Potty Training 101

I’ve had a few people ask me about how we went about potty training Leah, so I figured I would write a post about it! Now, I am fully aware that every child is different so what worked for us may not work for someone else, but I love reading all kinds of tips and tricks when it comes to raising kids, and then taking whatever I choose from what I read, so I figured I would share our (very successful I must add) potty training experience!

  1. Wait, wait and wait some more until the child is READY! We did not start the potty training process until Leah was 2 years and 9 months. Before that point, we had bought a training potty at IKEA and Leah had sat on it (and used it!) a few times, but it was more for play and practice. We had a turbulent few months with a new baby and then a big move, so I did not want to throw even MORE change at Leah until things settled down a bit. So, once we moved we started talking about using the potty. We watched the Daniel Tiger episode where he uses the potty (which, side note, to this day Leah still asks me “What does Daniel Tiger say about using the potty?” on a daily basis just so I will sing the “potty song.” Thanks, Daniel Tiger….) and read books about going potty. During this time there was no pressure, just general potty conversation.
  2. Have a count down to D-Day. Once we decided to go ahead with potty training we created a count down to the big day. We decided that we were going to start using the potty on Saturday, so starting on Monday I began talking up using the potty with Leah. We still read our potty books and watched our potty shows, but now it was paired with a more pointed conversation. “This weekend we are going to use the potty like Daniel!” “Just a few more days of using diapers until you start going on the potty like a big girl!” Some days (or who am I kidding, some hours) These comments were met with excitement, and some times it was met with whining or stubborn “I will NOT use the potty!” If she responded negatively, I never gave in or really gave any acknowledgment to what she said. Just make the comment, smile, and move on. During this time we also went to Target and picked out 3 packs of “special big girl underwear.” I had received advice that you should buy boy underwear because it is thicker so it holds up better when they inevitably have an accident, but hello, there’s no way boy underwear patterns can compete with the girl underwear princess amazingness when you are 2 years old. So, even though I tried making my own subtle suggestions, we walked out of the store with 2 packs of (different) Frozen underwear and one pack of Minnie Mouse. The night before the big D-Day (or really P-Day!) we REALLY amped up the excitement. “Wow! Tomorrow is the big day!! Tomorrow we are using the potty!! Tomorrow you will be a BIG GIRL!” We put away the diapers “Bye-Bye diapers, we don’t need you anymore!!” And we lied out the first pair of underwear that she was going to put on in the morning.
  3. Make a potty chart. The morning of the big day Leah got up and we put on her first pair of underpants! We kept the energy way up “Wow Leah!! Look at you! Check out those underpants!!! We are so proud of you!” and it worked, since she came down the stairs excited and ready to use the potty. I sat down with her and she watched while I made a potty chart, while at the same time talking to her about what the chart meant. Yes, I know you could make (or find on Pinterest!) charts that are 10x better looking than this one, but for me it was more about Leah watching me make it (and letting her decorate it!) so she fully understood what it meant. We decided that, every time she successfully used the potty, she would put a sticker on a box. Once she received 5 stickers (or 5 successful potty trips) she would get a surprise! I know some people use candy or snacks, and really, to each their own, but I wanted to steer away from sugary rewards plus, with Leah, nothing outweighs the power of Frozen, so it was decided that once she reached her goal of 5 stickers, we would have a Frozen watching party!
  4. Make a HUGE deal out of the first “go.” We did not stick Leah on the potty first thing in the morning because A. She woke up with a wet diaper and B. I did not want to interrupt her normal morning routine (which I knew would just cause drama first thing). So she ate breakfast like normal and drank her “green juice.” (Trader Joe’s Green Plant juice blend-Leah’s favorite). Obviously, I was trying to push fluids like crazy so she could start to learn and recognize that “I have to go feeling.” After breakfast and after we made and hung up the potty chart, we went for our first try. Leah sat on the potty with her cup of juice and we talked about “letting your pee pee out” and how we can push with our belly muscles to get it out! Now, be prepared to sit…sit…and sit that first time. Leah was probably on the potty for a good 30 minutes doing nothing. I did not EVER want sitting on the potty to feel like a punishment so during this time I kept telling her that she could get up and take a break if she wanted to, but our determined and focused child decided to keep on trying so sat she did. Finally, 30 minutes later, we had success!! Leah was thrilled to see that she had gone and was excited to put her first sticker on the chart! And we whooped and cheered and basically made her feel like she had won the Nobel Prize. 😉
  5. Expect accidents and know that they are actually a GOOD thing! I knew that Leah was going to have at LEAST one accident and I was actually looking forward to it, because I knew it would quickly teach her what would happen when she peed without a diaper on. And, just like I expected, not even 45 minutes later, she peed in her underwear. She looked shocked at what happened and I calmly explained that, this is what happens when we are wearing big girl undies instead of diapers! Undies cannot catch the pee pee like diapers do! I think this is another prime example as to why it’s good to wait until a child is older because Leah got this. She completely understood the difference between underwear and diapers and now knew that, if she peed, it would make a mess. Now, this is where every child is different. Some kids may understand this but just not care, where my child is a bit type A so this realization made her a bit anxious about having another accident. I did my best to make sure she knew that accidents are no big deal! as we cleaned up and changed into a fresh pair of underwear. However, for the rest of the day, Leah was running to the potty every 20 minutes (by herself!) because she was afraid she “had to go” and she didn’t want to have another accident. I knew it was all about the process and I encouraged her in her multiple potty visits. Again, I knew she was quickly learning the “I have to go!” urge and she needed to figure out herself when that meant she had to make a trip to the potty. All day she would sit on the potty on and off, sometimes going and sometimes not, and it wasn’t long before she had earned her Frozen viewing party reward! We ended day one with a total of ONE accident.
  6. Probiotics, baby!!! If someone asked me, “What is your biggest piece of potty training advice?” This would be my answer. Probitics, probiotics, probiotics.

    Although Leah conquered peeing in the potty within 2 days (seriously, by day 4 we had only had 2 accidents) I knew that going “number two” in the potty would be a whole different challenge because Leah has never, ever been very good at pooping. The first few days of potty training we didn’t worry about it at ALL. Although we were using underwear 100% during the day, we were still using pull-ups at nap and night time, and most days she would wake up either in the morning or from a nap with a poo. At the time, I encouraged her just to make sure she kept pooping. We told her that it was totally okay to poo in her pull-up, but poops don’t belong in underpants! And this worked for awhile. Until we decided that we needed to start going poops in the potty as well….and that’s when she stopped going altogether. I’m talking like 5 days with no movement. I was ready to drag her to the ER for an enema. And that’s when my brilliant mom introduced me to my smartest parenting trick yet-daily probiotics for kids! The two pictured above are the ones we use. The FloraBaby is a flavorless powder and can be used on anything (I sprinkle it on Leah’s yogurt) and can be found on Amazon and the Buddy Bear vitamins I bought at Whole Foods. And the awesome thing is that both products are made for kids so you know it’s safe for their little systems. As soon as I started doing daily probiotics with Leah our poop problem was solved because it made her so regular, she couldn’t hold it any longer for days on end. Not only that, but it makes her bowel movements soft enough that going never hurts so she isn’t freaked out about having to do her business. Okay, have you had enough poop talk?

  7. Routines are your friend. The first few days of potty training we totally hung around the house and went NO WHERE while Leah played in only her underwear and went potty every 20-45 minutes. But then, once we started venturing out more and more, we developed a potty routine to help keep accidents to a minimum and to make sure she kept up her daily (or at least every other day) “number twos.” (okay, so we might not be done with our poop talk after all). Wake up, go potty. Have breakfast, then work on poops…Not only are our potty times (somewhat) schedule, but she has also developed a sort of “poo routine” that works for her. And, since doing her business on the potty was such an ordeal to begin with, I highly encouraged her little comfort routine to make going easier. Every morning, after breakfast, she chooses a book or two, we turn on the Disney Princess Pandora station, and she gets busy on the potty. It’s now so familiar to her that me saying “Okay, time to work on your poops!” no longer leads to a temper tantrum and instead leads to her running over, picking her books and reminding me (daily!) to turn on her music. And this little routine works because we have gone from screaming fits and 45 minute “poop sessions” to her sitting and going in 10 minutes or less.
  8. Make potty time business time, not play time. Now, this is where I think a lot of people have different opinions, but from the beginning I did not want to encourage a play time feel to going potty. The mantra in our house has been “you just do your business and then go on with your day!” This meant no toys, no Ipad games, no snacks…nothing while we were potty training. Yes, in the beginning we chatted and sang songs to keep her occupied while she tried to go, and yes, our only exception now is her book during her poops, but besides that, I did not want to encourage any play behavior. I know a lot of friends who have let their toddlers play “special games” or watch shows on an Ipad while they were sitting on the potty but the way I saw it was A. My child literally never plays games on a tablet and getting to play and/or watch a show would be such a special treat that she would happily sit on the toilet all day (while holding her pee) just so she could continue to enjoy this special activity and B. When and how do you break this habit? Okay, so maybe you only let them watch/play during the initial training but then when do you say “okay enough of that!” and how would that ever happen without a fit to follow? No thank you. It’s like the popular motherhood advice “never introduce another bad habit.” So right from the start we were all about the potty being for business, not play. Want to get back to playing with your dolls? Better hurry up and pee so you can get off!

So, there you have it. My top 8 pieces of potty training advice. I apologize for the length…I feel like I should have broken it down into chapters! 😛

As for how she is doing now, almost 3 months later? AWESOME. I could count on one hand how many accidents she has had since we started potty training. And most of the ones she HAS had have been my fault (letting her go too long while being out and about) but even those have usually been “starts” of accidents, where she cannot hold it any longer and starts having an accident, but then holds off on the rest until she gets onto the potty. We have also transitioned from using the training potty every time…to just using it for poops…to not using it at all. Leah now does all her business on the “big girl” potty, although we do use a step stool under her feet for when she poops. Even though she goes pretty quickly now, I sill think it’s more comfortable for her and relieves some of the pressure on her little legs and knees!! When we traveled to New York last month we brought her training potty in the car so she could use that at every rest stop, instead of public restrooms, which was a life saver. We also had her wear a pull up both there and back (it was a 13 hour drive) but each time she kept her pull up completely dry!!

We are still working on her telling us when she has to go (most of the time it’s just me saying “okay! time to go potty!”) although there are times when she will say “We should probably go potty, huh mom?” or will ask me “Do you have to go potty, mom?” which means that she does, but overall I am amazed at her progress. I was so worried about potty training and it turned out to be a breeze (well….minus the brief period of time when I was convinced we would have to pay to have a doctor suck her poop out….) but besides that it’s been great! Again, I know every child is different and I’m not saying “Just do what I did and it’ll be a total breeze!” but I DO think that what we did worked really well, and I really would shout the wonders of daily probiotics from the roof tops so, you know, take or leave what you will!

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