New Parent Guide to Potty Training

How to Train

When you’re ready to introduce your child to the potty, those in the know recommend using a potty chair instead of a toilet insert. Because it’s close to the ground, your little one won’t be scared of falling or need help getting on and off, explains Jill M. Lekovic, MD, a board certified pediatrician and author of Diaper Free Before Three. Having both feet securely on the floor also may make it easier for him to push out a bowel movement, Lekovic points out.

Until your child has developed the necessary communication skills and awareness, you won’t be able to count on her telling you when she has to “go.” So for now, have her sit on the potty when she is most likely to urinate or have a bowel movement, such as when she first wakes up, immediately after meals and snacks, or before bed. Try reading books, playing peek-a-boo or giving her a special toy to keep her entertained and sitting in one place. Offer lots of encouragement, but don’t get mad or force her to sit if she doesn’t want to, Wolraich says. Your child will be much more open to trying again if she isn’t feeling railroaded.

To help your little one connect the dots, Lekovic advises switching from diapers to cotton training pants. Since they’re less absorbent, she’ll be more likely to notice when she pees or poops. And if she feels wet and uncomfortable, she’ll have more incentive to use the potty. If you’re worried about ruining your carpet or furniture, try doubling up the undies or use waterproof ones (such as Gerber All-in-One Waterproof Training Pants), which look a little like 1920s bloomers but can be effective at containing pee.

While your wee one may be able to use the toilet with help starting at 18 to 24 months of age, he may not be able to do it independently, without reminders, until much later. And along the way, there are bound to be lots of slip-ups. Accidents are a normal part of the process and it’s best to deal with them matter-of-factly, Lekovic says. If you prepare for them (for example, by carrying extra clothes with you and putting a waterproof cover on your child’s car seat), you’ll be less likely to lose your cool when they happen.