Mommy lesson #65: Potty training

I meant to post this update a few days ago, but ya know, life and stuff. Also my computer gave me the dreaded blue screen of death, so we decided it was time for a new one. This is my first post from the new computer…so far so good. 🙂 So anyway, when I last posted we were in the very early stages of potty training.

We are now a few weeks in, and dare I say it, I think Baby Girl has it down! It’s amazing to me how quickly she caught on. I’ve been dreading this “milestone” since I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about how hard it is. It’s no walk in the park, and there was definitely one major meltdown (mine, not C’s) but I do believe the hard part is behind us. There are about a million and one “potty training method” posts out there, and I am certainly no expert, so if you are looking for a step-by-step “how to potty train” I suggest you skip this post and search Pinterest instead. This is merely a description of what worked for us in an effort to inform and encourage those of you who are in the middle of/about to start potty training. I found the “real life” experiences that I read about to be much more helpful than the step by step methods. If you don’t have kids or are well out of the early years of parenting feel free to stop reading now…the rest of this post may be pretty boring and a bit graphic (hopefully C won’t kill me for this when she’s a teen…I’ll try to remember to take it down before she hits puberty. Then again, this may be good blackmail).
Anywho, here are some things that worked for us. I am not at all suggesting they work for everyone, but if you are looking for ideas here are a few to try:
– Wait until your kiddo is excited and motivated to use the potty. We actually started potty training almost by accident. C goes to a mom’s day out program once a week, and her teacher told me that she was having major meltdowns whenever they tried to change her diaper. We were both clueless as to the cause of these, but I decided to start sending her in pull-ups instead of diapers to make it easier for her to be changed. When I picked her up her teacher told me she had done great all day, using the potty like a champ. Huh. Well we took that as a sign that she was ready, and sure enough she was! Of course she still had some accidents in the beginning, but this time they really bothered her and she understood what had happened, unlike our previous attempts when she would notice she was wet but didn’t really know why.
– Use small prizes to reward and motivate.

The first weekend we went to Target and let C pick several “potty prizes” from the dollar spot (jewelry, coloring books, etc.). C was super excited to earn prizes, and they were great motivation, especially in the morning and after naps when she was reluctant to go potty and just asked for a clean diaper instead. I was worried that she would depend on this external motivation and refuse to use the potty if she didn’t get a prize for it, so when we ran out of prizes we switched to a sticker chart. I told her when there were no more empty squares she could go pick any toy she wanted from the store as her prize for being potty trained. I briefly tried using M&Ms too, but this backfired because she wanted to sit on the potty every five minutes so she could get a candy. She still gets a “poopy surprise” (she came up with the name, it cracks me up) every time she has a successful BM on the potty along with two stickers, since she needs some extra encouragement going #2 (see below).

Don’t buy a whole box of pull-ups unless you are sure your child will use them. I have some close friends who are using pull-ups to train their kiddos with success, so I’m certainly not telling you they don’t work because they do. It just depends on your child. Charlotte was all about wearing “big girl underwear” and not at all interested in pull-ups. She refused to put one on when we left the house (which made for some very stressful trips to Walmart during that first week let me tell you!) and, much to my dismay, she won’t even wear one for naps. At first I would make her put one on before nap time, but when I went in to get her afterwards she had always taken it off and put on panties instead. This was the source of a few accidents until I decided to try putting her little potty in her room during nap time. Boom, no more accidents (although I find several pairs of underwear scattered around her floor after naps. Apparently she thinks that every time she uses the potty she should get a new pair of panties. We’re working on it).
– Poop training and pee training are two very different things. (WARNING: This is pretty graphic.) I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but it certainly is for us! Learning to pee in the potty was a snap for C. After that first weekend she hasn’t had a single accident while she’s awake, and she doesn’t even need me to remind her to go. Getting her to go poop on the potty…now that has been a struggle that has caused me endless amounts of anxiety. It didn’t help that she became constipated at the same time as starting potty training (not sure if there was a correlation or not, but apparently it’s very common) which made it painful for her to go, which made her not want to go, which made the constipation worse…and the vicious cycle continued. It wouldn’t have even been as bad if she had waited to poop in her diaper or went in her panties, but she just wouldn’t go at all. at one point she tried going five times in a row, only to have a crying meltdown, saying “I can’t do it! It hurts!” which led to me having a crying meltdown in my room because I felt so awful for making her do this (because somehow it was my fault…Gotta love mommy guilt, so logical). Anyway, after frantic Google searches and a call to her pediatrician I decided to put her on Miralax. I even had to resort to a suppository at one point (poor thing, I felt so bad but it worked!). This helped a lot of course (too much – at one point she had a horrible poop-explosion during her nap…remember how I said she refused to wear a pull-up to nap in? Yeah, it was pretty awful), but it wasn’t a long-term solution I was comfortable with (obviously). The nurse told me I needed to make some dietary changes, so I cut back a lot on dairy (she’d pretty much been an exclusive milk drinker up until this point) and added plum juice (mixed with water) and prunes to her diet. This has made a huge difference. It’s taken several weeks, but she’s actually pooping on the potty at least every other day instead of holding it for two days or more. Today she even went all by herself (she usually needs some support from Mommy). It’s still a process, but she’s learning to listen to her body and it’s only taking two or three “tries” instead of a whole afternoon of meltdowns and drama. Whew.

 Invest in lots of stools. We started C out on a little “princess potty,” but it didn’t take long for her to want to go on the “big potty.” I was so thankful, since cleaning out the little potty a dozen (or more) times a day was not fun. We got one of those removable seats that fits inside the big seat and a non-slip stool so she could get on and off. We also have a stool in front of the sink so she can wash her hands by herself. If you have an upstairs bathroom you would also want the same set up there I’m sure.
– Become familiar with the location of the bathroom everywhere you go. C pretty much insists on at least one (sometimes two) trips to the restroom any time we go anywhere. On our first trip to Target in panties we visited the bathroom four times. No lie. Now I can usually distract her or convince her she can wait until we get home if she’s just gone, but man. One morning I told her we were going to a friend’s house to play. She said “Yay!,” then got really quiet for several minutes. Finally, in her most serious voice she asked, “Do they have potties at Sam’s house?” So hilarious. And adorable. She likes to confirm “And they have potties there” anytime we leave the house.

Potty training takes great commitment and patience, even when it’s going great. I’m so thankful that C is going through it before baby sister arrives. Anyone who potty trains who also has an infant is my hero. I’m sure there will be some regression when baby gets here, but I’m prepared for it. Hopefully it won’t be too bad. Did any of these tips work for you? Do you have any you want to add? Let me know!

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