Are you interested in saving money? Conserving resources? Preventing diaper rash, UTIs, and constipation? Side-stepping years of changing diapers containing "man-poops"? Do you want a greater range of choices for preschools? Would you like to avoid potty training an uncooperative 3-year-old? Then early potty training just might be for you.
If you want to try early potty training, it's as easy as taking off your child's diaper, and plopping them on the potty every once in a while. Here are my best tips for successful early potty training, based on my experiences potty training my second and third children.
It's not all or nothing.
You don't have to try to completely potty train your child by one. Just give your child a chance to use the potty if she's ready, and let her get familiar with the potty while she's impressionable and willing. You may be surprised at how much happier your baby is to use the potty (rather than her diaper).
Use a little potty (not a potty seat on the toilet).
I don't recommend putting your baby on a potty seat on the toilet. First of all, because she can fall off (even if you are right next to her looking at her -- trust me). But also because it's really easier to poop with your feet resting on a surface (not dangling) and your knees up higher than your hips. It's also nice to keep the toilet free for older kids and adults, and sometimes motivational to be able to use the toilet simultaneously with the baby using the potty. So I strongly suggest starting with a separate potty. However, be aware that most potties are designed for toddlers and preschoolers, not babies. Our favorite potties for babies are Baby Bjorn's Smart Potty and IKEA's Lilla potty. Find more recommended potties here.
In the beginning, with most babies, you are all the entertainment that is necessary to keep your child on the potty. Once your child gets more mobile, it can get a little trickier. I have used various strategies with my babies, including singing, annoying (to me) electronic toys reserved for potty time, and board books of baby faces. Find more ideas for entertaining a baby on the potty here.
Let your baby go diaper-free whenever practical.
This is actually easiest to do with the littlest ones. Before my third baby was too mobile, I often let her lie on top of a prefold diaper on top of a waterproof pad next to me. In addition to providing some nice healthy air flow around the bottom, it gave my baby the chance to get used to peeing with her diaper off and me the chance to make a sound (such as "pssss") while she peed that I could later use to cue her while she sat on the potty. During warmer months, you might consider letting a crawler or toddler hangout outside diaper-free for a while each day.
Be prepared for some backsliding and ditch the guilt.
I always struggled with this one. The thing about potty training a baby is that it is often more dependent on you than your child. For example, at one point my daughter was peeing 5 or 6 times in the potty per day. She could be in the same dry diaper all morning and afternoon! And then the in-laws arrived for an extended stay, and we traveled over the holidays. I stopped putting her on the potty as often, and she started peeing more in her diaper. Oh well. When things calmed down, we started using the potty more again. I also often used to feel guilty when my daughter pooped in her diaper because she didn't have access to the potty. Or sometimes it happens that your toddler just decides to stop using the potty as often. These things happen, and it's best to just accept them in advance. Sometimes even big kids have accidents, either because they couldn't or wouldn't go to the bathroom in a timely manner.
Count hits not misses.
As your baby more frequently uses the potty, you may be tempted to think in terms of how many "accidents" your child has throughout the day when you assess how your early potty training endeavors are going. Don't do it! Count the hits, and think how lucky your baby is to be learning from a very young age that the potty is the best place to do her business.
Interested in learning more?For more tips, tricks, and tales from early potty training, visit my Early Potty Training page. This page includes links to every post I've written about early potty training, including gory details from my experiences potty training my second child from the age of 8 months and my third child from the age of 4 months.
If you are the bookish type (like me), two books that served me well as both introductions to the practice and as reference guides are: Diaper-free Before 3 and Diaper Free.