Babies & Toddlers / Motherhood

Toddler-led potty training tips for busy moms

6 Practical tips for toddler-led potty training

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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.

A busy mom's stress-free guide to toddler-led potty training

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

Stay consistent

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?
Comment below!

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  • Kelli from The Working Mom Collective
    December 11, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    So I didn’t know the exact name for it but we recently did toddler led potty training with out 3-year old daughter. We took diapers away completely- including naps and nighttime. She had one overnight accident and after that did not want to soil her sheets so she’s had no nighttime accidents since then except for this past weekend when she wasn’t feeling well (cold) and was in a really deep sleep.

    We’ve found the quitting diapers and pull-ups cold turkey was the best thing we could have possibly done.

    She’s now asking to go potty, going to the potty herself and pulling down her pants herself!

    I think paying attention to cues was one of the aspects that really helped us through! She would wiggle her legs, bounce around and do a “potty dance,” and then we would let her run to the potty.

    Thanks for sharing the peppermint oil tip- that’s great to know!!

  • Tricia | The Healthy(ish) Home
    December 10, 2018 at 12:26 am

    All of these tips are amazing! We also did Toddler Lead Potty Training and we loved it. No pulls up was totally the way to go for us as well! I have never heard of putting peppermint in the toilet what a great idea! We also start with potty training during the day which she is very successful at. Night time potty training is a different story ❤️

    • Lifeofababe
      December 10, 2018 at 7:40 am

      I’m so glad the same method worked for you Tricia! Yes, the peppermint oil tricks works amazingly well. Good luck night time training!

  • Renee | The Good Hearted Woman
    December 7, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    AS the mom of five grown children, I can attest to the idea that toddler led potty-training is so much easier than forcing the issue. I also agree that Pull-ups are counterproductive for kiddos who are ready to toilet train: they absolutely prolong the process. We had the best success when we paid close attention to the cues we were being given and acted on them consistently.

    • Lifeofababe
      December 10, 2018 at 7:41 am

      Yes his method has been really kind to my mommy nerves LOL and much easier on my daughter! Glad it also worked for you 🙂

  • Christa
    December 6, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    This is such a timely post for me! My almost 3-year-old is ready to start potty training. These tips as SO HELPFUL. Thank you!

    • Lifeofababe
      December 10, 2018 at 7:42 am

      Aw good luck! Wishing you both lots of success potty training!

  • Laura Allen
    December 6, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    This is a great post! Although I’m not a mum yet, this was super informative to me. I NEVER would of guessed to put drops of peppermint essential oil – does that seriously relax the pelvic floor? That to me was shocking! This was such an incredible read, and props to you for being so patient with your child! xoxo

    • Lifeofababe
      December 10, 2018 at 7:44 am

      Yes it does! I learned about this during childbirth..It can be a little difficult to urinate right after having a baby and this oil was recommend to me. Sounds a little odd but it works! So glad you enjoyed this post!



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