As a mother of a 5 year old, I have encountered many questions about babies from parents of younger kids (just as I ask parents of older kids too). By far, the most common question I have been asked is “when was your daughter toilet trained”. It is hard to answer straight without inducing a panic attack – coz she was completely toilet trained at the 14 month mark. At least during the day. Nights were different.
The day story first – I was every bit paranoid about leaving it too late. So I bought a baby potty chair when she was about four months old. This was about the time she started sitting up with support. The easiest time of the day to start was mornings. As soon as she woke up, before she was fed, I would put her on the seat and without any fuss she would pee. I, of course, did not expect that she would know that she had to pee. But she did. And we kept that routine. We graduated to putting her on her seat every time she was ready for a diaper change or just before and after bath time. Over the next 2-3 months she started peeing whenever we put her on the pot. No fuss.
From the time between 6-9 months, I started using pull up diapers. And she would be put on the pot every 45 min. We cheered her on every time she would pee in the pot. I did not use any rewards. Just verbal acknowledgement. And at times she had to sit on the pot for a bit before she would go, so we talked. Sang rhymes. Patience was the key.
By the time she was 9 months old we started keeping her diaper free at home. And she knew that she would have to go on the pot. She didn’t say a lot at that age but she would go to the pot. Did we have accidents – yes! We also tried watching for signs. Standing still in a corner, going very quiet etc. And we would run her to the pot.
Now the potty story – When we started putting her on the pot in the mornings, it helped both pee and poo after a while. At about 9 month mark when she would potty 2-3 times a day, it became much easier. She wouldn’t tell us, of course, but the signs are more obvious and easier to read. So she was ran to the potty. The morning routine and sitting on the pot before and after bath helped a whole lot. So poop was easier than pee, though I read stories the other way around.
We kept to the schedule even when we went out. Pull on diapers – checking every 45min to 90min depending on how cold or warm the ambience was and if it was closer to time when she had had milk or solids. And so on. Very few accidents by the first year mark. We had her going out without diapers before her first birthday. By the time she was a year and a half, she could tell that she needed to go.
Now the story at night – It is kind of hazy in my mind in terms of milestones. But I think once she was trained in the day we started taking her off diapers at night. Initially, we would get her up twice at night and out her on the pot. She would be asleep but she would go. We then reduced the frequency to once at night. Again, did we have accidents – yes! So we kept an absorbent layer to save her bedding. We also kept extra clothes handy so that we didn’t have to fire the lights and we could mostly get her back to sleep without fully rousing her. By the two year mark we started having almost no accidents at night. She is five now – there is still an occasional one, like once in 6 months. But now she has reached a point where she wakes up if she starts wetting and runs to the pot herself even if she later needs a change.
What worked in our favor:
- We stayed in warm climate. Winters were short for the first 3 years of her life, till we moved.
- I had support from her granny. She would stick to the schedule when I was at work.
- She didn’t need to go to childcare till she was 2years and 3months old by when she could tell us that she needed to go – 100% of the times. So she could follow the same rules and schedule without any changes.
- The daycare made sure that the children took pee breaks – lest they forgot.
What young parents need to know-
- It is not a race. Every child will learn when they are ready. They aren’t going to stay in diapers forever. I have seen my cousin’s son who wore diapers till 5 and was trained in less than a week as he started going to Kindergarten. And many other such kids. They will ALL get there whether we fret or not.
- It takes commitment. If you are a nuclear family and both of you work, it will be harder. It is not YOU. It’s just how it is. Kids respond to consistency and you have a million and a half things to manage. Don’t beat yourself up. What can help – ask the daycare how they can help you maintain consistency to your training plan. If they cannot customize support for your child, ask them for what they can do and follow the same rules at home.
- Rewarding isn’t a bad thing. I didn’t use it for toilet training but I have had to use it for developing good eating habits. There are plenty of choices – color changing stickers, MnMs, adding coins to piggy bank – take your pick, it’s your call.
- When should they switch from their pot to the big one – again your call. I had her switch when I couldn’t take the cleaning any more. Again you could use many a things to make them switch to the bigger one – colored rings, another penny, an added sticker on the sticker book. Once they learn, the switch of pots is easy.
And in any case, a bit of a pee and poo is nothing to get worked up about. Parenting can be tough, besides being rewarding. Give yourself a little pat on the back! It will happen 😉