Whether you’re using disposables or washing every day, diapers are expensive, time-consuming and pretty unpleasant. As soon as your baby is on the move, pinning them down long enough to clean them up can be an almighty challenge. And if your bub has figured out how to get her diaper off, the aftermath can be the stuff of nightmares.
So yes, we all look forward to the day when we can throw the diapers away, and say goodbye forever to those agonizing change-table battles.
But remember that once your child is potty trained, there are other challenges you’ll have to face. Like getting them to a toilet in time when you’re out and about (small children usually give you very little warning when they need to go). And helping them cope with the embarrassment of accidents.
And then there’s the process itself. The thought of potty training strikes fear into the heart of parents everywhere. When should you start? Why is it taking so long when everyone else seems to have it under control? How do you do it without traumatizing your child (or yourself!)?
The awesome news is, potty training really doesn’t need to be difficult at all. Like teething, crawling and learning to walk, it’s a natural development phase that your toddler will move through in his own sweet time. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for everyone.
We do realize that that’s easier said than done, so to help you cut out the stress we’ve put together this handy three-step guide to potty training your toddler.
1. Wait until your child is ready
When it comes to potty training your toddler, there is absolutely no advice more important than this.
The tricky part here is peer pressure. It’s possible that other parents you know will start boasting about their bub’s potty training prowess from as young as 18 months. For your own sanity – and the wellbeing of your toddler – it’s really, really important that you don’t take this to heart. Firstly, it’s just possible their claims might not be true. Occasionally parental pride and competitive spirit gets a bit out of hand – and their comments may be based mostly on wishful thinking…
But even if every other toddler you know is now confidently using the toilet, it doesn’t mean YOURS is ready to. Every child hits each milestone at a different time. Some babies get teeth at five months, while others don’t have a single chomper by their first birthday. Some bubs crawl early and stay on their knees for months, while others go straight from rolling to walking in the blink of an eye.
Toileting is no different. The range is vast – some children can master daytime potty use as early as 18 months, while for others, nighttime wetting can continue until as late as eight years old. Trying to potty train a toddler who is not ready will cause pointless and unnecessary stress, both for you and for them. Putting too much pressure on them can actually have the opposite result – making them fearful or angry so that they resist the training for much longer.
So how can I tell if my child is ready to potty train?
There are a number of things to look out for. These include both physical signs that your baby is capable of using a toilet independently, and emotional signs that he ready for this step.
Physical signs include:
• Her diaper stays dry for up to two hours. Until her bladder is strong enough to hold urine for a while, she simply will not have any control over when it empties.
• She can walk and sit down on her own – so she can get to the potty when she needs to.
• She can pull her pants up and down.
• She is able to follow your basic instructions.
Emotional signs that your baby for potty training include:
• She is trying to get her diaper off, or objects to wearing it.
• She is watching other people use the toilet, and trying to copy them.
• She tells you when she has been to the toilet in her diaper, and asks to be changed.
• She pretends to sit on a potty or toilet when playing.
If you’re not quite sure whether your toddler is ready to start, you can always give it a go. If it doesn’t work out, remember that you can always go back to diapers and try again in a few months.
2. Prepare properly for the training
Before you begin toilet training, make sure you have everything you need. Once you start it’s important that you’re consistent – it’ll only confuse your toddler if you keep introducing new equipment, or moving things around. Depending on how you go about it, and whether you have a boy or a girl, you’ll need some or all of the following:
• Toilet step
• Child toilet seat
• Training pants
• Clothes they can remove easily
• ‘Wee target’
• Stories about toilet training to read or watch with your child
You’ll need to make some decisions about how and when you’re going to approach the training.
For example – will you use a potty, or teach your child to use the toilet straight away? A potty is easy for your toddler to reach, and you can take it with you when you go out – which is great for car travel and when you’re visiting other people. But it might feel less ‘normal’ for him, since it’s not what he see you doing. And what happens when you’re out at the shopping mall and he has to use a toilet instead? If you can, try to involve him in the choice, by watching or asking to see which he prefers.
Before you start, it’s a good idea to make a note of any times when your child regularly has a bowel movement, and of any signs he makes when he needs the toilet. This way you can be ready to set him up for success.
Getting your child ready
The last thing to do before you begin the potty training is get your child used to the idea.
• Let him experiment with the new equipment, and sit on the potty or toilet seat in play.
• Let him see you using the toilet and explain what you are doing. Teach him the words you want him to use when he needs to go to the toilet.
• If you have a boy, set up the wee target (or a ping-pong ball) in the toilet for him to aim at.
• Read books and watch videos with him that show other children using the toilet. Answer any questions he has.
• Put him in training pants for a while, so he can start to identify the feeling of being wet.
• Take him out to choose ‘big kid’ pants to wear once he is no longer using diapers.
If he just doesn’t seem interested in these preparations, ease off for a while and then try again when he shows more eagerness.
3. Start the training
When you’re ready to go, it’s best to set aside a couple of days when you can just stay at home and focus on potty training. It will go a lot more smoothly if you follow your normal routine in your familiar environment.
These are the simple steps to follow:
• Stop using diapers while your child is awake.
• Make sure she is wearing clothes that are quick to take off (potty training in hot weather is ideal, as you can let her run around in just her underwear).
• Show her the potty or toilet and explain that you’d like her to use it from now on.
• Take her to the toilet or potty every hour and encourage her to sit on it. Praise her just for sitting on it, whether or not she uses it, until she gets used to it. Don’t make her sit there for more than a couple of minutes.
• Sit her on the potty at times when she usually has a bowel movement, or when you see signs that she needs to go.
• If she manages to use the potty or toilet, give her lots of praise (or a reward).
• If she makes a mistake, simply clear it up without making a fuss. Remember that accidents can happen for years after she is toilet trained, so if this happens, reassure her gently that everything’s ok.
• As she starts to get the hang of it, gently ask her every hour or so whether she needs the toilet. Take care not to nag or pressure her.
• You’ll need to wipe her bottom for her at first – always front to back. In time you’ll be able to teach her to wipe herself (and if you have a boy, teach him to shake off before pulling up).
• Teach her to always wash her hands after using the toilet.
If you choose the right time, prepare well, and consistently guide your toddler through these steps, he’ll master potty training without stress. He might figure it out in a couple of days, or take months to get to the hang of it. Be patient, let him take his time, and remember that putting pressure on him will only set him back.
Be prepared that he may need to wear diapers at night for years after he is toilet trained. Heavy sleepers find it very hard to wake up to use the toilet at night, and the bladder control needed to hold urine for 10 or more hours can take years to develop, especially in boys.
But rest assured, the day will come when diapers are well and truly in your past.