Let’s talk potty training! If you think that your child may be ready for potty-training, he/she probably is! Signs that your child may be ready to move from the changing table to the potty chair include: interest in the potty, removing diapers after bowel movements, waking up dry at night, asking to sit on the potty, or just climbing up there on their own! Generally most websites recommend potty training between the age of 18 months-24 months, but please remember that every child is different. This training can definitely work before or after those ages.
If you are prepared with the appropriate supplies, knowledge, and attitude, potty training will be much easier on everyone! There are several methods used for training your child to learn the appropriate cues for using the potty. We want to share two different methods that our blog moms have found to be successful.
3-Day Intensive Potty Training Method (Emily's approach):
Goal: To knock potty training out in 3-4 very focused, concentrated, and prepared days.
- Preparation - Stock up on at least 15 pairs of panties or underwear. This is a huge part of making the change from “baby" to "big girl/boy”. You can even let the child pick out their own underwear prior to the training to get excited! You’ll also need some kind of small reward like candy or stickers for when they actually “go” in the potty. A few tiny toys or gifts are great for moments when you are very proud of them. Accidents will happen, so have towels, flushable wipes, and carpet cleaner on hand and ready. (Throw in an extra dose of patience while you are at it!) You’ll need a baby potty or seat, and it’s not a bad idea to have an extra one for car rides/trips when you’re ready for outings. For fluids, have some fun drinks, popsicles, and juice boxes, anything that will get them excited to drink throughout the day! Cut fluids off 2-3 hours before bedtime if you want to implement nighttime potty training.
- Get Yourself Ready - Be ready for the day (shower, teeth brushed, breakfast ready), so you can give them your full, undivided attention, and focus. You will be by their side throughout the day doing activities, playing, and even chores with them right by your side. Being at home for 3 days may be quite challenging, so come up with some fun activities, recipes, and games to play together. This will be quite the bonding experience!
- Get Your Little One Ready - Make a big deal about “throwing away diapers" (or donating them) and let them be a part of that process. Take them to bathroom, show them the potty, explain what the process will be like from now on, what goes in the potty, and why.
- Stay Focused - Be prepared to let go of your daily schedule and normal activities during potty training. Giving up your plans, phone calls, emails, work, and social activities will be difficult, but it is crucial to eliminate frustration and resentment during the training process. You’ll want to plan the 3 days consecutively, and I have found that a Wednesday through Friday is ideal so you have a couple extra cushion days with spousal support. You can also use a Friday-Sunday plan if you are a working Mom.
- Let Them Lead - Give them the control and independence they need as a toddler. They want to feel trusted through this process! Throughout the day, instead of repeatedly asking “Do you need to go pee pee?”, tell them to “Let mommy know when you have to go pee pee!” “Remember to tell Mommy before you go pee pee in your panties.” “Keep your panties dry today!” You’ll need to be reminding them approximately 100 times throughout the day. Catch them in the act of pee pee and run them to the potty, praising along the way. They need to quickly understand the sensation of needing to go pee pee and poo poo. The goal is for them to tell you right before they are about to release. Every single time.
- Stay Positive - Give lots of encouragement! Children thrive on praise. Using phrases like “big girl”, “big girl panties”, “super job”, “you did it!”, “Mommy is so proud of you!” are all wonderful and positive phrases to say throughout the day. When there is an accident, avoid using the words “bad girl” or “no, no no!”. Instead try “Uh oh! Your panties are all yucky!” or “Let’s really try hard to keep those panties dry today!” Remind them again to tell mommy before they need to pee pee. Also, if there are family members or siblings that they will be seeing during these days, brag on your child! This gives them a wonderful feeling of pride and accomplishment!
- Use Patience and Love - This may be the most important part to remember! Everyone will need lots of both during these days. Be patient with yourself; be patient with your toddler. This is a season, and you will all get through it. This is a big adjustment for both of you. Loving them through it all will give them a sense of comfort and safety, even though they are navigating new and sometimes scary waters.
Elimination Communication (Jen's Approach):
We stumbled upon the unexpected method of "Elimination Communication" for potty learning when our oldest son was 9 months old. I had not yet considered potty training options, assuming we were still years away from the transition. I noticed, however, that he seemed uncomfortable trying to go #2 in his diaper, so I purchased a tiny potty to see if he may prefer having a free bottom while going potty! Sure enough, after several books and giggles sitting on the potty, he went #2 with ease and never went back to #2 in a diaper.
I was amazed and started wondering and researching if any other babies preferred using a toilet over their diaper. As I researched, I discovered a whole population of families engaging in potty learning from the earliest ages - even from birth - with the Elimination Communication process. There are entire books written on the subject, but being more of a trial and error learner, I took the few tips I found and ran with them! With our second son, we were able to begin straight out of the womb in the hospital.
The main idea behind Elimination Communication is learning your child's bathroom habits along with your child and helping them apply those habits in the bathroom. Habits form early, and you may notice elimination every time baby eats, at certain times of the day, or after certain activities. It is helpful to create sounds as signal reminders - one for pee and one for poo - to help connect the action of heading to the bathroom with the feeling of waste elimination. The pee sound may be something like “psssss” and the poo sound may be a gentle “hmmmm” grunt. (Getting real over here!) We are working together with our child to learn habits, accompany them with signals, and practice the elimination they will employ for life.
We enjoyed several benefits through our application of our own version of this method:
- Elimination Communication relieves the need for learning two different ways for going to the bathroom. We don't tend to think of pottying in a diaper as a learned behavior, but our children are learning what it feels like to go, how to request a fresh change, and how to go through the diaper-changing process (gracefully or not-so-gracefully) in addition to where and when to go potty. Learning pottying in the bathroom from the start engages the child in learning the lifelong method first, freeing attention and energy during the typical potty training years.
- Elimination Communication connects us with our little ones in a new and important way. Any sweet connection we make with our little one is beneficial to our relationships with them. Learning their pottying habits is no different! Learning when they go potty and the most comfortable position for them to go potty tells you so much about them as you pay attention to all their little details. The extra snuggles you get holding them over the potty waiting for nature to run its course and the time spent reading them book after book during the waiting are nice bonuses to this close connection with our littles.
- Elimination Communication eliminates changing diapers. Selfishly, the benefit of not changing poo diapers is pretty amazing! We used cloth diapers so I thoroughly enjoyed shifting to the potty as soon as possible!
- Elimination Communication can be healthier. We also almost never suffered from any type of diaper rash, having no potty contact their sensitive bottoms and very little dipe wipe use.
- Elimination Communication involves the whole family. Once baby #2 came along, going potty was a family event! Just like we as mamas can rarely get a moment alone in the restroom, your baby will likely be no different. Our other children want to be a part of the learning process too!
Elimination Communication is simply one of many potty learning options, but it's worth a try if you've never considered it. It can be a challenge for working parents as you are not present for every elimination, but it is possible.
No matter what method you use, stay positive and enjoy this time as another avenue of connection and sweet relationship with our littles!