Toilet learning – the next stage?

Night learning items collage

Since my last post we have made significant strides with regard to toilet learning. The days are mostly dry, even after nap time and going out and about.  Joshua still needs to be offered the toilet but is generally making it known that he needs to go – more often than not now he is indicating he needs to go rather than us asking. Learning out and about is going smoothly; he holds on very well, and we generally offer the potty when we arrive at our destinations. Initially when we commenced the process I would offer it whenever we arrived somewhere, but after observation of Joshua’s toileting habits, I generally go by feel now rather than stringently offering the potty when we get somewhere as he might have gone prior to leaving the house. We use his potty out and about with ease: at friend’s houses, in the back of the car (benefits of having a hatchback!), in public restrooms (potty on hand) and at the park. We even did a day trip to the zoo and had no misses and we were gone from the house most of the day. Joshua’s Nonno has been caring for Joshua too, he helps him to the toilet at his house. Joshua is getting more comfortable using a toilet as we have transitioned him to using one at home. When we are at other people’s houses he is starting to want to use those instead of the potty, as long as he is able to climb onto the toilet comfortably, or is helped up to sit (we have a toilet insert that I bring along and Joshua is mostly happy being there as long as he can hold onto me for support). Nonno found Joshua trying to climb up on their toilet to go which is a good sign that he is feeling comfortable about using the toilet elsewhere. At parent-toddler class he also uses the toilets. At the moment he still needs help to get onto it but is quite happy to use it.

Practically Joshua can now pull down his trainers and pants. He still needs help pulling them up but makes a good effort at it. He is able to hold for a lot longer so the control is there so if there is a need to wait (e.g. stuck in traffic, just not able to stop) he is able to control this long enough to be offered. Often he still requires a bit of assistance to get pants down and up as he might really need to go but he is practicing. Often he likes to completely remove his shoes, pants and trainers/underwear to sit on the toilet (especially at home) and still wants me to go with him. He still needs reminding to wash his hands thoroughly and often wants me with him to help him, especially when we are out and about.

With this in mind we have commenced our transition from trainers to underwear during the day.  Joshua’s toileting confidence is increasing by the day; I see the rare misses we have these days as practice – that I have missed an opportunity to identify that he needs to use the potty or distraction by Joshua being preoccupied, and we just clean up and move on. At almost 23 months old it is still my job to assist him until he is able to completely do it himself. In this process I do not have the expectation that Joshua will be taking himself to the toilet all the time on his own, he will continue to need prompts to go. Overall I feel that this stage has been progressing well. We attended a housewarming party and Joshua indicated his need to use the toilet so I hurried him there. Luckily there were toilet steps and a seat insert available, much like the one we have at home, so it made the experience a good one for him. He needed more help here as he did not know where the toilet was. (Mental note: let your child know where the toilet is when you arrive at an unfamiliar destination.)

After his night sleep Joshua sometimes wakes up dry, other times wet. He is now able to open the door and come into us in the morning. I suspect that he might be coming to me because he needs to go to the toilet, but then again it could be hunger. In the evenings he is starting to resist putting on a nappy and sits down to put on his underwear or trainers. In any case we will be ready to try night learning shortly. I’m expecting disrupted sleep, changes of clothing and sheets that will be required and tweaking and adjustments to the current plan to commence the learning process. So at the moment these are the items that I believe will be required:

  • Waterproof cover for the bed.
    Initially we were not going to use anything but the mattress protector but as time has gone on I have changed my mind. In the middle of the night I do not want to be pulling up the bed sheets! I have considered a few options, these include Brolly Sheets (and other similar products), possibly lanolised woollen blankets or just putting down a small waterproof circle pad that I have from giving Joshua nappy free time when he was little. If we use woollen blankets I would need to lanolise them however from a comfort point of view Joshua often sleeps face down these days so I am not sure he would find putting his face on wool very nice to sleep on. It is however a good option as it is a natural fibre, breathes, and is not expensive.
  • Potty.
    We have some high back potties from Joshua’s earlier toilet learning for the house. We used Ikea high back potties and for out and about the Ikea smaller portable potty. I do love the Baby Bjorn potty chair as it is nice and stable but as we needed 2 of these – we have upstairs and downstairs toilet stations – it was a little pricey so decided on Ikea as the more thrifty option. I thought putting a potty in his bedroom would make it more accessible for him rather than leaving his room at night to go to the toilet. If we did this we might need to put on a light in his room so he can see what he is doing and sit on the potty. Otherwise we would leave it in the bathroom which might necessitate leaving his door open while he sleeps rather than closing it which is what he is used to.
  • Changes of clothes.
    These should be kept on hand right near the bed to ensure that all changes are done quickly in the night if needed without needing to disturb Joshua by trying to find new clothes and turning on the lights etc.
  • New bedding.
    Bedding should be on hand nearby to change if needed (Joshua currently sleeps with a few bamboo blankets on him).
  • Bucket.
    For soiled clothing/bedding to throw into quickly if required.

I have heard people talk a lot of about a “dream wee” when they are toilet training their child which means you take them to the toilet when they are half asleep at the same time every night so that they can urinate and head straight back to bed on an empty bladder so they can hold the rest until morning. I don’t believe that the introduction of a “dream wee” will be beneficial at this stage as I think Joshua will not appreciate being disturbed while he is sleeping. That is my thought at the moment – I might change my mind throughout the process as 12 hours is a long time to go without using the toilet. This may result in early morning disruptions as Joshua is very aware of wetness these days and I am sure will wake from discomfort and call for me but I am prepared to do that rather than wake him fully to put him on the toilet. I am sure I would not be very happy to be woken to go to the toilet and then put back into bed in the middle of the night while in deep sleep – we trialled this during the day which resulted in Joshua waking and being extremely grumpy. Part of toilet learning is learning to wake because your body alerts you to the fact that you need to go to the toilet. An alternative to this is to have a potty in Joshua’s room however I am uncertain about this as I do not want to weaken the association of toileting in the bathroom so I am as yet not decided on how we will proceed on this front. Should we decide leave it in the bathroom then we might need to ensure there is adequate lighting for him to make his way to the toilet. My husband is talking about putting in some night lights which flick on when there is movement which is a power saver as compared to having overhead lights on all night.

As you may have guessed from my posts I am an advocate for having a plan and being prepared for the toilet learning process. Having everything on hand and being prepared for as many eventualities and problems that might be encountered is a must, especially as this is night time learning and it is best to deal with issues promptly to cause minimal disruption to the child at night. We planned our daytime learning very meticulously so that to date we have never actually been caught out having run out of supplies or not having a potty available to use. Our process is robust and we have not had any misses that have gone into the bath or into the car seat. Part of that might be luck but mostly I think the planning and consistency we put into this has seen the process be relatively smooth.

Yes this has been a long process, one we commenced some time ago. We are seeing many benefits of having a toilet learning toddler who is I would say most of the way to completing the process. No nappies. No nappy rash. A strong awareness and want by Joshua to complete this function on his own (but my company is welcome!). As with the first part of this process it is daunting. Taking off the nappy for night sleeps is a very long period of time to not have a nappy on. Trust is required. Trust that Joshua will call me if he needs me. Trust that with practice he will learn to wake and take himself to the toilet in the night and will learn to hold until morning.

Jill Lekovic, the author of “Diaper Free Before 3”, has this to say and it sums up for me why we are persisting to do what we do here. 

“I often hear parents in the office express concerns that it will ‘take too long’ if they begin training earlier. People have developed a sense that if their child is not toileting without much reminding or help then they are wasting their time and should leave him in diapers until he is older. Many parents have proudly told me that their child one day ‘asked for underwear’ and then ‘trained himself’ with almost no accidents at all. No child should have to reach the stage of development where he can recognise underwear at the store and tell you he would want to wear it instead of diapers before you even introduce him to the potty.

Parents should not measure how successful they were at potty training by how little time and effort they invested in it. If there are benefits to the child who has delayed toilet training, then they have not been reflected in any of the {many} studies done on this topic. The problems with delayed training are discussed at length in this book, and I think there are more than enough reasons to make an extra time commitment to this task.”

It is not for savings in nappy washing or costs or to prove anything to anyone. We are doing this at Joshua’s pace and I anticipate not too many posts on toilet learning as we are almost complete.

Do you have experiences with night toilet learning? If you have any suggestions on the issues I have raised above I would love to hear them.


6 thoughts on “Toilet learning – the next stage?

  1. We’ve been working on it for over six months now. It’s like my daughter doesn’t realize she has to go or is wet. She had to change her clothes 4 times in a five hour period today. She’s wetting the bed again so we put her in pull ups because her cloth was to small. It can be very frustrating especially when the older ones PT in a couple days.

    • How old is your daughter? I understand that toilet learning or training is frustrating. At times I have felt extremely frustrated and overwhelmed by the process and have had to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember why we are doing what we are doing. It has been hard work for us but we are reaping the benefits of having a toilet learning toddler.
      We are using brolly sheets for the bed for nap time, so far so good and will be using these when we commence night learning shortly. This could alleviate the need to return to pull ups however you are sounding stressed so perhaps taking a step back for a little while would be good for you as if you are frustrated, your child will sense this. Please let me know how you are going or if you need some extra support. I was fortunate enough that when I needed extra support to know that what we were doing was not futile that I had it!

    • Another thing I forgot to say is that I understand that at certain developmental stages toileting can regress. Around age 2 is one of them so I would take that into consideration too and persist, ahe should revert after the leap is over.

  2. Pingback: Toilet Learning – The End | Montessori Life As We Know It

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