One week ago, we took on the daunting task of teaching our toddler to use a toilet. This is something that I have looked forward to with a mixed sense of dread and excitement. It’s hard to believe that my baby girl is already two and a half and will no longer be wearing diapers. Babyhood is fading so quickly and while that makes me happy and proud, it is also bittersweet.
This was my first experience potty training and it’s only been a week. I am new to this and don’t pretend to have all the answers or the perfect approach; I would like to simply share what we did, how it went, and hopefully give you some helpful tips and an idea of what to expect.
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Part One: Getting Ready
I’ll share more on this at the end of this post, including links to the products we used, but the obvious must-haves are a potty seat and / or ring (which apparently is called a toilet trainer these days), step-stool (if your little one is using the regular toilet), underwear, juice (or flavored water; something that you can get them to drink a lot of), and all of the patience and positivity you can possibly muster. Make sure that your calendar is open all week; plan to be home, and prepare to spend a lot of time sitting in the bathroom – which, at 24 weeks pregnant, is not as fun as it may sound.
The first thing we did was make a big deal about it. Potty training is exciting! We talked about it with enthusiasm, explained how it meant she was becoming a big girl, and how she would get to wear fun underwear (and no more diapers!). We’ve been having this conversation for months, but it shifted from “sometime soon” to “next week!” We spent about a week building up excitement and anticipation.
There are many different schools of thought on when to potty train. Truth be told, I’d planned on doing it closer to the beginning of the year, but it needed to be put off for a number of reasons. Which was fine with me, honestly. While diapering does get a little grosser the older they get, it is undeniably more convenient than having to run them to the potty.
We chose to potty train now because she seemed honest-to-goodness ready. She was obviously more aware of her bodily functions – when she needed to go, when she was going – and more sensitive to having a dirty diaper. She is all about independence and being a big girl and was game for tackling this next milestone.
Part Two: The Training
When Vivian woke up in the morning, I excitedly told her that it was potty training day! We took off her diaper and went downstairs in naught but a t-shirt. I decided to go with the bare-bottomed method because it made sense to me, that their little bodies would confuse underwear with a diaper. With nothing on down there, she was much more aware of when her body needed to go and could respond to those cues.
I was feeling optimistic and excited, but that optimism quickly waned as Viv began to cry. She didn’t want to go in the big girl potty; she wanted to “diaper train”. I tried to be as gentle and positive and reassuring as possible, but she is very much a creature of habit and she was not a fan of not wearing anything.
After a little while I got her calmed down and we began our day. We discovered that she has incredible self control as I watched her fight the urge to pee for probably close to twenty minutes. Finally she went – all over the floor (luckily, my downstairs is predominantly hard floors). My neat-freak child was none-too-thrilled about this, but I reassured her once again, and after that she was much more willing to go sit on the potty whenever she felt anything.
I won’t detail our entire day but suffice it to say that while it was exhausting, I felt it went really well. She ran in and sat on the potty every few minutes, and I spent a lot of time sitting on the bathroom floor with her. It was most frustrating the times I could tell when she needed to go but didn’t want to. I tried my hardest to remain positive and encouraging, but there were definitely moments where I was just done. However, over the course of the entire day she only didn’t make it to the potty twice, so that was encouraging.
Some things we learned: She strongly prefers the real toilet. I had a portable potty so that we could carry it around the house with us, but even so she would always run to the real bathroom. Honestly, I was okay with this. Less clean up for me and in the long run, I want her to use the actual toilet anyway.
Girls have to aim too. The first couple of days, even though she was making it to the potty in time, we still had a lot of leakage because of where / how she was sitting on the toilet. So I still got to clean up lots of pee.
Fit your stool beforehand. Part of our aim struggle was that the stool we were using was too short. She could get onto the toilet but wasn’t able to sit back sufficiently far enough. I’d recommend measuring the ideal height for where your child is at and getting a stool that is the appropriate size.
Track when your little one successfully goes. I have found this to be really helpful in learning how many times she averages in a day and also at what intervals. If I know that she peed at 9:15AM and it’s now approaching 11:30, I should probably encourage her to try again.
As a side note, on day one she wore a diaper at both naptime and bedtime. I was worried about this causing confusion or her being upset about taking it off again, but she did just fine.
The second day went much smoother. Viv went pants-less again and while she still rushed to the bathroom often, it wasn’t quite as constant as the first day. Her confidence was growing. She happened to pee shortly before her nap, so I decided to skip the naptime diaper. She woke up dry! We also braved tossing on shorts and leaving the house on a walk to get the mail a little ways down the road.
On Friday, we introduced underwear and shorts (I chose looser shorts that were easier to pull up and down). Pulling them up-and-down was a little tricky for her at first (and things still end up a little cheeky at times), but I knew that it was important for her to be able to do it herself. I was honestly amazed at how well she did with the addition of underwear and shorts. We had zero accidents on day three. She made it to the bathroom in every instance with enough time to take clothes off, climb the stool, and sit down.
Because she woke up dry Friday morning, we decided to try underwear that night. It was a success! So far she has only peed herself once at night (which we kind of saw coming, because she last peed two hours before going to bed). I hadn’t made an intentional decision to potty train all at once but it has worked out that way, and I’m grateful for it.
Part Three: Going Forward
It has been a full week now and I would say that Vivian is potty trained. If someone asked me how long it took, I would say three days. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. We’ve had some mishaps, had some accidents. Now that she is comfortable going on the toilet, she sometimes waits a little too long and wets herself. That’s okay. This is a new skill, and she’s still learning. I am incredibly proud of her and remind her of that often.
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As a whole, this process went smoother than I’d dared hope and I am so crazy proud of this little girl for taking on the challenge.
Potty training is a big deal for everyone involved. Everyone’s experience is going to be different; it’s going to take time, there are going to be setbacks, and that’s okay. Don’t set your expectations too high. Just embrace the journey, love on your little one, and hold onto them a little bit tighter.