***warning for the purposes of this lovely article urine will be referred to as pee and stools will be called poo. There’s every argument for keeping it professional but then when in the same sentence i’m recommending Peppa pants and a mop and bucket I feel keeping the tone ‘real’ is important…..!!***
Potty and toilet training can be a big obstacle or mountain for parents to cross! The stress for both the children and the parents can make the whole process turn into a total emotional ordeal! What’s important to remember is that there is no rush (unless you have pressures from a preschool etc!) and most children will absolutely fly it once it is approached when the time is right and everyone is ‘ready’!
That term drove me mad on my first child…. Ready….how on earth was I expected to know when she was ready! I’d never done it before, I have no younger siblings or huge childcare experience…I’ll put it bluntly…I didn’t have a clue!! What I hope to bring you in this article is some honest and practical advice which I have learnt from hands on experience – and a few little clues on what is important to watch for when toilet training your child in terms of their general health! This article is full of tips that I wish someone could have told me as I embarked on the journey but also comes with the perspective of my job as a Pharmacist mum!
Signs of Readiness:
- Less frequent urinatation – I don’t mean less volume of urine – I mean more consistent gaps between wetting their nappies – your child may start to hold onto their pees more which will mean they are gaining control and so will do larger single urinations rather than constant small ones.
- They show interest in the potty and or toilet.
- Awareness of bowel motions coming before they happen.
- Awareness of urination after it happens – this means an understanding that the puddle on the floor between their legs actually came from them!
- A willingness to discuss or indicate bowel motions before they happen rather going and hiding in a corner or behind the curtains!
- Attempting to sit on the toilet and doing a few ‘successful’ pees without formal toilet training starting.
- Have an ability to use a mop and bucket…ok that one’s a joke…maybe!
The WonderBaba Approach:
This approach should not be undertaken until you feel your child is ‘ready’. I would advise having three full days to hibernate indoors and two full weeks to avoid major excursions, trips or events. I think it is only fair to plan toilet training at a time which you can facilitate the learning process at home without the trauma, embarrassment and stress of continuous accidents in public or in front of friends. Crèches tend to recommend you start on the Friday of a weekend and I wholeheartedly agree that if your child is cared for in this environment that being at home first is a good idea. It gives them a chance to get the intitial couple of days under their belt!!
In essence – stop using nappies and do not look back! That sounds simple and obvious but the temptation to start and stop and start and stop all in the one day can be huge with such a daunting task! For this approach to succeed you need to give it a minimum of four to five days before giving up and deciding your child was not actually ready – you live you learn! Remind your child that they may need the potty or toilet every thirty minutes (set a reminder on your phone). Encourage them to try as regularly as every thirty minutes as catching every opportunity and every chance to praise and reward your child a long the process is what will make all the difference between them succeeding or not.
Firstly know that day one may be grand, good even, you might feel a little bit smug and wonder what the big fuss is about!! Then you hit day two…well it’s a different story altogether! Don’t start me on day three! Be prepared on day two and three for the worst and it will probably happen. I’d be laughing writing this but I still have one child left in nappies… Basically your little one will have no control at all over what happens when they need to do a pee. They will be aware if a poo is coming alright but they will be totally mithered about why on earth you would want them to do it anywhere other than behind the couch. So before undertaking the training know this will happen, expect a lot of accidents and prepare yourself and your house well! Roll up rugs and get yourself some ‘dry nights’ sheets for your child to sit on when they want to relax on the couch. My two didn’t mind sitting on their ‘special seat’ at all because we explained it’s what big girls do when learning how to wear big girl pants. It will save you a lot of scrubbing!
Once you have made the big decision (which is a lot more stressful than the actual event can I tell you!) go and buy a potty and big girl or boy pants. The cooler the pants the better! In our house we had Frozen, Peppa, Minnie an every Disney princess you can imagine!! If you let your little one choose their favourite character or coloured ones then you are empowering them and getting them involved in the decision to ditch their nappies and embrace an easier life for mummy or daddy! You will probably need a lot more pants than you expect to start out with. I would recommend having about 12-15 pairs of pants if like me you don’t have the time or energy to do several washes a day with just a few items in them. We have girls so they wore leggings – so for boys just light tracksuit bottoms, or pyjama bottoms etc would be helpful. If it is summer time they can just walk around the house in their pants but for winter time training just leave several pairs of trousers or leggings near the potty and toilet to make a quick change easier! Lots of people advise to leave kids run around the house naked in the summer but to be honest I never got that because I feel the child benefits from the feeling of wet material beside their skin after an accident – it makes them more aware of what has happened.
Obviously you don’t have to buy a potty you can go straight onto the toilet but if like us you don’t have a downstairs loo there may not be much choice if you want an easy life! I would buy the potty a couple of weeks before you start so that they can tell anyone who will listen that next week they are going to learn how to be a big girl or boy and use the potty instead of nappies and they can practice sitting on it etc. This takes a lot of the fear away from the whole ordeal when you do decide it is time to bite the bullet.
Buy a reward chart – infact you can just make one. Your child should get one sticker for every pee they get in the potty or toilet and two stickers for a poo! I also think a little treat like a piece of yoghurt rice cake or a bit of a marshmallow or something that your child will love should be given for the first couple of weeks every time they do a poo in addition to the stickers on the reward chart. I think this is a good idea because doing poos is so important, if your child starts to become afraid or nervous they will hold onto them which can cause constipation. This can be disasterous for the whole process! I’m not saying give a lot of sugar or unhealthy foods like sweets but a small piece of dark chocolate or a slice of a marshmallow certainly won’t do major harm for a few days and will really encourage your child to try to succeed!
I don’t recommend doing night time training at the same time as day time training – in fact our eldest daughter was a year trained during the day before we changed her from ‘night time pants’ to big girl pants at night. It’s a lot for them to take in all at one go and their small bodies have to get used to the change of holding on. Night time training can just take a little longer for a child to be ‘ready’ for. Some people will advise the complete opposite and obviously it’s important to do what feels right for you – this is just what worked best for us!
Pull up pants – I have such a love hate relationship with these. I would only recommend using them at night (and not straight away I would recommend a ‘standy up nappy’ for night for the first few weeks as a pull up won’t hold the same volume). A standy up nappy is what we called a normal nappy in our house once we started toilet training except instead of laying our child down to put the nappy on we closed the tabs loosely and let them stand into it like normal pants and then tightened it once on. I think if you put a child from a nappy into pull up pants full time you expect them to automatically be trained yet actually the material of both products are similar and I don’t really think they can tell the difference. I think a child needs to experience the feeling of wetting themselves in the initial day or two so that they can start to associate needing to go to the toilet with the feeling of actually letting go and the consequences. It sounds harsh but it’s not really – it’s just natural – they need to feel what happens when they hold on and what happens when they don’t so that they can feel and learn the trigger to go to sit on the toilet or potty and thus learn how to avoid accidents.
If you have to go on long car journeys or are going for a long walk I recommend bringing a travel potty in your car or buggy. Some people choose to use pull up pants for long journeys and whilst we did this on one or two overall I found it to be too confusing for our children and I think that using something like a ‘dry night’ sheet on their car seat (cut a hole to facilitate car seat straps) is a better option and if they have an accident pull over and deal with it but at least your car seat won’t be wrecked.
Problems to watch for:
- Constipation – This occurs as a result of a child not wanting to do a poo or being a little afraid – have a read of my constipation blog here to help resolve it http://wonderbaba.ie/2015/01/21/constipation-in-babies-and-children-what-it-is-and-how-to-treat-it/
- Rash – As a result of irritaion of skin from poor hygiene and inadequate cleaning. It’s important that whilst you encourage them to learn how to clean themselves that you also do it after them to ensure it is properly done. I usually don’t even draw attention to the fact that I have done this I just have a wipe in hand when I am helping them with their pants in the early days. When they are more used to pulling up their own pants and trousers if it becomes a problem you can have a ‘grown up’ conversation with them about the spots and how they come from the pee pee not being cleaned off properly and that to get their sticker at the end of the day they need to let you help!
- Digestive issues or signs of other unrelated illness – when your child is sick or complaining of tummy pain encourage them to let you see their poo’s before they flush…. Gross I know but it will let you watch out for problems to discuss with your Doctor or Pharmacist such as blood in the stools, loose watery stools, or hard pellet like stools. You may just have a problem actively encouraging them to stop showing you once they are all better 😉
- Some children are very clever altogether and realise that drinking causes the need to pee…so they stop drinking. It’s important to keep an eye on hydration during the toilet training process.
- Ensure to teach girls to wipe from front to back or just the front first and then back. If they wipe their bum first and then their front they pose the risk of causing an infection. For boys it’s important to teach them to clean themselves fully during training to prevent irritation of the skin.
- Use toilet wipes, as quite frankly tissues don’t hack it in terms of a child’s ability to give themselves a proper cleaning.
- Use a mild hand soap so as not to irritate their skin, I find my two manage liquid soap much better than a bar of soap and it leads to a lot less messing as they are only allowed to take one squeeze!
- Invest in a pair of crocs or other brand of shoe similar! It’ll save you having to fling their shoes or runners into the washing machine or hand washing them on a daily basis at first. Croc style shoes just need a quick wash and can be dried immediately!
- Keep a mop and bucket handy – fill a bucket and leave it at the side of the room, or in a different room if you have a mischievous little one so that when accidents happen you have everything you need to hand which minimises fuss and keeps the buzz around the training a happy one!
Choosing the right potty
We have a varied selection at http://www.milltownpharmacy.ie/cat/toilet_training Let me talk you through the different options so that you can make the best decision for your child and your family.
- If you are looking for a really standard potty I would advise choosing one like this : https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/potty
It is only €5.99 and is plastic so easy to clean. They come in blue or green and should appeal to your child!
- If you would rather have a more convenient potty which still falls into the more budget category of these types of products I would go for something like a potty chair. It has a more comfortable chair seat and a removable insert which means that you don’t need to carry the whole potty up to the toilet to empty it on every occasion! It also has a lid which is good – for many many many reasons….. i’ll let you figure those out yourself!!!
- At the higher end of the budget but on a much higher level of comfort is the Prince Lionheart PottyPod which is available at: https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/pottypod_prince_lionheart . This potty is pricey at €39.95 but offers a lot more comfort than the other seats. It is cushioned, height adjustable and has the removable inner container to make cleaning and emptying an easier task. I suppose it may be a lot more than you want to spend on a potty but it is worth considering that the more comfortable your child is on the potty the more they will be inclined to be happy to sit on it. This can lead to an easier potty training experience for everyone. When we were travelling and we were trying to use our travel potty instead of our “comfy” home potty we had a lot more resistance and ended up having difficulties with motivation.
- Many people want to avoid using pottys altogether – and I can totally understand why!! If I didnt live in a “two down” house with no downstairs loo i might be tempted to skip the potty stage altogether! Although I do think it is less traumatic for a toddler to just have to go and sit on the potty themselves rather than having the ordeal of figuring out how to climb up to the toilet as well as doing a pee! If you are looking to avoid the potty though I would recommend the use of a ‘toilet training seat’. This will in essence stop your child from falling into the loo! It will give them confidence and allow you to let them at it themselves rather than having them hanging with their arms around your neck each time…although you should still expect this when your out and about!! Like with the pottys there are different options to do with comfort. These first ones are €9.99 and have attractive colourful designs on them to make the experience less daunting for your little one. They are available from https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/toilet_training_seat_ This next grey one is from Prince Lionheart and is more comfortable by far due to its smooth and complimentary design. It is double the price at €19.95 so again is down to personal choice. It will however look a little more attractive in the bathroom when you have visitors over if that matters!!! Importantly again your child will be more likely to sit for longer periods on a comfortable seat than an uncomfortable one and so having a seat like this may make life easier in the long run. We didn’t have this one as I wasn’t aware of it when we were getting a toilet seat but we did invest a couple of euro extra to get a comfy one like this and I am so glad we did – this one is a much better colour though as whilst our two girls have loved our pink seat im not to sure how impressed our little man will be when the time comes….we are clearly going to end up needing this grey one for him! They are available from https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/weepod_prince_lionheart
It’s all about making it a positive experience…this is so important – weirdly potty training is one of those things that parents can get competitive about. I can’t empasise enough that your child needs to be ‘ready’ enough to understand and cope with the challenge and so comparing your child to the neighbours, their cousins, or their creche friends is just really pointless. Every child is different – and at the end of the day – isn’t that why they fill us with wonder!
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!