Since this post is about potty training, I am forced to use the words poop and pee to differentiate between the kinds of body waste. So consider yourself warned before you continue reading this post….
My youngest turned two last month. She has been completely diaper-free (nights, naps and travel included) for over six months. She was completely potty trained by the time she was a year old. It often surprises people when I say this — or when they watched my one-and-a-half-year-old drop her pants and run towards the potty when she had to go.
Everyone is curious to learn about how I trained my kids, so here it is — my approach to potty training, some simple beliefs, and how I think you can potty train your young child too.
My approach to potty training
Just like with anything else I do in my life, I set out with a goal and I work towards it. I practice consistency and persistence. I forgive myself when I fail. And I will give up if I think something is taking over my life in ways I never imagined.
That was my approach with potty training both of my children. I started training them between nine and twelve weeks of age. I took breaks several times, but I never gave up because I worked on it in stages. But it worked — both my kids went to the potty first thing every morning, and I have rarely changed a poopy diaper beyond 12 to 15 weeks of age.
My beliefs, and some facts to consider
1. If infants can signal hunger, they can understand and signal wanting to go potty.
Kids cry when they are hungry. We watch for the signals of hunger and train them to ask for food as they grow up. I strongly believe it is the same with potty training. When the child is too young to go to the bathroom by himself or herself, we have to watch for the signals and take them to the bathroom. And in this process, patience is an important virtue.
2. Bodies have a rhythm.
We eat at regular intervals and we go to the bathroom at regular intervals. Bodies have and like rhythms. It’s important to watch and maintain these rhythms for little kids as well.
If you help cultivate these rhythms when they are little, they grow up into adults with healthier digestive system and habits.
3. Everything does not work for everybody.
It is important to take baby steps and improvise. As with everything, find what works for you and your family. Raising kids in not an easy job. If you start early, you will succeed, so long as you give yourself time to fail and learn. So start sooner than later and find what works for you.
4. Set the right expectations.
In my case, my kids rarely soiled their diapers beyond four months of age. They were both walking by the time they were ten months old and started to make trips to the bathroom by themselves. By 15 to 18 months, they were both completely potty trained.
But, as in every situation, there were exceptions and accidents. If you want all these things to happen, you should be okay with rushing your child to the potty when you see that little pressure cringe on his or her face, even if you are at a friend’s place. We still take the kids to the bathroom to empty off their bladder at 11 p.m. every night.
If your life or personality does not allow for these things, you have to give yourself more months to potty train your little ones.
Photo by InCase
How to potty train your infant
1. Understand his or her rhythms and make a start.
The moment you see the first sign of rhythm, it is time to start potty training your child. At around six weeks of age, both my kids would soil their diapers twice a day — that was when I started. I sat on the western-style potty with my child right in front of me and also on the potty. I’d sing some songs, and before I knew it, they would poop.
During the day, every so often I would take them to the sink and open the tap and let the water run. A touch of cold water often helps them pee.
2. Reinforce positively.
The moment the child pooped or peed, I would let out a cheer in excitement. Even at a few months old, when a baby has very little control over the bladder, he or she is actively creating associations between their actions and happy outcomes.
Positive reinforcement and creating a no-stress situation have been key in training my kids. I never, ever force my kids to go or raise my voice when I want my children to pee or poop. And I always make a big deal when they do go – even with my three year old today.
3. Notice the signs.
Poop signs (not urination) are hard to miss in infants. They are still learning to control their muscles and their faces crunch up. Make a dash to the potty as soon as you notice this.
Don’t worry if you miss a few, though. If you’ve established a rhythm of morning and before-bed potty, there really should be very few of these off-schedule potty needs.
Every time you introduce a new food, however, their schedule might change a bit. Be on high alert and respond to the “I think I want to potty” expressions until they are back on schedule.
4. Bare bottoms work.
At around six months, I started actively using cloth diapers at home. Around then, kids start to pee less frequently and more regularly. Also, try to leave your child diaper-free or just with underwear for a few hours every day. Kids need to sense the pee, so let them have a few accidents.
The feeling of wetness (that the kids really dislike) is an important driver for quicker pee training.
Photo by Brian
5. Kiddie potties are a waste (in my opinion).
You might have had resounding success with a kiddie potty, but if you want to train your infant (not toddler) super early, they are useless. We never had a kiddie potty, just a potty ring that goes around our normal toilet. I would hold my child on the adult potty, either by seating them right in front of me, or just staying close while they sat.
Use a kiddie potty, and there is one extra job of transitioning them to the adult potty.
6. Siblings? Train in pairs!
Every time my older daughter would go to use the potty, we would let the younger one go right after her. If you have two kids in diapers, train them together.
In my opinion, it is never too early to start training your child to use the potty. I always say that my second daughter trained herself, because I put so little effort into training her. We even stopped night pull-ups because she refused to wear them.
7. Reinforce positively.
I listed this again because positive reinforcement is THAT important. We have a special song and dance we did when the girls would use the potty. Even to this day, the kids will sometimes have me do a song and dance.
Jokes aside, I explicitly thank my three-and-a-half-year-old every time she pees. That way, she understands I appreciate the effort she makes, especially when I need her to try and go right before we rush off to the airport or on a long drive.
8. Talk to them.
The wonderful thing about potty training is that it is a long process. Like starting a blog or a business, it is something you just have to deal with every day. So talk about it with your kids — your goals and your progress.
I always told my kids when we hadn’t touched the pile of pull up diapers in weeks. It made them so proud.
9. Control the fluids.
Be sure to control the fluids that go in your kids’ bodies for two hours before naps and bedtime. Get them on the potty before it’s too close to their nap time (cranky kids do not cooperate).
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt
10. Take pride, and let them take pride.
Take pride in your efforts. Please do. Even if your child is not completely trained, you are well on your way. If you take pride, the kids take pride.
Talk about their accomplishments with aunts and grandmas. Potty training is hard and long, and you have to create opportunities to celebrate. Potty train under stress and you will fail.
11. Experiment for naps and nights.
My older daughter was a milk baby. She absolutely had to have her milk before she went to bed. That made getting off the night pull-up rather hard. My younger one was extremely easy; I could control her fluids since she was very little.
At one-and-a-half-years, we started putting her on the potty at 11 p.m. every night. She would pee in the potty while still asleep and would have a complete night with no accidents after that. We still take both the girls to pee at 11 p.m. every night.
12. Decide if it is for you.
If you are the kind of person that tends to get stressed with accidents and regression, you might want to wait until your child is older and can talk to start potty training. My older daughter did not talk until she was two years old, and even broke her arm at 20 months. She regressed on her night potty training for a month and I gave in.
Older kids are harder to train, but if your lifestyle and personality does not allow you to potty train your child, do it later. Do it when YOU are ready.
I have never lost my cool when my kids have had an accident. I have faked a little anger sometimes, but losing my cool would never work.
Follow all of these steps consistently and I am sure things will work out with training your infant. Enjoy the process, and don’t be afraid to take a break if you really need it.
I would love to hear what worked for you if you trained your infant. What would YOU add to the list and approach?