More and more children every year start school wearing nappies. The advice of when and how to potty train is being debated. Parents are getting conflicting advice: you must start potty training before two; children do it themselves when they are ready. Growing evidence, currently anecdotal but significant is suggesting two things:
1 Children need to be prepared for potty training; suddenly introducing a potty and pants at 2-3 years doesn’t seem to be working
2 There is no evidence that potty training early does damage.
Children in real nappies tend to potty train earlier but it’s not automatic. Some intervention as described below is necessary, especially for first-borns.
There is no set age for your child to potty/toilet train. Every child is different. The most important thing is to prepare your child. Then they can develop an interest and you can read the signs to see when they are ready for you to take away daytime nappies.
We don’t delay cleaning our child’s teeth until they can do it themselves. We start to clean their teeth as soon as the teeth come through, right? It’s the same for toilet training. Teaching your child about pee and poo from an early age is important preparation. (This tends to be most important for the first-born who don’t have older siblings as role models.) It means that when the time for potty training arrives (ie removing nappies during the day and using cotton pants – all day, every day) the process will be quicker and easier.
It’s also important to note that control of bowels, control of bladder and staying dry at night are 3 different things. They tend to happen at different times. Children can be clean by one, dry by 18 months and dry at night around three. But it depends on the child – and possibly more importantly, you giving your child the stimulation and awareness to show you s/he is ready.
How do we prepare for toilet/potty training?
When to potty train ie when to help your child stop wearing nappies during the day?
How to start Potty/Toilet Training?
What do we do when we go out?
Once this process has started be consistent. Stick with it and don’t go back to nappies. When you go out you may need a portable toilet so s/he can use it. Choose to spend time at a park with toddler toilets (such as Coram’s Fields) or a drop-in with small toilets so that your child will see ‘big’ boys and ‘big’ girls going to the loo.
What if there is no progress?
If you feel that your child is not ready after all go back to nappies and try again when your child shows an interest. This process takes co-operation. Your child should be an active participant. Be consistent in whatever seems right for your child.
What about night training?
Most children become dry at night within 6 months or so of becoming dry in the day but up to 20% will still wet at age 5 years. If so parents need to speak with their school nurse or GP re appropriate treatment to help their child become dry.
What about children with special needs?
Having special needs does not mean that your child cannot become toilet trained. Get expert advice
Tel: 0161 607 8219
PromoCon, working as part of Disabled Living Manchester,
provides impartial advice and information regarding a whole
range of products, such as musical potties and other toilet
training equipment and swimwear and washable trainer pants
for children who have delayed toilet training.
Information is also available regarding which services and
resources are available for both children and adults with bowel
and/or bladder problems
If you’re interested in your child developing bowel and bladder control from an early age have a look at this post on Elimination Communication. In particular see comments from parents who have experience of this method.
This advice is based on listening to parents, health visitors and paediatric continence professionals over the last 15 years. Comments on this draft welcome!