November 26, 2012
A number of people have asked me to share my tips for early potty training, so I thought I'd share here on my blog. I started potty training my second and third daughters when they were about 12-13 months old, and they were both potty trained by 18 months. The whole process was really easy and stress free. My technique is very loosely based on the theory of "elimination communication" - which is a term used to describe toileting babies (even newborns) by watching their cues for when they have to poo and pee, and also cuing them to help them use the potty. Although I love the idea of not having a babe sit in their own poo/pee - which is basically what happens with diapers - I am just a wee bit too lazy to put my floppy babies on the toilet numerous times a day. So, as a compromise, I use cloth diapers and then start the potty training process around a year old. Here are the specifics as to how I've done it.
A few important notes before you begin:
1. Baby Can Walk. I recommend waiting until your baby is fully mobile, able to walk and able to - with assistance - sit herself down onto a baby toilet seat.
2. Do It Early. I think there is a lovely window of time between when your baby can walk and when your baby gets closer to two and has more of a "my way or the high way" mentality. I have found the 12-18 month window to work really well for potty training. Your mileage may vary depending on your child's physical development and temperment.
3. It's Going to Be Messy. There's no way around it.. toilet training in this way is going to be a bit messy. If you're squeamish, a germaphobe, or a Type A "everything has to be pristine all the time" type of person, this technique is probably not for you.
Now to the How To:
4. Have Her Watch You Pee and Poo. You've got to be willing and able to be open about your bodily functions to do this right. The first part of the potty training process is to help her understand what exactly poop and pee are, where they come from, and that those things go into the toilet. So - when you have to pee or poo, bring her into the bathroom with you. Let her watch you pee - show her the stream as it comes out of your body. Say "Look! Mama's going pee pee! Pee pee goes into the toilet." And then after you go, you say "Bye bye pee pee!" and flush. Do the same thing for your BMs. (I know, you're probably cringing). But just think of being diaper free in a few short months, yay! - and it will be worth it. Also, if you have older children, ask them to do the same thing as you. The message to your baby - everybody pees and poos and those things go into the toilet.
5. Have Her Go Diaper Free. Once you do the above for awhile, then you're going to start taking off baby's diaper whenever you have the opportunity and letting baby roam nakey butt. The reason for this - your baby has to understand that poop and pee come out of her body too. I remember the first time I did this with my second daughter. She looked shocked when she saw the pee coming out of her. When a baby is in diapers, they have no conception of how their body works... being without a diaper, they can make the connection - Look, I have pee pee too!
For this stage, you're going to want to have baby potties in whatever room you're in. We had two - one I brought with me into the room we were playing in, the other was in the bathroom. So, you take baby's diaper off, go about your business and play - and then, your baby will - at some point - begin to pee. When she does this, you'll spring into action - you're going to happily say "Look! You're going pee pee! Pee pee goes in the potty." As you're saying that, you're going to sit baby gently down on the toilet. After she's done, you wipe, flush (bye bye pee pee!), you wash up, and you say "yay!"
Same thing goes for BMs. Fortunately, with BMs, you typically get a lot more notice because you'll likely hear grunting, or they'll stop what they're doing for a minute and get a serious face, things like that. Once you see those warning signs, say "Oh, do you need to go poo poo? Let's put you on the toilet! Poo poo goes in the toilet." And then put baby on the toilet. She may not actually go at that point, and that's okay. If she does, then do the wipe/wash/praise thing. Sometimes (and this is the messy part), you're going to miss a poo. If you do, you'll just say "Oh, look, you went poo poo! Poo poo goes in the toilet." Put her on the toilet, ask her if she has more poo poo, respond accordingly, and then clean her up. Then, go pick up the poo poo with toilet paper and put the poo poo in the toilet and say "Look! Poo poo goes in the toilet." There should be no shaming, guilting, punishing or whatever involved here. Stay loving and matter of fact.
6. Messes. Having a number of potties will help minimize the poo and pee mess, but you definitely will still be getting them on your floor. I highly recommend doing this process on a non-carpeted area - say the kitchen - so that clean up is easier. If it's warm enough outside, you can also do it outside and just hose things away.
7. When She Makes the Connection. At some point after doing the above for awhile, your baby will start to pee in her pants, and then say (or sign or signal) "I have to pee." This is great! It means she's making the connection herself. When she does this, you say "Oh, you're going pee pee! Pee pee goes in the toilet!" And then take her to the toilet and do the routine above. Soon, she will start to walk or run to the toilet herself when she pees because she's recognizing that she is going pee at the same time she is remembering that she needs to do it on the toilet.
And then, soon, all on her own - she will recognize her own bodily cues - she will recognize that she has to poop or pee before the poop or pee starts coming out. She will tell you or signal, and then you'll put her on the toilet and go through the drill above. When she actually does this - tells you first, you put her on the toilet and she goes - that is huge cause for celebration. I usually clap and cheer! If you have older children, they can join in the praise too. "What a big girl! Look, you went pee pee in the potty!"
You're going to continue doing this - praising when she makes it, being kind and matter of fact when she doesn't. And pretty soon - you will have a child that is potty trained!
8. Taking the Show on the Road. I would not recommend going outside and diaperless until your baby has a good track record at home with using the potty. Once you feel she's ready, get her some thick training undies - tell her they're her big girl undies - and then venture out sans diaper. Pack though - and be ready for accidents. I recommend extra changes of clothes, a roll of paper towels and cleaner, and a baby toilet to be in your car at all times during this time period. And ideally, have a partner/spouse/helpful friend with you the first few times. If she has an accident, no scolding or shaming, just matter of fact - "uh oh! the pee pee came out on the floor!" - take her to the toilet, clean her up and change her clothes, and then pick up the mess. Split the duties with your spouse/partner/friend. If you're going to be out for awhile, do make sure to remind your little one about going potty - they often get really busy and forget - which can lead to accidents. Set your alarm for every two hours and ask and/or put her on the toilet when the alarm rings. If she fusses and doesn't want to go to the bathroom, let that be okay - and honor that. You don't want toileting to ever be a power struggle.
9. Nighttime. Nighttime is typically the last step in the process. Keep your baby diapered at night until you notice that she's gone a number of nights - at least a week - with a dry diaper all night. If she's done that, you're pretty safe in going diaperless at night. To protect your mattress, definitely have a puddle pad and/or plastic mattress cover to protect your mattress in case of accidents. And try to get your little one to go pee before bed. And when morning comes, pop her on the toilet when she wakes up (if she'll do so willingly.)
Two final notes:
10. This Is a Part Time Process. This type of potty training should be a part time, low key thing. Spend many weeks having baby watch you poo and pee. When you're ready to take the diaper off, do it a few times a week, for a few hours at a time and/or whenever you have a nice chunk of time at home. No pressure - no power struggle. Remember, you're teaching here. More to the point, you're allowing your baby to understand her bodily functions and what we do with our waste.
11. Regression. A word about regression. Fully toilet trained toddlers sometimes start having accidents again. Regression may happen because something new is going on in baby's life (a new sibling or a move), because of illness, travel, or even just because your baby is going through a growth spurt. Accidents should be handled with love and compassion, and just as matter of factly as when you were toilet training in the first place. Remember, your baby is doing the best that she can!
So - that's the process I followed. There are so many good things about early potty training: not having to wipe gross poopy blow outs (poops that go vertically into the toilet are oh-so-much cleaner to wipe up after!). Your baby does not have to sit in her poop and pee anymore. And - it's great for the environment. As most toddlers don't potty train until twoish, or even way later, that's a lot fewer diapers to wash (cloth) or throw into the landfill (disposables).
Hopefully you find this helpful. Let me know if you have any questions!!
Posted by Momioso at 9:38 PM