"Pee pee poop poopy potty potty - is that all these grown-ups can talk about?"
I came across this great article on care.com which is an invaluable resource for new parents. I have to say I find the whole 'bare-bottomed' part a little uncomfortable but that's probably because I'm a repressed Brit. I'd love to hear other mom's take on this subject. How did you potty train your toddlers?
*Note: infant boys can have a harder time controlling their waterworks than do girls. So allow your son plenty of time to make the adjustment.
I didn't want to time crunch such an important milestone so I didn't count the days as they passed but basically this is what I did:
9 months: when my baby was able to observe and watch I put out a potty in the bathroom, and let her explore it. By copying me, she began to want to sit down and for around 3 hours a day we would go diaper-less. Lots and lots of accidents.
12 months: By a year my baby was doing the 'hit or miss' pee pee in the potty. We used the double positive method (yes I made that term up but it probably already exists) whereby every positive potty was rewarded with lots of hoopla and every accident was met with lots of love and giggles too. We didn't want baby to feel like a failure in other words. People advised to the contrary (not to offer anything for an accident) but we persisted. Baby always felt good about what was happening to her body and so there were no tears.
18 months: In the apartment we now used only soft cloth underwear during her waking hours. Not so many accidents (still enough to have the mop out all day) and pooping in the potty became a big victory for baby. We kept potties in the bathrooms only never in the kitchen or living room as we wanted baby to associate the potty with excretion.
24 months: Miracles began to happen magically around the big 2. Her level of control was 99% in the apartment. Nap times were still hit and miss and our portable potty often was a miss, but we felt as though baby - now toddler - was always cool with what happened.
2 1/2: Perhaps by some we were late but by mid two toddler was 99% continent and more importantly she was eager to show how in control she was. After all this had been her journey not ours.
Use weekends as an opportunity to speed test continence. Use the outdoors like the beach or a grassy park to also allow some loose panty, diaper-free trials. Draw pictures about the potty, sing songs about the potty, read books about the potty and allow your baby to talk about it even if it's obsessive. Give your baby as much dignity as you would anyone struggling to control their bowels. Keep the mop and towels handy so you don't have to leave baby in her soiled underwear for longer than necessary.
Summary: All babies are different so allow for diet, illness, changes in routine and other stresses to factor in when potty-training. This milestone can be completely traumatic for a child if handled poorly, with long-lasting psychological effects - so try to stay grounded, knowing that all mess, no matter how smelly at the time, can be washed away, but guilt cannot. And your baby deserves to have a happy fun passage into toddlerhood.
Okay so here are some other methods:
About the Diaper Free Toddlers program
Fellom, a San Francisco preschool teacher, started Diaper Free Toddlers in 2006 after potty training more than 100 children. Her primary motivation is to keep disposable diapers out of landfills by helping parents potty train their children earlier. Her method can work for kids as young as 15 months old, and is most effective for those younger than 28 months, Fellom says.
To participate in her program, parents (or a single parent and another supportive adult, such as a grandparent or caregiver) attend a two-hour class in the evening. Then each family has its own three-day potty training weekend at home.
Within a week or two after the long weekend, Fellom says, children will be able to reliably go to the potty to pee or poop and have few, if any, accidents. If you can't take Fellom's San Francisco-based class, you can still put her method to work for you. See the "How to potty train in three days" section below.
First: Are you ready for potty training?
Fellom's technique requires commitment, focus, and dedication. It's a "bare-bottomed" method, meaning that for three months after you initiate potty training, your child will need to go naked below the waist when he's at home and wear just loose-fitting pants with nothing underneath when he's out and about or at daycare.
Diapers and training pants are okay for nap time and bedtime, but if you rely on them more often you'll undo your potty training progress, Fellom says.
"If you really want this to work, it only works naked," Fellom says. "There are absolutely no pants in the house for the first three months."
That said, some parents aren't comfortable with this requirement and find ways to work around it. Check out the comments section at the bottom of this article for their tips.
What you'll need for your potty training weekend
You'll need standalone potty chairs to use at home (ideally one for every main area where you spend time, plus any bathrooms), plenty of water or diluted juice to drink, and snacks that encourage peeing (either salty ones that make you thirsty, such as crackers, or foods with high water content such as watermelon and Popsicles).
You'll also want to have supplies for cleaning up accidents (such as rags, cleaning solution, and a plastic bucket) and several pairs of loose-fitting pants for your child to wear when you go out of the house.
Optional: It's helpful to have a compact, portable travel potty to take out and about, though you could use a small standalone potty chair instead.
You may want to put a small towel or absorbent pad over your car seat to protect against accidents. Some parents use products such as the Piddle Pad, but Fellom recommends a small sheepskin which you can find at discount furniture stores. Cut the sheepskin in half, then cut it to fit around the car seat straps and buckle, and you'll have a very absorbent, washable, reusable pad.
Finally, if it's cold where you live, you may want to have space heaters on hand, as well as kneesocks or leg warmers for your child to wear so he'll stay warm while he's bare-bottomed at home.
How to potty train in three days
A month or so before you start:
Check that your child is demonstrating signs that he's ready for potty training. For Fellom, this includes staying dry for two or more hours at a time, asking to use the potty, refusing to be diapered, and pooping at a regular time each day.
Fellom prefers to use her method with children younger than 28 months, saying that after this age they may be more resistant to potty training, but she also works with older kids.
"It's pretty much guaranteed to work for children who try it before 28 months," Fellom says. "The closer you get to age 3, the less likely it is to work."
Clear your schedule and plan to spend an entire long weekend – all three days – focused on potty training. Cancel regular weekend activities, and make sure your potty training partner can be around all the time for at least the first two days to help out.
Make up a "potty dance" with your potty training partner. The goal is to celebrate your child's successes and give him an incentive to continue, so the dance can be anything from a modified end-zone chicken dance to a full-on rumba with accompanying song – whatever feels right to you.
Two to five weeks before your potty training weekend, start educating your child about using the potty. When you, your partner, or another family member needs to use the bathroom, take your child along so he can observe how you pull down your pants and underwear, sit on the potty, pee or poop into it, wipe yourself, pull up your pants and underwear, flush the toilet, and wash your hands. You can even have your partner accompany you and your child into the bathroom and do the potty dance for you after you go.
"If the parents do the potty dance for each other, the child understands that it's fun and sort of a 'family event' when a family member uses the potty," Fellom says.
You can also use family pets to demonstrate the concept of going to the potty to your child. Point out when your pet is going to the potty in an appropriate place, such as a litter box or a spot outside.
Buy several potty chairs or arrange to borrow some from friends and relatives. Put a potty in every main room and bathroom in your home.
The week before you start:
Show your child a stack of diapers and explain that starting Saturday (or whenever you schedule your three days to begin), there will be no more need for diapers and that he can be naked and diaper-free. Present this as a fun and exciting development, Fellom advises, as in, "When these are all gone, you don't have to wear diapers anymore! You can be naked!"
"One of the reasons this method works so well – and why it's called Diaper Free Toddlers – is that children this age love to be naked. They don't give a hoot about potty training. Their goal is to be naked and diaper-free," Fellom says.
On day one of potty training:
Get up with your child as soon as he wakes up. For the rest of the day, have him go naked below the waist.
You and your partner spend the day taking turns watching your child for signs that he needs to pee or poop. When he starts to go, whisk him to the nearest potty.
Throughout the day, have everyone eat salty snacks or foods with high water content and drink a lot of liquids so they have to pee often.
Any time you or your partner needs to use the bathroom, take your child in with you. Demonstrate how you pull down your pants and underwear, sit on the potty, pee or poop into it, wipe yourself, pull up your pants and underwear, flush the toilet, and wash your hands.
Celebrate your child's success any time he gets a "hit" on the potty – meaning that some amount of pee or poop, even a few drops, goes into the potty rather than on the floor. When this happens, do your potty dance. You can also give praise, high-fives, and so on.
After ten to 12 hits, Fellom says, kids usually get it and start to use the potty independently. If your child has an accident, don't say, "It's okay." Instead, say in a mildly disappointed voice, "Poop/pee goes in the potty," and help your child clean it up by placing your hand over his. But don't yell at him or shame him for having accidents: They will happen.
Before nap time and bedtime, tell your child it's time to go potty (never ask your child, because he'll usually say no). Put a diaper on your child before he goes to sleep, unless you feel confident that he'll remain dry.
On day two of potty training:
Follow the instructions for day one. The only difference is that on day two you can all go outside together for one hour in the afternoon. Wait until your child pees in the potty, then head out immediately.
"You want to link using the potty with getting to leave the house," Fellom says. This way you can "train your child to pee on command" before you go out.
When you go out, have your child wear loose pants with nothing underneath – no diapers, training pants, or underwear. Your goal is to make it out and home accident-free, without having to use the potty while you're out, but bring spare clothes in case you're not so lucky.
Fellom advises sticking close to home and not going in the car. Take a walk in your neighborhood (even just around the block) or head to a nearby park. Bring a portable travel potty with you, in case your child says he needs to go while you're out, but that's fairly unlikely at this early stage.
On day three of potty training:
Follow the instructions for day one, but on day three your family can go out for an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. Each time, have your child use the potty just before leaving the house.
Again, when you're out have your child wear loose pants with nothing underneath. Bring your travel potty and a change of clothes.
After your potty training weekend
After the long weekend, expect that your child will usually take himself to the potty when he has to go, or tell you or your partner that he needs to do so. But to seal the deal, some follow-up needs to happen.
For the next three months, have your child go naked below the waist when you're at home. (You can use diapers for naptime and nighttime as needed.) When out – including at daycare – have your child wear loose pants with nothing underneath.
Fellom believes that training pants and underpants feel like diapers to a child, and that using them before three months have passed encourages your child to start peeing in them again.
After three months with no accidents, your child can start wearing underpants and no longer needs to go bare-bottomed at home.
When you're out and about, keep your portable travel potty in the car and be aware of public bathrooms nearby. You can use a potty training seat on public toilets if you like (the kind that fits over the toilet seat and helps kids feel more secure on adult-size toilets), but it's not necessary. Instead, just help steady your child on the toilet and wash your hands and your child's afterward.
What if your potty training weekend doesn't do the trick?
If your child doesn't have the hang of using the potty after your potty training weekend, Fellom recommends waiting six to eight weeks and trying again.
Says Fellom: "If your child is having less than a 75 percent success rate or worse, or doesn't seem to notice the pee running down her leg, stop and try again later."
Pros and cons of potty training in three days
Fellom's potty training weekend can be a helpful and easy-to-follow way to jump-start your potty training process. If you've dreaded potty training, worried about how to start, or wondered how to teach your child to actually use the potty rather than just sit on it, Fellom's approach may be a godsend.
Even with follow-up and setbacks, the method works quickly compared with other approaches. This has many benefits: You'll save yourself time and frustration, your child will be proud of his accomplishment and independence, and you'll save money and help the planet by eliminating diapers earlier.
Fellom's approach doesn't use treats or other rewards (other than an enthusiastic potty dance), so it can help you avoid having to bribe your child into using the potty.
This method accentuates the positive and provides opportunities for celebration right from the start – you dance exuberantly even when just a little poop or pee makes it into the potty.
This helps make potty training fun and exciting for your child, and may win over a child who has resisted using the potty or never shown interest.
Being mostly housebound for three days while you watch your child's every move and whisk him to the potty is draining. (It gets easier, however, once your child learns to take himself to the potty, which can happen after the first day or so of training).
It may be hard for two working parents to both get the day off to devote to potty training and, if it doesn't work the first time around, to take another day off six to eight weeks later.
Depending on your childcare situation, it may be hard to complete the follow-up process. You may have to negotiate with your childcare provider to keep your child out of diapers, underwear, and training pants while he's in their care.
The requirement that you keep your child bare-bottomed while at home may be inconvenient or downright difficult – particularly if you live in a cold climate and are trying Fellom's method in the wintertime. To avoid skyrocketing heating bills or a chilly child, you may want to wait for warm weather before having your potty training weekend.
Other potty training approaches
If you're interested in quick-training, here are some alterations to Fellom's method that might make the process work better for you:
- Instead of a potty dance, use other rewards, such as stickers, treats, or the promise of big-kid underwear.
- Instead of taking your child into the bathroom with you, use a wet-on-command doll to demonstrate the process of peeing on the potty. Toilet Training in Less Than a Day explains how to do it.
- To get help, check out websites and books from experts like Narmin Parpia and Teri Crane. If you're in the Chicago area, you can consider Wendy Sweeney's Booty Camp program (or you can use her DVD).
If you decide against the quick-training approach, there are plenty of other options for potty training. If you'd like to start earlier, when your child is still a baby, there's infant potty training and pediatrician Jill M. Lekovic's Diaper-Free Before 3 program, based on the book of the same name.