So you're ready to ditch the diapers, but is your child ready? Or are you worried that they are missing this important milestone? There are many things to consider when it comes to potty training. Read on for tips and information about toilet training.
The information in this post came from the conversation I had with Victoria Cernjak on my podcast Bringing Up Baby. Victoria is a toilet training coach and occupational therapist. She helps parents and children navigate all things toilet training as The Toilet Training Coach.
Why There's No "Right Age" For Toilet Training
There's no rule about when to toilet train, or at what age your child should be out of diapers. You may start toilet training and realize that your child is not quite ready, and that's okay!
In some cultures, toilet training starts super young, before a year old, and some parents may start at 4-5 years old. It all comes down to the family and child.
Signs Your Child Is Ready For Toilet Training
Depending on what you read and who you talk to, there are different "signs" that your child is ready for toilet training.
Evidence doesn't really support the claim that certain things need to be in place before toilet training. In different ways, many people around the world start toilet training from a few months old. So all of these signs aren't necessary but here are some commonly used signs that your child is ready for toilet training:
All of these can be helpful, but most kids won't have all of those skills when you start training, and that's okay! You can absolutely have success even if your child isn't displaying many of these signs.
Should You Use A Potty?
Wondering if you should be using a potty or use the "big" toilet? The evidence doesn't necessarily show a big difference either way.
Potty Pros & Cons
In some cases using a potty can be helpful for positioning, since it's specifically made for their smaller bodies.
The convenience of a potty is that you can take it anywhere and it's consistent. You can take it in the car, to another house, etc.
Some kids may not automatically connect those skills when using the regular sized toilet, so you may end up toilet training again. However some potties have a detachable reducer ring that you can put on the regular sized toilet, which helps with continuity.
Bottom line is to make the decision based on your child and your lifestyle!
Tips For Potty Training Success
Potty or Toilet training can be a challenging time for you and your child, but here are some tips to make the process a little easier:
Toilet training is a journey! Take baby steps and don't expect success right away.
Think About Positioning
One of the things we often overlook is positioning. Make sure their feet are on a flat surface, you can do this by using a stool, a Squatty Potty, or anything that they can put their feet on. Use a reducer ring so they don't have to brace themselves to stop from falling in.
You can give a special treat or give access to something when they use the toilet. If your child loves flushing this can be a great way to use positive reinforcement.
Have Lots Of Undies
You'll likely be doing more laundry, so make sure to have lots of undies on hand.
Normalize The Bathroom
Let them come into the washroom with you to observe if you're okay with that. You can also take them into the bathroom to change their clothes, etc.
Make It A Routine
Take them into the bathroom every morning to take off their pajamas, and let them sit on the toilet with no expectations. In the evening take them in the bathroom and put pajamas on, brush their teeth and use the toilet again. You can also make it a routine before you leave the house as well. They may not actually use the toilet but normalize the routine and make it as positive as possible.
Reading books or watching videos about toilet training can help them understand why we use the toilet.
Tips For Poop Toilet Training
Most commonly, kids get the hang of peeing on the toilet, but pooping can be much more difficult. For most of their lives they are used to pooping in a diaper where it stays close to them, so the change to pooping on a toilet can feel strange to them. Here are some tips to make the transition from diapers to toilet easier:
Rule Out Medical Issues
If they're experiencing constipation or diarrhea, it's always best to rule out any medical issues with your primary care provider.
Take Their Diet Into Consideration
After ruling out any medical issues, you can use the Bristol Stool Chart to see what "story" their poop is telling you. Ideally you want them to be somewhere in the middle. You may need to add more fibre and/or hydration into their diet.
Image by macrovector on Freepik
If they've been pooping in a squatted position, they are used to that, so changing their positioning can be challenging. Like with peeing, we want them in an optimal position with their feet on a flat surface and not holding themselves from falling in. Use a reducer ring and stool so they feel secure and able to relax.
If They're Not Pooping
If they are holding in their poop, or avoiding using the toilet it could be because they had a negative or painful experience and they're trying to avoid having it again.
Normal variance can be pooping every 1-3 days, so outside of that you may want to do some investigating to figure out what is going on.
Dealing With Toilet Training Accidents & Regression
Accidents and regression are a normal part of toilet training. Kids can often feel like they don't have much control in their lives, and this is one of the things they can control. Here are a few tips to handle accidents.
Rule Out Medical Issues
Something like a urinary tract infection could cause them to have accidents, so just make sure to rule out any medical issues if accidents start happening suddenly.
When accidents happen, we don't want to shame, punish or embarrass them. Don't make a big deal out of it, just say something like "oh you had an accident, let's go get changed". Staying neutral and calm will help because most kids like reactions, either positive or negative.
Should You Put Them On The Toilet After An Accident?
If you've caught them in the middle of an accident, you can go ahead and put them on the toilet or potty to finish up, but if it is after the fact and they don't need to go, putting them on the toilet won't help them learn.
Toilet training isn't just about releasing your pee and poop into the toilet, it's about learning the whole routine. Getting comfortable with it, learning what the best position is, etc.
Know that this phase isn't forever, and children learn these skills.
If you need help, reach out to Victoria, The Toilet Training Coach. If you're looking to connect with other parents and get support from me, join the Bringing Up Baby Community where we chat about sleep, feeding, safety, milestones and so much more.
Both Lindsey and Ashley contribute to the blog! Sometimes also with guests and sometimes from conversations with guests :)