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How to toilet train in 5 days vs. 5 weeks (2 same age kids, 2 different approaches)

My 2.5 yearold son never liked diapers, in fact, he would run around the house all day naked if he was allowed to. When he started handing me poopy diapers (removing it himself after removing his pant), I decided to toilet train him the cold turkey way. I looked up a few posts and got ideas from them. These articles I enjoyed: “We tried the 3 day method and it was intense” and “How I trained my kid to use the potty in three messy days.”

toilet

The next few days I ordered and went to stores for supplies:

  • Thin cotton underwear in simple colors, stripes, patterns (a smart friend told me: “If you don’t show them character underwear, they won’t know they exist.”) I estimated about 12 underwear boxer briefs daily. I bought 18 pairs, but kept 6 pairs with the tags on and receipts together. Maybe I won’t use them? And there is always a washing machine.
  • Thicker padded training underwear (Amazon has them in some obscure brands, but Nickelodeon, Disney, and Sesame Street offer them too)…these are for “emergency convincing”
  • Pull ups – we like Target’s size 5-6 for a 3 year old as the side flaps can be removed, adjusted, and replaced (so the side flaps act as a diaper but also can be pulled up/down), plus diggers or dinosaur designs for boys…we eventually had only used Pull ups overnight, daytime all cotton underwear
  • Toilet ring over toilet (Bjorn has a lower splash guard vs. Fisher-Price has a higher splash guard…you want easy on and easy off for your toddler)
  • Step stool (with 2 steps if shorter toddler, 1 step is fine for a taller toddler) for the toilet
  • Step stool with 1 level for the bathroom sink (went with Ikea)
  • Doggie training pads to put under their bed sheet and to put over your sofa (if bed wetting occurs, just remove the fitted bed sheet and this waterproof doggie pad, but make sure the pad is large enough for the crib-sized toddler mattress or line a twin-mattress with 2-3 pads)
  • Incontinence waterproof mattress cover for the parents’ bed in case your toddler sneaks in to sleep with you and wets your whole master bed
  • Plum Organics prune baby food pouches (for constipation)
  • Salty snacks (such as pretzels, Goldfish, Annie’s crackers) to make your toddler thirsty and drink more water (to pee more)

toilet training underwear
Thicker padded underwear for toilet training (not everyone likes this option, but for outings and overnight it is brilliant as not diaper-like yet holds in some pee).

After all the supplies were gathered, I picked a few days when I could stay home. A 3 day weekend is fine too.

toilet training
New underwear and pajamas at Uniqlo. You will need about 10 pairs to toilet train. It doesn’t matter which brand, but buy 9-12 pairs of underwear.

Day 1: After removing his overnight diaper, the thin new cotton underwear went on. After breakfast, there was some dribble. Baby freaks out, but I quickly take him to the bathtub to remove the soggy underwear, rinse him, and put another underwear on. I explain what the toilet is for. He sits on it a few times all day…but nothing comes out. There were another 3 dribble accidents this day. Pull ups for overnight.

Day 2: Two accidents in the morning, the third time he ran to the bathroom and we had most of it into the toilet…a bit messy as sprayed to the side. I rinsed the toilet ring in the bathtub and put it back on. Every hour I would offer the bathroom. Trick: Pause a TV show he is watching so he will be more willing to stop watching TV and use the toilet. No poo in 2 days.

Day 3: All peeing in the bathroom, although twice there was a small wet patch in the underwear. He also wanted to change a new underwear every time he went to the bathroom (like a new diaper), we were fine with that. Now he picks the underwear (orange vs blue stripes?). No poo in 3 days. I feed in prune pouches.

toilet training
Step stools for the toilet and sink in the bathroom for easy access. Baby Bjorn toilet ring.

Day 4: In the first new underwear of the day, he poos into the underwear. I toss it out (a friend told me she dumped the poo and washed the brief 3x but a small piece got stuck in her washer and it stunk for days). He pees well the rest of the day, so in the afternoon I risk it and take him to a nearby playground. We are back in 35 minutes without accidents.

Day 5: All peeing in the bathroom and one of those times, something else came out! He was flustered, but got excited to flush it down the toilet. I wash his butt in the bathtub and he selects a new striped underwear.

I was advised to not use laxatives or suppositories by pediatricians and gastroenterologists, because it confuses the kid when he holds it in then gets diarrhea. He will learn it isn’t comfortable and go eventually. The next 2 weeks there were accidents maybe once every 4 days (dribbles), but he overall peed and pooed in the bathroom. For outings and overnight, he refused pull ups, so we used thick padded training underwear. Now success after 3 months!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

For the other 2.5 year old kid, she was terrified of sitting on the toilet ring. I stopped forcing her and waited 2-3 more months. All diapers were now pull ups and occasional thick training cotton underwear (so she can feel wet). We also changed her pull up STANDING up (this made changing at a restaurant or indoor kiddie play center so much easier!). So she got used to us removing a pull up and putting one on.

The first step in training a reluctant or uninterested toddler is getting her to SIT ON THE TOILET. After sitting down 20-30 times, something is bound to happen! Try putting an ipad on a stool in front of the toilet, try reading a book, try bribing with stickers, stay with your kid…Once the toddler is not afraid of sitting on the potty and does this a few times daily, eventually something will come out.

Over the next 5 weeks, she usually wore pull ups, but we sat her down on the toilet ring, with lots of encouragement and never leaving her alone in the bathroom (maybe she was scared?). Slowly she was asking to sit on the toilet after she peed in the pull up. Eventually, she peed once or twice a day in the toilet. And she got lots of clapping and attention afterwards. We eased her onto the toilet gradually and phased out the pull ups with cotton underwear (thin for short periods < 1 hour or thick padded for 2 hours). The key is sitting on the potty for a few minutes several times a day. This was back and forth, but eventually after 5 weeks, she got it and went fully to underwear! Be prepared for moments of dancing and circling the bathroom before sitting down (then getting up and sitting down again). Be prepared for starting to pee on the way to the bathroom.

Older toddlers may have a fear to release urine…this happened to the slower trained toddler. What we did was let her pee in the bathroom (without underwear) a few times when the pee holding/dancing was obvious, then back to trying on the potty ring on the toilet. The key was getting a toddler unafraid to release without a diaper or pull up on (release to air!). The first 4 times right before pee came out, she got uneasy or anxious sitting, but I coaxed her and held her gently down…and a few seconds later pee would come out and she would relax and continue peeing. By the 5th time on the potty, she could pee with me next to her with less anxiety.

Toilet training requires encouragement, reinforcement and repeated actions over time…just stick to it and eventually your smart toddler will get it! Think of it as learning to eat with a spoon and fork, it may be quick to get the idea, but lots of practice to do it smoothly!

potty ring toilet training
Fisher-Price toilet ring

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