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!

Special Pre-2 Milestones

Children looking at birthday cakeOur toddler will be turning 2 in about a week. While that is exciting in itself (more so for us the parents so we can celebrate the survival of another year of parenting!), two things happened this week that I consider to be the true “icing on the cake”. The first was somewhat expected, but the other truly threw my husband and I!

The 1st – we have nearly come to the end of potty training! For some, potty training is a mere 3 day process and carried out when the toddler is much older. But for us, we began this process much earlier at about 9 months of age because of the many benefits of early potty training (see post on Starting Potty Training at 9 Months…Yes You Can!). It has been a good process overall but a long one. We began with working on “number 2’s” and then starting at 20 months of age more intentionally working on “number 1’s”. In these last two weeks, she seemed to be finally getting the concept of telling us when she needs to go and holding it in time to get to the potty seat, but there were still a few accidents. For a while I would get excited that it would be an “accident-free day” but then the accident on the floor would happen, sometimes right in front of my eyes. Eventually I stopped expecting and looking for that perfect success day, and pretty much forgot about it. Then two days ago, I suddenly realized at my toddler’s bedtime that there had been no accidents and no wet diapers to change that day! And yesterday was the same! Our toddler is finally almost potty trained! (Of course, she still wears a diaper at night sleeping, and who knows when or how she will transition out of that…)

The 2nd – this came totally unexpected. That same “accident free” day, we were putting our toddler down for the routine afternoon nap. Usually one of us would stay by her side until she fell asleep or in rare cases if she didn’t obey and at least lie down on the bed, we would leave the room and let her “cry it out” for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. However, that day she refused to lie down, and when my husband told her that he was leaving the room, instead of putting up a fuss, she just simply said,”Okay.” So then my husband left the room and closed the door. And there was no fuss, no screaming or crying! She just put herself to sleep and slept until we woke her up!

The same thing happened that night. Again I would put her down at bedtime and usually stay by her side until she was asleep or close to being asleep before I slipped out the door. However, she again refused to lie down and just sat in the crib. When I said I was going to leave the room, she simply remained calm and nodded. I then said, “Good night.” And she said, “Good night” back to me. So I kissed her head, then left the room and closed the door. And she just went ahead and put herself to sleep that night. No fuss, no crying, no whining. My husband and I both couldn’t believe it. We wanted to run out and pop champagne that instant! Now, let’s just hope these  two new habits will continue…

Going Potty (Part 2): A Pretty Potty Comparison

babytoiletpic2During the spring, we went on a ‘potty seat hunt’. There were a few reasons for this: 1) our old toilet top potty seat was cracking so we wanted a better one, 2) our baby has a skinny, small-sized bottom so we needed one that would comfortably fit her, and 3) we were traveling soon overseas, so we hoped to find one that could be easily brought around. In the end, I think we’ve probably tried more potty seats than the average family!

Perhaps your child doesn’t have any trouble on the potty seat you bought. But if your little one is like mine, who continues to be small-sized and more bony-bottomed (at 20 months, she weighed approximately 22 pounds or 10 kg still), then you may have more trouble finding the right seat for your child. I hope our experience can help you. Here are 5 toilet top potty seats we’ve tried (in order of worst to best, with a simple rating in terms of expense (in $ signs).

BabyBjorn Toilet Trainer ($$$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/BABYBJORN-Toilet-Trainer-White-Black/dp/B0009PAN7Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1400244131&sr=1-1&keywords=baby+bjorn+potty+seat

Our Experience: This turned out to be heavier than we thought and it was hard (like a regular toilet seat). Our toddler found it uncomfortable to sit on for a long time, and it gave some harsh red pressure marks on her thighs within just a minute or two. I also noticed that the packaging said it was for ‘2+’, so perhaps this was too big for our 20 month old child at the time.

Dreambaby Soft Touch Potty Seat ($$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/Dreambaby-Soft-Touch-Potty-White/dp/B009K8NFG4/ref=sr_1_15?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1400244251&sr=1-15&keywords=baby+bjorn+potty+seat

Our Experience: When the packaging was first opened, I noticed that the material was slightly softer but was put off by the very strong smell of chemicals from the potty seat. It ended up still being too hard for our toddler (who did not want to sit in it long) and we found it also gave some strong red marks on her thighs after we took her off it within a few minutes. Needless to say, we didn’t keep this very long in our home either…

Mommy’s Helper Contoured Cushie Tushie Potty Seat ($) (Also available in UK though price more variable)
http://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Helper-Contoured-Cushie-Tushie/dp/B00081MHI4/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Description: The size of this potty seat was smaller than the other potty seats we have bought and tried, which could be a plus or minus depending on the size of your child. The length is about 11 inches compared to the WeePOD toilet trainer which is about 15 inches. The center oval hole is a perfectly round oval. The cushion is thicker (about 1.5 inches) than most other potty seats but it is not as soft and cushiony as the WeePOD products. It is obvious that it is made of a cheaper material as expected given the price, but the cushion likely won’t break/crack as it has a hard plastic circular support ring underneath. This potty seat also comes with a handle and a plastic adhesive hook for you to hang the potty seat on.

Our Experience: In reading some reviews of this product online, some said the seat didn’t work because it was too small and that it smelt badly. However, we were pleasantly surprised that it did not smell and also that it fit our toddler’s bottom quite well (probably because of the smaller size). At first, our toddler complained when she was put on it, but then she got used to it relatively quickly. There were still some red pressure contact marks on her thighs after just a few minutes of sitting on the seat, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as baby is not sitting on it for an extended length of time. I think it helps that the cushion is higher and thicker, because our toddler was able to ‘sit’ better on it with the legs slightly angled down. This likely made it more comfortable for her (rather than the legs sticking straight out). We loved the compact size and ended taking it with us on our travels which worked out really well. It actually fits on the airplane lavatory toilet seats, as well as on all the toilet seats tried in US, Taipei and Singapore! And the biggest selling point to our child? She loved the little orange duck pictures on the potty seat!

Note: Due to its smaller size, this potty seat can slip around, so you need to be careful and supervise your child while he/she is on the seat. Also when you put the toddler on the seat, put the child as far back as possible (instead of perching towards the front of the seat). This will be more comfortable for the child and helps distribute child’s weight more over his/her bottom and legs.

Prince Lionheart WeePOD Basix ($$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Lionheart-weePOD-Basix-Berry/dp/B005ZBI03I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374161187&sr=8-1&keywords=wee+pod+basix+prince+lionheart

Our Experience: This was the first potty seat we got when our baby turned 9 months. Our baby had no complaints from the get-go and it worked really well for a few months. Then as our baby got heavier and got up to about 18 pounds, we noticed that it started to develop cracks. This is likely from the pressure of baby’s bottom sitting on it. We were able to fix the cracks with superglue a couple of times but knew this would not be a long term solution. On the plus side, this potty seat is really quite cushiony and soft. It is also quite light and easy to bring about when traveling on the road.

Prince Lionheart WeePOD Toilet Trainer/Cushiony WeePOD ($$$) (Also available in UK)
http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Lionheart-weePOD-Ash-Grey/dp/B005ZBHZEI/ref=sr_1_2?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1400244494&sr=1-2&keywords=prince+lionheart+potty+seat

Description: This potty seat comes cushioned and is contoured with a slightly higher back portion (still cushioned), so it actually looks like a little seat (more comfortable for little ones!). You can tell it is an improved version of the basic one mentioned above. The cushion portion is not as soft as the original wee POD basix but it is still comfortable. This is probably a good transition anyway to a toddler eventually using a regular toilet seat. It also has a turn knob at the back to allow you to adjust the seat to fit the specific shape of the toilet seat better. The potty seat has a smaller hole design, making it more suitable for younger babies as well as toddlers. The shape of the hole is also more contoured (smaller width towards the front) so overall there is more cushion support for baby. It also comes with a handle. Furthermore, there is a hard plastic bottom to support the cushion portion so no more cracks!

Our Experience: This turned out to be the best for us! We loved it and our toddler sat on it without complaints from the first day forward. The only downside we found was that it is quite heavy so not suitable for traveling, so we just had this for regular use at home. This is a keeper!

Happy Potty Seat Shopping!

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!

Starting Potty Training at 9 Months…Yes, You Can!

My mother loves to tell the story of how she started potty training me at 6 months, putting me on the toilet seat when I seemed about ready to do my bowel movement. Yes…well while I personally think that is really too young to start the process, I do consider the period between 9-12 months of age to be a quite a good time to start. I see this as the ‘moldable stage’ and a real window of opportunity. By 8 ½ to 9 months old, babies are usually more established on solids and often a pattern in their pooping begins to emerge (e.g., 1-2 times a day in morning/evening). Baby can now sit up quite well on his or her own with minimal support, and loves imitating, attention and praise. So now is a great time to do many things like getting baby used to different foods and textures, as well as starting potty training. Carpe diem!

What are the benefits of beginning potty training early? Tons! Here are just a few:

  • Saves on diapers!
  • Less messy clean-up for you (remember those smelly poo smeared baby bottoms and diapers?)
  • Reduction in diaper rash potential from baby sitting in a moist dirty diaper for too long before you notice it.
  • It may be easier to start the process now to get baby used to it, while baby is relatively compliant and more or less happy to sit on the potty (especially if you give a toy, read a book or otherwise distract baby a little if needed).

Some parents may just decide baby is not ready and want to wait till their child is at least 2 years of age before trying, and that’s fine as well. The benefit is that the older the child is, the process of potty training is often much faster (possibly within a couple of days) especially if there is peer pressure from other children their age!

If you decide you want to start potty training sooner, let me recommend starting with the #2s first (the poos) as this is easier to do than trying to work on #1s (urine). You and baby will feel more of a sense of accomplishment and this will also lessen those poopy diapers faster!

(More tips on potty training to follow – stay tuned!)