Potty training - my lessons learnt.
Oh potty training, how naive was I? Without sounding dramatic, I think our week of potty training back in November was one of, if not the most challenging week of my 2 years and 7 months of parenting so far. I may have been hormonal that week but jeeez it was tough. On the plus side we made it through and Bella has been potty trained for a few months which is a real milestone for us.
I wanted to share some advice for those who might be about to embark on potty training. Definitely not a ‘how to’ guide at all, more about the mindset you go into it with. So with no further a do let’s dive in
1) Don’t believe the ‘potty training in 3 days’ hype
Like I said I wanted to share my experience and maybe some tips but this is by no means a step by step guide. Purely because every child is different and if you were to follow my advice and it not work you might feel disheartened or like a failure. That’s certainly how I felt after reading some books and thinking I was good to go. Of course do your research but these toddlers are not like a car where you can use a manual and to be honest I should have known better. There are some children that do it really quickly (one of my friend’s 22month old boy pretty much potty trained himself - I could not believe my eyes) but after talking to other mums more often than not it takes more than a couple of days.
2) Make sure everyone is on the same page
Be clear on how you are going to tackle it and make sure everyone agrees on how you are going to tackle it: partner, grandparents, nursery staff etc. It’s a big adjustment for them and you don’t want them getting confusing or mixed messages.
3) If you can, try and start when your partner is around
I started training on a Monday so my husband was at work all week and then out all day on the Saturday, given that I planned to stay in for the first few days it was incredibly lonely and as a person who doesn’t cope well with not leaving the house it was really hard. Make plans for the evenings if you can so you are getting out of the house. Also make sure you have no big events/holidays that might mess things up.
4) Don’t give up too soon
After 5-6 day of no progress and pretty much NOTHING in the potty I was ready to give up and put it all aside for a few months. But I felt like I didn’t want to give up, plus the prospect of having to go back to the start in a few months made me want to cry. My husband thought we should maybe give up (mainly for my mental state) but I wanted to persevere. On day 7 it was like the penny dropped. In the evening Bella did a wee in the potty and it was like she had invented the wheel. Day 8 We had seven toilets in the potty and two accidents and on day nine we didn’t have a single accident. We have been averaging one accident a week since (other than a bit of a regression at Christmas- see below).
5) Keep a potty diary
This is priceless, not only to learn their toilet routine (e.g. Bella always has a wee first thing and then generally one every couple of hours) but it’s also a great way to show their progress too. See below days 1,2,3 vs day 8 & 9.
6) Don’t be scared to go out
My mum visited me on day 3 and as she knew I had been cooped up for 2 days she insisted we go out for a bit. I was obviously worried as I didn’t want any accidents but my mum said ‘what’s the worse that can happen?’. As Bella was in her clothes most of the wee would be absorbed, it wasn’t like she would create a massive puddle. So we took spare clothes and were out for two hours - thankfully without an accident.
7) Talk about it
I went out for dinner with some friends on day two and they shared their experiences and made me feel so much better, knowing they hadn’t cracked it immediately made me feel less like we were getting nowhere. There will of course be people who tell you, ‘what you’re doing is against the current advice’ or other helpful comments but don’t let it get you down and carry on with what your gut is telling you.
8) Use rewards if needs be
It’s fair to say that most people I speak to used rewards as an incentive, Bella would get a couple of chocolate buttons and a sticker once she did something in the potty. People said, ‘oh she’ll turn it around and just sit on the potty for a treat’, or ‘she’ll always expect a treat when she goes to the toilet’. But I ignored these comments and guess what? She’s a few months in now and maybe one in 20 toilets she asks for a chocolate button. I’m sure this will go down even more as the weeks / months go on.
9) Praise and never tell off
I think this goes without saying but never get annoyed when they have an accident or make a fuss about cleaning up. Despite feeling really frustrated I never got annoyed and tried to remain really positive saying ‘never mind, let’s try again next time’.
Now that Bella is trained I am more critical when she has an accident because usually I’ve been asking her if she needs to go and she’s just been putting it off.
10) Use books, tv shows and friends
If you have Netflix there is a great show called ‘Daniel Tiger’ apparently made by child psychologists and episode 10 of the first series is all about potty training, Bella sings the little jingle ‘flush and wash and be on your way’ every time she does a wee and it means she’ll always wash her hands without any complaining. Also think about hanging out with potty trained kids, watching them use the potty might encourage your little one and make it seem more familiar when they come to do it themselves.
11) Expect regressions
Like I said above it was going really well and accidents were few and far between - then along came Christmas. With all the excitement, people around and distractions we had a regression with lots of accidents that week. Also I still ask / remind her to use the toilet if I know she hasn’t been a while and so I guess I was distracted myself and didn’t keep that up. Things are pretty much back to normal now but I know some of her buddies have been the same so don’t be surprised if you have the same issue.
12) Be prepared
See below the list of items I used when potty training, not all essential.
1. Baby bjorn potty, 2. Baby Bjorn Toilet seat, 3. Mini mouse potty, 4. Kidease car seat and buggy liner, 5. Peppa pig Stickers, 6. Dettol wipes, 7. Step for toilet / sink, 8. Hendricks Gin (joking not joking), 9. Travel potty by Pottete, 10. Knickers / Pants, 11. Jojo Training knickers 12. White chocolate buttons.
You will obviously need a potty or two, I have also been lent the pottete (9) to use when out and about but Bella isn’t very keen on it - some people I know swear by it. If you’re going to get a toilet seat I can recommend the baby bjorn one (2), it is expensive but the hole is quite small so they don’t feel like they’re going to fall into the toilet like they might with some of the others. You can also adjust it to the size of the toilet. Something to line the car seat and buggy with is a great idea too incase of an accident (4). I am not a fan of wipes but for this stage I would recommend getting some anti bac wipes for wiping things down when out and about, particularly if you have to put your toilet seat on a public toilet. Make sure you have plenty of knickers / pants for the first few days, we went through 7 pairs on day one. Training knickers are a great shout and something I had not even heard of, the ones I have linked are cotton so feel like knickers rather than a nappy but are apparently much more absorbent (we haven’t had an accident in them….yet!) invaluable if you have a long car journey or you have to go somewhere where an accident will be a real problem. A step is handy for helping them climb up to the toilet as well as stand at the sink and wash their hands, I went for a foldaway option (7) so it’s easy to move out the way in the evenings.
13) If you do go out be prepared
Obviously take things like the potty or toilet seat in the early days, but make sure you remember a change of clothes (or three) and wipes for accidents.
For anyone that is interested in how I did it please see below
Bella had been showing all the ‘signs’ that she was ready for quite some time, her talking had come on really well so communication was easy and she’s generally quite excited by trying new things. She was even getting me to put her poos in the toilet as soon as she did one in her nappy.
All the advice these days is to completely take away nappies and only put them on for naps and bedtime. The belief is putting on a nappy only confuses matters. Day one we took the nappies off and we are straight into knickers. Some advice says to just go butt naked for a few days, I think it just depends on the child. The theory behind leaving pants on is that they get wet and uncomfortable and will want to start using a potty. Bella did do a few while naked and it didn’t seem to put her off at all so it’s just down to the child I think. Also we have a lot of carpet so at least with knickers and trousers most of it is absorbed. As I said above I decided to stay in the house for a few days with her for obvious reasons which was really hard as I hate not getting out.
On the first day I encouraged Bella to sit on the potty a lot, mainly thinking that if she did by chance do a wee or poo the ‘penny might drop’ and she would get what I was trying to get her to achieve. Well let’s just say by day 5 she had done nothing in the potty and therefore had about 29 accidents. I introduced a toilet seat on day 3 which she was quite excited about but it still didn’t prevent the accidents. Like I said above by day 5 I felt we had made no progress and was contemplating putting it off a few months. But something made me carry on and then on day 7 she got it. When she did something in the potty those first few times I gave her ridiculous praise, honestly I gave Bella cake the first few times I was so keen so show positivity. I facetimed her Nana and Granny so we could tell them - I went ALL OUT on making her feel like she had done something amazing. Books say to use language like ‘clever girl’ instead of ‘good girl’ as then they think they’re bad if they have accidents. Phil made a good comment that won’t they feel stupid if you’re saying they’re clever which is quite a good point to be fair.
So three months on we still have the odd accident, she can be a bit of a monkey and be wriggling round like crazy but point blank refuse to sit on the toilet - usually if she is in the middle of something exciting. When we go out I still take spare clothes and her toilet seat, I obviously want to get her to use the toilet but I feel like we’ll cross that bridge in the coming weeks. We don’t really use the potty now just her seat and she will use the toilet without her seat if needs be and I’m holding her round the waist. Like I said I am still asking her a lot if she needs the toilet, particularly when she hasn’t been for a while but she is telling me when she needs to go most of the time. When I leave her at nursery I remind her to tell the ladies and show her the potties. When we go out I make sure I tell her where the potty is incase she needs it.
I hope this has helped, please let me know if you have any questions or tips to share!