What is The Best Time To Start Potty Training?
Believe it or not, potty training can begin as early as three months old. It can start earlier than that but it is simply easier at that time because your baby poops and pees less often.
Why Bother Potty Training Early?
It might sound bizarre to most people, because it doesn’t sound like a baby younger than 12 months can possibly be potty trained. The reasoning behind that logic is because, it doesn’t seem likely that a baby can go to the bathroom herself. If you made that assumption, then you are definitely right.
Realistically, most children won’t be able to go to the bathroom and clean themselves unsupervised until they are at least two to three years old.
Even though that’s the case, there are lots of gains and advantages to train your baby before she is ready to go on her own. This has been proven to be true in a lot of other countries, where most of the population live in less civilized areas. A good example of this would be my home country China. In rural parts of China, it is common sense to have your child potty trained by 12 months of age.
Why Are Uncivilized Countries So Successful At Potty Training Their Babies Early?
The reason they have such good success potty training in China is because they used elimination communication training or EC training for short. However, nobody in China actually calls it EC training, because it simply taken for granted in Chinese culture. I call it EC training here because it is a fancy name created by western countries like the United States.
Even though EC training sounds fancy, it is not something difficult and complicated. It is simply a lengthy process that helps connect a baby’s poop and pees habits to their parents’ voice.
The process works like this:
- The parent learns the subtle body cues a baby gives off when she is about to poop or pee.
- After the parent gets the hang of the baby’s body cues, the parent associate a specific catchy sound to match the baby’s action. For example, the parent might repeat gently, “shhhhhh, shhhhhh, shhhhhh” when she predicts that her baby is about to pee.
The goal of this system is to sort of hypnotize the baby so that she will wait for her parent’s signals before she actually pees or poops. After the parent trains the baby long enough, whenever the baby is about to pee or poop, she will temporarily “hold it in” until she received her parent’s “shhhhhh” sounds or whatever sounds her parents trained her with.
I did say that the baby will “hold it in”, but due to the lack of muscle control and strength, this hold will be very brief. In the beginning, it will often fail. It is up to the parent to make it to the toilet, or waste bowl in time for the wastes to successfully reach its goal. If not, then it is cleaning time.
This is where the advantage of living in China shines. In rural parts of China, it is common sense to let your baby simply “eliminate” her poop on the road. This is another reason why it is slightly easier to potty train a baby in uncivilized countries where diapers are uncommon.
Can You See The Benefits Of This Training?
Most parents who don’t practice EC have trouble potty training their children, because children refuses to cooperate. This is another reason why potty training your child after two is highly not recommended. Children at this age are extremely mobile, and slightly rebellious. Asking them to sit down would be a heavy challenge to most parents.
If you and your baby can master EC and form a strong connection between your “signals” and your baby’s subconscious behaviors, it will be much easier for your child to control her bowel and bladder movements as she gets more developed, and self aware as she gets older.
Does Potty Training Early Cause Emotional Traumas?
No, it does not. There’s no evidence proving that potty training early causes emotional traumas. As you can see earlier, EC training is very friendly, and constructive. There are rumors and so called “research” out there that claims potty training early causes emotional traumas. However, what they are truly referring to is the abandoned practice of aggressive methods of potty training invented back in the 1920s to 1930s.
Back in the 1930’s, there were widespread attempts to force potty training early by sticking bars of soaps into a baby’s butt, and using physical punishments. The idea was to have a child potty trained before she can walk. Later on, the medical community banned this practice. This is not related to EC training in any shape or form.
EC training involves observation, communication, and cooperation with no forms of aggression or violence. Nothing is forced or made painful. In fact, the baby doesn’t even know it is being trained, because the method is so subtle. If you want to learn more about elimination communication (EC) training, you can click here for more information.
EC Training Sounds Good, But Are There Disadvantages To It?
Honestly, it is not difficult to implement the EC training, but it is very time consuming. You really have to dedicate a portion of your time to learn your baby’s cues and to connect your voice cues. Another disadvantage for parents living in the city is that you can’t allow your baby to simply pee and poop anywhere.
This is why you still need good diapers like pampers swaddlers in the beginning. Another disadvantage to EC training is that it is hard to see your baby’s pee and poop when she is wrapped with diapers. If you have the time and patience, I highly recommend your baby to be diaper free throughout the day so that it is easier for you to connect your baby’s body signals to her pee/poop movements. Of course, when she is sleeping at night, put the diaper back on.
My daughter gives very obvious signals when is about to pee or poop. She literally freezes and holds her breath when is about to pee or poop. Your baby will have her own signals that you have to learn. You just have to figure it out.
Even though this all sounds time consuming and back breaking, the results are worth it, because you gain the following:
- Less diapers used
- Earlier bladder and bowel control for the baby
- Prevent a lot of bladder problems like urinary tract infection for example
- Reduces chances of diaper rashes and yeast infections (especially if you do EC without diapers)
Not To Mention, There Are Dangers To Late Potty Training
As I mentioned earlier, potty training after two years of age will make the process much more difficult. Not to mention, there are research out there that shows that potty training later than two years can possibly lead to bladder problems.
Last Piece Of Advice On EC Training
I mentioned earlier that children in uncivilized countries are potty trained by the time they are one year old. The secret behind that speedy potty training is using EC training. However, one thing I have to clarify is that accidents still happen.
Children don’t have truly mastered their bladder and bowels until they are at least two to three years old. During the period where your baby is between one year and three years of age, you should still supervise her bathroom routines.
After EC Training Comes The Real Potty Training
EC training basically trains your baby’s ability to hold her pee and poop until she receives “approval” from her parents (the shhhhhh sounds I mentioned earlier). However, as you and I both know that is only the foundation of potty training. A truly potty trained child is one that has the following abilities:
- Have the ability to hold in her pee and poop (EC training provides great advantages in this area)
- Have the ability to walk to the toilet herself
- Successfully pass her pee and poop into the toilet bowl without making a mess
- Clean herself properly, and flush the toilet
Obviously, even EC training can not make a baby do all of that before one year old. That is impossible. That is only possible when your child is emotionally, and physically ready. Usually, the magic number is when she is at least 18 months of age.
In order for your child to go to the toilet alone, she has to feel that she is a grown up and wants to use the toilet like the rest of the adults in the house. In order to know if she is physically and mentally ready, you will have to learn the signs of her readiness.
The Signs That Your Child Is Ready To Use The Toilet On Her Own
- Your child doesn’t wet her diaper for at least two hours every day – This simply means that her bladder and rectum muscles are strong enough to hold in her pee or poop
- Your child keeps her diaper dry even after a nap – This is a strong indicator that your child’s bladder and rectum muscles are developing to prevent leakage
- Your child consistently pees or poop around the same time everyday – consistency is a sign of self control which is what you want
- Your child can undress herself, redress herself, and head back and forth to the bathroom – It’s also important for your child to learn to hold herself in before her butt can reach the toilet in time.
- Your child shows predictable patterns of needing to poop or pee – If you can accurately predict when she is about to pee or poop every time, then it’s a good sign.
- Your child tries to copy adults bathroom routines – The best indicator is when your child takes the initiatives for potty training. Children love imitating adults, and this makes the potty training four to five times smoother
- Your child can follow directions – Sometimes your children might be confused as to how to react to their need to poop or pee. That’s why it’s important that they can follow instructions. In a situation where they need to go, they will at least be able to follow your directions.
- Your child realizes that she is dirty – There’s no point to potty training if your child doesn’t even recognize the difference between being clean and dirty. In a sense, this is a child’s sense of developing their ego, or in other words, self awareness. At this point, she realizes that it’s uncomfortable to wear a wet or mushy diaper. If you can sense that, then it’s a pretty big “go ahead and potty train her” sign.
- Your child copies adults who goes to the bathroom – She wants to do what grownups do. The moment you see that, encourage her to go further. However, don’t force her if she is scared. Take it slowly.
- Your child wants to try sitting on a toilet – Most children are afraid of sitting in toilet seats because they are afraid that they will fall into the toilet. If your child wants to try, you can get an adapter seat for them to sit on. Also don’t forget to get a little stool for them to use to climb on top of the toilet
- Your child is patient enough to sit still – It’s not easy for a child to poop or pee at first. In fact, she will feel like nothing is coming out. Your child must be able to patiently sit still and wait for the moment.
Don’t Rush – Fear Is Not Productive
If you have seen enough movies, you will notice that some characters in movies will actually pee their pants when they are overly afraid of someone or something. Your child is no different than that. When they are afraid, they will pee their pants. You don’t want that. As much as you want your child to quickly get it, sometimes it simply doesn’t happen that way. As I mentioned earlier with the EC training. It should be a very subtle and helpful process. Don’t be violent and aggressive about it.
Let’s say that your child is afraid of flushing sounds from the toilet, then don’t let your child use the toilet yet. Use a potty chair for them to practice on. If your child doesn’t show enough mental signs that she is ready for potty training, then put her back on diapers and try again later.
Success In The Day Is Different from Success At Night
Potty training during the night is actually slightly more challenging. The reason is because of the following:
- Your child has to hold in the pee or poop longer
- Your child might find it difficult to find the bathroom or potty seat at night
- Your child might not be sensitive enough to notice their need to go at night
Unless you find your child keeping herself clean and dry at least 3 to 4 nights in a row, don’t attempt to do night potty training yet. If you feel she is ready, prepare a waterproof mattress cover under her and let her wear rubber potty training pants. With rubber potty training pants, she will actually feel her wetness better. Not to mention, it’s easy to take off for emergencies.
Success Doesn’t Mean There Can’t Be Accidents
Believe it or not, average children aren’t completely potty trained until they are at least four to five years old. Even if your child can successfully keep herself clean and dry for several months, it doesn’t mean she wouldn’t wet herself. This is especially true, the younger you train her.
When accidents happen, realize that you were once a child before, and you gave your parents enough problems yourself. Don’t punish your child. Don’t give her an attitude. Your child is already uncomfortable with the fact that she made a mistake. Just tell her that accidents are normal, and keep motivating her to keep trying.
Choose Some Equipment – Your Child is The Boss
Buy some potty training chairs and let your child choose for you. Don’t guess what your child would like. Let your child decide on her own. If the potty training seat has the cartoon or design she likes, then she will be much more likely to take care of it. In other words, not let it get dirty or stained.
This also applies to her rubber potty training pants. She definitely wouldn’t want her cute cartoon character turn into a yellow brownish stain of mess.
Potty Training Should Be A Rewarding Experience
When your child can successfully complete a potty training routine, praise your child for such an accomplishment. Of course, don’t go overboard, or your child will get nervous every time she goes to use the toilet. If you want to go the extra mile (you really should), then buy a set of stickers with her favorite cartoon characters.
Get some kind of notebook and write your child’s name in the front. Design the inside almost like a calendar and give a sticker for every day she does her toilet routines correctly. After she accumulates enough stickers, give her an actual prize like an extra hour of hide and seek or something your child likes.
The sticker game is just an example. Think of your own routine where she can feel like she is making accumulative accomplishments towards a bigger goal. The key is to let your child feel that all this potty training leads to somewhere rewarding and awesome.
Of course, the reward should be something she likes, and sometimes unpredictable.
You Think Patience is Enough?
Most parents believe that patience is enough. Wrong. You need so much patience, that you will feel like your nerves are constantly being grinded by a machine. You need something beyond patience. It’s known as sacrifice.
Just remember that no matter what happens, keep it a positive experience for your child even if you don’t want to. Pretend that she is a skyscraper being built with tofu. Very beautiful yet very fragile. Going nuts will only force you to redo the whole process. Many children takes as much as eight months to potty train. If you have friend who potty trained their children rather quickly, they are either lying, not telling the whole truth, or simply lucky.
Not everyone are lucky in this world, but you should also realize that potty training does complete at some point. It’s not forever even if it feels like forever. Expect disappointment. If you are lucky, you won’t be disappointed, but unfortunately most parents do get disappointed.