Friday, October 19, 2012

Skymall goodness 2012

One of my favorite things about flying with US-based airlines has nothing to do with flying itself, and everything to do with a certain catalogue that graces the back-seat pockets on the plane.  

The Skymall catalogue is something to behold, an impressive presentation of what can most accurately be described as a big ole pile o' crap.  While it's hard to imagine that anyone actually purchases any of the aforementioned crap, Skymall's annual revenue is thought to exceed $100 million (holy crap!).

Although I have never made a purchase (and likely never will), I do love to spend time combing through the catalogue, paying more attention to the more outrageous offerings.  

  1. Skel-e-gnomes - Because sometimes, regular gnomes just aren't whimsical enough.
  2. The Human Slingshot - A game.  Where you launch yourself into other players.  Why, you ask?  Why not!
  3. Align 'N Drive Kit - Stickers.  To help you locate your front tires.  If you can't find your fucking front tires, stickers aren't going to help.
  4. Hanukkah Tree Topper - Somewhere, Jesus is rolling over in his grave.  Or is he???
  5. Upright Sleeper - Makes this guy look normal.
  6. Jeans Lounge Pants - Makes jeggings look normal.
  7. Ketchup & Mustard pillows - Ketchup & Mustard pillows are a fun accent for any room.  Said no one ever.
  8. Drunk Cat - "This painting would look great in our living room!"  Said no one ever.
  9. One of a Kind Shirt - "Honey, I love it!"  Said no man ever.
  10. Pierogi ornament - If this is your family heirloom, your family sucks.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Part III: Really? You think people need that?

It took me a full year to post this entry, mostly because I felt bad for the folks at #9 because they had their kids at their booth, and they had spent so much money advertising their business at ABC.  You see, I don't have a heart of stone after all.

Aaaaand I'm back. As I knew it would be, this year's trip to the ABC Kids Expo in Loisville, Kentucky was over in the blink of an eye. Louisville itself was a big fat bore, if the city is considering a new slogan, I would suggest "Lousville: boredom on steroids", or as an alternative, "Louisville: it ain't Paris." However, venue aside, three days and three nights without my children (and husband) was absolute bliss. It was a little lonely eating dinner by myself, but for the first time in years I would wake up in the morning, stretch lazily, and debate the merits of sleeping in or getting up. I'm not going to lie, that felt good awesome.

As per usual, my days at the expo followed the same pattern as they do every year:

Day one: Damn, this place is big. There are so many vendors. I can't read this map, where the hell am I? Didn't I just walk by this booth? Damn, this place is big.

Day two: Money is no object, my credit card knows no bounds! What's that, I can save 2% if I spend $2,000? Sold! You have to spend money to make money!

Day three: Holy shit. I have spent so much money. How am I going to pay for this all? Oh my God, what have I done, WHAT HAVE I DONE!?!?!?!

I placed a lot of reorders with existing suppliers, and picked up some new suppliers along the way. Walking the floor at the expo can be a daunting task, I generally draw up a list of vendors I really want to see, but sometimes the best way to discover things is by chance, and that means doing my best to see every square inch of the expo, which can bring me to some good things, and it can bring me to some bad things. Some very bad things.

I will preface the remainder of this blog entry with a disclaimer that this list is strictly based on my personal opinion, which sometimes may not count for much. As an example, I have a deep and abiding love for Jersey Shore. And the New Kids on the Block. See what I mean? Furthermore, I have written certain products off, only to be proven totally and completely wrong. That being said, here is my list of this year's whackier offerings at the ABC Expo. Enjoy!
  1. I'm all for dual-purpose products, who doesn't want to buy less? While prefolds that can be used as diapers, then as cleaning rags might be awesome, a baby headband that is meant to be kept and reused as a bridal garter belt is just plain creepy. It's like the slutty version of the Hanky Bonnet.
  2. I had no idea holding babies was so darn tricky. Enter the "Poche Suit", an infant sleeper with pockets all over it that essentially turn the infant sleeper into a giant glove. Between that and the 'world's first and only infant lap seat', we can all rest-assured that babies all over the world will not succumb to being dropped.
  3. You know what makes money? Fear. There are lots of products that tap into every parents' fear about the danger lurking all around us. How about a monitor that alerts caregivers after 20 seconds of inacitivity? Forget waking twice a night, how about being woken 200 times a night (as with any monitor, there will be false alarms)? If the threat of 20 seconds of inactivity isn't enough, the monitor's manufacturer is careful to point out the inherent hazards associated with competing monitors -- strangulation, choking, and fire!!!! It is a scary, scary world out there.
  4. Having four kids, I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have asked myself at restaurants "My gosh, you know what would make this situation easier? A purse-sized pizza cutter!" Oh wait a second, now that I think about it, I can tell you how many times I have asked myself that question: exactly zero. Most (read: all) restaurants have utensils to cut up food, and if they didn't, I would probably do something wild and crazy like tear food up using my bare hands. I know, right? I'm a freaking warrior.
  5. God forbid any of us have to pick up crayons ever again. Parenting is hard work, and sometimes you have to pick shit up.
  6. It would seem the assumption behind juvenile product development is that parents are bumbling idiots. As bumbling idiots, we need help with even the most basic of parenting tasks. Like remembering you have a child in the car. This clever gadget plays music *every time* your car stops to remind you that you have a child in the car.
  7. The carseat monitor deserves a second mention because of it's ability to notify parents when a child leaves their carseat. Presented under the pretense that Momma Bear is driving along, completely oblivious to the shenanigans of Baby Bear who has undone his carseat, in reality, this kind of app might encourage a scenario where Momma Bear leaves Baby Bear unattended in his carseat -- I don't care how 'smart' your phone is, no App can replace proper parental supervision and common sense.
  8. Um, does anyone else see the startling resemblence between last year's Sniffle Buddies and this year's Baby Ankees? I can't recall ever losing my baby's feet inside a sleeper, but perhaps I was just one of the lucky ones.
  9. You will have to take my word for it, but this company had designed the worst cloth diaper ever (ever!).  Although I admire their desire to set themselves apart from every other diaper manufacturer out there, the idea of turning a cloth diaper into a bulletin board of sorts was just plain bizarre.  The outer layer of the diaper was fuzzy, and various velcro sticky badges could be affixed to the diaper to A) stimulate conversation ("Hey, your baby has a raccoon tail stuck to her butt!") or B) educate your baby (if you can consider sticking letter-shaped badges to your baby's butt a form of education). 
And there you have it.  I'm sure there were many more products that deserved a spot on a list like this, but it's hard (impossible!) to note them all.  ABC is a never-ending sea of product pitches, some good, some bad.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Well, that was fun.

Today, in the name of 'good health', I subjected myself to one of my least favorite pastimes (if you could call it that), I went for my annual check-up.  You know the one.  The one where the doctor kicks all the tires and checks under the hood (literally - ha!) to ensure everything is in working order.  Yep, today I checked the all-important Pap Smear off my list of things to do.   Good times, I tell you...  

My doctor is a man, and while he is quite nice, the thought of any man other than my husband seeing me in a complete state of undress during the day and under fluorescent lights no less, causes me huge anxiety in the weeks (yes, weeks!) leading up to my check-up.  I'm not so much concerned about him being on the business end of the Pap Smear, as I have to assume that once you've seen one vagina, you've seen 'em all, I'm more concerned about the fact I can't really hide the extra pounds I've gathered over the years.  I can't really suck 'em in, and I'm not sure wearing Spanx would be appropriate, even if they do have a pee pee hole (and they do, if you care).

Pre Pap Smear, I shower (duh!), shave my legs, trim my toenails, and tidy up down there (it's the least I could do).  On that last point, I'm a little unsure as to what proper etiquette dictates in terms of how much pubic hair your doctor should see (assuming he's looking).  Miss Manners doesn't seem to have an opinion on what's considered appropriate, and there doesn't seem to be a Pap Smear merkin you can slap on top to ensure you're striking the perfect balance between 'too much' and 'not enough'.  At any rate, I hope I hit the mark just right today.

During the Pap Smear, my doctor does his best to carry on a normal conversation, while I do my best not to fart.  As horrendous as the whole Pap Smear is, it would be even more horrendous if I farted.  In that particular situation, I couldn't exactly blame it on the kids now, could I?  Not that I would ever do that, because that would be wrong.  

Apres Pap Smear, my husband gave me a sympathetic nod when I came home, having sat (Laid?  Curled up in a fetal position?) during a prostate exam with the same doctor, he can sympathize with the relief felt at getting it over with.   Of course, it's not really over until I hear the results (or don't hear, I suppose it's a case of 'no news is good news'), but for now, I'm happy to mark that particular task as completed, until it's time to do it again.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ready, set, change!

Last year marked the inaugural Great Cloth Diaper Change, a Guinness World Record attempt timed to coincide with Earth Day.  Hosted at multiple venues around the world, this event is designed to promote cloth diaper awareness, and to provide an opportunity for like-minded parents to mingle.  We hosted events at both stores last year, admittedly, it required a little (read: a lot) more planning and spending than I had orginally budgeted, but all in all, I think everyone had a good time.  The record was set at 5,026 participants last year, we contributed a grand total of 56 participants towards that record. 

Of course, I will point out the obvious that logically, at any given second of the day, more than 5,026 bums are being changed out of a soiled diaper into a clean diaper, so the 'record' is more of a public documentation of how many bums could be into a fresh diaper at the right time and witnessed according to the Guinness World Records laundry list of rules & regulations (about as long as your arm, if you really want to know -- it's actually not nearly as much fun to organize it as it is to participate in it!).  In an effort to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible on Saturday, I want to share what's expected of participants, so that we can ensure accuracy.

Who gets counted?  A participant is defined as an adult (18+) paired with a child less than 39" tall.  If you have more than one child in diapers, you will need to have an extra set of hands to change additional children -- you can't change more than one child yourself and be counted multiple times.

What kind of diaper can I change my little one into?  You can bring your lttle one to the event with you wearing whatever your little heart desires, be it homemade, disposable -- whatever!  But... but!  When you are changing your little one at 12:30pm (sharp!), you must change your little one into a 100% cloth diaper that can be purchased online, at a brick & mortar store, or is offered through a diaper service.  Cloth training pants do not count.  I repeat, cloth training pants DO NOT COUNT!

What time should I arrive? The actual change takes place at 12:30pm SHARP, we are asking participants to arrive a half-hour prior to the actual change to allow plenty of time to get settled in advance of the change.

What should I do when you get there?  Please sign a photo release and liability release (for realz).  Once that's out of the way, pick a spot and get yourself situated (don't forget your change pad!).   We will have cupcakes and water on hand, feel free to help yourself.  We will have professional photographers at both events who have graciously offered to take portraits of little ones in their finest fluff -- depending on how early you arrive, you may be able to fit a portrait in before the change, but we do ask that everyone is seated on their 'x' and ready to go at 12:25pm at the absolute latest.  Anyone not actively participating in the change must stay out of the area designated for the change -- if you have any additional children with you, please let us know, we will keep an eye on them for you.

Then what?  Immediately before12:30pm (sharp!), we will signal the start of the change.  Please hold up the (100%, commercially available) cloth diaper that you intend to change your child into -- the photographer will take a 'before' picture.  At 12:30pm (sharp!), you will proceed to change your little one.  This isn't a race.  You don't get extra points for being first.  When everyone has finished changing their little one,  we will take a headcount, then the photographer will take an 'after' picture -- at this point, please hold your little one up to display their freshly changed (100%, commercially available) cloth diaper.  Ta-da, you did it!  At this point we will hand out raffle tickets to participants.

Then what?  We will raffle off goodies, and hand out swag bags (designated for the first 25 participants who signed up, as listed on the Facebook event page -- any unclaimed swag bags will be raffled off).  The photographers will continue to take portraits of little ones and their fluff, you can help yourself to more cupcakes and bottled water (we promise to recycle the bottles!), and get to know your fellow participants.  It will be loads of fun, I promise.  Cross my heart and hope to die, and all that.

But I'm a witness, what do you want from me?  We will need a signed, dated witness statement from our witnesses -- please bring it to the event with you (leave the number of participants blank -- after the change you can indicate how many participants you witnessed, then you can sign the statement) .  We cannot provide you with a witness template (have I mentioned how rigid the folks at GWC are?  I mean, seriously?), your statement needs to include the following information:

  • contact information (name, mailing address, phone, e-mail).
  • indicate your profession.
  • please indicate whether you have experience using cloth diapers.
  • please confirm that you are counting one adult paired with 1 child (39" or shorter) as one participant.
  • please confirm that each participant is changing a child into a 100% cloth diaper that is commercially available.
  • counting method used (hint: grid distribution, paired with a headcount!).
  • location (in Ottawa, we are holding the change at The Hintonburg Community Center, located at 1064 Wellington Street West, Ottawa, ON, K1Y 2Y3; in Waterloo we are holding the change at The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe, located at 24-26 Regina Street North, Waterloo, ON, N2J 3A1).
  • indicate the time of the event (hint: 12:30pm EST).
  • indicate what was used to commence the event (hint: someone will yell 'go!')
  • indicate the number of participants you observed.  Please indicate the total number of participants, and how many did qualify, and how many didn't qualify (for example, if one adult changes their child into a 100% cloth training pant, they will not qualify).
  • please sign the witness statement at the conclusion of the change.

Once the folks at GWC have verified the details of each venue, and tallied up the numbers, if we managed to better last year's record, you can download a nifty certificate of participation (claim ID: 372250; participation code: jvzb4394JV). 

I think that about covers it -- if you have any further questions, let us know!  At this point, we should have between 30-40 qualifying participants at each event. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

The kids made me do it.

Earlier this week, you may have come across various news outlets (and I use the term loosely) reporting on Alicia Silverstone's feeding habits.  Not how she feeds herself, we don't care about that, but how she feeds her baby. 

If you are a mother (or father), you are likely already aware that the second you become a parent, your parenting habits will become a popular conversation.  With your friends.  Your co-workers.  Your parents.  Your in-laws.  The lady who bags your groceries.  Your mailman... you get the idea.  When you're a celebrity like Alicia Silverstone, this 'perk' of parenthood is amplified to the nth degree. 

Silverstone posted a home video a couple of days ago that shows her feeding her 10-month old son mama bird style -- she puts some food in her mouth, chews it a little to make it more malleable, then she passes it from her mouth into her son's.  Hardly an earth-shattering concept: the kid can't chew the food she's feeding  him, so she's pre-chewing it for him; no biggie.   Of course, it didn't take long for the Internet to stop what it was doing and deliver various opinions on Silverstone approach to feeding her son.  Regardless of the source of the 'reporting', the general census among authors and commentors alike was 'Ew. Gross.'

While I never took this approach to feeding our children, I can certainly appreciate the convenience of what she is doing. No extra plates or dishes.  No second meal to make.  And as a staunch vegan, I would hazard that what Silverstone was passing to her baby with her mouth was far healthier than anything you could ever spoon-feed your baby out of a jar.  But whatever, quite frankly, it's none of my business.  I do, however, find it interesting that people would seize on something so seemingly benign as feeding a baby as an opportunity to let us know how gross they think it is.  

I mean really, of all the things a parent can do that might be considered gross, that's what they're going to tweet, blog, and vlog about?  When I think about the various gross habits I have picked up as a parent over the years, I'm quite relieved I don't live under the same microscope as Silverstone:

  • you know those first 4-6 weeks when your newborn is still pooping at night?  When I wasn't sure if the baby had pooped, rather than take off her diaper for nothing, I would gently stick my finger inside her diaper.  Poopy finger?  Change!  No poopy finger? No change!  Obviously, I washed my hands after.  Really well.  
  • you know how sometimes your kid has a runny nose, and you don't have a kleenex?  Thank God for sleeves!  And dress hems!
  • you know how kids lick the icing off a cupcake, then toss it away?  We all know that cupcake is still perfectly edible.  Don't judge.
I have to assume that most of the people passing judgement on Silverstone's feeding habits are people that aren't exposed to small children on a regular basis.  If you're around small children for any length of time, you'll quickly realize that sometimes you just do what you've got to do.  I like to joke that the more kids you have, the lower your standards are (my standards of 'gross' now are certainly different than they were ten years ago!).

Clearly, Silverstone holds her baby's best interests at heart, and in the grand scheme of things, who really cares anyway?  I appreciate Silverstone's enthusiasm as a first-time parent, she clearly wants to do the best for her son.   I can't even claim that the gross things I've done were in my kids' best interests, most of my gross habits were born of our laziness.  And a love of cupcakes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's not you, it's your HE washing machine...

We field a lot of questions about stink around these parts.  Usually, people assume cloth diaper stink is related to their washing routine, however, if your cloth diapers have developed a persistent mildew-y smell (not ammonia!), your fancy-dancy high efficiency washing machine may actually be the culprit.  

High efficiency washing machines are prone to stink for a number of reasons:

  • front-loading machines always retain some wetness 
  • front-loading machines are tightly sealed
  • front-loading machines do not use much water, as a result, detergent residue may buildup within the machine
The stink that develops in your machine can transfer to the items washed in your washing machine, including your cloth diapers.  This problem is widespread enough that a class-action lawsuit has been put forth in the (good ol' litigious) USA.  

Often times, people who are dealing with persistent funk will regularly strip their cloth diapers to keep the smell at bay, however, a plausible reason why this approach works is that they are actually stripping their washing machine.  The ingredients found in RLR, a laundry treatment that removes buildup from fabric, are quite similar to those found in Affresh, a product used to remove odor causing bacteria and buildup from HE washing machines -- you might think you're stripping your cloth diapers, but you're actually stripping your washing machine!

If you have funky-smelling diapers, and you suspect your washing machine may be to blame, there are several steps you can take to remedy the situation:
  • use a detergent recommended for use with an HE machine.
  • use the recommended amount of detergent.
  • always leave your washing machine's door ajar between uses.  
  • don't let wet clothes sit in your washing machine for an extended period.
  • regularly clean the gasket surrounding the machine's door opening.  This gasket tends to hold water, and it acts as a catch-all for hair, lint, and other small items that may get trapped (hair, socks, washcloths, etc.).
  • regularly clean your washing machine's filter -- I had the pleasure of cleaning our machine's filter this afternoon, I was surprised about the amount of debris and guck that had accumulated, never mind the skunky water that had been sitting at the bottom of the machine.
  • clean your washing machine as indicated by the manufacturer on a monthly basis-- read your instruction manual!
A stinky washing machine can not only affect your cloth diapers, it may transfer stink to other clothing items, and your laundry room may develop an odor.  Rather than regularly stripping your cloth diapers, which can be a time-consuming process, and which may cause undue wear & tear on your diapers, giving some TLC to your HE washing machine may be a more effective approach.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bigger kids = bigger problems

As it turns out, once you beat those sleepless nights, terrible twos, and fucking threes, you'll realize that the hardships of raising babies and toddlers are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.  Our oldest daughter entered grade six this past fall, and in our particular school zone, that meant a transition from elementary school to middle school (dun, dun, dun!). I was dreading this change to the point that we spent last summer looking at houses in another school zone, I was desperate to stop my first baby from growing up.  Of course, Maddy was less than impressed with her hysterical mother, practicing her pre-teen eyeroll whenever she caught me looking at her.

Just like when she moved from the safe confines of the kindergarten playground to the grade one schoolyard, we have seen lots of change in our little girl over the past few months.  She remains the same type A, smart-as-a-whip schoolgirl she has always been, but her unabated desire to grow up (like, yesterday!) is frightening.  She is desperate to wear makeup (yeah, no!), she gravitates towards clothing favored by teenagers (yeah, no!), and the time she used to spend playing on the street with her friends last year is spent indoors, 'skyping' with her friends.  Remember how we used to talk on the phone with one person at a time?  That was so 1990! Kids today like to 'lol' with 10+ other kids at a time, 'kwim'?  We have also hit the milestone where Maddy would prefer to spend time with her friends rather than (gasp!) socialize with her family.  I knew it would  happen eventually, I just didn't expect it to happen so soon!  

A few weeks ago, Maddy casually mentioned that one of the 'grade eights' at her school was caught with 'weed' in his locker.  I wanted to throw up.  Suddenly, the lack of sleep we faced as new parents over a decade ago looks appealing.  As a result of my deep-seated neurosis about the perils that lie ahead, I habitually seize upon any and every opportunity to talk to Maddy about situations she may face at some point (and if you are stay on top of current events, you know there's plenty to talk about!).  We've talked about bullyingsexting, the dangers of recreational drugs, and dating abuse, to name a few.  Obviously, I don't expect these issues to come up in the near future, however, I don't want to bury my head in the sand and assume they never will.  I'm hoping that by opening the lines of communication now, if certain situations present themselves down the road, our kids will feel comfortable talking to us about them.

Perhaps compounding my neurosis is the realization that the choices I make as a parent can have profound outcomes on how well our children turn out -- I sincerely hope I don't screw it up, there are no do overs in life.  As it stands now, our kids seem to be happy, well-adjusted little people.   I hope that one day they will grow into happy, well-adjusted big people.  Time will tell, I guess.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Made in China? I'm thinking out loud, people.

Over the course of the past ten years, the cloth diaper industry has grown in leaps and brands.  New brands.  New styles.  New fabrics.  Most of the change has been positive, however, a new trend that has come on fast in the past year involves the availability of generic cloth diapers, directly imported from manufacturers in China.  If you check eBay, it's not hard to notice listing after listing of ultra low-cost diapers that look like their name-brand counterparts.  Out of curiosity, I bid on a listing this weekend -- for the low price of $3.25, I'm the proud new owner of a one-size pocket diaper.   As unbelievably low as that price is, that price includes both the diaper *and* shipping & handling from Hong Kong; considering it costs $1.80 to send a letter to Hong Kong, that puts the cost of the diaper itself at roughly $1.50.

More and more, I'm noticing customers mentioning generic brands in the store. On occasion, customers ask me about certain brands, mistaking them for diapers made in Canada (more often than not, the 'WAHMs' who import these diapers fail to make mention of it on their website).  I can't really offer too much input on what they're like, which was one of my motivations for ordering a sampling of these diapers, so I can know how they compare to the name brands we sell.  

My other motivation for ordering samples is to consider selling them -- if people are eschewing name brands in favor of generic brands, I'd be a fool not to consider stocking a generic brand of cloth diapers.  The majority of generic pocket diapers (with two exceptions) are imported directly from one specific company, in my limited exchanges with them, I'm not sure what kind of after-sales support would be offered if ever an issue arose (the language barrier is an issue, to say the least).  The companies who import and sell these generic pocket diapers, along with the manufacturer, don't seem to post specific warranty information which leaves me wondering how warranty issues are handled.  If we were to order and receive a batch of diapers with defective PUL, what kind of support would we get from the manufacturer?  A recent batch of bad snaps saw Fuzzibunz replace diapers for customers, and increase the warranty on their diapers' PUL and snaps to a lifetime guarantee.  One of the great things about cloth diapers is that they can be used for multiple children -- if diapers aren't made to last, I'm not sure parents are really saving money in the longrun.

Warranty issues aside, the incredibly low markup of these diapers gives me pause to stop and think about stocking them. Cloth diaper margins are already slim (that's why you don't see stores like ours in Toronto, folks!), the businesses importing and selling generic pocket diapers in Canada seem to be applying an even slimmer markup.  The overhead of a brick and mortar store is much higher compared to that of a home-based online business, I'm not sure it would be wise (or feasible) to dedicate floor space and cash flow to product that does not offer even slim margins.  If I'm selling the diapers at barely-above-cost, will I be any further ahead?  

I understand one of the prime motivators for people to use cloth diapers is to save money.  However, when you consider the long-term picture, you will always save money when you choose to use cloth diapers.  We recently started stocking the Econobum prefold kit, manufactured by Cotton Babies, a family could get set up with 24 one-size prefold diapers and six covers for less than $100.00 -- cheaper than any generic pocket diapers, these diapers come with the standard one year Cotton Babies warranty.  

At this point, I'm not sure what to do.   I think the availability of generic pocket diapers is a game-changer for established businesses who retail brand name diapers, but I'm not sure how to respond. I want to sell products that I'm confident in, and that we can stand behind.  Selling cheap diapers purely for the sake of selling cheap cloth diapers doesn't feel right to me, but if we're losing customers to businesses who do just that, I need to consider it. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Training Pants training

Until last year, cloth diaper manufacturers seemed to give little thought to training pants, which is surprising given the tendency for many parents to rely on training pants as a way to transition children from diapers to underwear.  Training pants provide protection when a child who is potty learning has an accident (and unless you wait to train him until he is 18 years old, there will be accidents.  Lots of them!). 

When parents come into the store for potty training advice, we take them on a tour of all of our training pants, we have a pretty good selection, and different training pants are better-suited to certain situations.  Regardless of their differences, something they all have in common is limited absorbency.  Since training pants are not meant to hold more than one pee, you should not treat it like a diaper -- your little one cannot wear the same training pants for 2-3 hours with multiple accidents.  For this reason, you want to introduce training pants only when your little one is ready for toilet training, and more importantly, when you are ready for toilet training.  The onus is on you at the beginning to do all the work (unless you wait to train him until he is 18 years old) -- if you're not willing to put in the effort, it may be best to wait rather than push on with toilet training.

Limited absorbency aside, training pants can be easily pulled up and down, making it easy for little ones to use a potty or toilet unassisted, and they are typically lined with fabric that holds moisture, meaning a child will feel wet when has an accident; feeling wet is a great motivator for children to use a potty or a toilet!  These similarities aside, there are subtle differences between different types of training pants that make them better-suited to different stages of potty training.
One-piece, non-adjustable training pants, like those manufactured by Bummis, are durable, and they work well.  A downside to these training pants for some parents is that they fit poofy (no, it's not a 'real' word, but I bet you know what I mean, right?), however, as long as the legs and waist fit snugly, the poofiness is only an aesthetic issue.  The Bummis training pants are ideal for a child who is new to potty training, they will hold an accident well, and they will buy you some time (if you're at the grocery store, for example, and you don't have a change of training pants with you).  However, if your child poops in the training pants, taking them off can be tricky (your little one will stand up, while you gently slide the training pants down -- it's about as pleasant as it sounds!). 

Bummis training pants are sized, when a child sits at a weight range that is between two sizes, we generally recommend parents buy the smaller size, since they are not adjustable.  If you size up, the training pants may not fit properly, and training pants are (hopefully!) a short-term piece of clothing, so you shouldn't buy them with the mindset your child will wear them for a long time.

Side-snapping training pants make changing poop accidents a little easier -- rather than pulling the training pants (and the poop!) down, you simply open the sides of the training pants to take them off.  Both Cotton Babies and GroVia have recently released side-snapping training pants, both of which are one-size affairs, the flip trainers fit 20-50 lbs and the GroVia trainers fit 18-35 lbs.  A one-size training pant takes the guesswork out of sizing, if a child takes longer to toilet train overnight, one-size training pants can accommodate a larger child (the GroVia trianers can be extended with larger side-flex panels).

Some training pants, like the daytime trainers manufactured by Blueberry diapers, are only partially waterproof, these trainers must be changed relatively soon after an accident, the wetness will eventually wick throughout the training pants if they are not changed quickly.  These training pants are meant for children who are almost fully potty trained -- they provide a little more absorbency than underwear, offering a little protection when needed (on Grandma's new sofa, for example).  Since these trainers are not fully waterproof, they are not suitable for nighttime use.

In terms of how many training pants parents should buy, we generally recommend purchasing 3-5 pairs.  It's very easy to treat training pants like diapers, when your child is wearing underwear, there is more incentive to offer the potty on a regular basis (if they have an accident in underwear, it's more work to clean up than simply changing their training pants).

Good luck!