(Goblin is 32 months)
Yesterday I posted about the start of our potty training experience, but that only took us up to 'naked time'. Once your child understands the concept of weeing and pooping in the potty or toilet there comes a point where you have to make the transition from nappies/naked time to pants (underwear) – at least if you ever want to leave the house again. Some people choose to use pull ups as an inbetween stage but we decided to just go for it with the underwear.
I decided to start the pants wearing phase of potty training on a week when Hublet was away on a training course so I had him consistently for 8 days. I didn’t want to stay indoors all week so I mentally accepted that we might have a few outdoor accidents and packed accordingly. My changing bag included:
5 pairs of pants;
5 pairs of elasticated waist trousers;
2 nappies (incase we ran out of pants);
2 pairs of sock (because wee runs down the leg and into the socks);
1 travel potty with biodegradable potty bags;
Nappy bags for wet clothes.
Because Goblin is capable of finding any puddle – he could find one in the Sahara desert - I always carry at least one change of clothes anyway so for me the transition to carrying half his wardrobe wasn’t so bad, but I have friends who have returned to carrying one spare nappy in their handbag, and for them the step back to carrying the kitchen sink must be quite a shock.
After day one of wearing pants I was seriously deterred. I don’t know whether I just wasn’t paying attention, or whether people gloss over this bit of potty training but somehow I hadn’t picked up on just how many accidents you get through before your child masters wearing underwear. Naively I assumed that if Goblin could poo and wee in a toilet he would understand that he needed to also do that with pants on. Just to illustrate that this was not the case here is a table of number of wees and poos that happened in the underwear rather than the toilet for a fortnight from the introduction of the pants.
Nursery in nappy
Trip to town
Nursery in pants
Visit to Elfin
Country Park and soft play
Travel to Wales
nappy for journey
The travel potty: Our Potette Plus travel potty is awesome. It folds down so small it can tuck into the netting bit of our changing bag. It folds right out so you can use it as a toilet seat insert on an adult loo (Goblin calls this the butterfly), and also folds down so the legs click in to make a little potty which you can use straight onto the grass if you are in the countryside, or you can put a biodegradable plastic nappy bag (with absorbent pad) over it so the child pees or poops into that. You then remove the bag and pop it in the bin (or in my case carry it round for 4 hours because you can’t find a bin).
Pooping in pants: On Sunday (day 6) Hublet came home from his training course. i had been emailing progress reports and Goblin, having been dry all day while out at a Country show, decided to make me look like a total liar by first peeing on the floor half an hour after Hublet got home, and then pooping in his pants while Hublet and I were chatting. AAAGH! No one mentions how much more disgusting poo in pants is than poo in a nappy. Seriously its awful! You need to scrape the poo into the loo from the pants and hose your child down in the bath because it smears all over their legs as you pull the pants down. And you will want to stick your child on the loo incase they haven’t finished pooping, so you also get poo on the loo seat. And the whole bathroom stinks. Oh my! Hublet and I did a tag team effort and we couldn’t stop ourselves from yelling at Goblin when he tried to pick up the poopy pants that were waiting to be dealt with in the bath. All our good intentions of not getting annoyed with the accidents and just being positive about the successes flew out he window when confronted with the horror of the first poo in the pants. After that we managed to maintain our composure, but that first one was shockingly awful.
Napping: I left Goblin in pants for his naps. This was largely due to the fact that often his nap started in the back of the car on the way back from somewhere and I just transferred him fully dressed into his bed. The result in the first week was about 50% of the time he wet the bed. But by week 2 that had reduced to zero. As long as you have a mattress protector on the bed and are willing to change sheets, I see no problem with the pants for naps approach.
Proactive versus Child led: When Goblin started wearing pants I feel I switched from child led potty learning to parent led potty training. After my first day of many accidents, I started asking Goblin if he wanted the toilet about every half hour, and getting him to try even when he said he didn’t need it about every hour and a half. Some parents do it even more frequently than this (you need to find what's right for you). I didn’t want to sound like a broken record, and I didn’t want to undermine Goblin’s chance of telling me that he needed the toilet so an hour and a half felt about right - unless he was grabbing at his crotch which is his sign that he needs a wee.
By comparison Hublet chose a more child led approach where he waited for Goblin to tell him, and he also started to get Goblin to take his own pants and trousers down. This approach led to more wet pants (while in the toilet trying to get his pants down) but it gave Goblin much more of a sense of achievement when he initiated a toilet trip and when he got his pants down in time.
I do not think one way is better than the other. I think every parent will find what fits them and their child and their rhythm. I think Hublet’s way will lead to greater independence but may take longer to get there in the short term. Mine was born out of the fact that we were out and about more and I had a finite number of pants.
We are now in week three and have settled into a mix of proactive and child led. When at home we use Hublet’s child led method more. But when we are on an outing we do a more proactive approach of putting him on the loo (before the car journey, as soon as we arrive and any time we find a toilet).
Goblin had his first completely dry day about a fortnight in. This feels about right to me given our approach. I’m sure you can achieve dry days much faster if you are doing most of the running – reminding and requiring the child to sit on the loo more often. Like I said before it is about finding what is comfortable for your family and I don’t think there is one right way to do it. Potty training/learning isn’t a race or a competition no matter how much it might feel like it sometimes.
Fear of pooping: We were very lucky that Goblin was interested in pooping in the loo before he was interested in peeing in the loo. This may have been aided by ‘the poo face’ antics and the amount of time we took over the whole journey (about 6 months). However some friends have found that their toddlers experience anxiety when trying to poo in a toilet or potty. I asked around to see if there was any advice out there and found a good post on the website What to Expect. I hope this is useful to anyone experiencing this problem.
So I thought I would conclude with my top 10 tips based on our experience:
- Find your family's pace and try not to get flustered or pressured by other parents moving at a different pace
- Be aware of the proactive versus child led approaches and their implications but don't feel you have to pick one and stick to it - you can always alternate depending on circumstance
- Buy a travel potty, take it everywhere with you and don't bury it at the bottom of the bag - you will need to get it out REALLY fast
- Ensure your kid knows where the toilet is when you visit friends or go on an outing
- If you think your child peeing on your friend's sofa might ruin a lovely relationship don't take your child to that friend's house while potty training
- Don't be tempted to leave the house without a change of clothes even once you think your child has nailed it - that is just asking for trouble
- Buy lots of cheap pants and if you are squeamish about poo be prepared to throw quite a few away
- Be prepared for the HORROR of the first poo in the pants
- Your child will have good days and bad days, don't let the bad days bring you down
- If your child is enjoying an activity a lot DO NOT BELIEVE THEM when they say they don’t need the toilet.
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