First time I tried potty training Leo he was about 18 month old. Leo was not so keen on sitting on the potty at first, but after he saw his favorite dinosaur doing “pee-pee” and reading couple board books on the topic he started imitating the process and became a game. Of course he was clueless about the whole pee-in-the-potty idea, it was just another game. We got used to playing with potty around bath time, before going to bed. Usually nothing was happening while on the potty, but once I caught him peeing in a bath and gently transferred him on the potty. After that he started doing it more consciously, and even managed to do both #1 and #2 all by himself. His favorite part was emptying the potty into the toilet and flushing it. But right after he was alway insisting on putting on a diaper, and I never really tried to persuade him not to do it. I call this period “We are not ready for it, and I personally don’t care” and it lasted for one year.
When Leo turned 30mo his daycare started hinting more and more that we should start thinking about potty training him. So I did. I bought a book that a friend has recommended (“Oh crap! Potty training” by Jamie Glowacki), read it cover to cover and prepared myself mentally to do it once and forever, that is both daytime and nighttime potty training. This time I was ready, and I was sure that Leo was too. While I do not believe in months count when it comes to the criteria of readiness for potty-training (the book I read was suggesting 18-30mo as the ideal period for that) I do think that there are signs that can tell you that your child is ready. Being able to verbally express yourself, no matter how simple, is one. For example, they say if you child can sing the ABC song – he is ready!
I picked a day to start potty training and notified his daycare that he will be skipping school for a week. I planned the first 3 days to be all about Leo and put all my work and errands aside. That Monday morning was definitely nerve-racking for me, but I was trying not to show it to Leo. After he woke up I announced to him that we have no diapers anymore and because he is big boy now we won’t need them anymore (smth I was also telling him in advance but without too much details all previous week). Expectedly, he was very resistant about being half way naked bottom down. He was wining and repeatedly asking for a diaper. The brand new potty I got for him was rejected and ignored. Dinosaur trick didn’t work anymore. I tried to engage him with his favorite toys but he was not happy in general and was showing a lot of discomfort about being naked. This was the first test of my patience and determination – to be honest, I was ready to give up right there and retreat to to plan B which was “We still have time until he turns 3”. What actually helped at that crucial moment was that I didn’t have any diapers at home. (Ok, ok, i did save 2 for the utmost emergency but i did hide them far far away). So I needed to stick to my guns and keep going about the day. Yummy breakfast distracted him and he seemed to forget about the absence of a diaper and pants. Yessss! I was watching him closely for any signs of wanting to pee while trying not to hover, just like the book suggested. It was extremely difficult! Leo is a very independent child who loves playing all by himself, and having me next to him watching him closely while he plays seemed odd to both of us. I did let him drink all the yummy liquids to provoke extra fluids in his body, but one thing i learnt is that he is the “camel-type” (according to the book) and can hold the funds pretty well for a long time. it was a good hour and a half before I caught him peeing and transferred him to the potty, just like for the first time one year ago. He didn’t seem surprised nor resistant. We both were elated to see the pee in the potty, I praised him generously and sincerely, and he seemed to remember how fun it was to flush it! It was our first success.
The first half of the day before nap went by amazingly well, and Leo did both #1 and #2 in the potty. I was on cloud #9. We went for a 3 hours nap and woke up dry – and I start thinking that I have a miracle baby, a potty genius. So I put on the pants on him, commando style (no undies), just like the book suggested for phase 1. Second half of the day I spent washing multiple pants and giving Leo multiple showers. By the end of the day I went back to bottom-less phase 1 and decided to stick to it the following day.
Then there was the first nerve-racking diaperless night. I stopped giving him liquids 3 hours before bedtime, we tried potty just before turning the lights off. He got into denial, but as soon as I out the PJs on he peed in them. So we started the night wet, with fleece blanket on the cob, and 2 alarms set for me to wake him up for peeing at 1am and 5am. 1am was a complete failure: he was in denial again only to pee in his PJs right after I put him to bed. but then I didn’t need to wake up at 5am because he came to our bed around that time. I put him on a potty but nothing happened. His bladder was empty and we slept soundly – and dry – until 8am.
Second day was very similar to the first except that during nap he peed, but after the nap I put pants on him at my own risk of another laundry night, but we didn’t have not even one accident! Also, the amazing thing was his initiation of the potty time – he was telling me every time if it was time to pee or poo, and then he ran towards the potty. The only problem was struggling with pulling the pants down and not missing the potty while trying to sit on it with both legs restricted by the pulled down pants.. Man, who would have think that the whole potty thing requires so much multitasking! As grownups we don’t think about it, but trust me – it’s not that easy!
Second diaper-less night was a bliss. No alarms, no bed wetting. Leo came to our bed around 6am, peed in his potty and fell asleep cuddling me until his usually 7am. Alleluia!
Third day could be completely unnecessary if not for an unexpected challenger – for whatever reason, Leo’s stomach was upset and he had diarrhea. Which gave us PLENTY of #2 potty training, and in more than half case it was successful. I think it really helped him to master it. After first couple “misses” he knew by a second when it’s coming. He also mastered pulling the pants up and down. By the end of the day I knew we are pretty much done.
Fourth day was all about learning how to go out into the world without a diaper. It was more training for me than for Leo – definitely the preparation time before leaving home got longer. I needed to be sure he did both #1 and #2 before we go, and dress him wisely as well as pack very different things with me. We had 2 hours balance bike ride and cafe visit. At the cafe I tried bringing him to a toilet but he got horrified and fled. No accidents but when we came home he rushed to his potty.
On day 5 we went for his weekly art class, which is one hour subway ride one way, one hour class itself and then way back. I brought him to the school’s toilet which is equipped with toddler’s toilet seats but he was horrified the same way he was at the cafe. He actually started crying and saying that he is afraid so I quit trying and suggested a potty that I saw free-standing at the wall. It was different from the one we had at home but he didn’t mind. #1 happened right away and in abundance which means he was holding it all this time! I learnt one important thing – we might have nailed the potty training, but it doesn’t equal to toilet training. So having a portable potty wherever we go for now is a must. Also, Leo loves commando style and is in complete denial of the cutest undies we picked for him together. Saying that, even though he did master major skills within first 3 days, I am sure it’s still work in progress and there are still a lot of things to learn and get used to.
There are various theories about the age when children are supposed to be potty trained. I do not believe in numbers as every child develops on her own pace, and one 2 year old can be completely different from another 2 year old. However there is a fine line when it comes to “being ready” and you need to be able to be honest with yourself – are you using “not ready” as an excuse to procrastinate or you truly believe that your child is not ready? Of course, noone knows your child better than you so listen to your gut feeling and don’t think about the age. In “Oh crap! Potty training” book the author says: if your child can recite ABCs he is ready for potty training. It’s a funny criteria but it does make sense if you don’t take it too literate. In my understanding, it’s way easier to potty train a child when he is verbal and can tell you what he wants or doesn’t know.
Now, here is my 2 cents in regards of things you (might) need for successful potty-training. Some of them are mandatory (like #1 and #4) some are optional, but you decide for yourself:
1) Patience & determination. These two are absolute musts, and alas are hard to find (even Amazon doesn’t carry them in stock, hehe). You will need a LOT of patience during these first days, and you can’t allow yourself to get visibly upset, disappointed, angry, hopeless (add any negative emotion here). It also takes parent’s determination to start AND finish the process, because there will be moments when you will be ready to give up and use any kind of excuse from “He is not ready” “I am not ready” “It’s impossible”. You need to be 101% sure YOU are ready for this first, and then just go through the whole process calmly and patiently.
2) One book on potty-training, hopefully not too lengthy and mostly step-by-step. The one I read is “Oh crap! Potty training”, and I read it cover to cover. I can’t 100% agree nor I would highly recommend this book to others, but I do think that reading a book that covers all topics and all potential questions and fears helps you to set your mind right for the training. The rest you can fine-tune and figure out yourself, just watch your child for cues and see #1 above.
3) Couple picture-books for you toddler to explain him the concept of using the potty in a fun way. For Leo I bought “Where is the poop?” & “Potty superhero”. I found these extremely helpful. We actually read them way before we started the potty training, and once we actually started we re-read them many more times. My son was really into these books while sitting on the potty – it’s like, they finally started making sense to him!
4) Comfortable potty that is not too big but not too small! I love everything BabyBjorn, and I also loved their potties.
5) Second potty if you want to keep one handy in your baby’s room and/or in the car. For the car & on-the-go (because public toilets are SCARY!) I found travel potties by Kalencom Potette Plus – it doesn’t take much space, weights little, and comes with disposable liners. Genius idea!
6) 3 leggings type pants, smh you can carry with you in case of out-of-accidents. I suggest leggings type because they are softer and for the first month or so it’s recommended to go commando style (that is without any underwear)
7) Pee pad for car seat and/or stroller – because when you are out & about accidents do happen more often, and washing car seat cover or stroller every time it happens is not smh you would want
8) One size-up toddler underwear so it’s not too snug and doesn’t resemble the diaper feeling. You won’t need them until a month later when your toddler gets used to the portray idea 100% and won’t get confused by wearing an indie.
If you are doing a night-time training (which I HIGHLY recommend doing at the same time) you will also need:
9) Water resistant & absorbent mattress pads app 24×34” (I got a value pack of 4 and we use them all: one in his crib, one in our bed because in the morning he comes to sleep with us, one for school and one extra)
10) Two-piece PJs if you already don’t have one (FYI, you’ll need to ditch all kind of onesies from now on..)
You can find everything I mentioned above on my Amazon page at https://www.amazon.com/shop/dreamingofleonardo
Thanks for reading, and so curious to hear about different experiences with the potty training!