Sorry for the lack of posting over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been more than a little busy lately. I thought I’d share with you all a little about one of the things that’s been keeping me so busy—potty training Bailey.
Now, before I get started I want to say that I had absolutely no experience potty training a child (other than our furry first child Sydney) and I had absolutely no idea what to expect going into this. But fortunately, Bailey was ready and she figured it out really quickly!
So here’s the recap…
Back in June (at about 18 months in age) Bailey began showing signs that she was ready to potty train. She would tell us when she would wet or dirty her diaper and she even used her little potty chair several times. Unfortunately, at that time she was still in the infant room at the day school which was not equipped for a potty training child. So, Craig and I decided not to push her to use the potty at home since it would be impossible for her to be successful pottying at school. Instead, we opted just to let her use her potty when she asked to and wait it out until she was promoted to the toddler class in August. Once she joined the toddler class we decided to again wait to push the potty training subject so that she could instead focus on adjusting to the new classroom routines (sleeping on a mat, eating in a chair at the table, etc.). Our plan was to utilize the week between Christmas and New Years (when the day school was closed and I was off of work) to start the serious potty training.
As mentioned before, I had no idea what to do to potty train a child. So I read a lot of articles online and talked with family, friends and people from work about what did and didn’t work for their kids. I also consulted Bailey’s pediatrician to see what she would suggest. I didn’t follow any particular method (at least not to my knowledge). I just decided to pick-and-choose the bits of advice that I thought would work best for Bailey, Craig and myself.
Our basic plan was to:
- Do some serious “prep work”.
- Stop using diapers cold turkey and make a complete shift to cotton underwear (That’s right… no Pull-Ups… not even at nap time or bed time! We had read and heard from several people that Pull-Ups are too similar to diapers and they can be confusing for a child.)
- Put Bailey on the potty at regular intervals (every 30 minutes to one hour… depending on her progress) and use a kitchen timer as an auditory reminder.
- Go pants-less for the week (or at least for the first few days), since pants can be cumbersome and can slow down a mad-dash to the potty.
- Limit liquids during the first 3-4 days and gradually increase liquids after that (so that the child can learn the feeling of their bladder filling).
- Use basic rewards like stickers to encourage Bailey and make the process more fun.
- Place a puppy pad under her on the couch or in her crib to help protect things if accidents occur.
- Don’t leave home at all during the first 4 days and after that limit trips out to no more than an hour or so.
About 2-3 weeks before Christmas I started the “prep work” with Bailey. I let her go to the potty with me. I did the “potty dance” and then rushed into the bathroom and pretended to go (probably looked like an idiot in the process, but who cares). I tried to work pottying into almost every conversation I had with her. I would say things like “you’re going to be a big girl soon and big girls get to wear big girl panties”. While changing diapers I would say things like “shew… what a stinky diaper… big girls don’t wear stinky diapers.” I even had family and friends talk with her about it. The poor child was absolutely inundated with potty talk! I taped a couple of pieces of blank computer paper to the wall outside of the bathroom and told her that they were for the stickers she would get when she was a big girl and started using the potty. I took her shopping and let her pick out underwear for herself (naturally she chose Dora panties). I told her that the Dora panties were special and were for big girls. She was so excited by this that she told everyone at the school about her “special Dora panties”! I put the Dora panties away in her dresser drawer and pulled them out every couple of days to show them to her and remind her that when she used the potty like a big girl she would get to wear them. In addition to the regular panties that we bought I also stocked up on cotton training underwear (buying 12 pairs), which are basically thicker, more absorbent versions of regular underwear. These can be easily found in the infant section at most stores (I bought Bailey’s at Target, Wal-Mart and K-mart).
Once the Christmas holiday was over and we were back in Tennessee it was time to get down to serious business. Day one of potty training consisted of Craig and I waking Bailey up, excitedly talking to her about how today she was a big girl, taking her diaper off (and explaining to her that she no longer needed diapers since she was a big girl), setting her on the potty (which she didn’t use the first few times) and then putting a pair of training underwear on her (minus pants of course). We set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes and told her that when the timer went off she would have to try to use the potty. When the timer went off we stopped whatever we were doing and excitedly ran to the potty. At first she didn’t want to sit on the potty very long, so we used books to keep her attention while she sat. Sometimes she pottied and other times she didn’t. But either way we praised her efforts! Then we’d reset the timer and repeat the process all over again. If she had an accident (which she had plenty of the first few days) we would just say “uh oh… remember you have to use your potty” or “remember you have to keep your panties dry and clean”. Don’t get me wrong… it was frustrating! Especially when she would have an accident 5 minutes after we had just taken her to the potty, but we did our best to remain calm and positive with her. We didn’t give her anything to drink after dinner time (around 6:00) and we woke her up as we were going to bed (around 11:00) to have her try to potty one last time at night. We reconnected the baby monitor to listen for her during the night in case she woke up to use the potty (which she didn’t do the first few nights).
Days two and three consisted of the same routine as day one. Wake up, potty, set timer and so on… but with greater success. By Day four I felt brave enough to take Bailey out of the house for about an hour to go visit Craig at work. I had her bag all packed (with extra undies, clothes, wipes and her folding potty seat) and waited to leave until right after she had had a successful potty trip. I placed a puppy pad in her car seat and we headed out. Thankfully she had a nice, accident-free visit to Craig’s office (with lots of praise from Daddy and Mommy) before we headed back home. By the end of the first week she was going about 1 1/2 to 2 hours between pottying. She would often tell us when she needed to go instead of us having to ask her. And best of all she was only having maybe 1 accident a day (aside from wetting the bed at night… which was a different issue entirely) and we were able to make more trips out of the house each day!
The following week she returned to school (after being out for over a week). She was very excited to tell her teachers and friends about how she was now using the potty. The first few days the teachers asked her every 30 minutes or so if she needed to go potty (since she’s so easily distracted by her friends and all the fun at school). She had 1 or 2 accidents a day for the first few days. By the end of the week she had a couple of days without any accidents at all! She had even begun to wake up at night to use to potty! Talk about success! We decided to stick with the training underwear for the third week as well, even though she was virtually accident free at home and school (only having maybe 2 or 3 accidents the entire third week… including at night!). I continued talking with her about her special Dora panties that she would get to wear soon. Week four we took the training underwear off and put the special Dora panties on! She was so proud of herself and so excited that she tried to pull her pants down to show her teacher and friends when she returned to school this past Monday! And I’m pleased to say that she has been 100% accident free (during the day and night) ever since!
So, that’s my not-so-short version of about 4 weeks of hard work in the Leonberg house. I have to admit that I am surprised Bailey took to it as quickly and easily as she did. I truly didn’t know what to expect and was envisioning the worst! And even though these steps seemed to work for us, I know they won’t necessarily work for everyone else. But I think it all boils down to whether or not your child is ready and the amount of prep work you put into it.