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Diaper Escape Artists

By Amalah

Hey, remember me from such hits as Toddlers Who Throw Toys, Food and Other Hard Unyielding Objects about my twin boys, now 22 months. A quick update, we got the Hands Are Not for Hitting book, also Teeth are Not for Biting. And whoa and behold you nailed it, the throwing escalated into full-on hitting, which we continue to use the “hands are not for hitting” mantra but it’s shall we say, a work in progress. Not worse, but not much better. Sigh. Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s me. You’re awesome.

But that is not why I am desperately writing for your help. Other kid has a newer and MORE obnoxious habit that I am AT. WITS. END. with and truly have no idea what to do. Kid #2, now 22 months, will not leave his pants and diaper on if he is unsupervised for even a few minutes (think nap, bedtime, brief moment after waking, etc.) And of course with twins we have Monkey See Monkey Do so the thrower/hitter gets in on the action and, as you can imagine, throws said diaper, regardless of its contents.

I can’t count the number of times I have had to strip their sheets, give baths, wash clothing, shampoo their carpet while a perfectly dry diaper rests on the floor, discarded. We went with the mantra “Pants stay ON. Diapers stay ON.” which both boys will say with us and split seconds later, pants-off party is raging.

This is what I have tried so far, with zero improvement. So I beg of you, oh wise one and people of the internet, what can I do?

1. Put diapers on backwards. Didn’t deter, but left nasty marks in their legs.

2. We use cloth diapers, the hook-n-loop Bum Genius ones. I contacted Cotton Babies and they suggested I have them covered to snaps. Contacted your lady from etsy last week but in the meantime they both handily escaped our Flip covers with snaps, so while I was prepared to overnight a dozen or so diapers to her, I don’t think it will help and am hesitant to spend the money.

3. Put them to bed/nap in a onesie, which they just yank up on the sides and pull the entire diaper out the leg hole like that cool bra-out-the-sleeve trick.

4. Put them in footed PJs, Zip-front footless PJs, PJs backwards. The zip front with the snap at top they couldn’t get the PJs off, they just undid the diapers inside where they fell into a little bulge around a knee. The footie PJs they can just take off entirely because they lack that snap. Two-piece PJs, ha! Right.

5. Put them to bed in zippered sleep sacks, which I also tried backward. They stretched the heck out of the neck and shimmied out without unzipping.

6. Tried laying on the floor between their cribs while they are supposed to be falling asleep to redirect if they start for the pants. They just thought it was hilarious and would. Not. Sleep.

7. Put them to bed with stuffed animals, books, blankets, etc. To keep them entertained. They just throw them all out onto the floor.

So here is the thing, there is no pattern. It’s not like, hey this diaper is soiled so I don’t want it on my body. Nope, it’s they just want to be free or they are bored or they want to drive me to the loony bin. I have gone in to find them sound asleep with no pants, no diapers, perfectly dry, clean diaper on the floor. But sometimes that doesn’t last and there is poop. Lots of poop. In the bed, in the hair, all over. Their room is like a demented monkey house, it’s smelly and you never know what has been flung where. Operating on the boredom theory I am thinking of converting the cribs to toddler beds and putting a small shelf of books and quiet toys so that they don’t entertain themselves. But what sort of pandora’s box does that open?

Online advice seems to be generally tape the diapers closed (assumes disposables.) or convert to snaps (no match for my clever duo.) and I am out of ideas. This has been going on for weeks now and shows no signs of slowing. It has gotten so bad that I change one and put him in his bed while I change the other and before I am done changing the one, the other is pants-less. I am seriously considering nap time in the car only so the 5-point harness contains them and their pants.

Helllllllllpppppp! Help. Me. Please. I can’t take any more of washing poop out of my kids’ hair. It made me cry.

Mom of 2 darling boys who don’t like pants.

Ack, I’m sorry. SUCH a normal phase and “thing” that older toddlers often do. Both of my older boys did this, but not NEARLY so…determined-like. Or persistent and ongoing. Noah wore disposables so I secured the tabs with duct tape and put him in onesies or one-piece jammies and that was that. Pretty easily deterred. Ezra wore cloth and could also get the velcro diapers off (and did perform the diaper-out-the-onesie-leghole trick on one occasion), but gave up when I put him in snap-up diapers and footies.

With Ezra, I did consider the prevailing Internet advice (which I’m sure you’ve read too) that the diaper-removing was a sign he was ready for potty training. He was only around 18 months old or so, but that didn’t seem completely out of the realm of possible, what with all the testimonials you read about cloth diapers = early potty training. So I made a go of it for a couple days.  Yeahno. He wasn’t ready. The diaper-taking-off phase was just that, a phase, and not any indication that he was ready to train.

However, since I don’t see that on your extensive list of Things We Tried That Didn’t Work, I’ll cringe and duck from the dirty diaper you’re probably wishing you could throw at me and say it: Any possibility at ALL that Kid #2 might be coaxed into using the potty? I like the methods suggested in Toilet Training in Less Than A Day (though “Less Than A Day” usually meant “Slightly More Than A Week” for us, personally). It sounds like your boys are both MORE than capable of pulling their own pants/underwear up and down — so it really might not be a completely crazy idea that one or both of them could be trained to use the potty before nap and bed and minimize the risk of later bare-butted accidents in bed. Worst-case, sitting on the potty for a couple minutes becomes part of the pre-nap and pre-bedtime routine, even if nothing happens on it. Good practice for later, at least, and at least you know you officially tried everything.

If you’re reading that paragraph and thinking, “Amy, I hate you so hard right now,” I do have some other ideas:

1) Diaper pins. The old-fashioned kind. Pin the tabs on your bumGenius closed. (Way cheaper than converting velcro to snaps.) If the thought of your uber-dextrous toddlers possibly unpinning things unsupervised scares you, cover the entire front of the diaper with a length of duct tape before bed. (Not the best thing for your diapers long term, no, but HI POOP IN HAIR, CRACK IN SOUL.)

2) Specialty escape-proof PJs. I found two manufacturers online: EscapeeJays and Little Sleeper Keeper. Both are designed specifically to thwart this delightful habit, and the testimonials are pretty encouraging. Since they’ve already shown you their little “I’ll still unhook the diaper through my clothes and shove it down to my knees” trick, I would combine these PJs with the diaper pins, or layer a onesie underneath, or add an additional snap-on/pull-on diaper cover, or whatever it takes to prevent them from getting a decent grip on the diaper waistband and/or fasteners.

3) Bribery. Or…incentives, really. Any licensed characters your boys are nuts for right now? Would they be at all intrigued by a set of Superman or Cars pajamas? Or being allowed to sleep in part of a Halloween costume (within safety reasons, of course)? “You can only wear such-and-such if you keep it ON until Mommy comes to get you. If it’s off, you have to earn it back via this here sticker chart.” If they keep their clothes/diapers on for say, two naps and one night (or less, your call), they get those special PJs back. Or they get a treat. Or five days of no stripping down earns them a trip to the toy store. If you can’t beat ’em, bribe ’em.

4) Manual labor. Make them help clean up. One of the tenets of the Toilet Training in Less Than A Day book (which emphasizes not yelling or shaming or giving Big Reactions over accidents) is that you ask the child to take care of any messes they create. They must carry the wet/soiled pants to the hamper and help you clean the floor or strip the bed. I never personally found this to be the Biggest Deterrent Ever in preventing future accidents, but at least it made me feel a little better to know I wasn’t changing soiled sheets while the actual perpetrator was off playing and having a grand old time.

Commenters? Any suggestions?

Good luck! Your children sound…quite talented, I must say. One day they will use these talents for good, I promise, instead of turning their room into the monkey house at the zoo.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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