Top tips for potty training
Don’t worry if other parents are potty training and you are not.
Go at your own speed and when your child is ready.
Dry nappies after a nap may be a sign your child is ready to potty train.
Potty training is easier if your child gets into good habits from a young age, so try to change nappies in the bathroom where possible.
Buy at least one potty – and maybe a portable one too.
Ask your child if they need the potty about 20 minutes after having a drink.
Rewards such as sticker charts or treats can help.
Don’t give up.
Many parents find getting their child to do without nappies one of the biggest challenges of their early years.
“From the research we have done - which involved speaking to hundreds of parents - 80 per cent said potty training was the most stressful element of parenting, and many said they found it very competitive too,” says Jude
Hough, co-author of the book How to Potty Train. Once friends with similar aged children begin to potty train, many parents feel obliged to start with their own. However, resist the temptation until your child is ready, warns Mr Imran Mushtaq, Consultant Urologist at The Portland Hospital.
“It is very important to potty train your child when he or she is ready and not to force the issue at too early an age,” he says. “My advice is simple: do not get stressed or feel pressurised to potty train at a certain age. Your child will tell you when he or she is ready”. So what are the signs that your child is ready to start? “You are waiting for their bladders to mature to the stage where they can hold on a bit more and the sign of that is a change to the pattern of wet nappies,” explains Jude’s co-author
Diane Titterton. “So you might get the odd dry nappy when you wouldn’t normally expect it, for example, after your child has been down for a nap. Essentially, you get fewer but bigger wees. This normally happens around the age of two and a half.”
Potty training is easier if your child gets into good habits from a young age. “It’s a good idea to change your child’s nappy in the bathroom so they get used to the idea that you play in the sitting room but you go to the toilet somewhere else - in a special room,” says Jude. When your child seems ready, start potty training in a week when you don’t have too much on. Buy a potty – or preferably two - including a lightweight portable one that you can take out and about with you. Then you just have to go for it. “Be aware that it takes about twenty minutes for fluid to go through a child, so initially suggest around 20 minutes after having a drink that they try the potty,” says Jude.
“Don’t ask them if they need to go too often though because for a child to be potty trained they need to develop their own awareness of when they need to go. For the first few days keep checking, but not beyond that.”
Rewards such as a sticker or a chocolate button when they use the potty can be
a good incentive for young children. There will of course be accidents but, once you have started, don’t be tempted to give up.
“When their nappy comes off, it has to stay off - it’s no good giving in and putting the nappy back on,” says Diane. “Accidents are part of the process. Wet, uncomfortable underwear helps remind a child they need to use the potty and not to leave it.
“Just because your child has an accident does not mean that they are going backwards. If they have shown signs that they are ready, then stick with it.”
Sometimes when it comes to poos children can take longer. “Boys especially may ask for a nappy to poo in and, so long as you keep the nappy on just for poos, that’s OK. Try to encourage them to sit on the loo with the nappy on, then get them to the stage where they take the nappy off.,” says Jude.
How long it takes to potty train varies from one child to another – it can be weeks or months. Experts advise to wait until your child has perfected day-time potty training before you try to get them to go without a nappy at night.
“It takes on average up to six months after they are dry during the day before they will be completely dry at night,” says Diane.
Simple measures such as having their last drink no later than an hour before bedtime and ensuring your child empties their bladder before they go to bed can help. But don’t be disheartened by the odd wet night.
According to NHS figures, a quarter of children are still wetting the bed once a week at the age of four and a half, and it’s quite normal to have the odd accident for some years after that. Mr Mushtaq says accidents in older children can be a result of potty training too soon. “We sometimes see children whom present to us at 5 to 10 years of age with daytime wetting or urine infections, and when we go into the history we find the child potty trained very early, sometimes as early as 18 months of age,” he says. “These children learn to hold on to their urine and then have difficulty releasing it when they need to.”
By Lucy Elkins