Potty Learning

I’d like to share my experience of teaching my baby girl to use the potty before her 1st birthday. I’m not trying to brag (although I am beyond proud of my little honey) I really just want to share our experience in hopes of helping other parents teach their little ones to use the potty.

     While studying child development at the U of A, I learned about elimination communication and found some of the main concepts very helpful when I was potty training kids as a preschool teacher as well as with my own daughter.

Main Concepts:

*Pay attention to when/how often your baby is going potty. Do they always poo first thing in the morning? After nap? After a bath?
*Watch your baby for signs that they need to go, are going, or have gone potty. Do they have a face they make when they poo? Do they stop playing and look away while peeing? Do they grab their diaper when its wet?
*Try to put baby on the potty when its likely that they need to go. Some easy wins are:

  • as soon as they wake up;
  • after nursing or drinking;
  • if its been about 2 hours since they last peed.

Keys to Success:

     I learned a ton about “potty learning” through my experience as a preschool teacher and from running my home daycare. The most important lessons I learned are:

  • Keep it fun! If they feel tension or like they’re being pressured, it’s not going to work.
  • Keep a basket with toys and books next to the potty and rotate them for different ones each week.
  • Be consistent! Once you’ve figured out your baby’s likely potty times, be consistent in giving them potty opportunities at those times. (Side note for parents working outside the home- you can’t expect daycares to follow through with your potty learning routines, but you absolutely can teach them by being consistent during the time you are together. They will learn that they can use the potty with you, but likely are not going to be given that chance at daycare & will use their diaper instead.)
  • Celebrate the wins & don’t sweat the accidents. Make sure they know how happy you are that they used the potty, but don’t stress when they don’t. Like any skill, it will take practice, repetition and consistency.
  • Switch to pullups sooner rather than later. Its sooo much easier (for you & for baby) when you can just slip the pullup on and off as needed. I was surprised to find that, on average, pullups were only about 2 cents more per diaper, and for us, it was sooooo worth it, but that’s just my 2 cents 😉

Our Story:

     So, with all of that in mind, here’s my story of how I got my baby pooping on the potty consistently before her 1st birthday.
     First, I started keeping the potty chair out in her play area when she was 8 months old. I let her investigate it, open and close the lid, and sit on it. I sat her on it once a day (with clothes, just as if it were a regular chair) so she could get used to it.
     At 9 months (when her feet could reach the floor while sitting on the potty) I started putting her on it with no diaper (during diaper changes). Just for a minute or two, so that she could start getting used to the idea and to make an association with the diaper changing and the potty.
     Around this time, I switched to pullups to make her potty practice and diaper changes easier for us both. She had been getting pretty upset about being laid down to change her diaper,  (imagine a screaming octpus trying to escape a diaper…) but once we started using pullups it made everything so much easier. She doesn’t mind getting changed and she actually likes to help put her legs in!
     Each time she wakes (in the morning & from each nap) I put her on the potty and we play with toys or read a couple books while we wait to see if she has to potty. I try to make it as fun as possible and make sure she doesn’t feel pressured. If she shows any signs of wanting to get up, I help her get up right away. It helps alot that she knows the sign for ‘All Done’, but I also get her up if she starts getting fussy or reaching for me.
     When she does go potty, I try to be really enthusiastic. I clap and say something like, “yay!! You went potty! You’re such a big girl! I’m soo proud of you! Yay potty!”
     Just by giving her consistent opportunities to use the potty, being patient and making potty time fun, she started having more poos on the potty and actually likes to try! At 10 months old, she was consistently pooping on the potty. Pees were still pretty hit or miss at this point, but not having to change poopy diapers anymore is absolutely worth the effort of putting her on the potty each time she wakes up or shows signs of needing to go, like tooting, squatting or making a ‘poo face’.
     At 11 months old she loves to use the potty. She actually gets excited and rushes over to it when I ask her if she needs to go potty.

Our potty ‘schedule’ at 11 months looks something like this:

  • I take her as soon as she wakes up in the morning and she’ll almost always pee on the potty.
  • Try again before 1st nap (about 2hrs after waking up) & she sometimes goes pee.
  • As soon as she wakes from her 1st nap, she will usually pee and poo in the potty.
  • Try again before & after each nap.
  • We also make sure to ask her if she needs to potty about every 2 hours & before bed each night. Essentially, I’m giving her the opportunity to use the potty about as often as she used to make wet diapers.

     I’ve also been pairing a sign with the word potty. Whenever she goes potty I try to say the word “potty” and do our sign for potty (I felt that the ones I’d found online were a bit too difficult for a baby, so I decided our sign for potty would be simply patting her hip area). I do the word/sign pairing while she’s going potty, after she goes potty, if she goes over to the potty, and when I ask her if she has to go potty.
     She’s started using our potty sign while sitting on the potty now (11 months old). It’s so rewarding to see your baby use a new skill that you’ve taught them! I’m so proud of my sweet girl and how quickly she’s learning to use the potty. I hope this helps other parents (who want to avoid the struggle of potty training a preschooler) realize that:

  1. it is entirely possible to teach your baby to use the potty;
  2. its actually pretty simple & just takes consistency & patience;
  3. most babies prefer to not have waste on their bodies and will prefer using the potty when given the chance;
  4. in our culture, people have accepted potty training as something you do with 2-4yr olds, but it doesn’t have to be that way, and, in fact, in most of the world, babies are taught to use the potty well before 2 years old. If they can do it, SO CAN WE!
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