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Last week, my 10 month old crawled to her baby potty in the living room, then came to me and sweetly patted my shoulder. So I did what I’ve been doing since she was three months old – scooped her up, headed to the bathroom, and sat her on the toilet.
Ten seconds later, I put her dry diaper back on and continued about my day.
If you had told me when I was pregnant that I would start potty training (and loving it!) before my little one could walk, I would have laughed at you. But here we are.
And I want to encourage you – no matter how young or old your little one is…. you don’t need to wait to begin potty learning, because your child is already capable.
My baby can’t walk or talk or pull down her own pants yet. But she CAN communicate when she needs to pee or poop, and go on the potty when we take her there.
It’s been a unique journey, but we’ve learned a lot…..lessons that apply to potty learning at any age, birth through toddlerhood.
If you’re beginning the potty training process soon, here are a few things you need to keep in mind:
Lesson #1: Stay positive
Attitude is everything.
Your child will pick up on how you are feeling about the process and his or her behavior will mirror that. If you get upset over accidents or frazzled over the whole thing your child will be stressed out and it will hinder his or her ability to learn.
On the other hand, however, if you are calm and cool, potty training will go much more smoothly.
A peek into our house…
The days I obsess about pottying, get upset when there’s an accident, constantly wonder, ask, and put my child on the potty to try to go, are the days that go the absolute worst.
It’s only when I chill out and enjoy my time with my child, and trust her to tell me she has to go….ooooor maybe realize she just went – and communicate that – that the real learning occurs for my daughter and we are able to make progress together.
Choosing not to be stressed about it is easier said than done, but things really do go better when you can.
Lesson #2: Have a plan
Parenting involves a lot of learning on the job, but it’s MUCH easier with the help of other parents who have already run the race…. whatever our new parenting challenge might be. Research or read a book by one of these experienced parents, so you have a blueprint, and then adjust it to fit your child.
Most moms I know swear by the Tiny Potty Training book, for toddlers age 18 months and older, which involves an average 3-10 day initial period to get over the “hump” of training and then continued teaching and maintenance afterward. If your child isn’t 18 months, but is close, you could try potty training, or start the process with elimination communication.
A peek into our house…
I’m a researcher by nature, so this came natural for me. I read hours and hours worth of blog posts at Go Diaper Free to learn all about this infant potty training thing before getting started and then read a whole book once I got into it. I also read four regular potty training books to have an idea of what to expect on the older side. This gave me a huge toolbox of ideas and answers when it comes to the best method and answers to common issues in potty training.
You might get a variety of suggestions from your Facebook group, but you will likely get highly conflicting advice, including discouragement that your child “isn’t ready” until they start pulling off their diaper and telling you when they need to go (some kids never will….). It also won’t be near as in depth as the advice you could use to prepare for the process in a book.
Lesson #3: Start young
The earlier you start potty training, the sooner you will be finished. And the sooner your child is out of diapers, the easier it will be on your wallet.
Related post: 7 simple steps to save money on baby expenses
You can even begin any time before 18 months by doing elimination communication – learning the signals your baby gives to forewarn you when he or she needs to go, and then teaching your baby to potty in the appropriate place (not a diaper).
It looks different at the various stages of development, as your baby becomes mobile and more independent, but is definitely a rewarding experience, AND helps begin the potty learning process. You may even notice a deeper connection to your baby after starting, since you’re fostering communication skills and responding more quickly to your baby’s needs.
If your child is older, no worries! Just go for full-on potty training. It’s much faster process once your baby is walking and talking – you can potty train quickly and easily, just like ripping off a bandaid (or diaper…).
A peek into our house…
We started practicing Elimination Communication (EC) with our daughter at 3 months old – by 6 months she was staying dry overnight and telling us almost every time she needed to go. We were seriously needing only 1-2 diapers a day. Of course, our success rate dropped a bit once she became mobile, because exploration was now her number one priority, but we still were able to get most everything in the potty, depending on the day.
Now, as we approach the new milestone of walking, we have switched to using trainer pants during the day at home, and just throw on a waterproof cover when we are out and about. And since we’re using trainers designed for EC (we don’t expect babies to tell us 100% of the time), they hold an entire pee, and keep the floor dry, so it’s relatively stress free.
I’m so glad that we started before she could crawl because it made for such an easier transition – now we can work on mastering a skill as opposed to introducing a new one when there is already so many new things to learn.
Lesson #4: Normalize pottying
Whether you realize it or not, you may be communicating some subconscious attitudes about pottying by avoiding the topic and always using it privately- this makes it so much harder for your child to know and understand the purpose of using the bathroom. Instead, announce when you have to go potty. Notice and voice body language that shows a need to potty. Pee together – baby on his or her minipotty while you go. Poop while your baby is in the bathroom.
Let your baby be involved in the process – hold the toilet paper while sitting, help you flush, say “bye bye pee!”, sing a fun song while washing hands. It may feel awkward at first, but it will help your baby learn and soon become your new norm. The things you never expected in parenthood, right?
A peek into our house…
Pottying, believe it or not, has become a bonding experience for us. Since the time she could sit up independently, whenever I need to go, so does my baby. We make it fun, singing songs, holding small toys, playing clapping games and peekaboo, but mostly we just get the job done and get back to what we were doing before.
It’s simply a normal part of our lives, and my baby will never know anything different. The earlier you can build this awareness and attitude towards using the potty the better.
Lesson #5: Build healthy routines
Just like eating and sleeping, pottying is so much easier when it becomes a natural component of your daily routine. Integrate pottying into your normal schedule, to reduce accidents and remind your child (and yourself!) to go when they need to.
Just woke up? Potty time. About to leave the house? Potty time. About to sit down to eat or head to bed – let’s go potty first. These natural ways of building it into your day help you to provide reminders without overdoing it.
Related post: Do children need a daily routine?
A peek into our house…
Working on potty learning often reminds ME I need to potty. My baby needs to go….oh wait, so do I…. it helps me to care of my own needs, and has made me aware of routines already in my normal life that I might not otherwise think of.
As long as I can remember, I have always used the bathroom before bed or before leaving the house. These are healthy routines to build when your child is young, and will last them a lifetime as well.
These five tips have gone a long way in helping our daughter learn to use the potty successfully, with little to no stress involved. Staying positive and being nonchalant, but matter-of-fact when there are accidents (“Uh oh! “Pee goes in the potty.”) takes the pressure off and avoids any shaming for a mishap.
We are also glad that since pottying has been a normal part of our daily routine from a very young age, we have a solid plan of action for when there are, and how to continue moving forward towards complete potty independence.
What about you? What tips helped you most with potty training your littles? Share with us in the comments below! 🙂
Natalie Robbins first stumbled across Elimination Communication (EC) when her daughter was three months old, and has been an enthusiastic advocate for it ever since. She has a background in Deaf Education, and is now a certified Go Diaper Free Coach, working to provide ASL access to the hidden gem of EC for the Deaf Community.
Natalie enjoys hiking and reading books aloud with her husband and daughter, visiting beautiful churches, teaching elementary students (in ASL….she could never handle the noise of a regular classroom), and reading up on breastfeeding, natural family planning, and of course, elimination communication.
She vlogs about her EC journey at ASL Pottyventures