Update: Michael is fully day trained (including nap) at 2 years and 3 months old. It took about 5 months altogether. I'm not even interested in night training yet, it will happen, but for now, sleep is still priority #1 around here.
We are potty training Michael.
Actually we have been putting him on the potty since he was about 6 months old. I was pretty good at catching pees. That was nice because cloth diapers don't hold a lot, so every pee in the potty was usually one less diaper I had to wash. I was very happy to have my baby 'using' the potty, but this was more of a recreational hobby for me than training of any kind. But I do believe that getting acquainted with the potty early on has advantages so I did it for that reason too.
I actually started putting more effort behind the whole potty training thing back in late summer this year. But potty training takes a lot of effort and I really wasn't ready to commit to it at that point. I had to jump out of bed and dash to take him to the potty pretty much as soon as he woke up to catch that morning pee, and it's not always that easy to drag myself out of bed. And I didn't have the right tools either. I wanted to have enough trainers or diapers with "natural fiber" inners (for that wet feeling) to aide the process. I also didn't have a travel potty that I loved. So I decided to pull back and wait a little while longer before going all in.
I wasn't intending to start again when we did but Michael was having rash issue and concurrently acting interested in the potty all of a sudden so we started in the middle of Christmas celebrations. Michael has really sensitive skin and any poo against his little butt for any length of time just killed his skin. It was awful. He would yell "HOT!" after diaper changes because his little butt just hurt so bad, so I decided it was time to finish the stack of trainers on my sewing table and get to it. And we haven't looked back since then.
It has been a learning process for all of us. It has been very frustrating at times. Usually when I've had about had it I would remind myself that we'd only been working on it for a few days (or weeks now) really... but boy do the days feel so long sometimes.
One day I was really frustrated with Michael wetting himself a couple times in a row and just happened to be in the library, so I thought I might benefit from reading a book about potty training and found a copy of "Diaper Free Before 3".
I'd give this book a pretty good rating. I share a lot of the beliefs in the book and the author's approach fairly closely mirrors what we've always done.
The author goes into pretty good detail about when children have potty trained historically as well as the where a lot of our modern beliefs about toilet training have come from.
The truth is, children can potty train much earlier than most parents try these days. A lot of that has to do with disposable diapers... not because cloth diapers magically potty train a child, but because the parents (let's face it, mothers) would rather put their effort into training their child than cleaning shitty diapers out (by hand). There has also been a shift towards waiting for "readiness" before training. The author explains how this is mostly junk and only keeps your kid sitting in his filth longer than necessary. The author makes a pretty good point that any child that can be told to bring a diaper and wipe to a parent so that they can change him can be potty trained. The author shows how it's been proven time and time again that the earlier you start, the earlier you finish (there are exceptions of course but this is true for most kids).
I am a little critical of the author because the she's advocating a method that she hasn't even really used with her own children (she did it a little differently with her first 2 and is using it with her 3rd but it was still in progress when she wrote the book). I think her method is good, but I think she'd give more credibly to book if she would have more experience with her own method. She gives advice about talking to your care provider about early potty training but has only used a nanny herself... I know this wouldn't have worked with my daycare--you could barely get them to change the kids, forget actually putting them on a potty. She also totally misses it on whether cloth diapers are better for the environment (her argument is pretty hilarious actually) when she plagiarizes a old and outdated extension office handout (and I'm not saying that cloth is categorically better, but it's definitely not a wash between the two the way she generalizes).
Reading the book helped to provide me some affirmation that I was doing the right thing and gave me some ideas to revise my technique.
And it's going pretty well. Michael is excellent at sitting on the potty and doing his business. He can definitely make himself use the potty when he wants. We are still working on teaching him to hold it. He's initiating a couple potty trips a day. We can make it though the day with just an accident or two. I feel like he's doing very well so far and hopefully we will continue to progress in a forward direction. (He does still wear a diaper for naps and overnight... I'm not even thinking about that stuff at this time.)
Here are some things that have worked for us... and this is not a 'how to', just a few of the many, many things we do on a daily basis to make this transition as easy as possible.
Potty on a schedule- Making potting part of the daily routine. This is good because it works, but also because when we started out Michael didn't know how to make himself eliminate when we needed him to and I didn't want to spend hours every day waiting on him to use the bathroom. So we started out a few key times a day sitting on the potty for a several minutes and if he went, GREAT!, if not, oh well.
Potty after meals- This is part of potting on a schedule, but kids are also more likely to poop after meals. So we set Michael on the potty after meals with a book and he'll sit there for 10 minutes and get it done. Regularity is good, and I'd so rather clean out that potty than a nasty diaper.
Changing up the changing situation- When we first started out we were changing some of his accidents in his room in front of his changer and some in the bathroom. Michael had no idea where to go if he was wet and even I was getting confused by it. We decided to move nearly all of his changing into the bathroom. We can slip his trainers on with him standing up, so that's convenient. If he has a messy accident in his trainers we layout one of the hundred baby towels we have and clean him up right there on the bathroom floor. Since we do still put a diaper on him overnight and at naps we walk him back into his room and put those on in there, but that's it.
Cloth trainers/undies- I've always been very pro-cloth, but I think it's especially important when potty training. Kids need to know they're wet when it happens. Pull-ups are diapers and kids shouldn't have to look at their diaper to see if it's changed color to know they're wet (or worse, those freaky cooling ones). I made Michael a stack of cloth trainers with PUL outers so they are relatively waterproof (I highly recommend the Tinkle Time Trainer pattern if you are interested in making your own). We put him in these when we are going out. I also made him some trainers that aren't water proof and he wears these around the house. We did run into a problem of his thighs chafing with the trainers (I suspect a wet trainer left on too long may have been to blame). So we decided to go ahead and put him in undies for awhile while the chafing healed. Undies are great because there is no doubt when he has an accident in those. I think letting him have full-on wetting accidents in undies definitely provides motivation, but this is where my husband got frustrated. I can't blame him, no one likes cleaning accidents all the time. I went ahead and got him some Dappi pull-on covers. They are cheap and effective. But the chafing has healed so I let Michael choose what he wears most of the time. It seems that the cloth diaper companies have finally figured out that there is a market for good cloth trainers, so there are a lot of options out there right now.
Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus- This travel potty is AWESOME. Buy it.
Peeing standing up- This is one of the perks of having a boy. Sometimes he doesn't want to sit on the potty and I compromise by asking him if he want's to try to pee standing up. I hold the little bowl up to him to avoid messes and it works pretty well. This also works well in public restrooms if we don't want to bother with the potty seat. I just stand him on the toilet seat and aim for him (and clean up what doesn't make it in). It's nice not having to drag out the potty for every pee in public.
Bribes- Ok, I'm usually against incentivising good behavior, but it has it's time and place. We used stickers as rewards for using the potty for a week or two to help get us over the hump. It seems to have helped. Michael is still young enough he doesn't know how to take advantage of incentives yet. When they seemed to stop working I just stopped offering. If he asks for one I give it, but I don't really use them anymore. In a perfect world, no parent would ever have to bribe their child. I don't live in a perfect world.
Books- Both reading books about using the potty and having a book to read by the potty. I get a book about using the potty every now and then from the library. Learning from different sources is good. We also keep some books that Michael find's really interesting by the potty. Michael loves to look at the pictures them and he will sit long enough to do his business. On the other hand, I hate having a book in the bathroom because he will go in there for a quick pee and pick it up and not want to leave for a half hour (and I've got better things to do quite honestly). So I tend to tuck the books out of sight and just give them to him after meals.
Cloth wipes- I still love our cloth wipes. One of the disadvantages of having a little boy is that pee tends to make it out of the potty (the shield on the Baby Bjorn potties sucks, IMO) so we wipe up messes with wipes rather than wasting TP. We also use them to dab off that last drop of pee (if needed). Keeping them in the bathroom is nice because I can just turn on the water at the sink and wet one up if I need to. And I'm washing the trainer's anyhow, so it's nothing to add a couple of wipes to the load.
Mummy's reviews recently posted some tips for potty training that I think are pretty good if you want to read on.
We've had a couple complications from potty training. The first, chafing, was mentioned above. The other is Michael's poor hands drying out terribly from all the hand washing we were making him do. Although it would be lovely to make him wash after every visit to the potty I only make him do it after pooping or if he's touched something particularly offensive. His skin just can't take it and it's almost mean to make him do it so much (even with very moisturizing hand soap). When you have a toddler you just have to get over the fact that things won't seem as clean as they used too.
Here are some pictures of our potty setup. I could have gotten by without the shelf and just put everything in the vanity, but I kinda like keeping everything out for Michael to see so that it's more accessible to him.
I've had this little black shelf since my college days (it's a closet organizer shelf) and it works well in this small space. The wipes are ontop in the same box that we kept them in on the changing table. Water proof trainers and dappis on the next shelf. Undies and non waterproof trainers below that. A box with spare wet bags on the bottom. And his books where I can tuck them out of site.
It's actually very convenient to hang the wet bag off the linen closet door knob. I can sit on the stool in front of the sink and reach everything from there and just drop soiled items in as needed.