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Child-led potty training

After conversations with friends with older children, we had made the decision not to consider potty training until around 3 years old. However, as with most things we do like to be child-led, and when our eldest announced she wanted to use the potty at 27 months we rolled with it.

We did attempt to offer the potty sooner than planned due to a persistent nappy rash requiring lots of nappy-free time. In order to save our carpets, we got the potty out to see how she would respond. It was a flat no. In fact, if she needed to wee she would run and hide to do it. This confirmed two things for us, 1) she was physically ready - she was holding her wees and knew when she needed to go; 2) mentally she was not.

We offered a few more times during nappy free time, but the answer was always the same, No. We agreed she wasn’t ready and packed the potty away. Then, a couple of weeks later she announced “I don’t wear a nappy, I use the potty”, and that was that.

For the first couple of weeks, we had the potty easily available for her and went commando in the house. We had a couple of accidents when she was distracted, but on the whole she made the potty 99% of the time. We decided to keep nappies for trips out of the house and overnight as we hadn’t yet broached needing to remove clothes.

Following a couple of mainly accident-free weeks we introduced knickers, however, then every wee was an accident. After a quick consultation with some fellow mummy friends we learnt that knickers can be confusing in the beginning because the closeness reminds them of their nappy. From here we decided to introduce just her trousers and it worked a treat. We found the looseness of the trousers eliminated the nappy confusion but allowed her to get used to including time to take them down.

After a week of success with trousers, we re-introduced the knickers, this time with far greater success.

The next step was out of the house. We decided to purchase the Potette Plus with their reusable silicon insert as our travel potty. I liked that in the wilderness (or the park) I could pop it down without the liner and she could wee directly onto the ground. The liner allowed us an easy-to-clean, reusable, option for poos, we just use disposable bags for disposing of them. The liner is also great for non-wild wees, such as the time H announced she needed a wee in the middle of IKEA, I just use pocket nappy inserts to absorb them and a wet bag to bring it home. The other benefit of the Potette Plus is it doubles up as a toilet seat adapter as well.

To begin with we started with short trips from home and carried plenty of spare clothes. At this point she was dry at home for around a month and we had great success with this transition. Once we were comfortable that she could give us enough notice we braved the car.

The final step was returning to childcare, with a lot more distraction and her caregivers not immediately there to help as we were at home, we weren’t sure how it would go. Her Grandmother went with her to pre-school for the first few days (a handy option for us when Grandma owns the pre-school), the first two days, every wee was an accident. We were expecting this and made sure whenever she had an accident we were supportive and gave her reassurance, such as “It’s hard to remember to go to the toilet when you’re busy painting”. When she returned the following week she had no accidents at all.

During the lockdown we had decided to take her out of the childminders and move in with our childcare bubble to reduce our contact. Once we returned home, we prepared for the return to the childminders, which not only meant a busy setting with lots of distractions but also there was no longer a family caregiver there, only focusing on her. We were fully prepared for a day of accidents, so we packed 4 spare sets of clothes and off she went.

We agreed with our Childminder that she would have a potty readily available for her to use without needing to ask for help, and that she would take her to the toilet every hour. Regular offerings of the toilet/potty were not part of my plans, because it can prevent the child from listening to their body for queues. However, for us, potty training was established and I knew she could read her body queues, so we were happy to agree with this.

Thankfully, this transition was straightforward and there were very few accidents.

We initially decided not to broach nights until we were getting regular dry nappies. H has always been a heavy wetter overnight and this did reduce with potty training, but the nappies were still full come morning. A few months on, one night at Grandma’s, she refused her nappy and Grandma decided to put her to bed nappy free. She woke once to go to the toilet but otherwise was completely dry.

For a short while, we decided to continue with the nappies, which when worn were soaked come morning. However, we had a couple more nights of nappy refusal and again she was dry so we removed the night nappy also. One thing to remember with nights is that it cannot be trained and that it is hormonal, the hormone which controls this is also not fully developed until around age 7, so don't worry if your child is dry in the day but not overnight, we still now at age 4, have boughts of overnight accidents.

We do still have accidents (almost two years on) from time to time both in the day and during the night, but we still respond with kindness and support. Afterall, after two babies, I often have wee accidents too, but that's another story!


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