Talk­ing toi­let

How do you know when to potty train your child and how do you get it right? Lori Co­hen asked the ex­perts – and some in­spir­ing moms who nailed it – for their ad­vice

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

THE PRICE OF nap­pies! Be­sides watch­ing your child reach a new level of in­de­pen­dence, this is one of the ma­jor rea­sons par­ents are keen to potty train their tod­dlers as soon as they can. Plus, some crèches will only ac­cept a child who is weaned off di­a­pers. That can swiftly take potty train­ing from an ex­cit­ing project to em­bark on with your child, to some­thing that is ur­gent for him or her to grasp. Whew, that’s a lot of pres­sure for both you and your tot!


While no statis­tics ex­ist for South Africa, the Amer­i­can Academy of Fam­ily Physi­cians (AAFP) re­ports the av­er­age age at which train­ing begins has in­creased over the past 40 years from ear­lier than 18 months of age to be­tween 21 and 36 months – largely due to the use of dis­pos­able nap­pies, which keep chil­dren more com­fort­able when wet. Their re­search shows con­trol­ling bowel move­ment overnight is the ear­li­est toi­let­ing skill (around 22 months in girls and 25 months in boys) while be­ing able to pull up un­der­wear or train­ing nap­pies is usu­ally the last skill mas­tered, hap­pen­ing at around 29.5 months in girls and 33.5 months in boys. The AAFP says chil­dren do not master all nec­es­sary skills un­til af­ter 24 months of age, although some do as early as 12 months. So where does that leave you?


If you are not faced with a preschool or crèche toi­let train­ing dead­line, there are three things to con­sider be­fore you get started, says oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist Lara Schoen­feld. “Your child needs to have de­vel­oped a sen­sory aware­ness, in that they look down at their nappy or get a confused or thought­ful look on their face when they re­lease. They may also show an in­ter­est in the toi­let or watch­ing you on the toi­let. The last thing to think about is the weather, as it is eas­ier to toi­let train when it is warm and they can go nap­pyfree dur­ing the day,” says Lara. Plus, the brain needs to be able to make the connection be­tween wee­ing and feel­ing wet, which can­not hap­pen if they feel dry in a nappy all the time, she ex­plains. Con­sid­er­ing th­ese three fac­tors the ap­pro­pri­ate time to start toi­let train­ing is when it’s the sum­mer sea­son near­est when they are 18 months old,” says Lara.

Pae­di­a­tri­cian Dr Tem­lett Hockey fur­ther ex­plains that a child may be ready when they have a pre­dictable, reg­u­lar bowel habit, are dry for more than two hours at a time and the fol­low­ing de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stones have been reached: PHYS­I­O­LOG­I­CAL They can hold their blad­der/rec­tal con­tent vol­un­tar­ily. COG­NI­TIVE They can make a connection be­tween the toi­let and the need for elim­i­na­tion, can re­sist dis­trac­tion and can re­mem­ber where the toi­let is. MO­TOR They are able to un­dress/dress, climb onto the toi­let and wipe them­selves. EMO­TIONAL They need to have the ma­tu­rity to be able to re­lax sphinc­ters vol­un­tar­ily. SO­CIAL They have an aware­ness of the

ac­tions of oth­ers and may try im­i­tat­ing them.

VER­BAL They are able to un­der­stand in­struc­tions and re­ceive guid­ance from adults.


We of­ten for­get that chil­dren are in­di­vid­u­als when it comes to prac­ti­cal tasks like potty train­ing, says Lara. Recog­nis­ing your child’s sen­sory sen­ti­ments should be a con­sid­er­a­tion, she says. “A baby that has al­ways been hy­per­vig­i­lant and hy­per­sen­si­tive – where they feel and hear ev­ery­thing – will re­quire a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to a baby that has al­ways been con­tent and easy. The set­tled baby will not reg­is­ter as much sen­sory in­for­ma­tion in their nappy than the set­tled child so may not have the aware­ness as early, for ex­am­ple,” she says. “The sen­si­tive child may re­quire a padded potty or use soft wipes while potty train­ing to make it more com­fort­able. The most im­por­tant thing is that ev­ery child is on its own jour­ney and they will all get there even­tu­ally. If both you and your baby are find­ing it a stress­ful process that is not pro­gress­ing give it a break for a while,” she rec­om­mends. HANNA GREEN, MOM TO DEVORA (3) I put my daugh­ter on the toi­let from about 14 months as a fun rou­tine be­fore bath­time – I did this so she wouldn’t be afraid of the toi­let when the time came to train her. I then let it hap­pen nat­u­rally with­out too much pres­sure and she has al­ways fol­lowed me to the toi­let (the joys of be­ing a mom), so she has wit­nessed how it’s done from a very young age.

Go­ing straight to toi­let rather than us­ing a potty made more sense to me as it’s one less item to have to clean and ster­ilise. I also wanted my daugh­ter to be com­fort­able with an ac­tual toi­let with­out need­ing a potty as it was un­nec­es­sary to have an ex­tra step in the toi­let train­ing process. She had never seen a potty so mov­ing straight to a toi­let was easy for us and fine for her.

I chose to use a seat that fit­ted onto the toi­let. From age two she was go­ing to the toi­let for pees and poos, then she be­came ter­ri­fied of do­ing poos in the toi­let. We de­cided to try the Baby Throne toi­let seat. It’s fab­u­lous and she was happy to have her own spe­cial toi­let seat that’s easy to use, very safe and com­fort­able and ac­tu­ally helps the child empty their bowel. It can be used from a much younger age and it has an at­tach­ment so can also be used as a potty but we put ours straight onto the toi­let seat. My favourite part is that you don’t have to worry about clothes get­ting peed on as it’s lit­er­ally like a throne and the back is quite high and holds them so nicely. I found mak­ing toi­let time fun helped. We used star charts and read books – any­thing to make it a fun ac­tiv­ity. Each day is dif­fer­ent, so some­times it’s not as easy as it sounds as tod­dlers are su­per stub­born and like to do things when and how they want, but with a re­laxed at­ti­tude, it is not so scary to tran­si­tion from nap­pies to the toi­let.

Be­ing at playschool def­i­nitely helped as all the chil­dren are en­cour­aged to go and they learn from their friends. She joined playschool at age 2.5 so this is when I re­ally let go of nap­pies dur­ing the day. I think the fear of ac­ci­dents and mess was more my is­sue so I kept her in a nappy more of­ten than she needed it and that confused her a bit.


LINDY DIAMOND, MOM TO AERIN, AVA AND ARI I have three daugh­ters close in age and each was dif­fer­ent when they were ready to potty train. My first be­gan at about 20 months, the sec­ond a bit ear­lier and the third was ready from 16 months – so I def­i­nitely think a bit of role mod­el­ling from the older sib­lings was a fac­tor. I knew they were ready when they be­gan to get cu­ri­ous about what I was do­ing in the toi­let, be­came very un­com­fort­able when their nappy was in any way wet and would even some­times re­move their nappy af­ter a wee them­selves.

To start toi­let train­ing, I took a large glass fish­bowl and filled it with all the sorts of things I knew my el­dest loved; stick­ers, sun­glasses, “fancy” panties, a few small toys, noth­ing too ex­pen­sive but ev­ery­thing glit­tery and en­tic­ing. I told her that ev­ery time she re­alised she needed to wee and man­aged to do it in the toi­let she could choose one thing from the bowl. The bowl sat in a very vis­i­ble place in the house, which helped her keep re­mem­ber­ing to think if she needed to wee. With my sec­ond and third daugh­ters, they had the added mo­ti­va­tion of hav­ing a potty trained older sis­ter, so for them I chose one gor­geous toy and then we used star charts to work up to earn­ing the toy. Dur­ing toi­let train­ing I also asked if they wanted to make a wee ev­ery 30 min­utes. The more we asked, the bet­ter the chances of suc­cess.

I think when your child is ready to be potty trained it is easy and has­sle­free, which it was for me. If they aren’t ready, then things can get stress­ful. My kids were ready, and then the in­cen­tives were just ic­ing on the cake! Kids love in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion (we all do, I think) and re­ceiv­ing a lit­tle treat af­ter get­ting it right just makes the whole ex­pe­ri­ence pos­i­tive and fun.

Poo­ing was a chal­lenge, more than wee­ing, but we used the same method and it came right even­tu­ally. Once they were suc­cess­fully wee­ing and poo­ing in the toi­let I would get asked af­ter ev­ery wee if they could get a prize. Three months down the line this can get a lit­tle old! But I ex­plained that now that they had ac­com­plished this chal­lenge, we could find new ones to work to­wards.


VARENKA PASCHKE, MOM TO KOLYA, LORELEI AND LORCA This method doesn’t re­ally in­volve potty train­ing – it’s ac­tu­ally a nappy-free method you use from birth. I de­cided to try it be­cause I didn’t like the idea of en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of dis­pos­able use. I de­cided to give it a try with my first child, with­out putting too much pres­sure on my­self for it to work, but it did and I’ve used it with both my other chil­dren in­clud­ing my 6-month-old.

It’s been an amaz­ing trip in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with my kids be­cause it in­volves learn­ing their cues of when they need to elim­i­nate and also to use your in­tu­ition. From birth I would place my ba­bies on my chest nappy-free. As I be­gan to learn their cues – they would squirm, make a noise or ex­press them­selves in some way –- I would hold them over a Tup­per­ware and make a pee­ing sound and then they lit­er­ally elim­i­nate. In the first three months you are with your baby all the time so get­ting into a rhythm and get­ting to know them phys­i­cally is easy. They get used to you mak­ing the sound, hold­ing them over the bowl – it’s con­di­tion­ing, re­ally. Be­cause you re­spond to their cues they re­tain their mus­cle con­trol that they would lose with nappy use. That’s the big dif­fer­ence be­tween ba­bies that wear nap­pies and those that don’t – they never have to learn mus­cle con­trol again when they are older. When they are at the age when they start walk­ing I was able to com­mu­ni­cate with my chil­dren and tell them to hold on for a bit un­til I could take them to the toi­let. You get to know the times of day they want to do their busi­ness – so you know that they usu­ally need the toi­let half an hour af­ter they wake up or af­ter they’ve eaten.

I use mat­tress pro­tec­tors and water­proof sheets on my bed in case there are ac­ci­dents. When we are out I put thick train­ing pants on them, but they rarely need them. A bonus of the ex­pe­ri­ence is the in­tu­itive level of com­mu­ni­ca­tion I have with my kids.

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