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Potty Training 101

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Whether you are a new parent or a seasoned one, the transition from diapers to potty training can be daunting. You may be wondering the best age to start potty training, how to get the process underway and how often your little ones should be going. Every child is different, and we are here to help you with the process. Read on for basic information and tips on potty training, as well as signs and symptoms of a possible urinary tract infection (UTI).

It’s Potty Time

“When should my child begin potty training?” This is a question every parent asks, and the answer is not one size fits all. The average age to begin potty training is between 18 and 30 months, and the determining factor should be when your child is ready and whether or not they understand the process. There are signs you can look for to help you know when your child is ready to begin potty training:

  • He or she is dry after naps, and stays dry for at least two consecutive hours
  • He or she shows interest in wearing “big kid” underwear and being more independent
  • Your child can pull down his or her own diapers, training pants or underwear
  • Your child follows simple instructions such as, “walk to the bathroom,” and “sit down”
  • Your child is able to get on the potty and stay on long enough to go to the bathroom
  • Your child understands when their diaper is wet or soiled, and can express it through simple language, body language and/or facial expressions

It is common to stress about whether your child is potty training too early or too late, but don’t force it if your little one isn’t showing signs of readiness. Between two and three years old is typically when they will be ready and able to understand the process. Try not to worry too much. It’s normal to have a late starter, and the process itself can take about a year.

How to Begin Potty Training

Once it’s clear your little one is ready to start potty training, here’s what you can do to make the process smoother:

  • Set the stage: Set up a potty chair, preferably in the bathroom. Some parents opt to put it where their child spends most of their time, such as the living room, or next to their child’s bed so they can get to it right away whether in the middle of the night or in the morning when they wake up.
  • Transition to pull-up pants: When your little one is in the early stages of potty training, disposable pull-up pants provide the independence of being able to pull them up and down, along with the added security for when accidents happen.
  • Motivate and encourage: Remind your child that using the potty means he or she is becoming a big kid. Little incentives can help, such as stickers or a coin for the piggy bank. Consistently let your child know how proud you are.
  • Be patient: The potty training process can take a long time, with starts and stops and just as many steps backward as there are forward. Make sure your expectations are realistic. Don’t force, scold or shame your child or compare him or her to siblings or peers. Responding with patience and kindness is key to building and maintaining your child’s confidence.
  • Watch closely: Look for signs such as fidgeting, straining or squirming that indicate your child needs to go to the bathroom. Ask gently if you think he or she needs to go. Even if it’s too late and they’ve already gone, have your child sit on the potty anyway to reinforce the connection between having to go and the toilet.
  • Make it fun: You can read potty training books together, watch children’s shows on the subject and have them pick out a potty chair themed as something they like (such as a favorite animal or Disney character). Including your child in the process gives them ownership and encourages the idea of being a big kid. There are even fun apps that can help get kids excited about using the potty.

How Often Should My Child Use the Potty?

On average, most toddlers urinate four to eight times per day, and have a bowel movement at least one or two times a day. It is normal if a child goes more than that, or skips a day or two between bowel movements. Every child is different and much depends on their age and how much their bladder can hold. Pay attention to their patterns, age and what is normal for them.

As far as how many times to get your child to the potty, it’s important to set up a routine and maintain consistency. For example, have them use the potty when they wake up, after each meal, before car rides and before going to sleep. Even with your routine in place, look for tell-tale signs that they need to go.

That said, especially when starting out, take your child to the potty often, but there is no set number. Our Ask A Kid Doc on Potty Talk video is also a great resource for more information on anything you want to know about potty training.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms in Kids

Children, especially girls, are susceptible to urinary tract infections when potty training from withholding their pee and bowel movements. Constipated children are seven times more likely to develop a UTI, and the more severe the constipation, the worse the UTI tends to be. This is another reason why it’s so important to encourage them to use the potty frequently. Practice patience to decrease anxiety.

Don’t withhold drinks in order to avoid accidents. It is unhealthy and makes a UTI more likely, so keep your child well-hydrated. Here are common UTI symptoms to watch out and listen for:

  • Avoiding using the bathroom
  • Cloudy urine, or urine with small amounts of blood
  • Crying or complaining when urinating
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Frequent, urgent need to go, but little comes out
  • Lower back and/or abdominal pain
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Trouble urinating
  • Urine has unpleasant odor

If you notice these symptoms, make sure your child sees his or her primary care provider for a diagnosis and proper treatment.
Learn more about our pediatric urology services and kids’ UTIs by watching our Facebook Live with Dr. Michael Keating , our program’s Medical Director. Potty training can be intimidating, but with a little preparation and support, your family can find success.

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