Monday, October 17, 2011

It's Potty Time!

The Duchess is finally 24-hour potty trained! And now it is time for me to relax and stroll down memory lane...

I first realized that the Duchess was ready to be potty trained when she was about 20 months old and stripped down to her birthday suit in front of a visitor. I was scandalized but the visitor pointed out that this was a clear indication that the Duchess was ready for potty training.

Initially I did not know where to start or how far to go - I knew that Honey was on the way, and that the Duchess would probably regress, so I didn't want to really put in the time to get her fully trained just to have her back in diapers again. Having no idea, I panicked and threw money at it.  I bought:

1) A small potty chair (Baby Bjorn brand)
2) A stepstool (also BB)
3) A potty seat (also BB)( must have been running a sale)
4) A Kolcraft stepstool to reach the sink
5) Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street underpanties
6) "Training pants" that are like thick underpants
7) Plastic pant covers
8) Giant plastic pant covers that have some bizarre lining
9) stickers for rewards
10) A box of pull-ups

I was out of control.

A book entitled "Diaper Free Before Three," also part of my spree, pointed out that until the invention and widespread use of disposable diapers in the 1950s, children as young as 12 months were routinely potty trained.

Oddly, this inspired me.

I started small.  Following advice from some magazine somewhere, I put the potty out in the living room in the hopes that she would be curious about it. The Duchess dropped toys in it and then ignored it.  So I gave up on that and moved the potty into my bathroom.

Then I started letting her go around the house with either nothing or just cotton underpants (it was summer).  Since I was pregnant and had to go to the bathroom all the time anyway, I just brought her in the bathroom with me and sat her down, saying "It's time to go to the potty now."  If she had an accident, I just said, "Pee-pee or poop goes in the potty" and cleaned it up (we have since had the carpets professionally cleaned, in case you were wondering). If she happened to pee in the potty, I gave her a sticker.  However, unlike the magazine article author's kids, the Duchess was unimpressed with stickers and so I had to try other ideas, which ended up as gummy bears and Altoids. (The Duchess enjoys strong flavors).  I also stopped using regular diapers during the day and used pullups instead.  They get fuller faster and so she was more aware of what she was doing. 

Just as the Duchess was getting pretty good and I was actually able to leave the house on short trips without a diaper, little Honey came along.  Diabolically, the Duchess would wait until I was sitting down to nurse the baby, and then say, "Mommy, I have to go potty," and then I was forced to either tell her, "Go in your pullup," thereby ruining months of work, or put the baby down and take her to the potty.  Poor baby can wait, I would think, listening to little Honey sniffle.

We settled into a pattern that winter, in which the Duchess would not wear pull ups at home, but would be responsible for taking herself to the potty during the day. She wore a pull up at naptime and a pull up out of the house and to school (two days per week).  Eventually, when I noticed her pullups were dry after her nap, I was able to put her down without a pull up, for which she was very proud. 

Finally, it was April, and I suddenly realized that this was ridiculous.  I was tired of dealing with the pull ups when I was pretty sure I didn't have to, and so I explained to the Duchess that it was time to stop using the pull ups during the day, but she could still have the diaper at night (she really liked the Cookie Monster diaper). 

So during school vacation week in April, we just went cold turkey. This took a little planning, since of course we had to go places with child accessible rest rooms.  (Note: I keep a little pad of Post-Its to put over the sensor on those toilets that automatically flush - it keeps things calm in the ladies' room). But it worked so quickly that I was kicking myself for not doing it earlier, since at this point, she was clearly ready.

We got very good at the whole toileting thing, and she gradually stopped using the little potty and only used the regular toilet with the potty seat. We also stopped giving out candy for peeing and pooping. 
The only time she has flat out refused to use the potty was when I put her in back-up daycare at my husband's office.  She said that she did not like the bathroom there. I said, "Listen sweetie, there are some really bad ladies' rooms out there in the world, and you should just get over it now!"

This is how it went until about two weeks ago, when I had a babysitter here to help me one evening while my husband was out of town.  The girls were running around like Thing One and Thing Two (their upcoming Halloween costumes, by the way), and somehow the sitter didn't put a diaper on the Duchess, just a pair of underwear. I did not know this until the next morning, when the Duchess came in my room and announced, "Mommy, I'm not wearing a diaper!" And lo and behold, she was perfectly dry. 

"You did it!" I said. "Do I get a build a bear?" she asked. And yes she will.

She hasn't quite figured out her routine yet. Some nights she sleeps all night and is dry in the morning. Sometimes, she wakes up wet. Sometimes she wakes me up to take her to the bathroom in the middle of the night (not my favorite part, I must admit). What makes it easier is having her still in her crib with a toddler rail that has a plastic-covered mattress, so all I have to do is strip off the wet sheet and put on a clean, dry sheet.  Also having extra blankets around is nice.

As for all that stuff I bought, I only really needed the little potty, the stepstools, the potty seat, and the underwear. (And the pull ups, of course).  The training pants and plastic pants were a waste of money and the plastic got weird in the dryer.

Eventually I purchased a really useful item - a travel potty that folds up and uses plastic bags to catch the waste.  I kept this in my stroller and also in the car.  It is so incredibly useful that it is the single most important thing I would recommend to anybody training a toddler.

Now that Honey is 14 months, I want to be a little more aggressive with her training because I think she can do it. I started putting her on the potty before bathtime on her birthday - she did not like it at all, but now she will sit on it for a little bit.  She watches the Duchess and I think she wants to imitate her.  This oughta be good!


  1. I am so glad you made this post! My daughter is 22 months and I'm due with #2 in January. I wasn't sure when or how to start the potty training and had no clue what was best to buy... everyone has their little tidbits of advice, but no concrete information like... this works, this doesn't and this is entirely up to you kind of advice. Thanks! By the way, do you remember where you bought the travel potty? I definitely want to get my hands on one of those.

  2. The travel potty is available on Get two - one for the stroller (if you have a giant one like I have) and then one for the car. It's awesome. Good luck!