilet training toddlers. Pull-ups are used to assist kids between the ages of 18-30 months old in going through the motions of using the toilet independently. So, pull-ups and diapers are not the same thing.

If your child is getting close to 18-30 months old, you have nothing to worry about because your questions are very normal. Pull-ups generally have the same absorbency as diapers (depending on the brand), but they are more like padded undergarments than diapers.

What is the Difference Between Pull-Ups and Diapers?

Diapers require a co-dependence on us as parents to change them and to be aware of them. Watch this video to learn more about the best way to put diapers on your baby:

Disposable diapers also contain many materials—some materials that irritate baby skin. Most traditional brands of disposable diapers contain polyacrylate which is in the core of the diaper; but, Baby Center reports that “sometimes it leaks through the lining, leaving small transparent crystals on the baby's skin.

Some disposable diapers--like the ones mentioned above--have been problematic, but not all of them cause baby skin issues. Medical case studies done by The National Library of Medicine reveal that the effects of absorbent gelling materials have the ability to mimic natural skin pH levels and they provide a better diaper environment for the baby.

Pull-ups, on the other hand, have not been as problematic. Pull-ups have less absorbent material and they are can be torn off or un-velcroed at the sides. Keep in mind that every child is different, so the complete transition from diapers to pull-ups will be determined by the discretion of you, the parent.

The difference between pull-ups and diapers can range from the difference in level of absorbance or bulk, the ease of movement for the child, or the effectiveness for using them in toilet training.

Diapers are more bulky and most parents use them for babies or young toddlers at night; pull-ups are less bulky and mimic underwear, they signify your child’s readiness for toilet training and independence.



  • Very absorbent
  • Not very effective during toilet training
  • Most parents use for newborns and young toddlers
  • Absorbent, but less bulky than diapers
  • Parents begin to use these when their child is toilet training
  • Allow young toddlers to be more mobile without the leaks that diapers have

The Pros and Cons of Diapers

The Pros of Diapers

  • They offer convenience and quick changing abilities. It is true that diapers are best for babies, or very young toddlers that are not yet able to help take off their own diaper. Most places have changing tables, so it is quick and convenient to lay your baby down and quickly change his/her diaper and be on your way.
  • Great for holding messes and catching leaks. Various brands of diapers are renowned for their absorbency capabilities. If you put the diaper on correctly, it usually contains leaks and messes until the next diaper change.

The Cons of Diapers

  • They can make toilet training more difficult. Most experts advise against going back to diapers after pull-ups have been introduced. Wearing diapers makes it easier for a child to not feel if they have gone to the bathroom. Some parents use diapers only at night if they have decided to transition to pull-ups to avoid confusion and to avoid hindering the toilet training process.
  • They can be costly. As your baby grows into a toddler, they make bigger messes in their diapers which means more diaper changes. The more diaper changes that your child requires equals more money spent on buying larger quantities.

The Pros and Cons of Pull-Ups

The Pros of Pull-Ups

  • Comfortable and roomy, allowing for ease of movement without gaps for leaks. If your little one is using pull-ups, they are more than likely on the go. It is important to have pull-ups that move with your child and do not have gaps or leaks. Most brands are great at deterring leaks if you put the pull-up on correctly and ensure that you have the right size.
  • Some pull-ups have a design in pale blue on the front of them which fades when wet. If you have to work from home, you have multiple children, or you are just a busy family these blue indicators can be a life-saver. The old-fashioned days of sticking your finger in the side to find a possible surprise poo or pee are long gone!

The Cons of Pull-Ups

  • Some brands have velcro at the side instead of tear, making it more difficult to change in the child has an accident. If your toddler loves pulling their pull-up off, even if they have not gone to the bathroom in it, you may find yourself frustrated with the easy tear-off sides. On the contrary, the velcro sides can be difficult to remove in a public restroom or if the child is fussy.
  • They can be costly. These can also be costly too, and if you are not careful and your child tears them off often you will find yourself buying more pull-ups to compensate.




  • Convenient and fast
  • Great for holding messes and leaks
  • Hinder the toilet training process
  • Costly


  • Comfortable and prevents leaks/gaps
  • Blue design indicates the need for it to be changed
  • Velcro and side tearing can be difficult
  • Costly

What are Other Parents Doing?

Some parents use pull-ups during the day, and then diapers at night. Knowing when to start using pull-ups for potty training is very important, so look for the signs.

Begin by looking for cues that your toddler is ready to use pull-ups, do not rush him/her. Signs may include knowing when they need to use the potty, informing you that they are passing urine, or there may be an hour gap between wetting. Watch this video to know more.

Not all parents choose between just diapers or pull-ups. Bicultural Mama, a progressive parenting forum, introduces a new product called “Easy Ups.” Easy Ups are very similar to pull-ups, but they are softer and less bulky.

Some parents decide to completely skip pull-ups and just transition from diapers to underwear.There are so many options to choose from, so do not stress if you try them all and some work better than other options.

I decided to use both diapers and pull-ups with both of my children. My third child—a newborn—is not yet ready for pull-ups as an option. Overall, my experiences with both kids went well. We used pull-ups during the day and we used night-time diapers or regular diapers at night.

I also used pull-ups when we were traveling or out shopping. The ease of ripping them off or letting my child try to use the toilet without having to take a diaper on and put it back on made it an easy choice for me.

Please Share Your Experiences

I hope that you will find my experiences with using pull-ups and diapers helpful. As a parent, I can relate to the concerns of other parents that have trouble deciding what to use. It is completely acceptable to use both diapers and pull-ups and to let your child show you what they prefer through their actions.

Since there is so much information available about diapers and pull-ups, if you have any input about your own personal experiences, please share your insights. We would appreciate receiving your comments and helping other parents find the best options for their families.

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Veronica Mitchell

Hi! My name is Veronica Mitchell. I am a mother to two adorable little girls and a handsome little boy. I spend my days caring from my children, packing lunches, reading aloud, kissing boo-boos, and working as the Chief Editor of My Parenting Journey. On this site, you will find friendly advice, expert suggestions, and guides to all shopping for the products you actually need.

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