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Diapers vs Pull ups - enough of the poop, here's the scoop...

7 min read

Diapers vs Pull ups - which are better for you and your little one and why?

Do you have a toddler who suddenly hates diaper changes? Or maybe your baby cries during diaper changes? Or it could be that your 2-year-old fights diaper changing time and you end up chasing him around the room? Whatever the reason, at some point, you might start thinking about pull ups and wonder if they're right for you and your little one. Hopefully this guide will help you decide!

What are pull ups?

Pull ups vs diapers

First things first, when we talk about pull ups in this article, we mean any diaper pants that come with an elasticated waistband that are ‘pulled up’ rather than secured at the side with taped strips. Pull ups traditionally referred to the Huggies Pull-ups® brand that are used as a transition to underwear for potty training, but which don’t necessarily have the same absorbency or features of a traditional diaper.

But, the term is now also commonly used for the new generation of diapers which share all of the same qualities of traditional diapers, including starting in small sizes from Size 3 upwards, having the same absorbency and being used as a replacement for diapers, not as a transition to potty training.

Huggies slip ons new generation diaper pull up pants for babies on the move                  Pampers cruisers 360 new generation diaper pull ups for babies on the move

Pampers Cruisers 360 and Huggies Slip-Ons are examples of such pull ups. This new generation of pull up diaper pants are typically recommended once babies and toddlers learn to roll and crawl and start wriggling during diaper changing, as they are seen as a solution to the diaper changing battle. This is the type of diaper that we’re talking about in this comparison.  

At what age do people change to pull ups?

Diapers vs pull ups - when should you switch?

While in the past, pull up type diapers were recommended for the transition to potty training, so they weren’t typically used before age 2, the new generation of pull up diapers are recommended from much younger. For example, Pampers Cruisers 360 start at size 3, which relates to babies who weigh 16-28lbs and are on average 7-12 months old. So more or less around the time babies start moving – rolling, crawling, standing and walking – the new generation of pull ups are an option. 

Why consider switching to pull ups?

The new generation of diaper pull up pants are recommended for babies who are starting to move. A common claim is that pull ups, or diaper pants are easier to put on than taped diapers once a baby learns to roll and crawl. Since they can be simply pulled up like underwear, they are less ‘fiddly’ than taping Velcro on two sides of a diaper, especially for the wrigglers out there!

The argument is that instead of having to lie your baby down, you can tear the sides and pull up a new one while your little one is standing. Standing diaper changes suit some kids and the hope is that it ends the diaper changing wrestling match as it means you don’t have to chase your baby around as much while they’re flipping over and crawling away.



But…are pull ups really easier to put on and take off?

Toddler diaper change

A BIG thing to remember is that while pull ups can be torn off, in order to put a new on a new pull up, you must remove the whole bottom half of clothing from the baby or toddler, i.e. shoes and pants / tights etc. Yes, there are times our babies are wandering around in just their diapers, but in general, they are also wearing clothes! The thing is, with pull ups, you also need to take those clothes off AND put them back on once the new pull up is on, which can add a lot of time and wrestling to the whole process. In contrast, for a new diaper to be put on, you can just pull down the pants/tights etc. without removing them fully, remove the soiled diaper and tape a new one without ever taking off the shoes or pants. It definitely won’t end all the rolling and wriggling, but if moms had to choose to put one item of clothing on a bucking bronco or three, I think we know what they’d pick!

The argument that pull ups are easy to be ripped off is true. However, one could argue that taped nappies are also very easy to remove. Some moms find a standing diaper change easier rather than trying to keep their little one from flipping over while being changed on their backs and in that sense, pulling up a pull up rather than trying to tape a diaper to a standing baby does seem easier. However, other moms find standing diaper changes difficult, and messier, particularly when changing a dirty diaper as it can often be more difficult to keep the baby or toddler still while standing than lying down.  

The final thing to consider here is that if pull ups are easier to remove, they're easier for mom AND baby to remove...which may lead to a new problem in some cases!

Are pull ups or diapers more absorbent?

In theory, the taped and pull up versions of the same brand should have the same absorbency. They are made from the same absorbing material (sodium polyacrylate) and have the same number of layers. However, anecdotally, the feeling from parents using them tends to suggest that taped diapers have the edge in terms of absorbency, especially for overnight diapers. There’s no particular reason for this, but moms and dads tend to report more leaks and less dryness with pull ups than with standard taped diapers.

Are pull ups more expensive than diapers?

The cost of diapers is constantly changing, and the price naturally fluctuates depending on how many you buy at a time and where you buy them. And weirdly, it’s actually quite hard to do a direct comparison diaper for diaper comparing one pack with another. The reason for this is that the companies sell their diapers in different multiple than their pull ups. So, for example, while Pampers Cruisers 360 come in sets of 25, 62, 108 and 140 on Walmart’s website, their Baby Dry diapers come in packs of 22, 70, 124 and 160. Someone cynical might decide that they do this on purpose to make direct comparisons difficult which isn't great for money-conscious moms… but who knows?!

With that in mind, we’ve done as direct a comparison as possible by picking the packs that were closest in size to each other and going by the cost per diaper or pull up. We looked at over 2000 diapers and over 2000 pull ups on both and We tried to match for size as much as possible, since smaller diapers are cheaper than larger ones, so, for example, we compared nearly 800 size 3 diapers with almost 800 size 3 pull ups. We also compared a range of pack sizes, as the cost per diaper or pull up is very different if you buy a small pack versus a large pack. So, to allow for that, we compared 6 large packets (101-150 diapers or pull ups) with each other, and similar numbers of small packs and medium packs with each other. At the end of all that we came down to two numbers – the average price of a diaper and the average price of a pull up. And the result? The average cost of a diaper was 29c and the average cost of a pull up was… (drum roll please)… 44c. So that’s an average difference of 15c, which equates to paying 30-50% more on average for pull ups.

15 cents is a small amount of money for one diaper change, but when you consider we change our babies on average 6 times per day or 6500 times until potty training, the costs start to add up. To see how many diaper changes you have left until potty training, use our calculator tool below 

You’re unlikely to consider pull ups before your child starts moving though so let’s assume you use pull ups for a year before potty training. That’s around 2000 diaper changes. At an average difference of 15 cents, that works out at $300 more for one year, which is pretty significant. For some, this will be worth it, for others, it might not.  

Diapers vs Pull Ups vs a Third Solution...?

If you are considering pull ups to end the wiggly wrestling match, an alternative may be to continue using taped diapers and consider a changing pad that is designed for babies who wriggle during diaper changes. There are some changing tables that come with safety straps, though once they can roll pediatricians recommend changing babies and toddlers on the floor. There are also a small number of portable changing pads designed specifically for those rollers and crawlers.

baby toddler rolling wriggling during diaper change   The Wriggler portable changing pad babies who wiggle during diaper changing

As an example, based on our calculations, continuing with taped diapers in conjunction with one of these changing pads, The Wriggler, which costs $34.99, would still represent a $265 saving over pull up pants.

The verdict?

Pull up diaper pants can now be used once your little one can move, flip, roll and crawl and are no longer just for transitioning to potty training. They are more or less as absorbent as standard taped diapers and share many of the same features, though the general consensus is that they’re not quite as good as taped diapers in terms of leaking when it comes to big pees and overnight absorbency. Pull ups and diapers both rip off easily but pull ups can be pulled on more easily in some cases, especially if standing diaper changes suit. However, it is important to remember that with pull ups, the entire bottom half of clothing, i.e. pants/tights, shoes etc. must be removed before a new pull up can be put on, and those clothes need to be put back on too, which may really lengthen the changing time compared with standard diapers. This might not suit little wrigglers as it means more things to battle. In terms of cost, it’s difficult to get a direct comparison, but on the sites we checked and for all of the brands, pull ups came in at on average 15c more per diaper. If one considers you change your baby on average 6 times per day and you were to use pull ups for a year, that would mean spending $300 more in a year for pull ups. If you are considering switching to pull ups as a way of solving the wriggly diaper change, an alternative solution may be to continue with taped diapers and use a changing pad designed for wriggly babies and toddlers, e.g. The Wriggler portable changing pad. This can mean a saving of $265 when compared with switching to pull ups alone.

PS: If you'd like to calculate how much you can save on diapers vs pull ups, use this calculator here. 

PPS: If you enjoyed this article, why not read our Ultimate Travel Packing List for traveling with a 2 year old and an 8 month old