Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I started Flora on the potty a little before her second birthday.  That was over nine months ago and she now wears one diaper a day, when she goes to bed at night.  With the exception of a pee puddle on the bathroom floor last week when Flora tried to go potty without any adult help she hasn't had a daytime accident in months.

Last spring, in the middle of an early stretch of warm weather, I decided I was sick of changing diapers. It was time to see if Flora could use the potty instead.  I talked to her and explained that she was getting to be a big girl and big girls pee and poop in a potty, not a diaper.  She looked unsure so I took her diaper and pants off.  I told her that she didn't have to pee in the potty but if she didn't the pee would get on the floor.  I knew she wouldn't like that and suddenly the potty sounded more interesting.  To expedite the process a little I did something I almost never do and gave her watered down juice. Yes, I'm the mom who only lets her kid drink water.  She was so excited to drink it that she kept asking for more and filling her little bladder.  

Finally, she said it was time to go so I set her on the potty and she peed.  She was so pleased with herself that all she wanted to do for the rest of the day was sit on the potty.  I'm not exaggerating.  I moved her little potty outside and she sat on it all day.  We blew bubbles to help the time pass.  

The next two or three days were like that.  Us, outside, blowing bubbles and sitting on the potty.  It was a very long few days.  

Finally, she bored of that and became more unsure of the potty.  She then didn't want to sit on it at all.  She was able to communicate that her potty was uncomfortable to sit on so I bought her a new one.  After that I would have her sit on it for the length of a song every hour or so.  If she didn't pee that was fine but if she needed to, I gave her the opportunity.  As an added incentive, when she did use her potty I would let her put a sticker on it. Sometimes she would ask me to put one of her cloth diapers inside the potty.  It seemed to make her more comfortable, particularly when pooping.

For the next few weeks we continued to work on using the potty while at home.  She would still wear a diaper while sleeping or out of the house but she was doing a great job in her own environment.  Flora still wasn't telling me when she needed to go but she wasn't having any accidents so I began to allow more time between pee breaks. 

Peeing was going great but pooping was still a problem.  She would hold it until I put a diaper on for nap or bedtime then she would go. Baby poop is one thing and toddler poop is another. I was sick of changing a toddler's poopy diaper. I don't think she liked it either but the thought of pooping on the potty really seemed to scare her. One day while wiping her bottom I asked her why she didn't use the potty to poop.  No answer. I asked her if she like to get poop all over her butt.  She said no. I told her that if she pooped in the potty it wouldn't get all over her and it would only require a little wipe, like when she peed on the potty. She seemed to consider what I had just told her and then, much to my delight, she began to poop in the potty the following day.  

Sometime shortly after her second birthday I got her to pee on the big toilet while I held her up.  Her fear of the big toilet was the one thing keeping us from going diaper free outside of the house so when she faced that fear I decided to start running short errands with no diaper.  She did well.  No accidents in stores and only two in her car seat over the next few months.  

Potty accidents in the car suck!  Have you ever had to remove the car seat cover and wash it?  I never had until she peed in the car.  I do not recommend it and would advise all parents with an inexperienced potty user to carry around an extra small potty in the trunk of their car. Call me gross if you want but a quick roadside pee is so much better than cleaning the car seat.  

The extra potty has now been removed from the trunk of our car and is at my aunt's house because we spend a lot of time there and Flora still won't poop on the big toilet while you hold her.  A comfortable place to play is required if she'll even consider pooping.

Eventually Flora began to wake up from most of her naps dry so i stopped putting a diaper on her before putting her down.  She had two or three accidents but that was it.  She still wakes up soaking wet every morning so we still put a diaper on her at night.  People tell me that I should just leave the diaper off and let her have a few accidents at night because she'll learn faster but if you've read any of my postings on sleep then you know my family doesn't need another reason to be awake in the middle of the night.  She'll figure it out and I'll take her diaper off when she starts to wake up dry most mornings.  Or when she's 3, whichever comes first. 

Flora Potty from Ellie Saldana on Vimeo.

Helping your child learn to use the potty is time consuming. Personally, I think it's our duty as parents to teach our children that it's not appropriate to defecate on one's self at as young an age as possible but  I understand why so many parents wait until their kid is 3 or even 4 to transition them out of diapers. It's a lot of work and I can only assume it's easier when the kids are older and have a more rational brain.  The beauty of just doing it is that then you are done.

Flora does great now.  She tells me when she has to go and unless we're getting ready to leave the house I never make her sit on the potty against her wishes.  If she refuses, fine I don't make her go but I also won't make a special stop for her to pee and she does great, she holds it until we get where we're going.

I think my trick was to push her out of her comfort zone regularly but not to push her to the point of fear. Now if only we could get rid of that night time diaper...

What did you do to help you child learn to use the potty?

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  1. Thank you for writing this! We (I've) been doing EC with Paloma since birth, but it's a process. I guess you do the work over a period of time or all at once, but my hope is that she's (mostly) diaper-free by 18 months. ...8 to go!

    I, like you, feel strongly about potty-learning at a young age. I think that the only good to come out of waiting three or four years is providing jobs and income to the diaper industry. POOP, I say to that!!

  2. I love how much thought mums put into potty training! lol
    Little man was about 2 and a half when I took the plunge to go totally nappy free, he was in pull ups for a few and every time he went on the potty I would give him a jelly sweet. He's a sucker for treats so he caught on pretty quick, then I just brought him some pants with motorbikes on them, made a big deal of them and took him out of nappies permanently. At night I would just be sure he didn't drink to much around bedtime and he was fine. I kept up the treats for a treat for him two for mummy :D

  3. Poop was a big deal at our house with my older two. Both were pee-trained long before they figured out the logistics of pooping on the potty and became comfortable with it. I learned with my first one not to push it too much and tried to take it a little easier with my second. And eventually we all got there. Like my mother-in-law told me during the whole thing, they won't go to college wearing diapers! =>

  4. Yay! Good job you! And well done Flora!

    We know Poppy can do it, but sometimes she just wants to have a pull up on, for comfort I suppose. I've given up trying to reason that she's fine without because she can be quite persuasive. I figured diapers are cheaper than my patience :)

    Agree with Stacia's MIL - they won't go to college wearing diapers!

    A tip: Bring a post it pad when out. Alot of my friends' previously potty trained kids have gone backward and either refused to pee or asked for diapers after a few scares from the instant flush.

  5. I read a lot about kids letting you know when they are ready to potty train, and if you wait until then, it's ten times easier. I also read that boy's potty train later than girls. So, I waited until about a month before Hunter turned 3 and then just bought him underpants so he could get excited about it, thinking after a week or so we would start training.

    The next day he wanted to bring his undies to Daycare (he was allowed to bring one thing everyday) So I let him. As soon as I left he asked the Daycare woman if he could wear them, so she let him. He's been potty trained ever since! I had no accidents, day or night! I think I am the luckiest potty trainer ever!

    I have heard though that for a lot of kids it is way harder to get them to poop then to pee.

  6. Thanks for all your comments. It's fun to hear what other moms are doing.

  7. Potty training is so not fun. My son was pretty good. He was interested at two and started wanting to use it more regularly just after three. Sometimes, though, I think it's a lot more work than changing diapers. When a kid says he or she's gotta go, you have to stop everything and run to the bathroom. It didn't use to be that way.