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Diaper Escape Artists

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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  • Andrea

    October 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I have to agree with Amalah on this one. My first thought was to potty train. I used the 3 Day Potty Training program with my son and it worked like a charm. The author of this program swears any child can be trained if they are 22 months. My son was 27 months, so I can only speak to that. A component of this program was the sticker chart method, which was a huge help, so as suggested….bribing alone may be enough. Good luck!

  • Angela

    October 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    If you try pins, get the locking diaper pins.  To undo you have to both slide up the cover over the head of the pin and squeeze it like a normal safety pin.  Usually little ones have neither the dexterity nor the strength to get them open. After cloth diapering three kiddos I am still a huge fan of prefolds and pins.

  • Diane

    October 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    The only idea I have that isn’t mentioned here (which I would probably use in conjunction with the excellent diaper pin advice from Amy and Angela) is to try putting them to sleep in different rooms. I don’t mean permanently, but it does seem that there is an element of ganging up on you and egging each other on happening. If you could put one in a pack ‘n’ play in a separate room for a few days (or move the crib if you have space, or put one of them down on your bed, or whatever would cause the least amount of trouble logistically/in the long run) it might at least break ONE of them of the habit. My daughters, though different ages, definitely feed off each other in these sorts of situations. If one thinks it’s funny alone, the two of them together will find it ten thousand times as funny.

    I wish you the best of luck! You are raising yourself some brilliant escape artists, I tell you what.

  • Mary

    October 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Here’s a simple solution: switch to disposable diapers part-time for a while and duct tape them on.  I don’t know if your reasons for CDing are environmental or money-saving but you certainly aren’t winning in either category with your current laundry and cleaning routine! 😉

  • Megan

    October 12, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I wish I had some sort of awesome advice for you, but unfortunately I do not. I would like to point out that you are a hilarious writer and your kids sound like little geniuses. I’ve often found myself wishing that could turn on the “smart” much later in life for my little one. Smart 25-year-olds are great…Smart two-year-olds are just scary and frustrating.

  • the grumbles

    October 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    We’ve had a similar problem though our dude doesn’t sound quite as determined as yours (he’s rarely undone the diaper under a onesie, once or twice at most). We seem to have finally put and end to the era by doing a combination of clothes and potty training. We’ve started encouraging him to use the potty before nap but we also put him in diaper topped with pajama pants with a onesie OVER the pants on backwards so the snaps are in the back. The pants prevent the leg hole problem and the onesie keeps the pants on. So far so good. (Please tell me I’m not jinxing this right now)

  • Rose

    October 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Whoa – those are some talented escape artists! My 5 mo. old has recently started undoing the velcro on her (disposable) diaper right after I put it on her. I actually think it’s cute, but after reading this, I should probably not encourage this habit. Sorry no advice here (though the diaper pin suggestion sounds great. I remember those from my sister and even at age 12 I had a hard time undoing those things) – just wishes that this phase will soon come to an end 🙂

  • Debra

    October 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I second the duct tape suggestion.  They even come in designer colors now!  I used white duct tape however to blend in on my escape artist.  It’s easy to tear into strips that won’t touch their skin and not too much trouble getting off for me but she couldn’t manage it.

  • hodgepodge

    October 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I don’t have a single suggestion, I just wanted to say to the OP that oh my holy hell, woman, you must have the patience of a saint. And I run a dayhome, so I’m pretty darned patient myself… but that kind of behaviour would break me. I hope some of these suggestions work for you.

  • Julie

    October 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    We have the Little Sleeper Keeper jammies and they work like a charm for our nighttime nudist. She’s only 18 months old though and doesn’t have the fine motor skills to undo snaps, yet.

    All I can say is good luck and they’ll grow out of it eventually .

  • Alissa

    October 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    In adding to Amy’s sticker chart/incentive program…
    Do they like M&M’s?  I use this trick for my kid to keep him quiet and not kicking on his crib during sleep time.
    1)  Put 1 or 2 M&M’s in a small bowl up on a shelf where he can’t get it.
    2)  Tell him that if I hear him during nap time or bed time, I get his M&M’s.  If he’s quiet, he gets his M&M’s
    3)  If I hear him during sleep time, I march right in to his room, say “thanks for the M&M’s”, take them (TOTALLY eat them) and march right back out.  No eye contact, nothing else.

    After about three days it totally worked.  I seldom get M&M’s any more (DAMN!).

    Now, with two kids in there it may be an issue.  And it seems like you’d need a video monitor to see if they are actually complying by keeping their diapers on.  But it might have some potential, if sticker charts or special PJ’s don’t work.

    M&M’s, man.  Miracle drug.

  • Jenn

    October 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Have you tried a diapering solution that they would have to shimmy out of, like cloth training pants, or putting a pair of woolie/fleece/underpants on OVER the diaper and UNDER the zip-up PJs? It seems like that might serve the same purpose as duct tape or diaper pins without RUINING YOUR DIAPERS.

    Seriously, please weigh things carefully before duct-taping or sticking random pins through your CDs. You will not be able to resell them and the pins would cause leaks. You’d be better off cutting your losses, selling them, and switching to pull-ups for the last few months before potty-learning in my humble opinion. Nobody would fault you for it!

  • Sara

    October 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I saw this on tv once. The parents put on a onsie, pants over top, duct tape the pants on. It seemed to work.
    Good Luck!

  • Jeannie

    October 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    MIne never did this, thank GOD, but one of my daycare providers swore by backwards diapers and duct tape. And not just pieces of duct tape, duct around the entire waist of the child (not on the skin, of course, just around the entire diaper.) Cruel, perhaps. But at least less mess to clean up. Good luck!

  • Sara

    October 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Oh i said that wrong. It was pants, onies over top and then duct tape. Sorry and again, good luck!!!

  • Liz @ Law Mama

    October 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I have to agree with the potty training – my kid is also 22 months and is going through a similar anti-clothes thing (like complete meltdown if I put a shirt on him), but since he’s potty trained, it’s not that big of a deal to let him run around naked. He kept waking up dry so we did potty training boot camp (a week with no pants except for naps & sleep), and he responded really well. 

    But my kid doesn’t poop very often and makes a big production over it, so I didn’t have to deal with the poop play or naptime poops. So maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  • Kelsie

    October 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    My 22 month old is also a fan of taking Everything off during her naps or at night. (What’s with these 22 month olds?!) What works for us at night is a onesie and pajamas with a zipper and a snap at the top on backwards. She doesn’t seem to be able to get to the snap at the back of her neck. During the day though I just take my chances. The phase seems to be waning and I didn’t have any poo issues – only wet bedding or clothes. And with twins!?! God be with you, woman!

  • Kate F.

    October 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I want to know if the questioner has a blog. I cried laughing reading that letter, but then I got scared imagining my possible future (my boy is just one).

  • outraged

    October 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Holy crap. They are old enough to be potty trained. Train them and be done with it. Even if it takes a while to train them, it cannot cause any more accidents than they themselves are causing. Poop in hair? Gah.

  • jenny

    October 12, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Its the twins thing. Double the kids …….quadruple the trouble. 🙂

  • Lisa

    October 13, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I second, third, forth (lost count) the potty training comments. I say, go for it. Why teach them to keep pooping or peeing in the diapers when they get to pee in a potty and then flush?And they get to play in water afterwards when washing their hands! That seems to be much better, for ANY toddler I’ve met including my own, than ripping off diapers and throwing poo. It may take a while but doesn’t everything? Good Luck!!!

  • julie

    October 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    If you haven’t joined a twin moms club find one! They have lots of good advice on things that are exacerbated by have two at the same age. My group has helped me keep my sanity through sleep training, airplane travel, potty training, and time changes. General twin mama wisdom seems to be : (1) duct tape disposables (2) separate rooms when sleeping or at least make it impossible to see the other baby and (3) crib tents. Also, make sure you are running those babies up until the moment their heads hit their tiny pillows. Make them too tired to get into mischief. My own 2cents on potty training : wait until at least one shows any _real_ interest in doing so…and again, MOMS clubs are a good way to get some pointers.

  • kimtoo

    October 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Well, this was timely. Hits mean little nakeybottom right now. Am feeling very lucky about soggy spots on the carpet, though, having heard how bad it could be. Breaking out the chocolate chips and the potty, tooi, why not? Because I’m sorry, but that Little Sleeper Keeper is the ugliest color I’ve ever seen in a clothing item. Bleah.

  • ER

    October 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Oh my goodness! No suggestions, just laughing my butt off (and shuttering at the same time). My 4.5 month old is already a little monkey and I think I see a glimpse into my future… Good luck!!!!

  • Shelley

    October 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Oh man, my 17-month-old has been playing this game for months now. Double onesies and pants are the only thing that work, although I did walk in the other day to find him in his crib, naked, standing up, peeing through the bars onto the floor. So gross! I don’t have any suggestions, but I feel at least a little bit of your pain.

  • Kate

    October 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Yes to the diaper pins! My son did everything you’re talking about including removing diapers from under onesies. Now we pin the actual diaper closed or cover it with a flip cover and pin that closed.

  • Ellen

    October 14, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Nothing helpful to advise, just an apology for laughing so hard at your pain. Hilarious! I’m sorry, did it again.

  • Jah

    October 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    I’m with Kate — please tell me this woman has a blog. I’m at work and had to cough to suppress the laughing while I read this letter! No advice, but she has my greatest sympathy!

  • Sandra

    October 14, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Ellen, it’s ok:) All children up to 5 years are little monkeys. Mine is the monkeyest of all:)!

  • Suzanne

    October 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    In different cultures and even in our culture in the past, people have potty trained a lot earlier than most people do here and now.  When my son was 25 months he played in his poo a few times at naptime. I frantically researched potty training methods and found one that seemed to get really good results: Potty Train in Three Days by Lois Kleint.  My son showed no interest in the potty but I did it and he was trained in 3 days (it took a few more weeks to train him with BMs.)  I just did the same with my VERY strong-willed 28 month old daughter (would have done it sooner but I have a baby, too.) and she did great. Lois Kleint is a potty training genius and the way she teaches you to train your child will carry over into other aspects of your relationship. It is not easy but it is worth it, and you are in charge, not the kiddos!!

  • Jen

    October 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Hi, it’s me, the mommy of the dynamic-diaper-removal duo. Yes, we have a blog, but I am not sure how funny it is… Most of the drama isn’t that funny at the time when you’re in the trenches. Thank you though, for all the advice. I am going to try the potty training thing more earnestly (we have sort of talked about potty, but nothing formal.) and ironically the inventor of the sleeper keeper is a mom in my moms of multiples club, though with the removal happening inside the PJs, I am reluctant to try. 

    Appreciate all the help, and fingers crossed this phase passes quickly.

  • Callie

    October 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    How about straight jackets? 🙂 

  • Danielle

    March 2, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Thank you SO much for this post, my husband and I cried out in laughter! We are experiencing this very same thing! Our first son was pretty bad with escaping from his diaper, thankfully, never tossed his padoodle around his room. Baby boy #2: just hit the magic 22 month mark and does just that, and acts as though it’s play dough (horrible)! As we were tired of cutting off diapers with duct tape from baby #1, we decided to try a baby belt (backwards). As long as the shorts or pants have belt loops, you’re good to go! Works like a charm for us so far (fingers crossed)!! Good luck ladies, thanks for sharing your stories!

  • Cuntastical

    April 13, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Omg I think this woman has spawn that might be the future of my spawn. *cries forever* good luck to you and hope we get to have group therapy together at the looney bin where everyone will be like oh they couldn’t be that bad, try time out again, or some other trigger word that will get us halidol and a nap and more coloring books. (I have planned and am looking forward to this, if you can’t tell.)