Going Potty (Part 1): Basic Nuts and Bolts

Following my recent post on potty training (see Starting Potty Training at 9 Months…Yes, You Can!), below are a few simple tips to help you get started:

Observe, Observe, Observe
If you are not already aware of it, take a few days to tune in first to your baby’s current bowel habits. Is he/she usually going first thing in the morning, mid-morning, or in the evenings? How many times a day does your baby go, or is it every other day? If you need to, jot down the time(s) in the day that your child does ‘#2s’ (i.e., poops) until you get a sense of a rough pattern emerging.

Get Ready
Besides observing your baby’s pattern, get prepared by getting a good comfortable potty seat. This will make it more likely that your baby will be willing and wanting to sit on it a few times a day, and for varying lengths of time. What to get may depend on your baby, but we’ve found a soft cushiony potty seat works quite well for a small baby’s bottom. We’ve actually had to try out quite a few potty seats and found our little one really didn’t like the ones that were hard plastic, or were too wide so that it was uncomfortable to sit on for a long time. So make sure to get one that is suitable for infants (or at least for those under 18 months of age or so) and not for older toddlers. If you have more than one bathroom/toilet in the house, it may also be worth designating one of those as the ‘baby potty’ room, so you can keep the potty seat on the commode and your baby may more readily associate that room with where she needs to do her ‘business’.

Get Set
When you feel ready to start, watch your infant closely when it gets around that time of day when baby usually poops. I find the trickiest part is actually just watching her cues closely to see when she wants to go! Then the moment you notice the first signs of straining or grunting, quickly bring baby to the potty seat. These signs can sometimes be quite subtle. For example, at times baby will look at you with clear distress on the face and may even start to turn red in the face. At other times, he or she may only give out the tiniest of grunts or not at all! During these latter times, you may need to be more proactive and just put baby on the potty seat close to the time of day when she tends to poop. This may only need to be a few minutes at a time. I have at times done this, and was amazed when baby actually went and did her #2!

Go! Give Lots of Encouragement!
When baby gets on the potty seat, teach her the hand sign to do ‘poo poo’ and keep repeating  ‘poo poo’ or ‘mm mm’ grunting sounds so that he/she will start to associate it with pooping or sitting on the commode. If baby actually does go while on the potty seat, then clap and cheer to give her lots of encouragement! It helps if you are consistent in doing these actions every day. By 11 -12 months, I found that the moment I put her on the potty seat, she often would seem to know what to do, and at times she began to expect to be put on the potty when she felt a #2 coming, by pointing at her bathroom or making some grunting noises.

A few caveats of course. First, things can get tricky during phases of teething or sickness, so I usually give up the potty training then and wait till things calm down more. Secondly, remember that even though you are starting early, potty training is still a process that will take many months to accomplish (especially when it comes to working on ‘#1s’…i.e., urinating in the toilet instead of in the diaper). Thirdly, potty training is not a perfect process. Even after many months of training, my 19 month old is still occasionally having ‘poo’ accidents in the diaper, especially on days of teething. Don’t get disheartened, just keep on training!

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