Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Potty Training: What I've Learned

Alright, so potty-training my two-year-old while eight months pregnant is not ideal. But, that's where we're at. This is happening. I personally have no problem with two kiddos in diapers for a few months (visions of nursing an infant while sitting on the bathroom floor next to a potty-training toddler keep dancing through my mind), but Tory seems to be showing great interest in toilet training, so here we go ....

Our Potty Training Journey
For my own documenting purposes, I wanted to jot down Tory's potty training journey. Likely one of those things that's of little interest to anyone but me, so skip down to Potty Training: What I've Learned to hear my tips and tricks on toilet training. 

This spring, Tory was curious about the bathroom process so I bought a potty chair, books and training pants to have on hand when it was "time." Back then, she found more interest in unrolling and flushing rolls of toilet paper, so I knew she wasn't ready. Interested in the bathroom, but not actually interested in going potty. Got it.

*Repeated use of the word "potty" in the post. There's just no other way around it, sorry. 

The potty chair has been a fixture on our bathroom floor for months and occasionally Tory sits on it for fun. No pressure from mama, Tory Bean! New baby on the way!

Then a few weeks ago, Tory randomly pooped on her potty chair. Hooray! She did it again a few days later. Wahoo! I busted out A Potty For Me and it instantly became one of Tory's favorite books. She seemed interested in using the potty chair and clearly understood what was required of her. We went a week or so of Tory telling me she was messing in her diaper as she performed the action. Then one Wednesday morning, Tory asked for the potty chair and successfully used it within 30 minutes of waking up. We had nowhere to be that day so I thought, "hey, what's the harm? We'll run with the potty chair today and she how she does." Since we were at home, I kept her naked from the waist down throughout the day and she had zero accidents. Not one!

The next day, Tory and I had a play date scheduled at a friend's house. She used the potty successfully at home in the morning and rode over to our play date in training pants. She was dry when we arrived there. I brought our potty chair along and kept it close while Tory was playing with her friends. Within 15 minutes of arriving (and after one unsuccessful attempt at trying to go) Tory had her first accident. Bummer. A change of clothes was needed. I reminded her often and she tried to go a few times during the play date with no result. A bit later, another bathroom accident happened and required a second change of clothes. Back at home by lunchtime, I stripped Tory waist-down again and she didn't have another accident for the rest of the day.

On our third day of potty training, Tory had music class in the morning. My plan was to arrive in plenty of time to use the restroom before class began. I also planned to bring the potty chair along (so she wouldn't be freaked by using a public restroom) and leave it outside the music classroom door for easy access. Taking a cue from the prior day's outing, I brought several sets of clothes along, just in case. But when we hopped in the car for class, I realized I needed to stop for gas. Music class is already a 20 minute drive, so I knew I was pushing it with Tory's tiny bladder. When we arrived to class 30-ish minutes later, Tory had wet her pants. No problem; a quick change of clothes in the car and we were on our way. At some point in the middle of class, I asked Tory if she needed to potty. I was surprised when she responded with "yes" and we quickly bolted to the waiting potty chair outside the classroom door. She went with success! The rest of Day 3 was smooth sailing for the most part. I know The Potty Training gods recommend discontinuing the use of diapers once potty training is started but later in the day, I did put a diaper on Tory as we drove to the cabin. I had a hard time believing she'd stay dry for 1 1/2 hours in the car no matter how many times we stopped along the way.

Potty training days 4 and 5 (the weekend) at the lake cabin were ... not so successful. We had a fairly low-key weekend with lots of lounge-time, but she just wasn't having it. Lots of bathroom accidents despite using the same potty chair in similar circumstances to at home. In fact, I don't think Tory successfully used the potty one time all weekend. We continued to be consistent and brought the potty chair along with us wherever we went ... including on truck rides throughout the countryside.

By the end of the weekend, Tory was actually refusing to sit on the potty. I began to wonder if she was ready for this. It doesn't bother me if she has a few accidents, but I didn't want to push her into doing something if she wasn't ready. I decided to be keep plugging along and give potty training another few days to stick. I'm sure we'll have some regression along the way, especially after Baby Brother arrives next month, and that's okay. I'm quickly learning potty training isn't as cut and dried as some of the "methods" suggest.

From Sunday night on (the moment Tory has been back on home turf), she has done fantastic on the potty chair. Lots of praiseful happy dances all around. I think we're on a roll now and I'll continue toilet training as long as Tory is interested. I'm a little nervous to tackle bigger "out of the house" activities like ECFE class or our trip to the orchard later this week, but we'll see how it goes. Accidents are bound to happen and it'll eventually get better.

Potty Training: What I've Learned
Prior to beginning, I read many articles on various methods of potty training but never did I hear the minute details or tips about the process. Think top-line view vs. the nitty gritty. I'm by no means an expert on toilet training, but here's a few things I've picked up in my experience:
  • Potty training is gross. There, I said it. Maybe it's just me and my queasy 8 1/2 month pregnant self, but I've had to pull on a layer of tough skin dumping and rinsing poop and potty all the live long day. It's very different than changing dirty diapers.
  • Establish a routine. Ours is: 1) Use the potty chair 2) Give mad praise 3) Dump the "business" in the toilet and let Tory do the honors of flushing 4) Rinse the potty chair bowl 5) Dry and sanitize the potty 6) Wash and dry hands 7) Reward with a treat. 
  • Sanitizing wipes are your friend. Speaking of sanitizing ... after my first encounters with the potty chair on Day 1, I decided there had to be a more sanitary system for cleaning the potty chair bowl than just rinsing. My bathroom countertop is more cluttered than my preference, but I've developed a system that works. There's a hand towel for drying clean hands and another for drying out the potty chair bowl. I added a container of Clorox Wipes to the countertop for sanitizing the p-chair bowl after every use and a pack of travel wet wipes for cleaning the toddler. In hindsight, this seems like a no-brainer but I never read / heard anyone mention all the "accessories" needed to keep things clean. Granted, I don't sanitize the other toilets every time they're used in our household, but I also don't carry grown up-sized toilets around with me wherever I go. Bottom line: load up on disinfectant wipes, wet wipes and hand soap before embarking on the potty training journey. 

  • Praise regardless. M&Ms are Tory's very favorite treat so I reward with one Mini M&M candy for every successful use of the potty AND for every effort. (I wanted to say solid effort there, but it just didn't seem right). Giving one candy at a time seems to be enough incentive for Tory, so I don't reward bigger for poops vs. potty. Just one candy every time she tries and/or successfully uses it. 
  • Get ready to do some laundry. I bought four 3-packs of the thicker Gerber training pants to use at the beginning of potty training and another two packs of regular little girl's underwear. Factoring in bathroom accidents (pants and underwear), plus hand towels for drying both hands and the potty chair ... you'll be doing a lot of laundry.
  • The potty chair becomes the latest accessory. It might not be necessary to carry the potty chair everywhere, but I've found it easier to have one near us at all times vs. scurrying for the bathroom ... especially if you're venturing to an unfamiliar place. Even at home, I move the potty chair from room to room with us so quick access to the potty is always available. In the early stage of potty training, I also don't want to overwhelm or scare Tory with public bathrooms, so packing our (sanitized) potty chair along in a tote bag and carrying it with us insures she has the same potty chair to use everywhere. Of course, I won't carry the potty chair with us forever but for now it seems important.
  • Using the potty doesn't mean the fun has to end. I remind Tory often that she can continue doing whatever she's doing while using the potty. This seems to help her stop playing, for example, and take a minute to use the restroom. She can go back to what she was previously doing when she's done (after washing hands, of course). 
  • Bring an extra change of clothes. Actually, bring 12. On our first potty training out-of-the-house adventure, I brought along two sets of dry clothes. That'd be enough, right? Nope. I just had enough and we were only away from home for two hours. I'm finding it best to have a least 3-4 pairs of dry underwear and pants for even the smallest potty-friendly outing. 
  • Get a Wet Bag. My mother-in-law gifted me adorable wet bags when Tory was born. I've carried a folded one in my diaper bag since the beginning of parenting, but honestly never used it much. I suppose it'd be great to use for an soiled infant outfit and I may have done that a time of two, but now that I'm toting several pairs of potty-soaked underwear and pants in my purse, these wet bags have come in handy. These disposable bags would work, too. 
  • Dresses or leggings are best. At least in these early stages of toilet training, it seems Tory is far more likely to have a potty training success if she's bare from the waist down. Eventually she'll have to learn how to use the potty while wearing underwear / pants but for now when in the comfort of our own home, a naked bum yields more success. I'm not very modest, but I felt a little uncomfortable having Tory running around half-naked all day. She was climbing on toys and furniture in her birthday suit and baring all for visitors. I know she's a little girl, but still. So, I've found it best to dress Tory in cotton dresses. That way, she was still naked on the bottom half, but not as visibly as if she were just wearing a t-shirt. For public outings, stretch leggings seem to be the best attire because Tory instantly realizes if she's messed in her pants. The fabric sticks to her legs. True, leggings show a potty accident immediately but that also helps me realize she's gone. 
  • Diapers / Pull-Ups for naps and bedtime. I've heard of some people going all the way with training pants or/ undies 24/7. For me, it's a nice relief (and a gradual transition into things) to continue using diapers / Pull-Ups at naps and bedtime.  
  • Be patient. Maybe this is just my experience, but I've come to realize there is no "3 day" method to potty training. I think Tory's done a fantastic job catching on, but I'm 100% sure she'll have accidents going forward. To expect anything less would be setting ourselves up for failure. And, that's OK. Like everything, potty training takes time and patience. 


  1. We are sort of starting to potty train too so it was good to see someone else's first tips! We don't have many days at home all day, so I'm going to have to wait for a free weekend (ha!) to get some good training in. So far, Charley has pooped on the potty probably 7-8 times. Never peed though. I put her in undies one day that we were both home and she told me every time she was GOING pee. Too late kiddo. But she's got the poop part down. I don't mind! I'll change pee diapers forever just to avoid poop ones! And the other major difference is we have the potty ring right now instead of the seat. I'm trying to avoid the seat, but if worse comes to worse I'll get that (and stock up on all the wipes and such. Bleh!)

  2. It sounds like she is doing pretty great so far! I think SOME kids can potty train in 3 days, but generally speaking, that isn't the case. Both of my girls are "potty trained" but I still carry at least one extra outfit for them whenever we go out because accidents still happen occasionally (strangely more with my 4 year old than with my 2 year old though).
    As for cleanup, I use flushable wipes for wiping the kids and the potty. AJ isn't tall enough to get on the big toilet by herself yet, but I can't wait to get that little potty out of our bathroom!
    My kids both use regular toilets if we are out and about, but I do keep this travel potty in my car and it has been a life saver on more than one occasion! It's really easy for clean up because you just use gallon ziplck bags and toss them after it's used. There are two compartments on either side of the seat and I keep the bags on one side and wipes in the other.

  3. Sounds like she's doing really well. I think most of it just is the realization of having to go and then actually going, once they get that down, it's just a matter of practice. So, it sounds like she has the first part, she just needs to practice like you've been doing!!! We are HUGE fans of the "naked from the waist down" at our house and did that with both kids for sure! One thing we also did is skip the training pants. I felt like since they were thicker they gave the illusion of a diaper and I didn't want the kids to get confused. So, we went right to regular underwear. I don't know if it helped or not, but just an idea. We also went to the regular toilet quickly just to help with some of the cleanup. For girls it is easy to use the toilet ring, boys I found a bit harder because things kind of um, sprayed everywhere. But, Jake has no problem just sitting on the regular toilet.

  4. I never told you this, but when I babysat Tory last week she barged in on me when I was using the bathroom.
    Tory: "Vinny going potty?!"
    Me: "yup"
    Tory stands there watching me.
    Tory: "All done? FLUSH IT!"


  5. Yes dumping the little potty is so gross. Ugh, potty training.

  6. Good for you guys! I am not looking forward to potty training... Plus the word potty just creeps me out for some reason. Hahaha

  7. I. Hate. Potty. Training. Even though it ended up being way worse in my head than actual practice. But ugh. To be in the trenches again. Ugh.

    Sounds like you've both got this down, and it's only a matter of time and practice. Very awesome. And we transitioned quite easily to a regular toilet after using a potty chair during "training" and it was really no big deal. And was much less gross. Crossing my fingers you get to the "less gross" stage soon. ;)

  8. I think she is doing great by the way it sounds! I never realized how much went into the whole process! I'll have to keep this post bookmarked for future reference when needing to train Fin!

  9. Good luck with the potty training Heather - it seems to be going very well! We were lucky with the fact that Henry would never go on 'his' potty but only on the toilet - which I preferred anyway!! Yay Tory for being such a big girl!

  10. Potty training is gross. And we use cloth diapers so I was used to "dealing with it"!! My oldest was over 2.5 but when he finally showed interest he rarely had accidents which was awesome. But still, our bathroom still smelled all of the time....boys are a different game!! I would say 100% potty independence (which we finally achieved probably 10 months after potty training) might be my favorite milestone yet :)