Two and potty trained: a real world review of how the ‘3-day’ method worked for us

My child is two and is potty trained. Actually I would say she was potty trained at 22 months, but it is all in how you look at it, really.

I have been fielding a few questions about this recently – people asking me how she is doing now (following my 3-day potty training series), so I wanted to come back and write a kind of wrap-up post with a review of our progress. First, for those who haven’t been following along…

Our ‘stats’

  • we did the three-day potty training starting when little’un was just shy of 20 months old. We did not wait for the traditional ‘signs of readiness’ as we learned from our EC friends that a child’s instinct to stay clean and dry comes from birth, the rest is all habit and ‘learning’
  • day one of the process, we had our first ‘walk-to’ poop, meaning she felt the urge and walked over to do a poo in the potty, completely spontaneously and unprompted. She got it – what this whole potty learning thing is about. But we were still having lots of ‘pee-misplacement incidents’
  • day two we were getting more and more pees in the potty and three out of three poops had gone in the potty. Hazah!
  • day three she night-trained herself. That was completely unexpected. I checked her diaper when she woke up after the second night and it was dry. That has remained the case with only a couple of exceptions to prove the rule (both exceptions happened not during her sleep but when she was restless, worked up and fighting sleep)
  • … but we continued to have mixed success with pees – most went in the potty (either partially or fully) but one or two a day were still full-on misses
  • at the end of the first month, we had our first full day with NO accidents. Hooray! We had had lots and lots of nearly-nearly days (where she made it all though the day without incident and then when we got home she would pee just before making it to the potty, often). Finally after four weeks she had her first ‘all in the potty’ day!
  • … but there were still days with some accidents. We had very few poo accidents at all, in the whole process (and the ones that did happen were like on my friend’s patio – sorry again – or our hardwood floored hallway, thankfully) but we continued to have some pee accidents on some days. Then every few days we would have a full day with all the pee in the potty.
  • after two months, when she had just turned 22 months, the ratio shifted and suddenly most days were ‘dry’ (underpants, trousers and legs stayed DRY) and days with any accidents became fewer and fewer.
  • and from there on what started to happen for us was a new cycle. She would go for about two weeks with no accidents, then she’d have one mishap – usually on daddy’s watch (sorry to point this out… but really it is just the result of the fact that he has  less ‘training’ and is therefore less attuned to her non-verbal signals and she is less receptive to his prompting to go, too). Then after one accident it would be like a floodgate opened (no pun intended) and there would follow lots of other ones. I also noticed that invariably what had happened was that I had started the ‘dry’ cycle super vigilant and treating it like a dance for two, more like EC where I have to tune into her and sense her need and offer the potty at opportune times, lest she forget. After a couple weeks of success, I would get complacent and just wait for her to either go on her own (at home) or tell me she has to go, which worked most of the time… until she got distracted or absorbed by something (say playing with daddy) and forgot to go or overrode her body’s signals, which is normally where I would come in and offer – but daddy’s timing wasn’t always as finely honed so… accident one would give way to accident two and so on for a day or two till we got back to the rhythm.
  • now, at 26 months old, it has been about a couple of months since Pipoca’s last full-on accident. What does happen now is she’ll often have a kind of pre-leak, where a little escapes before she acknowledges she has to go. So we still get through a lot of underwear but… when she needs to go, (the vast majority of) it goes in the potty.
  • we are now transitioning to the big potty (aka the toilet). She was most comfortable on a little potty for a long while but the last few weeks we have mainly been using public toilets and only use the potty in the car. She seems to be really into this new phase, too, of doing it on the big potty like big girls and grown ups.

Our approach

We did all this with NO punishments, shaming, bribes or rewards. I really wanted her to want to go in the potty for its own sake, not as a way to get a raisin or a big family celebration or anything else. Yes, the timing largely came from us, adults, but it was very much from observing her interest in the potty (much as one introduces food when the kid follows our every spoonful – we don’t wait for them to ask for food to know they are ‘ready’ to eat). This was her process to lead, the speed at which we advanced was hers. We never pushed her or forced her to go, we always said, ‘okay, when you are ready’… even when we could really see she needed to go. The message was always: “This is your body and you know best when you need to go and how long you can hold it. We trust you.” This is what we wanted her to see, not that she would please mommy and daddy by going or that she’d get a reward – what we wanted her to come out of this with was a confidence that we trust her, we are here to support her learning. Plus, of course, she needed to gain a new awareness of her body and all the sensations that mean you need to go, etc. We also hoped we could have fun along the way… and we did.
So, it wasn’t the picture-perfect ‘three day’ process I was promised in the ‘brochures‘ (hah!). It took longer than that for us and we had a lot of accidents along the way (including in Ikea, Toys R Us, at the park)… But, actually, when I stopped thinking about it as ‘potty learning’ for her and instead started thinking of it as kind of dance, pair-work, something we do together, much more like late-start Elimination Communication than like traditional potty training, I adjusted my expectations and found that I really enjoyed the process – and it was much more successful this way, too. What I mean by this is I stopped putting all the onus on her to go on her own or tell me when she needed to go (which she did do most of the time) and remembered that even though she has ‘potty learned’ I still have a role in this, I still need to stay vigilant, offer the potty before we go out (whether she takes it or not, the offer is made); offer to go with her if I feel she needs the incentive, remind her it is time to go when she is starting to leak (small wet patch!?) or doing the potty dance, etc!… even as I always respect the fact that ultimately it is her choice (and pushing her would only make her push back harder, anyway).
Maybe this sounds obvious to many of you, but because she was doing it so well and so independently 90% of the time, it was easy to assume she’d got it and I could rest on my laurels the other 10%… until I learned over and over that (with her at least) I still had to be on the ball.
Reflecting on this process, this is the shocker: I think potty training my child has been one of the best things I have done on this parenting journey. It is actually one of the things I would say that has most helped me connect and get even closer to my beautiful baby girl. It was VERY hard at times, exasperating, even… but overall this brought me to a new level of attunement to my daughter, so that it became that (after a couple of weeks), most of the time I could ‘sense’ when she needed to go – without her actually communicating, in words or actions, anything at all.

Well, I say it is a ‘shocker’ but any EC mamas and papas will be laughing about how long it took me to find this out. All EC parents I know enthuse about how much the process helped them bond with their kids. To those of us that didn’t EC our kids from the get-go this notion seems, well, absurd. “How does helping your kid pee and poo help you bond??? ergh – gross!” But there you have it. It is true, for me, too, now I realise.

The emotional shift

I have already shared most of my top tips for potty learning here. But there is one, the importance of which has really become more obvious to me in the last few weeks, which I want to share: Cushion the way for the emotional and psychological side of this transition, as much as possible.

I am sorry to say I didn’t give this side of the process much thought, before embarking on it. I mean, I talked to her lots about where big kids and grown ups ‘go’. We watched the Elmo and other (free) potty training videos on YouTube and read books about going to the potty. We played with dolls who went on the loo but what I didn’t think to address was the loss of diapers and the diaper-changing ritual.

Now, it is clear to me that this ‘loss’ really is a big change for a little baby and I could have handled it much better. The babycentre write-up I let guide me into this process, recommended you show your child the pile of diapers you are going to use up before you do the 3-day process and explain that when those are used up, baby won’t be using diapers anymore. I literally forgot to do that step. Ooops. I focussed instead on the potty and what it was for and figured she didn’t really get what happened with the diapers, anyway. Why would she be attached to them?… and I know I was partially right, as I remain convinced she was oblivious to her bodily functions up until this process began but now I realise how important that whole ritual of changing a diaper was in her toddler life. Okay, she resisted being changed a lot (which might give you the false impression she’d be happy to be rid of it, right?)  but it was still a fulcral, familiar process in her every day that was done with mommy (or daddy). But here’s the thing, from the moment we went diaper free (and only from then) she became obsessed with role playing diaper changing – both on her bear and on herself. And that remained one of her favourite games for the last few months up until recently. Well, I remember that when kids get stuck in play, it is usually a sign they are not able to fully process what is going on. I was prepared to step in and help her with that, in play… and then it seemed she moved on from that game – just when she seems to have really gotten into the swing of potty use and she has taken to announcing that she is ‘a big girl that doesn’t wear diapers but wears knickers instead’! So, yeah, this transition IS a big deal and helping them cope with it emotionally is an important part of making it as easy and enjoyable for them, as possible. And I have learnt that it is not only about introducing a potty but about taking away diapers.

Advantages of ‘early’ potty training

  1. free sexual exploration – naked time means they get to look and touch and feel what is going on, down there. They are going to do this sooner or later. It is theirs afterall. So, I reckon the sooner they get some quality naked time with themselves, the better. I’d rather this be happening at 18 months than at 4 years old, myself. Kids should feel free and at ease with their naked bodies. Hooray for diaper-free time.
  2. fostering independence – I don’t believe they need to ‘ask for it’ to be ready – in some kind of crazy reversal of the extended breastfeeding put down (“if they can ask for it they are too old”); it seems many parents go with a kind of “if they can’t ask for it, they are not ready” policy on potty training. I (mostly) disagree. I think you watch your baby and (much as you did for introducing food) you can follow the signs as to whether they are ready to go independently – and ECers will tell you they can communicate to you when they need to go, from birth or soon after. Anyway, if you let the process be baby-led (once you have followed the unspoken timing) children find their way to mastering a new aspect of their physical embodiment. This brings pride, joy and a sense of confidence and independence, as it all begins to click. It is empowering – or can be (on a good day)
  3. deepening the parent-child bond – I mentioned this earlier. Doing this kind of (late) EC-ish method meant I was pushed to become super attuned to my daughter’s needs. And I found myself developing what NinjaDad and I jokingly called my ‘spider senses’ whereby I often just ‘knew’ when she needed to go. I guess it was my unconscious making clever calculations based on how much she drank, how long it has been since her last pee and taking in subtle cues from changes in her body language… anyway, I was not consciously aware of how I knew, I just did. And then, of course, there were the occasional ‘ghost pees’, another phenomenon apparently well known among ECers whereby sometimes you have a vivid and very realistic sense that you are being peed on or indeed that you yourself need to pee – when in fact this is kind of like a premonition of your child’s need to go. Weird but fascinating. See what I mean? A new level of closeness and inter-connectedness developed.
  4. lessening the impact on the environment – less diapers to land fill or cloth diapers to wash and fewer wipes, so many fewer wipes! It is amazing how much cleaner using a potty is compared to diapers. Gone are 10-wipe-blow-outs. Most poos I just need to use one wipe, nowadays. Amazing, really!

On balance

Each to their own, I say. I have spoken to LOTS of mums about this, now, both in person and online. My conclusion is that there isn’t only one way to potty learn gently, in a child-centered manner.
This is a confusing subject, I find… I mean, I resonate and understand arguments from both sides of the potty learning debate. I agree with ECers and early potty trainers that since babies are born with a sensitivity and even a kind of instinct to be clean, it may well be the most respectful, empathic and responsive thing to get them used to the potty as soon as possible. After all, what would you want? Who wants to sit in pee or poop all day?
On the other hand, the ‘wait until they are ready’ and ‘follow the child’s lead’ arguments also make a lot of sense to me and is totally how I am in almost every other aspect of my child’s life. We dance, play and learn together, finding what works for BOTH of us in a timing that reflects her development, her ever unfolding curiosity and her needs.
Clearly the EC/early potty training logic won out on me, this time. Plus, I had seen some pretty adversarial examples of ‘late potty training’ that put me off that approach entirely while, at the same time, I kept meeting ECers who raved about the process and really seemed to get a kick out of it. So the examples in my life were guiding me this approach, somehow.
But since then, I have met gentle, responsive parents who chose to EC convinced that is the most child-centered way to go AND other equally connection-oriented parents who waited till their kids were ‘ready’, some of whose kids, in fact, never had a single accident, when they traded in their diapers for undies. And I have met AP or gentle parents who have chosen nearly any path in between – all of them coming from a place of love, compassion and trust.
Truly, I think there are many ways to go about this that can be empowering for both parent and child, bringing the two together. This was the method that worked for us, this time (so far, at least). For us it was the perfect compromise: as early as we could do it so that she could walk to the potty and manage the process herself, independently. Any earlier (we started around 20 months) and she might have needed more help and as is she could manage the whole process (walking to the potty, etc) herself… and I didn’t want to go any longer than I had to, on account of the number of (chlorine-free) disposable diapers we were getting through. She responded well and quickly took to it, in our view (though, as we say, it was not a perfectly smooth journey).
Having said all that, would I do it this way, again – start early (from say 18 months) and go diaper-free from day one? I am not sure. I will say, I have no regrets. This was the way that felt right for us with this, our first child… but I do have ‘no accident’ envy, from the parents who told me that was the result for them… Then again, honestly I have heard ‘no accident’ stories coming from all methods, including the three day method (no accidents after day two or three) AND I have heard lots of ‘many accident’ stories from all methods, too. So, really, my conclusion is that has more to do with the child and, dare I say it, their ‘readiness’ (though not necessarily in the T. Brazelton sense) and with how much they are driving and embracing the process than necessarily with the method or the parent’s approach. So, do it your way… or better yet, do it your child’s way, at a time that works for the child and the whole family (like probably not just before a new sibling comes or when they are stressed… but a time when you can all give this your caring attention for a little while).
So, would I do it this way, again? Depends on the baby… Did I enjoy and learn a lot out of it this time: heck YES!


Potty learning outtakes: five funniest moments

Happy Poo

Image by Wen Rou via Flickr

We are in week four of our bare-bottom potty learning project. It has had its ups and downs. There have been many unexpected blessings that came from it (more of those on a separate, future post) and there have been a bunch of near misses, good tries and flat out fails – some of which I just had to share.

So here is the countdown of our funniest potty learning mishaps:

5. The first time she accidentally peed on the ‘big girl potty’ (i.e. the toilet) when she was just sitting there for fun, weeks before officially starting ‘potty training’, she heard the sound of it tinkling and looked so startled, her face was a treat!

4. The time she pooed on my friend’s patio. What great guests we make, right? Hey at least it wasn’t indoors… on their priceless persian rug!

3. The time she peed in my shoes. The time she peed in my mom’s shoes.

2. The time she felt the urge, walked over to her potty and did a poo on it – with its lid still closed (that was on day one – we counted it as a ‘win’ that she knew where she needed to go – the rest are details).

1. The time she opened the trap door to her airplane-push-car and peed inside it.

So, there you is, folks. I hope that doesn’t put you off early/bare-bottom potty training… Overall, I really like this approach and find it is working well for us. I hope instead that, like us, it helps you loosen up, take it in your stride and find the funny side (‘cos that is what gets you through).

Do you have any funny anecdotes from your family (that are not too gross or embarrassing to share)? Please share. Who doesn’t like a good bit of potty humour?

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!

What is the best age at which to potty learn?

The Big Potty

I am gathering data for my next, update post on how the 3-day Potty Learning Method is going for us (i.e. counting poos and pees). In the meanwhile I have got some great comments on my last post. One in particular got me to thinking. She (Ms Annonymous) said:

As a mother of three children (now ages 22,17,12) all of my children had their own style of potty training. Each child took a varying amount of time to get the hang of it, went through accidents, regressed from pottying at times but all children do get the hang of it eventually. What I feel we need to ask ourselves as mom’s is why we want our children to hurry up and potty train? Is it because we need to put our child in daycare and they must be trained by a certain age? Do we see bowel movements and urine as disgusting? Do we grimace when we change our child? Children should be respected & will in time of course learn to go in the potty. No “training” is necessary.

Personally I can say I am not planning to put DD in daycare anytime soon and possibly not at all, so there is no pressure from that angle. I am also not averse to changing diapers or anything like that (except for the environmental angle – and on that front I do think less is more when it comes to diapers). For me, the impetus to start earlier comes from research that shows that ‘early’ potty training is the most common thing throughout history and across the world’s cultures. The trend to start later is actually what is new and is particularly prevalent in the USA, as far as I can tell (my Portuguese friends were appalled to hear how late some people leave it here).

Plus, I am very swayed by the EC style arguments that keeping babies in diapers is effectively ‘training’ them to go standing up and clothed (rather than sitting and bare-bottomed) – thus making it physically harder to un-learn the habit, the longer you leave it. I have also been influenced by my reading of material discussing the emotional and cognitive development of children that seems to indicate that the later you potty train the more likely that you will run into power struggles and the potty will be used as a tool to try and manipulate the feelings of the parents or try to get a rise out of them – hence making it harder for kids and families emotionally, the later you start potty training.

Another commenter waded in with some great information on timing :

We did EC from birth night and day (smaller messes, easier learning curve for a beginner like me, already waking at night anyway). Out of diapers at 9m, night continent 15m (?), little potty independent at 18m.

This is not an EC friendly culture so it appears/sounds to be more work than it really is. I knew that starting at birth wasn’t necessary since between 4-6 months is common, but I wanted to give *myself* time to change my diapering mindset.

I helped conventionally train 2 siblings (my mom did diaper cold turkey around age 2 iirc). You want CT to be done or nearly so between 2 and 2.5. I can say that “waiting for readiness” is a pit trap that causes more headaches and issues than necessary. When you conventionally train you must simultaneously help them unlearn diapers. The longer one waits the harder that is. The ages between 2 and 3 is the worst time to start. If you wait that long to begin it is quite common to have power struggles, bowel withholding, potty aversion, and night-wetting well into age 4 and 5 or more.

Conventional training works best between ages 12m and 18m — steady walkers who are still very, very much into mimicry and only just experimenting with independence. Between approximately 18-24 months (depending on when you started) diapers should be done away with completely in favor of naked or training pants — no pull-ups…ever. Pull ups are diapers and send the wrong message and prolong the training phase.

One of the things I agree with with the 3 day is early starting, banish the diaper crutch, and consistency. That IS EC! Really. It just sounds like conventional/traditional pottying but really those are all EC principles. Older babies need more words and obvious demo, while newborns and infants do not. What I don’t like is that its a misnomer. I think it disappoints those who start too late (after 18m) and doesn’t emphasize that it will be harder the older the baby.

My top tip for newbies is…pottying should be seen as a daily matter of course. It is something that we all do several times a day and babies should be part of that and not a separate event.

Happy Pottying :)

This same commenter has a super-informative, fab, diaper-free blog here.

I do think you need to do what you need to do – for you, for your family and to fit in with the rhythms of your family and work life. If you are stressed out at work, if you are about to move home or have a baby… now may not be the best time to potty train your child, even if this is the perfect ‘window’, by the book (well, one of the books, anyway – as they all say different things).

So, what is the right time to start potty training? Is 18 months too early or too late? People are clearly coming up with different answers to this question. All of us here, natural, gentle parents, put love, care and respect at the center of all our parenting practices, including potty training. And indeed different timings may well suit different children up to a point… but I can’t help thinking that earlier is better, if it will be easier emotionally and probably physically, too – as most research seems to suggest. I don’t want it to be a stress on my little’un or the stuff of future power-struggles between us, if I can avoid it (can I?!) Above all it feels right. We use less diapers, she gets to run around naked – win-win.

EC, traditional potty training or the 3-day method – which one is for me?


Image by ToddMorris via Flickr

The moms I know fall mostly into two categories, when it comes to potty training: the Elimination Communication (EC) moms and the traditional Potty Training (TPT) moms. The EC moms, while tiresome to hang around sometimes (because all they want to talk about is poop) are super happy talk about this stuff. They speak of each poo they caught with such excitement you’d think it was a major league sport. This is clearly an area of parenting which, while challenging, brought them great pride and fascination. The TPT moms I run into, the ones that waited for the ‘signs of readyness’ well… most of those are miserable if you bring up this topic and are mostly looking for misery with whom to share company. One lovely young mother said she was ‘literally banging [her] head against the wall’ with all the set-backs and power-struggles.

Having missed the EC train (well, let it ride on by, really), I was staring at TPT with some dread. That can’t be the only option – bribing with smarties, cajoling, coercing, only to break down in tears (the parents, that is). Eek! Then I heard of the three-day potty training method. It received glowing recommendations from the mommas on the homebrew chat group I belong to – two moms said they successfully potty trained their 18 month olds using this approach. My curiosity was piqued. I read as much as I could about it online… but never did get round to buying a book.

In fairness, I have also heard from natural mommas who went the opposite way, instead of joining the EC and early potty training movement (no pun intended) they let the timing of potty training come from their kids and did it at their pace. This presumably means waiting until they are influenced by their peers and verbally express a desire to use the potty. Still, the point is, even among natural-minded parents there is a spectrum, every thing from starting EC at birth (which some but not all ECers do) to waiting for the child to be ‘ready’ and sometimes still working on potty training at age 4. There are families out there that have done any combination of techniques at any age along this spectrum, and done so gently and respectfully.

I remained intrigued by the three-day method. The fact that it is short and to the point appeals to me. I am that kind of gal. I like to dive in, go for it, get it done, when it comes to challenges. I would rather do it intensively, in three days, than do it slowly and (arguably) more easily, over months and months, if I have the choice, even knowing those three days will be exhausting and demanding for me – but hopefully actually easier for my DD. Indeed, I am also really drawn to the fact that this method is bare-bottomed and super gentle: you essentially just support kiddos to figure it out for themselves, with no rewards or distractions used.

So, here’s the basics of the 3-day method – the prep:

  • Ensure kiddy is between 15 and 27 months of age and shows signs of being interested in the potty
  • Chose a potty training partner – this method is full-on and it takes two people, committed for the full three days
  • Schedule the 3-day starter weekend when you can have 3 days in which you dedicate yourselves entirely to the success of this method
  • Get a potty, preferably one for every room or area you will be in for those days. Ideally introduce it to your child a few weeks before the actual long weekend and talk to them and let them see how mommy and daddy go to the loo. Talk them through the steps (pulling down pants, sitting, doing the do, flushing, washing hands) over and over. Make it ‘normal’.
When you start:
  • From day one your baby goes bare bottomed 100% of the time in the house, when awake
  • Give them lots of yummy drinks to ensure they have lots of opportunity to recognise the feeling of needing to go
  • Each time they are about to pee or poo or as you see them starting quickly sit them on the potty. If you get ANY pee or poo in the potty make a huge deal of it and do your own, family potty dance/song
  • Keep it up – consistency is the key. It is important that your actions communicate that there are only two options: going in a diaper or in the potty. Going on the floor or in your clothes is not a valid option. If they pee or poo, act swiftly to get them to the right place. Do not make them feel bad or humiliate them for any (inevitable) accidents. In fact don’t draw attention to them at all. Focus on the positive and on the successes.
  • Day one you stay in the house all day. Day two you can go out for one hour in the afternoon after they have peed. Day three you can go out for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon – again only straight after a pee (which helps cement the ‘I need to pee before going out’ thing in their heads as well as giving you maximum time before the next probable ‘event’
  • Keep babe bare-bottomed in the house ALWAYS for the next three months (starting from day 1 of the intensive start-up). Wear only loose-fitting trousers (no panties, diapers or pull-ups at all) when out of the house – as any of these can just give the signal to the brain that there is something there to ‘catch’ your poo or pee and can lead to regressions
For a full description on how to get started on this method and what signs to look out for to know they are ready, go here. I am going to follow this post up with a post on how it is going for us. What you see here is the theory… next comes the practice! Will it work for us?
Now, over to you? Have you potty trained your child(ren)? Which method did you use and when did you start? How did it go – smoothly with a few setbacks or nightmarish, head-banging time? What are your top tips for us newbies?
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She knows

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Sh*t happens.

Yep, poop happens and today it happened all over me. Baby diaper blow-out disaster. Not a pretty sight (or smell). I thought I’d share in case you don’t have your own children and have never had the joy of being poop-covered. And I was out which meant I couldn’t get changed until I got back home. I mean I always carry a change of clothes (or two) for Anya, but it never occurred to me to carry a change of clothes for me. You live and you learn!