For the past month or so, we’ve been busy mastering the art of toddler-led potty training. It hasn’t been all that easy, but my daughter and I were both finally ready for her to move on from diapers.
We’ve attempted potty training a few times in the past and it didn’t quite work out. It wasn’t until I decided to switch up my method that things started to change. Now we’re on our way to achieving diaper freedom before she turns 3 in January! 😁
If you’re looking for a stress-free way to potty training your toddler without spending hours on end in the bathroom, this method may be for you.
What is toddler-led potty training?
To me this means letting allowing my toddler to show me cues whether verbal or physical, that she needs to use the bathroom instead of putting her on at specific times. I don’t know if this method actually already exists or not but it seemed like the perfect name to give the method I chose.
Why did I choose this potty training method?
I wanted a stress-free method that would allow for my daughter to gain some autonomy by leading me to train her according to her actual needs, and to start understanding and learning how to control her bodily functions.
Before you start
There a cues that your child will show you, which indicate that they are ready to be potty trained. For this method, these cues are important because they show you that your child is just as fed up as you are with diapers, so they’ll work really hard at getting themselves to use the toilet.
These are the 3 that showed me that my daughter was ready to ditch her diapers:
- Following me to the bathroom and asking me what I’m doing. This was quite awkward because she would get really close and try to peep into the toilet. 😐
- Throwing tantrums every time her diaper needed to be changed
- Hiding in a corner any time she needed to relive herself in her diaper
Toddler-led potty training must-haves
- Toilet seat adjuster (link to the exact one we use)- We have a potty but I didn’t use it. The thought of having to dump that stuff out grossed me out and I didn’t want her to become used to it and then have issues adjuting to using the toilet. So having an adjuster was a must for us.
- Stool– This one is great for use in the bathroom and kitchen and it actually grows with your kid!
- Handwash– You’ll be washing your hands a lot more than you probably already do. This soap is amazing (toxin free and all-natural) and is non-drying!
- Mattress protector– If you don’t have one of these for your child’s bed, I don’t know what to tell you.
- Peppermint essential oil– Put a few drops into the toilet water (not on the child!). The vapours from the oil in the water will help relax your child pelvic floor and should cut down on time spent using the bathroom. Works like magic!
- Seat protector– To avoid having to clean up messes from your furniture. No one wants a couch that smells like pee..or worse.
- Comfortable underwear– Let your child pick out their own underwear!
6 Practical Steps To Successful Toddler-Led Potty Training
I get it. Resisting the urge to throw a diaper back on your toddler can be pretty hard to fight. Especially when you’ve got another baby running around and 35932 other things to do.
Consistency is what I struggled with during my first 2 failed potty training attempts months ago. I tried the 3-Day training method and going to the bathroom every 15-20 minutes quickly wore us out.
After months of procrastinating, I eventually I found a stress-free method that works for us. Since we began toddler-led potty training about a month ago, we’ve only had about 8 accidents and most of them happened during the first 2 weeks.
We’ve now made it to the point where Samaiya recognizes her need to use the toilet, she asks for it and is able to hold her pee long enough to actually get there. We can even go out for short errands and she stays dry! We are 100% daytime potty trained (except for nap time).
I know potty-training can be quite challenging but if you want to achieve diaper freedom, it’s important that you stick to it.
Prepare yourself for accidents
With the 3-Day potty training method, your child is on the toilet all. the. time. With the toddler-led potty training method, your spending much less time on the toilet but you’ll have to constantly be on the lookout out for physical cues that indicate your child’s needs to use the bathroom.
You’ll also have to rely on them to ask you to use the bathroom in a timely manner.
Accidents are not something you can avoid, especially during those first couple of weeks when your child is learning to get used to life without a diaper. Learning something new can be challenging, but remember that accidents are normal! They are a part of learning.
Having a seat protector to help protect furniture and using leggings or pants really help keep the mess to a minimum.
Repeat repeat repeat
Where do we pee? Do we pee on the carpet? Do we pee in our underwear? Do we poop on the chair?
I asked her these questions
several hundreds of times a day and although there were times where she did get annoyed, I believe it helped prevent accidents by helping her remember that she’s not wearing a diaper.
I know this may sound very silly for some, but not only did it often lead us into full blown giggles, it helped remind Sam of where exactly she needs to go to relieve herself.
It’s easy for little children to get distracted especially when they are learning something new that isn’t necessarily fun so reminding the often is key.
Say ‘no’ to diapers during the day
I decided to start with daytime potty training. To me it just seemed easier than nighttime training because my child is awake and is aware of her need or lack thereof to go to the bathroom.
During the day, I put her in her favorite Minions underwear and leggings (we get ours from Gap and Old Navy).
She usually wears play dresses and shorts at home but I chose leggings for potty training because they do a good job of absorbing some of the mess.
I decided not use Pull-Ups because:
- Those diaper impostors are expensive $$$
- They prevent the child from feeling wet if they do have an accident. You want the child to feel the discomfort of peeing themselves.
- They prolong the process of potty training
Put your toddler in cotton pants/leggings to help keep things as clean as possible. Also try to avoid using the diaper impostors (Pull-Ups) and just get some big girl/boy undies. Let your child choose something they really like because they will most likely work really hard to keep their undies clean.
Provide your toddler with entertainment and be patient
The 1st and 2nd weeks were the toughest. In order for us both not to lose our minds, entertainment was a must! What kept us all in a good mood while she was on the toilet was her tablet.
From what I know it is quite common for kids to hold their pee while potty training. Just think about it. They’re going from peeing whenever they want into a dipaer, to sitting down and having to pee in what appears to be a strange white contraption. It will take some time for them to get used to it. For those first couple of weeks, we were spending between 15 to 25 minutes in the bathroom each time.
One thing that did help us was turning on the tap while she’s on the toilet. The sounds of the water running actually helped her pee during those early potty training days. You can also try using hand motions to encourage them to release.
Now that we’ve been potty training for almost a month, our time spent in the bathroom has drastically decreased. We spend maybe 2 minutes in there. Unless she’s going #2 of course.
To save you some time, get some peppermint essential oil. Put a few drops into the toilet water (not on the child!). The vapors from the oil in the water will help relax your child’s pelvic floor making it easier for them to relieve themselves.
It’s also great natural oil to have around the house for use during those first couple of days postpartum when it can also be hard for new moms to relieve themselves.
Get treats to use as encouragement & reward
I only offered treats for the first week because I just didn’t want her develop a habit I would have a problem keeping up with. I’d alternate (one 1 each time) between stickers, dark chocolate chips, and organic fruit snacks.
After a week I stopped and just kept praising her and making a big deal every time she used the toilet. All that clapping and singing took her mind off the treats. 😁
My child thrives off of word’s of affirmation so the praising and constant words of encouragement really works for us.
You don’t have to use treats but if you do, find something that works for you and also wean your child off as you go so they don’t expect special treats each time they go use the toilet.
I hope you found these tips helpful. We are now about to start nap time and nighttime diaper weaning. I don’t know what that’s going to be like yet but what I do know is that we’re on our way to diaper freedom!
What’s been your experience with potty training? Do you have any tips to share for nighttime training?
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