Potty training was something I had been strategizing and thinking about for a long time. Ever since Gabriel turned 2 it has been on my radar. For those who see potty training on the horizon or who are looking for some comfort in others who have just exited the trenches, I hope this post reassures you.
We started potty training by introducing the baby potty early on. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I think it depends on your kid’s temperament. It takes Gabriel a little while to get comfortable with things. I wanted sitting on the potty and having his potty in the bathroom to be something that was just part of the house, part of his routine, and I wanted that set up before we doubled down on actual potty training. Transitioning with the new baby made the process slower than I think it would have otherwise, but in the end I really think it worked out just great.
So how did we do it? What did we do? Well, after we introduced the potty we were aided with a daycare that also casually began potty training. They sat Gabriel on the potty a few times a day, got him used to making pee come out, got him used to flushing, got him used to the routine of washing his hands, etc. For a long time Gabe couldn’t pull down or pull up his pants. That is something that comes with time and practice. So this slow approach was also about learning. When Gabe was 2.5 he was transitioned into a pre-preschool class where they really focus on potty training. Because we don’t have a house with a backyard, because we rent, because we both work (and we had the new baby in this case), I didn’t feel comfortable keeping Gabriel home for an extended period of time to potty train him. And though he loves streaking through the house naked, he had shown discomfort on being naked when he had to go potty, so keeping him without pants just wasn’t going to work for us.
I had originally wanted to potty train him in October while Kamel was on paternity leave, but because he reverted a bit with the classroom change, we ended up starting the process over Thanksgiving break. This gave us 4 days at home together, 90% of the time focused on potty-ing. We prepped him by explaining that diapers were on their way out a few days before, and we showed him the underpants he had previously picked out. And then on Thanksgiving morning we changed him out of his diaper and put him in underpants. Then we set an alarm on our phones to go off every hour for potty time. We made it fun where the alarm would surprise us all and it would be “What’s the Gabriel? What is that noise?” and he would say, “It’s…. POTTY TIME!” and then we would run in and he would sit down and try to pee. This went super well and in this process we didn’t have any accidents, but Gabriel wasn’t yet 100% understanding WHEN he had to go, we were fabricating the potty training because we were taking him every hour on the hour. During this time we still kept him in diapers for nap and for nighttime. He would sometimes strategically poop in his diaper, or go a day or two without pooping. Pooping for Gabriel took a while longer to be comfortable with than peeing did.
On Monday we sent him to daycare in just underpants and 3 changes of clothes. We let his teachers know and they knew how to be on the look out for his signals and to be diligent at taking him every hour. For the first week of school in just underpants (except for nap time) he had 1-2 accidents a day until Friday, when he had 0. Sometimes he would poop in his pants. I told them to just throw away the underpants when that happened. We had bought many replacements. Sometimes he would accidentally pee on his pants when he was sitting on the potty. Penises are wily. And sometimes he would not recognize he had to go, or refuse to go when the teacher would take him to the potty and then pee his pants later on. But! The entire week he had dry diapers during nap time. I did more laundry during this time than any other time in my life.
By week 2 the pooping struggle had become real. Gabe was uncomfortable pooping. He would fight it, not wanting to go, he’d pace around the apartment and complain of stomach aches a lot. Gabe didn’t want to sit down to go and holding it in too much made it hurt. Kamel had to hold Gabriel over the potty while he sort of hovered and often cried. It was stressful. I opted out of this. Because he was constipating himself so effectively we called the doctor to get some advice after it had been 2 days of no BM. This is really common, so for any parents out there dealing with this, know this: Going more than 1 day for toddlers is not normal and can cause injury, so if it has been 2 days with no poop make sure you call your doctor and get some advice. I am not telling anyone to necessarily do what we did before talking to your doctor, as a small blog disclaimer. This is just a recount of the realities of potty training and what worked for us.
So after the two days without poop (and we were headed into our third) they gave us the go-ahead to put about a half dose of Miralax into his water. It’s completely tasteless and just makes it easier to go, doesn’t necessarily force him to go. The problem with that is, you have to get them to drink the majority of the water in one sitting, which is nearly impossible to do with a toddler. Thankfully Gabe becomes obsessed with drinking water before bed, so I spiked his drink at a strategic time and he drank enough of it during a short period of time to make me feel like it was going to be better than nothing. We also got him on a high(er) fiber diet. Graham crackers, apple sauce, dehydrated fruit snacks from trader joes which Gabe freaking LOVES. We call them “berry snacks” in our house. The blueberry and the strawberry are his favorite. I also started giving him little 4 ounce sippy cups of half prune juice and half apple juice.
This poop offensive turned things around almost right away. Suddenly it didn’t hurt him to go, suddenly he had to go more frequently, and by the third week at school he was 1) recognizing the need to pee and poop on his own, 2) telling his teacher he needed to go potty, and 3) no longer wearing diapers during nap time. By the fourth week of underpants only, accidents became a 1-off only and he was actually going into the bathroom by himself, on his own, and handling it all.
Other things we did to ease the poop anxiety: Chocolate. If Gabriel pooped at school he got 2 chocolates when he got home (Andees mints) and if he pooped at home successfully he got 2 chocolate right after. Because it was Kamel’s job to handle the poops in the baby potty, Gabe would come running out of the bathroom, pantsless, calling, “Mama!!! I POOOOOOPED! I get dos chocolate!!!”
Now, 2 months after that first potty training weekend intensive, the baby potty is history. Gabe can pull up and pull down his own underpants and pants, and pooping is not an issue at all. I still give him prune + apple juice about 4-5 times a week, just once a day to keep things moving. He LOVES it and asks for juice constantly. I will say – I get the expensive real prune juice in the glass jar that is pretty thick and cut it with toddler Motts apple juice with barely any sugar. I worried he wouldn’t like it, but he just sucks it straight down. Shrug!
Oh! And potty training out in the world. Also something a little complicated. Public bathrooms totally freaked Gabriel out. He had never had to use one before and he was totally paranoid by all of the sounds of the other people – washing their hands, the hand dryer, opening and closing the doors – it was a mess. So we started making it a point to take him into every public bathroom we could whenever we were out running errands. We’d go potty before we left the house and then when we’d get to Target (or the mall or a restaurant) we’d make another trip to the potty and then again when we left. Family-style restrooms are still the best as far as Gabe’s comfort, but now at least he will go in public, when at first he would completely refuse and try to hold it until we got home. Not good.
Since the point where I considered him fully potty trained he has only had maybe 3 or 4 accidents while at home – always pee, never poop.
Overall, even though it took a lot of mental energy to walk him through the process, and a little bit of stress trying to figure out how to get him comfortable with it all, it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it was. Once your kid is ready you will know. And then it all pretty much sorts itself out. You’re there to be a support and a firm potty teacher. But, basically they teach themselves. Be consistent and don’t put them in situations where they will be physically or mentally uncomfortable as much as possible, especially in the beginning. If your kid doesn’t want to be naked, don’t force them to be naked. We also had a rule that if Gabe ever asked for his diaper in order to poop, we’d let him have it. I was not going to make going on the potty world war 3. I also did not want him to feel like he didn’t have control over his own body. We did force him to sit on the potty one time and I hated it and Kamel and I decided never to do it again. We can say “it’s time to go potty, now,” but Gabriel really really doesn’t want to go, then so be it. He will either tell us he needs to go in a little while, or he’ll have an accident. Or we won’t leave the house until he does. Those are both natural consequence, but they don’t take away his physical autonomy about something that’s so personal.
Ok, I think that’s pretty much it. If anything was unclear or if you have any questions, leave me a comment. There is a possibility I may have forgotten something or didn’t explain something well enough.
Potties for everyone!