And lo! For the second time in my life, I have successfully potty-trained a toddler.
Don’t worry, I’ve already had a glass (or three) of something nice to celebrate.
I’m super pleased that my days of carrying a changing bag full of nappies around are over – but at the same time I have to admit I’m a little ambivalent about this latest proof that Lucie’s no longer a baby.
For the benefit of anyone yet to potty train their child, or currently in the throes of doing it, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt from my two very different experiences…
There will always be someone in your NCT group / wider parenting network whose prodigy of a son (let’s call him Horatio) was potty trained and dry at night by the time he hit 18 months.
This person is almost always a twat, and / or lying.
Potty training is not a competition. It’s hard, particularly if – like me – you don’t enjoy chaos, mess or feeling constantly on edge. BELIEVE: worrying that your child might wee all over the carpet at any moment creates a kind of creeping, low-level stress you simply can’t shake.
Waiting until your child shows at least some sign of being ready for potty training is one way to make the whole process easier. You’re looking for signals that he or she is aware when they’re weeing or pooing, for signs that he or she is unhappy in a wet or dirty nappy and – crucially – for your son or daughter to be able to communicate with you effectively about their toileting requirements. They don’t need to be able to give you chapter and verse on every bowel movement, but the ability to say “Need poo-poo,” is rather useful.
I probably potty trained Leo before he was ready. He didn’t give a monkey’s about trying to use the potty but, pregnant and unable to face the prospect of two children in nappies, I cracked on.
After one incredibly painful week of MANY accidents, plus two more of intermittent accidents, he was reliably dry in the day time. There was one incident where he peed in a ball pit that I’ll never forget, and the memory of his first day in pants – where he required no fewer than seven outfit changes – will haunt me til the end of my days.
By contrast Lucie had played at hopping on and off the potty and toilet for weeks before I put her in proper knickers. She had shown an interest in other children’s use of the loo and made it abundantly clear she could tell me when she needed to go.
I put her in a pair of pants last Friday morning, and up to now she’s had just one accident.
Now, I don’t want to be all “Horatio’s mum” about it – and yes, she is a very different child to her brother – but I can’t help thinking this sums up the difference that chilling a little, and being led by your toddler, can make.
Aside from the obvious “Where did my baby go?” aspect of potty training, there are other things you’ll need to mentally prepare for.
When nothing but a scrap of cotton stands between your child’s nether-regions and your car / sofa / bedding, you’ll want to be ON IT at all times – watching and waiting for the next time they might need the loo.
You’ll find yourself mentally calculating how long they can possibly go without a bathroom break after you foolishly let them have that Innocent Smoothie immediately before the school run. You will tie your stomach in anxious knots, wondering how long the massive cup of water they drank at snack time will take to filter though their system.
If you have a lot going on at home or at work, or if you’re generally feeling a bit rubbish and knackered, it’s fine not to press on with potty training before you’re ready.
There are no prizes for doing it sooner, faster or better: nobody is judging you.
Not ridiculously technical stuff, but a few bits and bobs.
You’ll need several potties. I have two – one for upstairs, one for down. I went for the Pourty, as these make it easy to dump the contents in the toilet once your beloved has finished his or her business.
You may decide you also want a clever, collapsible travel potty with absorbent liners – but I must admit I didn’t bother with one. As far as possible, I encouraged Leo and now Lucie to just use the toilet while out and about.
On a related note, buy a trainer toilet seat or two, and a step stool, as soon as you start potty training. My advice is to try and establish the toilet, not the potty, as the proper place for poo poos as early as you can.
The reason is simple: it is all kinds of hideous to have to scrape human faeces out of a plastic receptacle, then clean and disinfect said receptacle, multiple times per day.
And this is based on PROPER SCIENCE.
A child won’t be “dry at night” until a particular hormonal shift takes place in his or her body. This change slows down the production of urine overnight in order to allow the child’s bladder to contain all that is produced while they’re asleep.
It took until Leo was almost four for him to be 100% dry at night. This is perfectly normal, so – once again – two fingers up to Horatio’s mum.
I suspect it’ll happen with Lucie sooner, but I literally couldn’t care less – and I will make sure she doesn’t feel any pressure to give a damn about it either.
… And they’ll keep on happening for a while.
Even after your child is reliably dry in the day he or she is bound to occasionally lose focus, or delay going to the toilet or potty until it’s too late. This will probably be because they are mega absorbed in whatever they’re doing – e.g. watching Mr Tumble.
When accidents happen, try to stay calm, sort out any mess without too much fuss and remind your little person how well they’re doing.
So there you have it. I hope this helps!
Bon chance if you’re about to start potty training – and if you’ve done it before, why not share your top tips in the comments? xx