Saying Goodbye to that Last Overnight Diaper (Part 3) – The Experience

Having described my background fears and the process of weaning off that last nighttime diaper (see previous posts 1 and 2 in this series), what was my experience? Not knowing what would happen, I decided to try just one potty waking at night first, before adding in a second one. The initial goal I had was really just to get her used to getting up 1-2 times at night to pee and then to learn to put herself back to sleep. It was not so much to achieve a dry diaper every night. Here’s my experience:

First Potty Waking (each night I put my toddler to bed before 9pm):
Night 1
I went in about 6 hours after her bedtime. This was too late as her diaper was already wet. I woke her up gently, but she told me she didn’t need to go. I still carried her and put her on the potty briefly.

Night 2
I went in 3 ½ hours after she was put to bed, and found her diaper already a little bit wet. She let me pull her pants and diaper down, but I had to carry her to the potty. Once there though, she sat down and automatically took a piece of toilet paper and wiped herself. I asked her in a whisper, “Did you go?” (as I didn’t hear anything). She whispered back,” Yes.” Then she let me pull her pants/diaper back up and walk her back to bed. I gave her a kiss and left the room quickly!

Night 3
I went into her room at about 2 ¾ hours after she was put to bed. Her diaper was already wet and she didn’t have anything on the potty.

Night 4 & 5
I went in each of these nights at 2 ½ hours after her bedtime and found her diaper still dry! Each time I carried her to the potty (after pulling her pants/diaper down), helped her pee, and then helped her back to bed. She almost immediately went back to sleep!

After a few successful nights of waking her up at night about 1.5- 2.5 hours after her final potty break before bed, I decided to add in a 2nd potty waking. Here is what happened the first few nights:

Second Potty Waking
Night 1
I tried the first night to go in about 5 hours after the 1st potty waking. Her diaper was still dry! So I quickly pulled down her diaper and pants and carried her to the potty. She went, but I had to help her pull up her pants and get her back to bed. The next morning though, she had a REALLY hard time getting up (even though she awoke at a usual time), and didn’t want to get out of bed though she was awake, saying she was tired… Her diaper was still dry in the morning, and she didn’t feel the need to go to the potty until much later after she woke up!

Night 2
I went in again about 4-5 hours after the 1st potty waking, but I made the mistake of not taking away her security pillow from her hand, before waking her up and pulling the diaper/pants down. So when I carried her to the potty, she yelped as she was afraid her security pillow would get wet! Although I quickly took the pillow away, she had woken up a bit more by this point. So after I got her back to bed (after having her pull up her own diaper and pants), she didn’t want me to leave the room. I told her I would stay with her for ‘2 minutes’ and did this, and then she let me leave the room. The next morning, she was again didn’t want to leave her bed and lay in it for half an hour more, despite having woken up already!

Night 3
I went in for the first potty waking and while she went on the potty, I could tell she was EXTREMELY tired, and so I had to pull up her diaper/pants and help her back to bed. I decided to let her stay asleep the rest of the night and not wake her up for the 2nd potty waking.

After a few more nights of trying this method, I found that really only one potty waking a night was needed to maintain a dry diaper throughout the night, especially if the first potty waking was timed right at about 1.5-2 hours after her last potty break before bed. The key was to make sure my toddler went quickly to the potty the moment she woke up in the morning. Within a few weeks, my toddler started to wake up with a dry diaper consistently, and she also became more adept at going to the potty at night if she needed to and going back to sleep afterwards. In fact, after about 2 months of this process, she only had 1-2 nighttime accidents in terms of wetting her bed, and I even stopped having to go in to wake her up for the first potty waking at night!

So at the end of this process, I am glad to say, my worst fears were unfounded! I was so afraid my toddler would be screaming at being woken up, and would be extra clingy to me, take forever to put back to sleep, and no longer sleep well at night…but thankfully none of that happened. I was actually very surprised how smooth the process was, and how quickly my toddler got the concept of going to the potty herself at night!

Saying Goodbye to that Last Overnight Diaper  (Part 2) – The Process

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Welcome back to the world of potty training! In the first part of this post series, we looked at the background behind this whole rather ‘potty’ process of weaning off the last nighttime diaper and the fears I had (See post titled “Saying Goodbye to that Last Overnight Diaper (Part 1) – Background”). Here, in part 2 of this post series, I would like to describe the successful process I undertook. These are the main steps involved:

  • Have a small potty in her bedroom at ALL times, so that she gets used to using that during the day.
  • Install a small dim nightlight in toddler’s room, bright enough so that she can still see and use the potty.
  • Get toddler up earlier in the morning and earlier to bed in the evening. That way, you will have a chance to go in and do the first ‘potty run’ at night before you head to bed.
  • Give your toddler the last chance to drink water about 1-2 hours before bedtime.
  • Prepare the bed: have spare bedsheets and place disposable mattress pads underneath the fitted sheet. Some even wrap the entire mattress in plastic before attempting night time potty training!
  • As part of the bedtime routine, the last step is to have your toddler pee before being tucked into bed.
  • Do some initial investigating: the key is to know your toddler’s night time pattern: how often does he/she tend to pee in the diaper at night? Is it usually about 2-3 hours after he/she falls asleep? If so, you can time the first ‘potty run’ at that time to keep the diaper dry. Then once or twice at night, you can go in to check the toddler’s diaper to see if it is wet to gauge roughly when the next ‘potty run’ needs to be timed.
  • You can initially start with one ‘potty run’ a night first, to get you and your toddler used to the idea of waking up and getting back to sleep quickly. Then gradually add in the 2nd
  • First thing in the morning, when the toddler wakes, you need to get the toddler used to using the potty immediately (if she/he feels the need to). This may mean you waking up first earlier prior to the toddler waking up, until the toddler is used to going to the potty automatically after waking up.
  • Praise the toddler and give a big reward (e.g., she can sleep with a stuffed toy of her choosing, and/or a small surprise toy or roll of stickers) if the diaper stays dry for a few days in a row. Then when the child’s diaper stays dry for a week or more in a row, he/she can move on to a trial of regular underwear (with/without an outer pair of plastic pants) at night!

Note that this entire process may take slightly longer than the ‘cold turkey’ method, since it is a graduated approach, and involves some trial and error. Your toddler will also continue to use the diaper for a while.

An alternative method is to buy a pair of plastic training pull up shorts or pants, and to put on the underwear inside. Then if the child wets himself or herself, he or she will feel naturally uncomfortable and wake up. This will prevent much urine getting on the bedsheets, but may help the child get more used to waking up on his/her own to pee. The plastic training shorts apparently aren’t too expensive, and usually come in a set of 2-4 pairs. If you prefer this method, it may be worth a try with your toddler!

A Physical to Emotional Transition

Take Time to Peel - Dietitianmom.com

Take Time to Peel – Dietitianmom.com

My father recently remarked, “You are good at taking care of your daughter’s physical needs, but have neglected her emotional needs.” He was saying this on the back of witnessing a series of big tantrums my nearly 3 ½ year old started having. Reflecting on this, I realize there is truth to his statement. All my mothering energies up till now from infancy to toddlerhood had been focused on three main things: that my daughter had enough to eat, enough to sleep and adequate physical ca

re in terms of bathing, clothing and diaper changing. Up till young toddlerhood, my child was also quite transparent emotionally and honest. She would usually let us know quickly if she was unhappy, tired or hurt with a physical ailment and you could then take action to alleviate it. So in a sense I never had or felt I needed to properly consider my daughter’s emotional needs.

Now that she is over 3 years of age though, it seems that my toddler girl is no longer as ‘simple’ and easy to figure out anymore. For one, she is telling lies more frequently, so it is more difficult to take her at her word. She is also throwing more tantrums and having more BIG serious meltdowns (sometimes lasting 1-2 hours at a stretch). While I attributed the big meltdowns initially to her growing independence and the ‘terrible twos’ and ‘horrible threes’ period, a few recent experiences showed me that more was lying beneath the surface.

This transition from needing to shift attention from physical to emotional care sort of snuck up on us as an unexpected revelation with her recent change to a different preschool. In the week leading up to her first day of school, we not only experienced one or two night wakings, but also huge tantrums and crying fits. It was over very simple things like her not wanting to change out of her pajamas in the morning, having the window blinds opened or refusing to pull up her pants after going to the potty. Once (this may have been the day before her first day of school), she got upset that the blinds were opened and the night light turned off in the morning. However, the moment I tried to close the window blinds again and turn the nightlight back on, she seemed to get more upset and demand that the blinds be opened again. Neither action pleased her. As she descended into a meltdown, we attempted to calm her down and then closed the bedroom door to let her have time to “cry it out.” However she continued to scream and scream. The most incredible thing is that the moment I left the room and closed the door, she would beseech me loudly to come back in. But once I came in she would push at me and scream demanding that I leave the room. My husband said that she was demonstrating something called “ambivalent attachment” where she was both needing but also angry at the caregiver. On one occasion, after an hour or two of such a tantrum, my husband managed to calm her down and distract her with toys and a stuffed animal. On another occasion, I managed to get her to calm down by counting out loud to a hundred with me using my fingers. My father, who witnessed all this, was just as befuddled by her behavior, but suggested that the child might be afraid of school, especially since the month prior she had been behaving pretty much like a ”little angel”.

So a day or two prior to her big day at school, I asked her during bedtime if she was afraid of school. She said, “Yes!” Her school jitters was something that never occurred to us, as she had always seemed to show that she was excited about beginning school again (after a 2 month break) and taking the school bus to and fro. Prior to this, she had been in another preschool for 2 years and dearly loved her teachers, the friends and the environment. I guess we just didn’t realize that she was not as brave or fearless as we thought, and that she needed more emotional support to get through this. So then I decided to take the following steps: I prayed with her regarding her fears of school, and then told her that I would be there at the school when she arrived in the school bus, to speak to the teacher and see her for a little bit before heading home. On the morning of the ‘big’ day, I gave her a special morning snack and presented her with a pre-prepared small bible verse card as a gift. I had decorated it with small red construction paper hearts (each heart representing someone in the family who loved her very much) and inside wrote the Bible verse about perfect love (i.e., God’s love) casting out all fear. She was delighted to have that card as a gift and held onto it the whole 3 hours of preschool that first day. Then I made sure that I was at home when the school bus came around, so that I could greet her when she got off the bus. The next day, she still kept the little white card near her in a pocket, but did not feel she needed to hold on to it tightly. By the 3rd day, she felt she could leave the card at home. However, after the following weekend and subsequent long holiday break that followed, she again threw a tantrum or two, and protested about going to school in the morning when we tried to get her ready. It was not until about 3 weeks later, that she really began to feel more comfortable in school and had started to make some friends. Now when I ask her if she is afraid of school, she would tell me she was only a little bit afraid or no longer afraid of it. The tantrums and meltdowns have obviously not disappeared, but they have substantially decreased…subsiding just as mysteriously as they came.

My conclusion? A three year old is more sensitive and emotional than you think! Perhaps like an onion, they grow developmental ‘layers’ over time, so more time is needed to peel back and figure out the source or cause of the emotions and tantrums. I know of another friend sharing about her son (who was 3 or 4 years old at the time) becoming very upset one afternoon and refusing to take a nap. Then after the son had calmed down, and was able to articulate his emotions, it turned out he was upset they were going on a family trip and leaving the family cat at home. It appears that part of the reason for tantrums and meltdowns may be that older toddlers are experiencing more complex emotions, have difficulty in controlling their emotions and may feel frustration at not being able to articulate themselves clearly.

On the one hand, it is definitely easier now physically as my daughter has learnt many aspects of self-care, such as brushing her own teeth, putting on her clothes, buttoning jackets, and going to the potty by herself. But emotionally it is more challenging for both her and us as parents. In some sense, the journey of motherhood has gotten that much harder, as it’s much easier and simpler to only focus on potty training, skills like shoe lace tying and preventing the child from falling sick, rather than on lying and emotional outbursts. In your case, this shift in focus may need to come earlier than at 3 years of age, depending on the emotional and developmental stage of your child, but one worth being aware of that this may happen!

Potty Training? Books Can Help

Pottybook1Are you in the midst of potty training your child?  If so, this can be a breeze or a very long drawn out process. For my husband and I, it was more like climbing a slippery hill – generally a smooth upward trek, but with lots of small backsliding moments. I can’t say that we are over the hump or hill of potty training yet (still working on no diapers during the afternoon naptime, and haven’t tackled that overnight diaper), but we are making progress. The most frustrating thing as a parent can be that just when you think you’ve achieved a small victory, you receive a small setback. For example, our 35 month old toddler had been doing well at school and in church nursery with not wetting her pants despite just wearing underwear since she was about 29 months of age. We had also been teaching her to notify the teacher that she needs to use the small toilet in the next adjacent room. However, just two weeks ago, she came out of church nursery with wet pants, and just last week she came home from school with wet undies and jeans.

Similarly, at the start of August we replaced the diaper with underwear for her afternoon naps. In the first week she wet the bed about 3 times. Then after that, she went through an amazing nearly 2 weeks of not wetting the bed once in the afternoons! But then 2 weeks ago, she wet her bed about 4 days in a row, and also wet her undies a few times. Granted, I may have given her too much soup on a few of those occasions too close to her naptime, but still it was frustrating to see her backtrack when she had been doing so well (not to mention all the extra laundry!).

I’ve since learned through experience a few tips about smart pre-nap planning before afternoon naps, especially if you have a child with a small bladder like mine. First, only give a very, very small amount of milk, water or soup at lunch. Second, try to finish the entire lunch at least 1- 1 ½ hours before naptime. That way, your toddler will have enough time to have any liquids she consumed work through her system and use the potty once or twice before she goes down for a nap!

Lastly, books can really help! I’ve read to her a couple of “potty” books in the past 8 or 9 monthsPottybppkpic3, but none seemed to really make a big impression on her. However, I recently borrowed this book from the library, titled “Ian’s New Potty” by Pauline Oud (Clavis Publishing), and it became her favorite book for the next 2 to 3 days. First published in 2010 in Belgium, this book was translated from Dutch into English and then published in the English language in 2011. Perhaps my toddler could finally identify (based on her recent experiences) with the Ian character in the book who wet his pants while playing (she was mesmerized by Ian’s expression and this image on the right). Anyway, she kept looking at the pages of the book and asking me to read it. Of course I also played up the book’s content, and used Ian as a positive role model for my toddler (“See, he only wet his pants once and then he learned, and now his underpants are dry!”). I believe this book along with the 2 tips I employed above really helped stem her wave of bedwetting. So far it has been 11 days and no afternoon bedwetting yet. Hope this continues!

On Toddler Time

Is all the stress worth it? - dietitianmom.com

Is all the stress worth it? – dietitianmom.com

I have heard from 2 to 3 mothers now and we are all experiencing the same thing: stress from trying to get us and our children on time to places like schools, play dates, lunch dates, bookstore and library story times… you name it. We get frustrated and end up being short with our children, often resulting in unhappy children and unhappy moms.

A friend’s experience recently was a good example of this. They were trying to get out the door to go somewhere, and the mom ended up being short with her daughter, a 2-year-old toddler. The child didn’t say much but her expression and subsequent reaction told it all. The mom could clearly tell that the child ended up not really enjoying herself at the story-time activity they were trying so hard to get to on time.

It is really amazing how much our children pick up on our vibes and stress levels, often even without us saying anything. One of my toddler’s first words was “hurry up”, probably because I said it so much (and continue to). I often find myself hurrying her to get ready to get out the door when she is content playing with a particular toy, or on to bed when she is happily chatting with me instead of brushing her teeth. Now that she’s older, she picks up on these vibes and asks,” Are you angry?” because my voice changes as she refuses to obey me for the 3rd time. Another friend’s older child asked her, “Are you frustrated?” when they were having trouble getting out the door for school one morning.

I don’t know what gets us so stressed. Is it our self image and desire to maintain a façade of competence? Perhaps there’s a pressure to appear “with it”, that is, an ability to handle multiple children and get to activities on time (or close to it), all the while maintaining perfect manicures and hairstyles. As another friend once put it, it’s like trying to be a duck: appearing calm and unruffled on the outside but paddling “like the dickens” underneath the water.  Maybe it’s altruistic: we want our child to be exposed to as many activities as possible to discover and develop their blossoming talents in art, music, and sports. Perhaps it’s a selfish motivation; we really want the child out of the house, so that we can have a break, some time to ourselves and do the things that we really want to do. Maybe there is an unconscious, subtle fear and anxiousness in us, thinking that if we don’t make it to the activity, then we will be stuck at home with the bored toddler or child, who will then look to us to entertain them and help them expend their energy, all of which wears our energy and patience down even more and gives us less time to ourselves. Don’t get me wrong; some self-preservation and self-care is a must and healthy, because it enables us to recharge and be better moms. But on the other hand, it can be taken to the extreme and our children wind up in so many activities during the week, that it has an ultimate negative impact on the child and parent. Perhaps it’s a pride issue; we expect our children to fall in line like good little soldiers and conform to everything we say or ask them to do, so they should conform to our timeline and sequence of events for the day. After all, our way is the best, right?

I know I’m guilty of many of these above-mentioned motivations. But whatever our underlying motives, one question remains: is all this stress and frustration worth it? I think the answer is a clear, “No.” So what can we do about it? Perhaps some activities need to be phased out of the weekly schedule, allowing less rushing about to get from one activity to another. Maybe we need to start earlier and allow a longer “get ready” time before going out the door. Or, we can start to make adjustments to our own expectations to accommodate to our child’s/toddler’s timeline.  I’m trying to adjust now to a bit more of ‘Flexi-Time’. It’s difficult! Let’s face it – kids operate on their own sense of time. They really don’t operate according to ours. But maybe that’s a really good thing in the end.

Toddler Going Off Veggies? Stay Calm & Carry On  

Say 'Peas!' -Dietitianmom.com

Say ‘Peas!’ -Dietitianmom.com

As alluded to in my previous post (see Toddler Regression), here are some counter tactics I’ve developed and am still using since my 29 month old toddler decided to have a strike on veggies. Hope you find some of these tips and strategies helpful:

GENERAL TIPS

  • Stay cool
  • Remember if it’s 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, go ahead and offer more fruit for now, that’s alright. Hopefully the child will eventually turn around to eat more vegetables on his own again
  • Keep offering vegetables as finger foods with foods and mixed into foods
  • Keep modeling

SPECIFIC TIPS

  • Find ways to mix vegetables into entrees (e.g., with chili or other meat dishes, as part of lasagna, in tacos or quesadillas)
  • Blend them (e.g., vegetables blended into tomato pasta sauce, smoothies, into soups or into bean, fish or meat patties)
  • Mash them or mince it in: if you’re able to mince or mash them in to mix them in enough as part of the main entrée (a small pair of scissors works really well here) then your toddler will not be able to pick them out easily, and may just resign to eating it. This is the main tactic I’m using right now, and it seems to work so far. It may also help to cook vegetables until they are softer or tenderer in texture, so that it is easier to incorporate.
  • Offer a variety of dips: Depending on the age of the toddler, you can offer thin strips of raw or cooked vegetables with a variety of dips like hummus, spinach dips and curries so that it becomes fun to eat and to try the different tastes!
  • Get creative! I tried a couple of instantaneous mini recipes over these past few weeks with varying levels of success. For example, I tried creating a kale chickpea patty (still needs work on that recipe), tuna cheese tomato quesadillas (successful), and a chopped tomato basil olive oil mix (somewhat successful). You might discover new recipes that your whole family can enjoy!
  • Dress ‘em up: Seen those pictures of foods on toddler plates arranged attractively into smiling faces, sailboats or flowers? This method gives varying levels of success with my toddler, but it’s still worth a try! When I tried giving the plate above, I was heartened to see that at least she was willing to put a pea in her mouth and test out the texture/taste again – even if she spit it out at the end! It seems that she would readily eat the foods she does like and is used to, like black beans, but still leaves most of the other vegetables/finger foods alone on the plate. However, she does enjoy her meal more when I make efforts with plate presentation, so who knows, the new foods and vegetables might still be eaten at a future point!
  • Offer ‘em in a different form: e.g., corn on the cob verses corn kernels. When I tried this, our toddler was willing to try corn on the cob and seemed to like it when she had been  off corn kernels for a few weeks. Now, two weeks later, she wants me to cut the kernels off the cob and then will eat them that way. Of course it also depends on the age of the toddler what form you offer the food in!

Think of these ideas collectively as a two pronged strategy approach; you are not only trying to incorporate more vegetables stealthily into your toddler’s food, but you are also continuing to offer them regularly on her plates (and your plates).  So don’t hide all the veggies in her food! Always keep some vegetables visible so that they become a familiar sight at meals, and are always there within reach if she wants to try them again.

Unfortunately, when trying to work more vegetables into the diet, it can at times feel like you’re having to go back to the basics of trying to mash in, mix in, and blend in vegetables to keep a good quantity in your toddler’s diet regularly. But take heart:  your toddler will likely outgrow some of these veggie ‘dislike’ fads at a later point in childhood. Now two months after she had boycotted peas, carrots and corn, our toddler is willing to occasionally eat corn and peas again. Just today at lunch she had a bowl of mixed fried rice with scrambled eggs, tomatoes and peas and she ate all the peas within the entrée! And once again, don’t forget the power of modeling! Our toddler used to refuse to eat seaweed (think sushi) but now after watching us a few times and having it put on her plate, she was finally willing to try it the other day and then asked for more!

Feel free to chime in with other tips/strategies you’ve found successful!

Toddler Regression

peacarrotscornbowl_topost

Mind the peas (carrots and corn…) – dietitianmom.com

When my toddler turned 29 months, I noticed a big change in the way she was acting. It’s almost as if she went into a phase of “toddler regression”. Whereas she used to love finger foods and would love all sorts of cooked and certain raw vegetable pieces to pick up (like peas, carrots, corn, tomatoes, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, squash etc.), now she won’t touch them with a 10 foot pole! Even tomatoes, which is her absolute favorite and she used to love picking them up on her plate. Now she is so picky that if she sees some vegetables pieces in her food, she might try to pick them out. She’ll even tell me spontaneously that she doesn’t like vegetables, but seriously, where did she learn this? She is still not around other children enough, and she doesn’t get vegetables for snacks at preschool. Even more puzzling is that while she’s developed an aversion to vegetables, her love and intake of fruits has skyrocketed. I thought it might be due to her teething so she didn’t want to eat vegetables that were too crunchy because it hurt her teeth, but discarded that theory when I saw her chomp down on apples. I’m wondering if it’s also because I’ve lately started giving her more dried fruit (which is naturally very sweet and some with added sweetness like dried cranberries) so perhaps she’s developing more of a sweet tooth compared to “blander” vegetables.

There were two other developments. First, it is like she has developed some kind of x-ray vision (without glasses). If she sees some specks of spices and herbs added to her foods like basil, she won’t hesitate to take time to painstakingly take out each and every speck that she sees. The other development, more astonishing, has to do with her using the potty. She has been potty trained pretty much for at least 6 months by the time she turned 29 months of age. However, just the other day she wet her pants 4-5 times in a day, and even had a poop accident in her pants! It wasn’t like she was in distress, and the potty was there within reach. It was almost like she was playing and just forgot to go in the potty, or lost her inner signal about needing to go (with her usual telltale little ‘I need to run to the potty’ jig).

Well as strange as all these behaviors were, I’ve had to come up with some ways to deal with them. The potty issue thankfully got a little bit better over the following few days, and now at 31 months, she’s back to her potty routine without issues.  This may be due to the fact that she has matured more developmentally and possibly also because we started implementing a strict no nonsense attitude regarding it. Since we know that she is potty trained and there’s no excuse for her not going in the potty, if we catch her with her pants wet, then she can expect a negative consequence. As for her behaviors eating wise, these also got a little bit better (not as picky about seeing spices in her food), but she’s still off lots of finger foods like peas, carrots and corn. See my upcoming post for some food ‘counter tactics’ I’ve had to implement!