Okay, I know you all read that title and had some sort of feeling. Did it stress you out? Did it irk you? Did you assume I was lying? Did you nod in agreement? Or did you *tisk* and think your child did it in 1 day at 13-months?
First off, I am saying potty training and toilet learning interchangeably. Call it what you will! Second off, I will be saying pee and poo a lot in this post, so get comfortable…we are friends here.
Here’s what’s up: My daughter pretty much had it down by day 1. We had two pee “accidents” on day 1 at the very beginning to start off the process. And then nothing until day 3, or 4? Which took place during a little meltdown after her nap. So, I would say that learning to use the toilet was smooth sailing. I couldn’t have asked for better! It could be that she was just beyond ready, it could be that her temperament was good for learning in this way, it could be any number of things that just worked for her and for us, but I’ll share what we did anyhow, it hopes it will help someone else.
What “Method” Did We Use?
I read Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki. I chose to take bits and pieces from it…the things that resonated with me or worked for our family. Something I love about Jamie when you watch her speak, is she says that her book and process isn’t a “method” – she says that the way to learn to use the toilet is by taking the diapers off, so that’s what we did!
How Did I Know She Was Ready?
We have always cloth diapered, and word on the street is that cloth diapered babies potty train sooner, because they are over the diaper (with cloth diapers, they “feel” wet to the baby, because it doesn’t “pull the pee” away from them, if that makes sense!). I don’t know if that’s rooted in evidence, but it was true for us! By probably 14-months, my daughter was completely over the diaper!! I do truly believe we could have started this journey of learning to use the toilet at that time. But, I personally needed more time. Because I needed to find at least three days in our schedule where we didn’t leave the house. And then I needed to know past that, that we weren’t going back to the diapers as a “crutch.” Now, I say that and some people probably have their own stories about how they had to go back to diapers. Again, I’m just telling you our story. I wanted to know that we wouldn’t fall back into diapers because it was the “easier” route, because I knew that this transition to the toilet was the best thing for my daughter.
Another reason I knew she was ready for the toilet (and let me point out that Jamie Glowacki says you don’t need to “wait until your child is ready”), was that we had put her little BabyBjorn toilet out in the bathroom by our toilet, and by the time she was 1-year-old, she would use the toilet, no problem, for both pee and poo on occasion, while we would use the toilet. Let me point out another Jamie Glowacki fact – she says not to put out the toilet until you’re really doing the potty training thing, but, for us, this worked. Call me a rule breaker, I can take it! I would 100% put out the toilet again. We didn’t let it become a toy. We always told her that it was her toilet and that the toilet was for pee and poo. I believe her seeing the toilet before, and her using it on occasion, made it a super smooth process when the time came; it felt like nothing when the toilet came out as a permanent fixture – she already knew what it was for!
What Did We Do?
Okay, so here’s the meat and potatoes of the whole thing. Initially, I had two toilets (call me crazy, but now we have 4…I’ll get to that…clearly I’m not a toilet minimalist).
We talked about it
I know my daughter is young, but I talk to her, I explain things to her, I give her warning, and I believe she understands a good chunk of it! I told her that we were going to start using the toilet to go pee and poo and we were no longer going to use diapers. I told her diapers were now only going to be for sleep (again, more about that later). When the diapers did come out for sleep, we started calling them “sleep diapers.”
We had the toilet by us everywhere & it was a no-pants party
Not in the bathroom. Not in the other room. Not kinda-sorta by us. We had the toilet right beside us. We dedicated 3 days (but especially day 1) to doing the potty-thang! That means, I tried to be prepared. My intention was to not do a lot of cooking, cleaning, working, or anything that would take away from me being present with my daughter, watching her, learning her cues, and helping her in this transition. Because it was such a success, by day 2, I was doing more of these things, but I had the capacity to not if she needed it. So, we spent the day playing – colouring, playing play dough, building blocks, playing mini sticks, walking on a balance beam, reading, playing music…the list goes on and on…and for each activity, we moved the toilet to where we were. It got to the point that when we were going to go somewhere else, my daughter knew, and picked up the toilet and carried it to our new location.
Now, here’s the reason for the no pants. I said to my daughter, “When you need to pee or poo, tell me” or something along those lines. The first time she started to pee, I swiftly picked her up mid-pee and placed her on the toilet, where she completed the pee. Right after, I said, “thank you for peeing on the toilet” and then showed her how we take her toilet to the big toilet, flush it down, clean her toilet, and wash our hands. The next time she had to pee, same thing again. The third time she had to pee, she told me! I was blown away!! Some people say they start to recognize signs in their kids…a need-to-pee dance, a cross legs, anything specific to that child! C said “um” and pointed to either her front or her back. Every other time after that, she told me. Just like that. Having the toilet close and pants already off was key, because we had so much success right away, which made her so proud!
Okay, what about number two? Many people say their kids are scared of pooping in the toilet. Our success may have just been a stroke of luck, but we have (please, knock on wood for me) never had a poop accident. And, there is no fear about going. When it’s time for poop, I (often) give her a book (or we read one together), so she doesn’t rush through it. And I like to talk about “breathing it down;” if you’re at all into pelvic health, you get me right now! Note: My daughter is now super into reading on the toilet, so I will suggest, as Jamie Glowacki also does, to not get started with an electronic device to keep your kid sitting, or you may have a hard time breaking that habit!
We upgraded to commando
On day 3, we added pants…commando-style. I felt after two days, C had it locked down. She told me every time she needed to use the toilet, or she simply used the toilet by herself without any prompting. So, next up, we needed to practise “pushing the pants down” and pulling them back up. I was still always there for assistance, but this skill required a little more work, as she also needed to gauge ahead of time that she needed to use the toilet, so we could get the pants down! Why didn’t we put on underwear? Two reasons. One, it was one less layer to push down. Two, I heard underwear can feel like a diaper to a new toilet learner, and confuse them.
We went out in the world, with a toilet
Okay, we had toilet-use locked down. We had pants on. Now, it was time to test this new skill out in the world. But we didn’t want to get too far from a toilet. So what was the solution? We brought our toilet with us. We packed it in the bottom of our stroller, and we have used that toilet where ever we have needed to. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Don’t have shame. Find a solution that works for your family. And short trips to start off are probably the play. We’ve packed that toilet in the car, in the stroller, in the hiking carrier, where ever we’ve needed. Honestly, I’ve wanted to use it myself sometimes!
Why Aren’t We “Night Training?”
This is my take on night training…don’t yell at me if you feel, or choose/chose, differently. I believe night dryness is physiological. Many paediatricians, if you care to hear, don’t worry about “bedwetting” until age 5. Again, if you’re into night training, there are various ways to do it. But for me, with my daughter being 1.5-years-old, I didn’t think it was good for her body to hold her pee for that long, and I don’t want to disrupt her sleep to wake her. A lot of sources also say to wait 6 months after being fully competent using the toilet during the day, to introduce night training. My intention right now is to wait and see if there’s a period of time where my daughter naturally starts waking up dry. We will see if that changes! At the time of writing this, that has already started happening with naps on occasion, so the nap diaper may be the first to go! I sure have a lot less diapers to wash during the week!
What Toilet Do We Have?
Remember when I said we now have four toilets?…Ya, it’s a thing! So, we chose to buy two of these BabyBjorn toilets, so we could have one available at all times, or in various bathrooms. I think these toilets are great, because there are no additional trinkets to them – they are simple and they work – the toilet doesn’t turn into a toy, and it’s easy enough to take off the top to clean! Then, we got a BabyBjorn toilet topper, so C could practise sitting on and using the big toilet. This comfort level is important for other people’s houses, restaurants, and other public washrooms, but having the topper means I don’t have to hover over her and hold her up. Lastly, we added the OXO Go Potty to our toilet collection. We bought this one specifically for hikes, because there is no base. We were bringing just the top of the BabyBjorn, but it’s a whole lot bulkier, and let’s be honest, usually when you’re going in nature, you can just keep it in nature, so the OXO has an opening going right down into the earth, while folding up easy peasey into our pack after. P.S. If she went #2 in nature, I would pick it up with a doggy bag and dispose of it properly.
What Do We Use to Clean Up Accidents?
Again, knock on wood for me, if you would! But, we haven’t really had that many accidents. On day 1 when we were starting out, we spent most of our time on the tile, so it was easy to clean up. My favourite cleaners are always Force of Nature & Branch Basics, they both kick-butt and are free of toxins! It also may not be a bad time to invest in a steam mop, or a steam cleaner of some sort. Also, we added a doggy pad to the base of her car seat, just in case, for her first few car ride adventures. But there was much debate about this in my DMs – some car seat safety specialists actually said, “no big deal, it’s thinner than a diaper would be and would not impact anything.” Other’s said that car seat manuals say to not add anything that is not theres. A plus is that there are inserts you can buy from some car seat brands that are meant for this exact purpose, so check those out…it will relieve you from potentially trying to save the car seat from permanent-urine smell!
Why Don’t We Offer Rewards?
I’m not a big reward person, in general; I’m big on intrinsic motivation. For me, I wanted my daughter to be proud of the skill, rather than doing the skill simply for the reward it would offer. I figured if she was proud of the skill, that would also transfer to all toilets, regardless of if I was there, or not. Also, when do you stop the reward? What would the reward be? That seemed like a lot of times a day to give a reward… So, for me, for us, for our family, we were happy with the decision to go sans reward. However, I’m all for words of affirmation…A “Thank you for peeing on the toilet” or “Thank you for telling mama you had to go” or “*Clap* You peed on the party *Dance*” is cool by me!!
Language Is Important
Language is important. I’ve said it many times before, and I will continue to say it, over and over and over again. Language is important. How we say things, and how things are interpreted has a big impact on everything. So, shout out again to the Oh Crap! Potty Training book for sharing this one with me. Why do we say, “Pull your pants down”? Switch that language to, “Push your pants down” and now you are talking a language your toddler will understand.
The few accidents C has had, I’ve tried to not say, “That’s okay,” but just say, “Pee goes in the toilet” or “Tell mama when you have to go pee.”
I am all about breathing that poop down. Whether you’re preparing for birth, learning to use the toilet, or simply living your life, we are not meant to push those bad boys out. “Breathe it out.” I hope I just upped you and your toddler’s bathroom game.
I’ve also tried to use simple prompts that aren’t over pressuring. Things like, “Do you need to use the toilet?” “Do you need to pee?” Or, another one from Glowacki, “Can I hear more pee?” to check that they’ve finished emptying their bladder while on the toilet.
Where Are We At Now?
So, where are we currently? We now use underwear…yay! We still bring a toilet everywhere, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon…again, I wish I could use it some days. She now likes to “wipe,” but I always double check. Reminders for people to teach their females to wipe from front to back, to avoid infection. We’ve gotten pretty used to having the toilets as fixtures all over the apartment. However, she knows to “go to the toilet” when it’s time, so they have now mostly made their way permanently into the bathroom (plus a special one for the music room)!! When we are out, she can now hold it long enough after she tells me, for us to get to a toilet…so big happy dance for that one! This 18-month-old has used many-a-toilets, including a good-ol’ porta potty!
Some Final Reminders
Pay Attention! It’s up to you to notice when your child is telling you they need to go to the toilet. Especially at the beginning, but even as time goes on, when they say something to you, look at them. A quick response is helpful in creating some early success!
Be Patient! That’s all. Be patient. This is a big, new skill. We don’t expect our little ones to master all the other skills in a minute, so why this one? Be patient. Be kind. Be supportive. And, be proud!
Good luck with your toilet-learning journey! You got this!