Mama Matters Parenthood

The Scoop on Potty Training

Everything you need to know to help your toddler transition from nappies to the loo
By Lori Cohen

You’d love to be able to strike nappies off your monthly shopping list, but it’s hard to know when the time is right to help your baby make this milestone move. When will your tot be ready? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), toddlers master all the skills necessary, including being able to pull up underwear or training nappies, on average at 29.5 months for girls and 33.5 months for boys.

Spot the signs

All kids are different, and occupational therapist Lara Schoenfeld recommends you look out for signs with your child that he or she is ready to take the first steps to toileting independence. One of the most important signs is that they begin to realise that they are producing a wee or poo. ‘When they develop sensory awareness they will begin to look down at their nappy or get a thoughtful look on their face when they release. Another good sign is that they may start to show an interest in the toilet or show interest in watching you on the toilet,” she says.
If they have a predictable, regular bowel habit (and are able to hold their bladder/rectal content) and are dry for more than two hours at a time, you are good to go, confirms paediatrician Dr Temlett Hockey. These skills usually come together at around 18 months of age.

Get the party started

The most important thing is to make toilet training a fun and relaxed process – for both of you. If your child is already dry for a couple of hours at a time you could encourage them to move into underwear. Involve your child in choosing the potty, explaining why and what you are doing. You can use a standalone potty or one that rests on top of the toilet. Make sure you buy one with steps, or place a stool beneath it, so your child’s feet have something to rest on. Start things slow – a few trips to the potty a day to sit on it and get comfortable with it, with no pressure to actually use it. Encourage them to join you at the toilet so they can ‘look and learn’. Keep the experience positive, praising them for any small successes. Punishing, shaming or forcing your child to use the potty will sabotage your efforts. And watch your words! Don’t say things like ‘gosh your poop smells’, or ‘what a mess you’ve made!’ Creating negativity around the process may make your toddler embarrassed and they could take to hiding when making a number two.

Find out what works for you

Every child is different and the potty training method that worked for one of your kids may not work for your next one. Many parents find success with the ‘child-led incentive method’.
Fill a jar with treats they enjoy – stickers or little toys, for example. Begin by asking your toddler if they want to wee or poo at regular intervals – maybe every 30 minutes. When they tell you they are ready and you take them to the potty give them time to finish, with no pressure. If they do release, you give them a prize. Toilet training is usually easier to do during the warmer summer months, and you can allow your toddler to walk around nappy or underwear-free, which makes it easier
for them to remember to use the potty. Remember to chat to the rest of your family and caregivers about how you’re approaching the process of toilet training – you all need to be on
the same page.

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