Potty training 101


So we decided to potty train Indie (hopefully!) before baby number 3 makes an appearance in three weeks time! She’s 2 years and 3 months now, which is the same age we trained Harper. I’m no expert on potty training (we don’t get taught about it in Medical School!) but I’m going to talk through what we have done - which is basically what worked for Harper! I feel like I possibly should have done more research as Indie and Harper are very different children, and Harper was dry at night long before we trained her, but anyways!


At the end of this blog post, Deirdre Holland Hannon, a behaviour specialist talks us through her top tips for potty training.


Is she ready?

There is a wealth of information online about how to know when your child is ready, ranging from that they can stay dry for 2 hours or more at a time, or that they are dry after a nap or that they tell you they dislike a wet nappy.


For Indie she started to get more interested in talking about wee wees and poos and would very much make it obvious when she was doing a poo. She never hid or anything and is still wet in the morning, but would be dry after a nap. She was also staying dryer for longer.


Honestly though the main reason we chose now is because the new baby is coming, so we will see what happens. Age doesn’t really matter to be honest, it’s more the individual child and their own readiness. Some might be dry before 2 and others closer to 3! I still have kids coming into me in work at 3 1/2 with nappies on.

Are you ready?

It’s important to make sure you are ready as well as your child! You need to be able to give your all and focus on the toddler when they are training! I mean is there really any better time than during a lockdown when you can’t leave the house?


How did we prepare?

We bought nice colourful underwear for her to wear - baby shark, frozen & Peppa pig from Dunnes Stores! I knew she would get excited about these.


Getting used to the potty

We got the 2 potties down from the attic and put them into the bathrooms for the past couple of weeks, so Indie could get used to them. Harper has been telling her what they are for and we have been talking about how she is such a big girl that she will go to do her wee wees and poos in the potty.


I know lots of mums use books as well, and Deirdre recommends them too. We just never bothered but to be honest, I think they would be helpful. I use ones about becoming a big sister all the time and the girls both love them. I’ve linked some here in my amazon shop that I had looked at previously (#afflink).


Ready to start


Day 1.

On the day we were starting we basically just went for it. Nappy off and sat her on the potty in front of the TV. Towel underneath & bucket of water ready for spillages!


We left her on it as much as we could & gave her lots of drinks so she got used to the feeling of going. We had success in the first hour with a wee and a poo, just from her sitting on it, so I always think this is a nice starting point. Day two, we missed this as she was upstairs for too long in her nappy!


When she didn’t want to sit down we let her get up (but kept panties off) and then sat her back down every 15 mins (or so). You have to be like a hawk as well watching for signs she might be ready to go - we had a couple of accidents.


Reward / Success

When she goes in the potty we don’t use a reward chart (I know some do!) but instead we have a song and funny dance that we all do together (even H gets in on it!) and on the first day we gave her a button / treat for every success. Lots of praise is essential for sure.


We move the potty around with us, so from the sitting room to kitchen or out into the garden if needs be. Once she has gone in the potty we bring her out to the toilet and flush it down. Indie then washes her hands.


Naps / Night time

We decided with Indie to put a pull up on her for naps & at night time. (We didn’t do this with H as I knew she would be dry!) I got the huggies ones that have princesses & Minnie Mouse on them. She didn’t want to put her nappy on the first night which is a good sign.

Day 2.

Day 2 we have pretty much done the same thing. Still walking around with no panties on. We have had more success today for sure. She has gone twice on her own, and realised what she was doing. Same thing as yesterday, lots of praise and rewards. By the end of the day, she was telling me she needed to sit on the potty. She didn’t go every time, but she did at the end. We even got her to squeeze a big wee out and she was delighted with herself. We are hoping that day three goes as well as day two.


Day 3?

So with Harper by day three we were ready to use the toddler seat on the big toilet. I don’t think this will be the case with Indie. I expect it will take a couple of more days. We don’t really want to use the potty all the time, but once we feel she knows it’s coming we will start moving the potty further away and try and make it to the toilet instead. We have a step and toilet seat (all from Ikea - I love their ones!) That we use.

So we kind of do potty training in 2 stages. I will keep you guys updated here and let you know what has and hasn’t worked.


In the meantime the amazing Deirdre Holland Hannon, a behaviour specialist has given us her top tips for toilet training here.

Thoughts on Toilet Training is one of those milestones that causes stress for most parents, especially with more and more pre school services expecting them to be independent regardless of age. A lot of parents are feeling the pressure to train and not sure whether their child is actually ready.

Preparation prior to training is as important as the actually training itself. I go in to a huge amount of detail on how to prepare your child during my Toilet Training Workshops but for today language and good modelling are 2 good places to start. Do they understand the language you will be using while training have they heard these words before and are they functional. Be a good a model, tune into how use the toilet and the language you use and the "norms" you are setting for your family.

When If you are not feeling the pre school pressure then my personal attitude is wait, wait and wait some more. You can only start potty training too early there’s no such thing as too late in my opinion. Don’t be pushed by Granny or by neighbour Janet most importantly even after reading my advice go with your gut. You know your child best.


Night time training is different to daytime training. Some are ready simultaneously many are not. There is a significant genetic link to night wetting if you can identify one in either or both parents listen to it.


Regressions accidents occurring after you believed they were trained. 6 weeks 6 months and 6 years post training are all a regular and "normal" occurrence. My first port of call is to check in with a GP and make sure there isn't an underlying medical condition causing the accidents then once that is ruled out accept it and lead with compassion and empathy and you'll get back on track again.


Bowel Movements can often pose a further challenge for young children as some often find it a completely different and separate experience to going for a wee. This often brings with it a huge difficulty for them and children regularly struggle to start having bowel movements in this new way. I've a full video on my IGTV specifically for this topic as it is quite a common, sensitive and stressful topic for families when it crops up. Be mindful of the child's usual schedule of bowel movements when you start toilet training and tune in quickly if there is no movement. Keeping those bowels moving and avoiding constipation is imperative in those early days of training.

Concentrate on day time training and try and gain some ground and independence on this first. Let's not overload our child with multiple challenges and a large mental load to begin with. I feel very strongly about how much we ask of our children and if there is a lot already going for an individual child really think is it a good time to ask more of them.

Start and Stop Don't be afraid to try toilet training and stop if it doesn't feel quite right or your gut is telling you they are not quite ready. You won't confuse them if you fully stop training in every way and move on. The pitfall here is to still " be tipping away a bit" or stopping and starting on and off regularly, that will be confusing. If your training then train if your not training totally stop and leave a full 6-8 week gap before you try train the child again.


Thank you so much to Deirdre for those fantastic tips. For more information and to find all about her courses (many of which are online!) you can find Deirdre on instagram @deehollhan or her website www.deirdrehollandhannon.com.

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DR LAURA LENIHAN MICGP BM BS, MSc, B. Comm. IMC 406336

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