I remember being shocked the first time I saw a mother help her baby squat and poop by the roadside in China.

It was disconcerting and I couldn’t stomach the rest of my milk tea.

But I soon discovered the Chinese baby was wearing what’s known as kaidangku, the Mandarin name for split-crotch pants.

It’s a practical invention that’s been around for generations.

What is kaidangku?

Kaidangku (开裆裤 in Mandarin) are unique trousers that many Chinese babies wear.

These thick cotton pants have an unsewn seam at the back and front, large enough that you can see the baby’s butt.

The pants make it easy for the baby to relieve themselves regardless of where they are, or who is looking after them.

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This unique piece of Chinese clothing is also known as:

  • Open crotch pants
  • Split crotch pants
  • Split pants
  • Baby chaps.

No matter what you call them, kaidangku are a real eye-opener if you happen to visit China.

What are the benefits of kaidangku?

Split-crotch pants have four main advantages:

1. Easy for baby, easy for parent

Chinese children are often squat trained by the time they’re one.

So when nature calls, the baby can quickly be positioned over a toilet, or gutter or garden bed if need be.

Parents use elimination communication, a fancy term which means parents use signals or cues to find out if their baby needs to be toileted.

They might also say something as they’re holding the baby, to help reinforce the action.

Once the baby can stand and squat, most of the time it means that they can also do their potty business without any fuss.

You can read here how a Canadian mum in Beijing toilet trained her little boy by the time he was just 19 months.

2. More comfortable

With kaidangku, babies don’t have to sit in a soiled diaper.

Once they’ve done their business, they’re good to go! This ensures maximum comfort all day long, and there’s no diaper rash.

3. It trains the baby

Babies learn to use their lug muscles as they squat down.

This is an essential skill for later in life as Chinese adults must use squat toilets if they ever want to use a public loo.

(Note that many Chinese have sit-down toilets in their own homes nowadays.)

4. Cheaper and more sustainable

A mother may only need a few pairs of open-crotch pants throughout the baby’s entire toddlerhood versus many hundreds of diapers.

Kaidangku cost around 20 yuan (US$3), and you just keep washing them.

So, when it comes to a cost and environmental standpoint, split pants come up trumps.

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The demise of split-crotch pants for babies?

In the past, disposable diapers weren’t available in China, so most babies wore open-crotch pants.

But this Chinese tradition is dying as babies in big cities and urban areas increasingly wear diapers.

As far back as 2004, the China Daily reported that “Upscale stores are no longer carrying split-pants outfits… more sophisticated lifestyles have pushed many parents, particularly those in big cities, toward disposable diapers.”

Also, public urination and defecation are now largely seen as unhygienic and uncivilized, especially in the eyes of city folk and the growing middle class.

So, you’re more likely to spot a bub with its butt hanging out its pants in smaller cities and rural areas.

Having said that, I’ve seen plenty of city kids in open-crotch pants. Working moms rely on their parents to look after the kids, and it’s the older generation in particular who are not letting this tradition go just yet.

Why do Chinese adults squat on the ground?

As I mentioned earlier, Chinese babies are taught to squat at a very young age.

Can’t squat? Then you can’t go to the toilet!

So, the Chinese are used to squatting and they have good balance and leg muscle strength to squat wherever they like.

The ground can be quite dirty in China, so squatting in public spaces is a simple and effective way to rest for a moment, wait for a friend, or even use your phone.

Where to buy kaidangku

The benefits of the open-crotch baby pant phenomenon has caught on in other countries including the US.

Many mums swear by elimination communication and the use of these pants.

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If you’re looking to buy open-crotch pants for your bub, here are some options:

  • Tiny Undies – lots of cute colors in combed cotton
  • Etsy – choose from a few different sellers
  • Wholly Wow – they call them ‘mooners’ presumably because you see the baby’s moon.

Note that The Helpful Panda isn’t associated with any of these stores.

Kaidangku: making life easier for Chinese babies and their carers

It’s said that babies who grow up wearing kaidangku are potty trained more quickly than those who are used to doing their business in diapers.

Whether you think they’re cute or a little odd, these pants aren’t going away anytime soon.

Although the use of diapers is on the increase in China, many families still rely on kaidangku for financial and ease-of-use reasons.

If you ever make it to China, keep your eyes open for tots wearing split pants, especially in smaller cities and towns.

I hope you liked my article about kaidangku. Now, find out what Chinese adults wear.

Keep learning about Chinese people

Level up your knowledge of China with these insightful articles:

Main image credit: Jerome-goh-content on Shutterstock.

FAQ about kaidangku open-crotch baby pants

What are split crotch pants for babies?

They’re pants with an open seam at the front and back, which allows the baby to quickly relieve themselves, usually while squatting. Known in China as kaidangku or kai dang ku, mothers have been putting their babies in this practical item of clothing for generations.

Where can you see kaidangku in China?

They’re not a common sight in the big cities anymore, but you’ll definitely see them in smaller cities and towns. Go to a park during the day while the ayi (aunt) or grandmother is looking after the baby, and you might spot some bare baby bottoms!

Why do some new mothers still like kaidangku?

They offer maximum convenience, and they help with toilet training as it encourages the child to squat down. Put simply, it’s no-fuss waste disposal. But in recent years, particularly in cities, many mothers are moving to disposable diapers. A higher standard of living and smaller families means parents can afford more luxuries.

Why are kaidangku better for the environment?

Using disposable diapers results in tons of waste, whereas you only need to buy a few pairs of kaidangku which you can keep washing.

Why do some Chinese parents dislike open-crotch pants?

Many urban people believe they lead more sophisticated lifestyles than their rural counterparts, and disposable diapers are seen as a modern convenience. Urbanites also have a strong sense of hygiene, and don’t want their baby to potentially and wee and poop everywhere.

Do Chinese babies wear cloth diapers?

Cloth diapers aren’t very popular in China, especially among busy moms. A few decades ago, there was a jump from split-crotch pants to disposable diapers (mostly in the cities) as the country developed and imported many Western conveniences. There was a years-long effort by multinational companies to enter the China nappy (diaper) market.