Thursday, August 23, 2012

Potty Training: the tutorial

I thought my title was funny, especially if someone pins this on pinterest. Maybe it is just me. Ha. This is a bit long, but if you are interested here is our little potty training tale:

We bought a potty when Elanor was 11 months old after reading Diaper Free Before Three
{We bought a Baby Bjorn potty and we really like it. It is simple, has the back and only has two parts. It is super easy to empty and clean, plus for when we have boys it has that little guard thing. It was about $30.}

In this book, you are supposed to start putting your baby on the potty around 6 months, so we were a bit late. Elanor (at 11 months) started off pretty well and would go potty at least once a day in the potty (never poop though)....until Christmas (so about 1 month of using the potty). Traveling, etc. sort of set us back and she would not go in her potty for months afterwards. We would still set her on her potty with books to look at and praised her for just sitting there. The main reason to start early is to get them comfortable with the potty and help them learn what a potty is for, not so much expecting them to use the potty exclusively.

Around 16 months or so, Elanor started waking up from her naps dry (not all the time, but pretty often). In several books that I read, it suggests that you praise your baby for waking up "clean and dry", not just for actually going in the potty. We started putting Elanor on her potty a lot more often at this point and she would go sometimes. At around 18-19 months we bought her some underwear. I wanted to see how she would do in underwear and if it would help her to notice when she went. It did to some extent, but we still had a lot of accidents.

After many weeks, of being a bit frustrated on how to get the point across to Elanor better (she seemed fine with having accidents, would help clean then up and actually loved helping to clean up) I read some more books. I checked out the Diaper Free Before Three book again and re-read it, and also The No-Cry Potty Training Solution at the library. I read some other books as well such at the Potty Wise book, but it was not my favorite. I loved the Babywise books , but the Potty Wise one said kids could not be trained until well past two (at the earliest) and also it seemed fairly elaborate (potty training doll, etc.). I knew Elanor was ready to be trained, and I did not want to spend much, if any money on her potty training experience. 

The main things I picked up from the above two books were:

--Read potty books to your baby

--Be calm and patient, it is a learning process (this can be hard when you have cleaned up the 5th accident that morning)

--put your baby in clothes that are easy to remove, or simply let them just be in underwear or cotton training pants, or in the nude.

--Get rid of your diapers, just switch over to underwear and cotton training pants (and for being out and about or during naps and nighttime put waterproof covers over the training pants). This way there is no going back and your baby is not confused by being in underwear sometimes and diapers at other times.

--Don't put your babe in Pull-Ups. A Pull-Up is just the same as a diaper and they cannot feel the wetness. Better yet, do cloth diapers from birth and the transfer to underwear is pretty smooth. We loved doing cloth, but if that is not your way, I would still recommend not using Pull-Ups.

---Small rewards: as in one chocolate chip, a sticker to put on a chart, high fives. etc.

--Sit on potty every two hours, set a timer if necessary 

So with all this new info, we headed to the library checked out several little potty books and the "Elmo's Potty Time" dvd. The books and movie really helped. It got Elanor excited about the whole process and explained everything in an easy way. Elanor LOVED the Elmo video and every time she went potty she would say" Elmo go potty too!" We highly recommend it. 

We also did not put her in diapers anymore (still at night sometimes).  When we would leave to go on errands or something she would have to sit on the potty before we left. I also made sure to bring extra clothes and underwear. When we went out, we would put her in the cotton training pants, since they absorbed better. We even went on our trip to Oregon (an 11 to 12 hour drive) and she was in underwear the whole time and did not have an accident. We just had to make sure to stop every two hours or whenever she told us she needed to go. For night time/nap time: Elanor is pretty easy. She does not actually wet when she sleeps and has not for awhile. The only time she does is right when she wakes up. So, I have found that if I go in there and get her up right when she normally wakes up, she does not have an accident. We bought her some Disney Princess underwear, which she was so excited about and also some of the Gerber cotton training pants (I found them at Target). I did buy the Gerber waterproof pants, but they were huge on Elanor, so I need to order some online.

We also did the 2 hour thing, which helped SO much. We started out by using a timer and she would say "potty time" whenever she heard the timer. We don't use it anymore, but it was good practice at the beginning. Elanor did and still needs to go about very two hours, so this is a good time frame. 

We brought her little potty with us on our trip. She was comfortable with her potty and I did not want to switch it on her then. We have brought the potty to church, in the car, etc. It helped her a lot and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. While on our trip we tried putting her on the "big potty" as Elanor calls it and she will now go on that, which is great! So, we don't have to carry her little potty around anymore. She still prefers to go on her little potty at home, but I think that is mostly because it fits her and she can touch the ground. We need to get a step stool and a potty insert thing.

Whenever Elanor went potty she would get one chocolate chip or little taste of Nutella or something (pretty much just whatever you have on hand that would please a toddler). Elanor started saying"treat" every time she went potty, it was cute, but we decided to change to stickers. We switched to stickers because we thought it would ease her out of getting any sort of reward. We made a simple little chart. It was not really even a chart, it was just a piece of paper, with title and Elmo's potty rules drawn on it. She could pick out one sticker and put it anywhere on the paper. She loved putting on the stickers and looking at her chart. This was also easy because we brought some stickers and paper with us on our trip and she loved showing her stickers to everyone. Now, she does not need a sticker or any sort of treat. She just did not ask for them or expect them anymore. Since she did not care about them anymore, we stopped.

 It was a big deal when she finally went poop on the potty (she did this around 19 1/2 months). She never went poop on her potty and never wanted to. She liked to be alone when she did her business. So, I decided that when she looked like she needed to go poop I would put her on her potty, say "bye-bye" and look away or walk out of the bathroom. This helped her so much and she has not had a poop accident since we let her have some privacy.

So, now at 20 months, I would call Elanor potty trained. Yes, she still does occasionally have some accidents, and I still have to sometimes ask her if she needs to go, but she is mostly independent and tells me when she needs to go or goes on her own.
From when I adjusted our potty training (when I read those books and started all those tips), it took probably 5 days for her to get the hang of it and it has been about 3 weeks now and Elanor is a pro.

Here is a quick checklist of things you will need and quick tips:

10-12 pairs regular underwear
2-4 pairs cotton training pants ( I found some at Target but there are more options online)
2-4 pairs water proof covers
1 potty (I recommend Baby Bjorn)
potty books: example--Once Upon a Potty, etc. (from your library)
"Elmo's Potty Time" dvd (from library)
stickers + chart or some other small prize
Eventually will need a step stool and potty insert

Quick Tips:
-sit on the potty every two hours and any time they look like they might be going
-read potty books with baby
-switch to underwear/training pants completely
-offer small prizes and/or praise 

That's it! Good job to you if you read this whole post! It is incredibly long. Whew.  I hope this helped anyone who is looking to potty train their toddler. Also, make sure to read those two books I mentioned--they really helped me!


  1. Thanks, I think we are going to give this a go soon. We wanted to before Charlotte was born, but couldn't get it down. Thanks for the advice and way to go Elanor.

  2. I love this post Elizabeth! I don't have kids yet, but I will surely remember all your tips. I didn't know you should start as early as 6 months old, wow! I love how excited she looks in that last picture! so cute!