potty training in 3 days?!… did it work?


I have white carpet – so you know I did not embark on this ‘bare-bottom, early potty training’ thing lightly. I researched the different options for potty learning for toddlers and this seemed the right one for us. Yes, it is intensive but that kind of full-on, go for broke approach works for me. I am very much that type of person: jump in with two feet, go all out and then take a break and focus all that energy on something else. Yep.  “I can totally do three very intense, non-stop, bottom-watching days if that means I am pretty much done after that”, I thought. Good thought, right?

It has been three weeks since we started this ‘3-day’ potty learning method (apparently I am not allowed to use the words’ 3-day potty training’ – see comments for details). I want to let you in to how it went for us. I want to write the post I was looking for before we started this method – a ‘warts-and-all, how it really happens’ post  – a post I could not find at the time. If you remember, this is a potty learning approach that promises that in three days your little one will get the hang of it and that in ten days to two weeks there will be few or no accidents. It is based on working with your toddler’s natural desire to be naked/diaper-free and is a gentle approach that does not use threats, shame or tangible rewards to bribe your child (more on that later) and it is said to work best on kids between 15 and 27 months of age. 

Here is a post in which I outline how this method works and why we felt it was for usNica (uh, still working on that nickname) was 19 months old when we started our 3-day intensive potty-learning kick-off weekend.

I have heard online from a few friends for whom this approach worked perfectly. This is the reality of where we are at, now:

  • We have been a diaper-free household for three weeks (technically we have been ‘day-diaper’-free for three weeks and have been completely diaper-free for over two weeks, now.)
  • Nica seems to be fully night trained and actually now sleeps bare-butt (accident-free). I was not expecting this. It just happened. On day two (!!!) her morning diaper which previously was always really, very full was completely empty. I thought it was a fluke and kept putting night-diapers on her for the first few days until I realised they kept being dry, so I decided to take the leap. We have been completely diaper-free, including for naps and night sleep (with no wake-ups for potty) since then.
  • She is 60 to 95% home-trained – meaning that if we stay home she gets between 6 and  9.5 out of every 10 pees in the potty (yes you can get only half a pee in the potty… trust me). It varies widely from day to day, though. The main ‘misses’ happen when she is stressed, tired or distracted – and to be fair there has been a lot going on, the last few weeks.
  • We have had very few poop-misplacement incidents (PMIs – hah). We have, over the last three weeks, had one or two but it is clearly much easier for her to recognise that a poo is coming and to want to get  it in the potty.
  • We can safely go out for short periods of time of up to an hour or two, wearing nothing but loose fitting trousers (no pull-ups, underpants or diapers), reasonably confident that there will be no accidents.
  • We can go out for longer periods of time, taking a potty with us and Nica will either tell/show us she needs to go (by tugging at her trousers and saying ‘off, off’ or by saying ‘potty’ or ‘pee-pee’) or she will go when I offer her the potty.
  • … However, we are yet to have a completely ‘spill’-free day (though we have come very close, a few times).
In other words, in three weeks she has shown that:
  1. She can hold it in overnight
  2. During the day, Nica can sense that the urge is coming and spontaneously walk to the potty and do her business and/or…
  3. She can communicate when she needs to go with a few seconds lead-in (30 seconds at most, I would say, still) so I can pull her trousers down and get her to the potty
  4. If she does start peeing somewhere other than the potty and NinjaDad or I spot it, she will stop midstream and hold it in until we get her over the potty
  5. She can pee when prompted (i.e. if I ask her to sit on the potty, she will and if there is a need, she will pee then)

… she can do all of those things but that doesn’t mean she always does… And so it goes. There are still good days and bad days. Today has been a great day. For most of her pees and for her daily poo she walked to the potty herself (spontaneously and unprompted) and did her thing and then often helped me go and flush it away, too. She also went, when prompted, in the potty while we were out (once in the boot of the car, once in a public toilet at a shopping center). She did have two small accidents: the first was when she was down for her nap, lying down but not asleep – it seems to be much harder for her to anticipate that a pee is coming when she is sitting or lying down; the other was when we just got home after going to the store – she said she needed the potty, I just couldn’t get her there in time… So, especially that last accident, actually doesn’t discourage me very much at all: after all she still knew it was coming and communicated it to me, even if I just couldn’t get her trousers off and move her to the potty quite quickly enough. We have been having more and more of these terrifically successful days – they are not 100% accident-free but I am still so proud of her EVERY time she goes in the potty, spontaneously of her own accord. It is just great.

There have also been days when she still demonstrates many of these skills (like walking to the potty when the urge comes, unprompted)  but mixed in there are some spectacular cases of her acting like she has never seen – or doesn’t want to see – a potty. Yeah, just as soon as I thought she was taking it all in her stride, she suddenly would refuse the potty when offered and then pee on the floor two minutes later or something like that. More distressing still, a few nights back she started yelling ‘no potty, no potty, no potty’ in her sleep… anxiety-dream?? That made me so sad. I’d like to think she was just processing this strange, new change in her daily habits. It is a big change. I mean, she also likes to take her bear to the potty – where he can poo, fart, pee (complete with sound effects) – and then she walks him off to the toilet to flush the pee away, wipe his bum and wash his hands. Adorable – and clearly another way of processing the shift in behaviour! But her night shenanigans made me wonder if she was more stressed about it than she is showing during the day?

Those times (refusals or anxiety dreams) had me wondering whether I should call the whole thing off? I want this process to feel right to Nica, too. It is not just about the goal (being diaper-free) it is also about how we get there and if she is struggling or I am stressed then is this really the right method for us, after all?

But the last two days it has all seemed so natural, so stress-free that it completely feels right again, too. We have got here with no threats, no bribes (cheerios or smarties?) and no shaming for mishaps. We have tried to keep it always as easy-going and ‘normal’ as possible. I did go through a phase (after a terrible day 5 of the process) of doing a bit of a ‘potty party’ and doing a (home-made) potty-song every time she peed or pooed in the potty, even the slightest bit… but I am an Alfie Kohn unconditional parenting afficionada and that wasn’t quite sitting right with me. So, now I have gone back to supporting the inherent intrinsic motivation for mastering this skill and I simply describe what is happening to her “you felt the urge to pee, you walked over and you peed” and then I rejoice and share in her happiness if she choses to ‘celebrate’ or I move on with her if she choses to treat it (rightly?) like the most natural thing in the world.  We have re-ditched the ‘good job’. And the rest of the time there is no pressure. If she says she doesn’t need to go I take her word for it – which puts less pressure on her and helps ensure she is in charge of the pace of this process. It is her process after all.

So, it hasn’t been smooth going. It hasn’t happened easily, in three days… but it is happening. We are diaper-free, she is going to the potty on her own, spontaneously, naturally and of her own volition and overall I am proud of us for making this transition earlier rather than later for her, for her confidence, hygiene and autonomy, for the environment and for us parents, too, as this promises to be easier in many ways in the long run (not least on our wallet). The three-week method is working just fine for us!


15 thoughts on “potty training in 3 days?!… did it work?

  1. Poop Misplacement Incident — LOL I love that. I may shamelessly steal that.

    The night dryness is always a shocker isn’t it? I was taken aback by it myself. It is almost like a milestone. We had night awareness first, then less fewer and fewer potty breaks needed, until finally the need to pee at night stopped just like that. You know what is the real kick in the pants? I’m the only one in this house now that gets up to pee at night!

    I never really thought about the anxiety dreams you mentioned. But now that I’m mulling it over, a certain amount of worry must be quite normal. We all have that drive to want to succeed at tasks, especially new ones. I still get anxiety dreams about going to school and finding my class, LOL. So I don’t think it is anything you are doing, just a part of the process. And perhaps even a little mourning of the loss of the diaper, kind of like losing your favorite pair of shoes that are no longer being manufactured? I’m also not surprised you are stressed, the unspoken message around you is that late is best and potty learning is a grueling, unpleasant, stressful, and overall grit and bear your teeth process. For the first 6 months I felt like a total freak. Luckily I have a healthy dose of stubb–…er…perseverance in the face of negativity? :)

    And isn’t it so hard to NOT say “good job”? It flies out of my mouth just as I’m trying to tell my mouth to say something else descriptive. Habits…they die hard.

    And …yay for cute teeny diaper free tushies and toddlers that dash to the potty out of the blue!

    • Yes! Yes. Yes! bare-bottomed babies are the best. Thanks for your support and cheerleading. I really appreciate it, honestly, as this is quite a lonely and isolating process, in a way (as nobody I know is doing it right now or quite like this).

      As for the anxiety dreams I noticed that both times (it happened again) coincidentally the next day she woke up, picked up her potty, carried it to the living room, sat and did a pee (completely voluntarily and unprompted – whereas normally I would carry it in and she would pee later, usually after being reminded) – like there was a mini-developmental leap that followed the night-processing. Yes, it is sad that it involves some night anxiety (she seems mostly fine about it by day) but, as you say, it may just be part of normal, healthy processing. As for the loss of the diapers, I did notice that only since we went diaper free, playing ‘diaper change’ with her bear has become one of her favourite activities. In fact, once I gave her one of her old diapers to put on the bear then she asked to put it on her. She then promptly said potty, sat on the potty with the diaper still on and peed – uh, what?! Funny, right?

      Thanks for checking in. Loving your blog – keep up the inspiring work!

  2. Pingback: Potty learning outtakes: five funny moments « Loving Earth Mama

    • I am no potty training guru. I know that the woman who started the system here in San Fran (who I never met) says you need those clear three days to do this method by the book, and having tried it I would say that is probably true – 3 or 4 days, even, of intense association-building (pee and poop go in the potty). The other associations, for Nica at least, came slower:’ that sensation means I am going to need to pee soon’, for example, is one that took longer to ‘click’, I think, but is totally hapenning now, which is fab!

      One of the main things I have learned through this process and through talking to people on the LEM facebook group is that there isn’t just one way of doing ‘gentle potty learning’. I have met moms who did it peacefully from birth or near after (through EC) and others who did it with full respect and responsiveness to the kid’s needs at a much later age, by following the child’s lead (i.e. letting conscious understanding and the ability to verbalise the steps and point of the process set in before starting). These ‘later starters’ sometimes waited till the kid said they didn’t want to use diapers any more and then moved to underwear – some of them with zero accidents after that. Fab, right? The down-side of that is that you have to be patient as that might not happen spontaneously until they are three or even four. My learning, though, is that there are many ways to do it without getting into power games (that can happen in conventional potty training starting at two or so).

      I have also come across parents who (like you are considering) rocked the bare-bottom thing but kind of worked it around to fit their own family lives. It may take a little longer but for me, as long as the process is built on resonance (not emotional dissonance) and it leads to the eventual ability to use the potty independently, then job done! I remain convinced that the 3-day thing was a really helpful kick-start for DD to get it… but again, I am sure there are other ways, too. Would love to hear what works for you. Do come back and share! :)

  3. Pingback: Top tips for toilet training « Loving Earth Mama

  4. Hello – My name is Lora Jensen and I’m the owner of 3daypottytraining.com and I also own the trademark with the US trademark office for the term “3 Day Potty Training”

    You are currently violating my trademark by using the term “3 Day Potty Training” on your website because you are not talking about the “3 Day Potty Training” method that I wrote. Please remove this asap.

    Please confirm when this has been completed.

    Thank you,
    Lora Jensen

    • Happy to change it if the term is yours. And VERY happy to send people to you if you have a method that works quicker/more easily than the one we took. Would have totally bought your book if I had known of it, at the time :)

      Sorry need to run now, but wanted to acknowledge your request. Cheers,

    • Lora, speak to others as you would like to be spoken to. Your request is so rudely written. This reflects very poorly on you. Tsk, tsk!

  5. Thanks for writing this blog entry, as I am a mom considering this method, and searching for personal experiences.

    Oh, and Lora, I had found your website and was considering it, until I saw this request to remove the title. Why not just offer support via your products rather than threaten? That really turned me off.


  6. I tried Lora’s 3 day approach and it did not work. I have been trying to contact her via help desk in which she says she will get back anyone that has purchased her e book, yet it has been a week with no reply. After reading her post on this blog, I too am turned off from her program and regret buying into her program, as it did not result in success yet anxiety in my toddler.

    • Dear Angela,

      I am so sorry to hear that your loving attempts to support your child into a happy diaper-free state has lead to anxiety for you and your toddler. Alas, I can relate. So, first and foremost: big hugs!!

      As you know, if you read my posts, I ‘potty trained’ my chid at 19 months. She is now 31 months so has been diaper free for a year. I am proud of her and think this approach has had many advantages (e.g. for the environment) but… I think if I have another kid I am probably NOT doing it this way. EC is great. Waiting till they are ready is respectful, too and I know this three-day thing worked really well for some but… Hmm… I think I may have one more potty training blog post in me.

      Meanwhile, do you have a practical question that we could help you with here or on the Loving Earth Mama facebook page? Perhaps we mamas, though not ‘experts’, could pool our experience (which combined is quite formidable) and see if we can think it through together? :)

      Thanks for popping by and, again, sorry about your tough experience. Cheers,

  7. I’m considering this method, can you just tell me ahead of tone whether our not this method requires you to use a potty or does it also give you instructions for training straight to a toilet (which is my preference)?

  8. Hello Gauri,
    thank you for your post. I still find it interesting to read how other people potty train their children. I regret how I potty trained my son, but not my daughter. It was not a plan or method, I simply had enough of diapers when my daughter was just over two years old and switched her to underpants. At that time, she peed approximatley once an hour (I, too, really wanted to EC but did not manage to do it — couldn’t quite figure out the cues early on), and so I just started taking her to the bathroom once an hour and sat her on the toilet (she did not mind it and I don’t believe I used a potty much with her, just held her hands and stayed with her). The one thing I did use from EC was sound. I would always making a peeing sound when I sat her on the toilet, and I always liked that part of the process. When I didn’t get the timing quite right, I always had a spare pair of clothes and I would clean her and change her and say, “oh well, maybe next time”.
    After a while, I started asking her if she needed to go to the bathroom instead of just taking her. If she didn’t want to go and she wet her pants, once again I would simply clean her and change her and say, “oh well, maybe next time.” I believe the entire process took less than two months (i.e. after 2 months she never wet herself, ever, again). But night time diapers stayed until the spring, if I recollect correctly.
    With my daughter (unlike my son), I simply did not care if she wet herself or not, I did not care if she pooed in her pants or not and she did not like the feeling of being wet so cleaning her and changing her was not a big deal. I did not take her ability to use a potty as a marker of my success or failure as a parent (as I did, sadly, with my son). Furthermore, because she peed every hour, she never had much pee and she wore slightly more absorbent underpants so it was usually only the underpants and surrounding clothes that became wet. I truly believe it was my lack of attachment to her “success” if one wants to call it that or lack thereof that made the process easy. I don’t even really remember coaching her on poos. When she was three, my daughter went through a stage where if after she had peed and she hadn’t managed to sufficiently wipe herself and a drop of pee got in her underwear she would change. I told her that it was not necessary to change, that part of the purpose of underwear was to catch stray drops, but I never prevented her from changing.
    As for bare-bottom children, yes, I loved those times. Unfortunately, I do not live in a climate that supports many months of barebottomness, but I know that before my daughter was 2 (she is a summer baby) she would run around on hot days naked, both indoors and out. Perhaps that is when I figured out how often she peed, and when clothes became a necessity, I simply did not return to diapers.

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