What Doctors Want You To Know About Potty Training {Contributor}

Contributor Julie Forbes is here today with potty-traning advice she got in a class, based on advice from the AAP, that she took at a children’s hospital last summer.

Good news, parents of toddlers!  You can relax a little bit. Not enough to let them break into the knife drawer, but it seems societal expectations of potty-training are quite out of line with medical expectations. So at least there’s that.

Personally, I started to feel the potty-training pressure around my son’s second birthday.  All of the sudden, people were asking me if we had started potty-training and how I planned on doing it.  My husband was coming home with stories from work about foreign-born co-workers who had potty trained their kids by their first birthday.  Some preschools were saying that my child had to be potty-trained to attend.

I felt completely behind.  I googled potty-training, read about different approaches, and next thing you know I’m stripping my child naked, giving him tons of juice and trying to get him potty-trained in a weekend.  Incredibly, he mastered peeing on the potty within the 3 day time period, but pooping was a completely different story.

He wanted nothing to do with the potty, the only way he’d drop a deuce was in his underwear, hiding behind the couch.  I thought I had failed, I googled more, I talked to our pediatrician, I washed a lot of underwear, and eventually I decided to ignore it and pick up potty training a few weeks later.

I went through this cycle over and over and over again…. for a year…. until, magically, one day, he started pooping in the potty (around the age of 3) and hasn’t had an accident since.

After a year of poopy underwear, I decided I hadn’t really mastered the whole potty-training thing the first time around, and I was going to do better with my daughter.  So, I attended a potty-training class put on by a children’s hospital, and left feeling completely relieved.

All of the information in the class was based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  As in, hundreds of childhood, medical experts have studied this kind of thing, and think this is the best way to do it.  (Which certainly holds more weight with me than what google or my childless great Aunt Helga thinks.)

Turns out, the problem was me.  I just needed to calm down, ignore what other people said, and wait a little bit.

What Doctors Want You To Know About Potty Training | BabyRabies.com

Here’s what I learned: 

Ignore Everyone’s Schedule, But Your Child’s:

You can’t will this to happen, and you have to wait for your child to be ready.  Sharon Rau, the pediatric nurse who put on the class is also the mother of 6 and grandmother of 10 (so, she’s done this a few times herself).  She says the biggest mistake she always made, was saying to herself: I have to get this child toilet-trained before the new baby arrives, or before grandma visits, or before vacation, etc.  She says the child has complete control over when this is going to happen and you have to wait for their signs of readiness.

Don’t listen to those condescending comments from frenemies, and ignore your mother-in-law’s side-eye.  There’s no need to hurry this along.

Look for These Signs of Readiness:

I thought as long as my child seemed interested in the potty and sat on it from time to time, that he was good to go.  But Rau says the two most important factors are:
1.) your child has decreased frequency in urinating.  (So, not only is the child not peeing as often, but when he or she does urinate, the diapers are extremely wet and heavy.)
And 2.) timely bowel movements, as in, you can set your watch to a poopy diaper.
Other things to look for: your child tells you when his or her diaper needs to be changed, hides to go pee or poop in a diaper, or changes facial expressions when pottying.

Those are the physical signs of readiness, but your child also has to be emotionally and mentally ready. Mental readiness means that your child knows the difference between wet and dry, and that he or she can understand directions.  Emotional readiness means that things are calm in your life and your child’s life.

For example, Rau says not to start potty-training right before a new baby arrives because the older child could very well revert to baby-like tendencies.  Don’t start potty-training when you have a lot of stress in your life, or you’ll take the stress out on the child.

One way to gauge the child’s readiness is by reading books about pottying.  If your child is saying things like, “I want to be a big boy and go poo poo on the potty too,” that’s a good thing.  If she’s saying, “I don’t want to use the potty,” or, “I like my diaper,” you may need to wait a little bit.

Wait for that sweet spot:

Look for your child’s signs of readiness and strike when the moment is right.  If you’ve timed it perfectly, it should only take a few weeks to master potty-training.  The AAP says that time is usually around 2.5 years old, but Rau says she thinks the longer you wait until 3, the better off you’ll be.  She said its like teaching a 2 month old to walk: the earlier you begin, the longer it will take.

Using the example of my child, I started when he was 2 years old and it took us a full year to potty train him.  If I had started when he was 2.5 years old, it would have taken us 6 months.  If I started when he was 3, he would have figured it out in a snap.  There’s no medal for potty-training early.  And, if you start too soon, you’ll just cause undue stress to yourself and your child.  Rau says, “If you wait for the right time, you’ll hardly know you’re potty training.”

If you have started potty-training and within 3 days you’ve had no success, just drop it.  Your child is not ready.

Pull out some pull-ups:

A potty-trained child is one who does not use a diaper during waking hours.  Waking hours, that’s it.  Nighttime wetness is not something that can be taught.  Sometimes, both daytime and nighttime control happen at the same time, but in a large percentage of children, nighttime dryness comes much later.  If you’ve convinced your child that he’s too big for diapers, then get some overnight pull-ups because you could be using them for a while.

In fact, Rau says pediatricians say that parents come to them waaaaaaay too early concerned about nighttime wetness.  Pediatricians say they don’t consider nighttime wetness to be a problem until the child is 10 or 11.  Yes, 10 or 11!

Some of the reasons that children will still urinate while sleeping is because they just sleep so deeply that they don’t even know they’re doing it.  Others dream that they got out of bed and went to the potty, but they’re just doing it in their diaper.  This is usually something that children grow out of and does not need to be medically addressed.


Don’t ever punish (this includes humiliating or embarrassing over an accident.)
Don’t ever restrict fluids to achieve success.  Don’t wake a child at night to potty.
Don’t draw a huge amount of attention to an accident.

If you find that your child gets too upset over an accident, you may be making too big of a deal over this whole thing.  Calm down, and your child will calm down. Rewards are ok, such as praise or a pat on the back, stickers work well too.

Rau ended with this: if you forget everything else, just remember : Patience + Praise=Toilet Learning

Keep up with Julie and her life with 3 under 4 over at her Julie Forbes Facebook page. 

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  1. I know we aren’t supposed to make a big deal about accidents but OMG my youngest keeps peeing and pooping all over my house and he’s ready. It’s just normal accidents and then my 4 year old decided he needed some extra attention and has started having accidents too! Agggghhh

  2. Sarah Moise Young on

    I wonder why you shouldn’t wake your child to pee. We had great success in getting our son to stay dry by waking him up right before we went to sleep and walking him to the toilet. Even recently, he had a growth spurt, and I don’t think his bladder had caught up yet, so we woke him up to pee for about two weeks till things evened out, and he’s back to getting his own little butt up to pee when he needs to. Does the AAP think it messes up their sleep rhythms? But how do they learn to do it if they never practice? Humph!

  3. We waited until our first son was 3.5, and I totally am so happy we did. With kiddo #2 we’re playing it by ear. He just turned 2, so we’ll see what happens. Glad to read this!

  4. This is great! Per my pediatrician, we waited until my eldest showed signs of readiness, which was closer to age 3. I felt behind a lot of my friends, but she was nearly 100% trained (night, too, which is apparently rare) by the end of the first 3 days. Self-high-fiving myself over here! 😉

    Hoping for similar luck with our youngest, who is starting to show signs of readiness.

  5. I agree with this 1000%. I did the exact same thing with #1 son. And it took a YEAR to potty train him, and just like she said, one day, a little while after his third birthday, he just ‘got it’ and started using the potty all the time. With #2 being 2.5 years old, and #3 2 months old, a few people asked about potty training before the new baby came, and I just nodded and smiled. #2 mostly doesn’t wear a diaper during the day, and mostly goes on the potty. Mostly… I’m not too worried about it, and when he’s ready, he’ll figure it out.

  6. No kids here yet (I know, I’m a bit weird, I really enjoy mommy blogs… probably that bio clock ticking away c: ) but I will really stress the night-time wetness thing. It’s just not a big deal. I was a bed-wetter as a kid, and the doctor was so like ‘not a big deal, stressing over it will just make it worse’. Turns out much, much later that it may have been related to a whole lot of other things (pelvic floor issues) but I was toeing if not over that 10/11 line (admitting this for you, mommas!)

    It’s just how the human body works. It knows a little of your own pee isn’t going to hurt you. That’s why drunk or otherwise impaired, stressed, or sick people often have the same ‘well I dreampt I went so I must have’ thing, even as adults. Occasionally is so not a big thing. Even more regularly as a little kid still getting that all figured and sorted out, learning to listen to their body, is just how it goes.

  7. Nancy Joy Reside-Smith on

    My mom gave me the best advise…” You don’t potty train a child. They train themselves”. Sure helped me relax!

  8. Potty Train in 3 Days on

    watch this video to learn how to train
    child potty:>> http://tinyurl.com/PottyTraining7
    After two utterly miserable weeks of my husband and I trying to train our son on our own to go to the bathroom … I decided to find a method to help me teach my son go to the bathroom.
    My son was in the stages furthest from the regression, kicked and screamed when he would sit on his potty. Not to mention to go into hiding whenever he had to go.
    We use the methods of a book that you download from the internet and I was speechless after my husband and I attended our son sitting in her bathroom, all by itself! 4 days in your program and regression were corrected and we had our first day accident free.
    I just had to write and say thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your help Thanks to the author of the book.

  9. Esther Perez on

    The longer you wait to potty train your ?hild…
    The harder it will be for you… Even if they are ?urrently not showing any signs of being ready.
    Even if you had tried potty training in the past and failed…
    …Listen, it’s NOT your fault.
    Here’s what’s going on with your ?hild
    ==> fb.me/880RisJGb

  10. On the 4th day my child Alisha is already using the potty on her own and without telling me when she has to go. Who knew I would stumble across this site and have a fully potty trained child 3 days later! I have liked this page and told my friends to come watch your video here fb.me/5axQX5IdO

  11. How to potty training on

    I’d like to introduce you to a good friend who can save you a lifetime of frustration and disappointment when potty training your child. You may be familiar with her?
    Her name is The Potty Training Guru, but she prefers Carol.
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    Watch the video here: http://tiny.cc/pottytraining111

  12. How to Potty Train in a Week on

    Go here to look the video Potty Training in 3 Days: [https://goo.gl/5xkmCW]
    We completed the 3-day potty training 2 weeks ago, and it was quite successful for my just-turned 22-mo old boy. I HIGHLY recommend “crash course” for potty training, but be sure you follow everything she says. We had a minor setback once he returned to daycare, but they are onboard with the program now & are really helping a lot. My mother-in-law potty trained 5 kids & 10 grandkids before this, and none were as successful as quickly as using this method.

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