The week we ditched the nappies

I started thinking about potty 'training' with River the day he started showing me how much he hated pooing in his nappy. But I still didn't think he was ready. In fact, it wasn't until my friend Siobhan told me about a book she read that I decided to give it some real headspace.

I don't know why I assumed River wasn't ready, but it seems it's a really common reason for putting it off. For me, maybe it was because I'd heard 3 is the age to start (not sure where I got that from) and I guess I was also a little daunted by the idea of wee and poo everywhere. After I'd read the first chapter of the book, ( Oh Crap! Potty Training, by Jamie Glowacki ) I realised it was definitely me who wasn't ready, not River.

Photo by Siobhan Watts: On potty training Day 5

Photo by Siobhan Watts: On potty training Day 5

It makes so much sense to me to start when you feel your child is ready and not be governed by any book, relative or friendship circle. For the record most toddlers begin to show signs of readiness between 20-30 months and apparently it's easier closer to 20 than 30 BUT each child is different so that's all a rough guide.  For me it was about a little education, learning about River's little bodily functions and realising the signs.

Here's why I changed my mind from not ready, to ready:

The Signs

Toilet fascination: River had started showing a real interest in when me or Fabs used the toilet. He started closing the toilet seat for us and flushing it after, saying, 'Bye wee wee' with a little wave. Now, while this mimicking of mum and dad doesn't necessarily mean readiness, for River I think it was.

Little signals. I started noticing River would lean and press his hands into the sofa or chair when doing a poo. He also went really quiet about 3 seconds before pushing.

Awareness of his own bodily functions: He said 'Poo poo' a few times AFTER pooing and then gradually a few seconds BEFORE pooing. 

Eager to please: Getting praise for completing little tasks became REALLY important to him. He went for high fives, said 'Well done River' to himself and generally enjoyed pleasing people, especially mummy.

Craving responsibility: Suddenly, River became mummy's little helper and wanted to be a part of all my chores around the house. And what's more, he actually became really helpful because his level of understanding is so good. This is a good place to be if you want to start potty training. River and I spend 97% of the week together, so we chat ALL day long, are very close and read each other very well.

Dignity: River began showing me he really didn't like having his nappy changed. It started to feel like making him go in his nappy was a bit undignified. Then I started thinking that maybe I was insulting his intelligence and that he was capable of more at 21 months than I was 'allowing' him to do.

So. I read the book, waited a week to digest it all then started watching River a little more closely. Then spurred on by Siobhan and what an amazing transition it was for her and her daughter Rory, I just decided to go for it. I picked a start week, ordered a potty chair (a potty with a high back) and a 2-1 Travel Potette, both from Amazon, cleared my schedule for every day (and made sure I wasn't on call for a birth) and told Fabs the plan. The premise of the book I read is 'Do it once and do it right.' This resonated with me because I felt like being consistent with your messaging might be quite important for these little people. I also love the idea of keeping things simple, committing to it and helping him to learn the ropes relatively quickly and without fuss.

So anyway, Day 1 went like this:

Day 1
Nappy off, heating up, naked all day and I watched him like a hawk to try to learn his signs and signals. We had 3 big wees all over the floor and 1 poo. When I saw it happening I whisked him onto the nearby potty and caught what I could. Then I showed him the contents and he was accidentally super impressed with himself right away.

Whenever I caught anything in the potty I gave river big praise, kisses and high fives and asked him to help mummy take it to the big toilet and flush it away which he loved doing! I felt like this bit became real incentive for him. 

By the end of Day 1 River was saying "wee wee mummy" and I helped him rush to the potty. 

He slept through the night, so soundly that night. It must have been such a tiring day of change. 

Day 2
Repeat of Day 1. Don't move on to next steps (i.e clothes or even little outings) until your little one is using the potty prompted or unprompted without accidents.

On this day I made the mistake of letting him watch an episode of his favourite show (Toot the Tiny Tug Boat) and it meant he had an accident because he was so intently watching, he couldn't drag himself away to tell me he needed a wee. I felt really sorry for him because it was my fault really. But hey, we said "Oh dear. Next time wee wee goes in the potty ok River?" I didn't say never mind, oh well, because I wanted to be clear that it wasn't ok, it was an accident but wee wee goes in the potty. If you're casual about where it goes then they'll be casual about it too.  I gave him a cuddle and he helped me clean up then we changed activity. Onto a puzzle and no more accidents all day. 

River slept soundly again and this time his nappy was really dry by morning...he was holding it! 

Day 3
I prompted him to get on the potty asap because of his dry nappy and he did a huge wee. Today was time for proper clothes (and I'm writing this in Winter so to go outside I really did need to dress him in a full layered outfit) and... a little outing! Importantly though, I kept him commando. Sometimes when you re-introduce tight, snug clothing round newly nappy-free bums they can mistake them for nappies and have accidents. I made sure River did a wee before we left the house and got him dressed and into the car pretty sharpish. I took the car as a special treat so we could be as quick, as possible. I really didn't want to set him up for an accident in his buggy on his first outing. So I was trying to be all relaxed and breezy about it but of course the entire time I was on bum watch and I packed a hand-towel and spare trousers of course!

So off we went down the road to the coffee shop in our local Sainsburys to meet Siobhan and Rory for a coffee. (Mainly because they have wipeable seats and there's a public loo relatively nearby!) We stayed for an hour only, and had no accidents. He did say "wee wee mummy" once and I raced him to the loo so fast, put his Potette on the big seat and sat him down, only for him to look up at me, beaming and say "no wee there!" Cheeky little monkey. I gave him lots of praise anyway, and we went back to our table.

My mum, brother and his girlfriend came to visit in the afternoon so it was a big day for River but I felt it would be good practice for him to show off his new skills. I kept him in the baggy, light and loose trousers and we practiced using the potty while pushing them down himself (or sometimes with help) before using potty. At this point River was saying "Wee wee/poo poo mummy" and rushing to the potty every time with no accidents. He LOVED having an audience for wees because of all the praise, but felt more private for poo poos so I made sure to keep a close watch, take his hand and we went to the bathroom together for that. It does help to know roughly what time of day your child likes to do a poo but of course sometimes this is unpredicatable so just do the best you can.

Day 4
Rhyme Time at the local library and his first wee wee in a public loo on his Potette seat! Woop woop! Followed by lunch with a friend and still no accidents.

Feeling cocky, we took River with us for a Friday Date Night Dinner that evening and he sat up at the local bar in our new fav pizza place like a superstar and ate a whole pizza to himself. No accidents! A few phantom "wee wee mummy" toilet runs but it's all good practice and both Fabian and I couldn't stop staring at our suddenly grown up toddler, without nappies, eating his own meal and chatting to us all evening.

Photo by Siobhan Watts

Photo by Siobhan Watts

Day 5
Bigger outing. We spent the morning at Siobhan's making Christmas Cookies and River used their potty like a pro. Home in the afternoon for lunch, naps and games with Daddy when he got home from football. No accidents. Fully clothed. Happy boy. We've cracked it! Haven't we?

Day 6
It started snowing today - his first glimpse of snow! We had a really lovely family Sunday cosying up at home, split up with one little outing into Peckham to get a few bits and stop for a babyccino with him. We also spontaneously decided to totally rearrange the flat, do some home improvements and have a massive winter clean. River loved the excitement of all the change and spent the entire day clambering over everything as if we'd just tailor-made him his own private obstacle course out of sideboards, sofas and coffee tables. No accidents. 

Day 7
The furniture changes at home obviously had a little effect on River. Even though we kept his potty in the same place in the living room, he was thrown by the new look of his surroundings. We had an accident-free morning and then an accident in the afternoon. He was really upset and kept saying "Oh dear!" and pointing to the wee on the floor. It broke my heart to see how hard he was on himself. 

Day 8
River went back to no accidents on this day. And I started to feel like he had got the hang of it.

River loved ditching his nappies right away. He took to it really quickly and it made him really proud of himself. I'm sure we've got accidents in our future, and with a new baby arriving in May 2018 I'm sure even a little regression might happen but I'm so glad we did it now.

I'd say if you're going to do it, commit to it and do it wholeheartedly. It's a big change in their lives and it deserves sensitivity and all your attention to help them understand and learn.


What I've learned about River's journey:

1) Learn your child's own unique signals.
River holds his willy or crosses his legs when he needs a wee.

2) Talk your own child's language.
River really likes appreciation from an audience and doing things with a friend at the same time so we turned his friend Kermy the Frog into his Potty Buddy who sat next to him on the potty whenever he did. He loved this right away.


River also says when things/people are coming. i.e 'Rory coming' or 'Nanny coming later' so 'wee wee coming' for example came quite naturally.

3) There are 3 'prompt options.' (In my head anyway.)
a) Prompted: I prompt him to use the potty after I see signs that he needs to go.
b) Unprompted: He goes and sits on his own and does a potty wee without any help from me
c) He prompts ME and then I help him get his trousers down and get on the potty quick. A team effort!

4) Daytime 'training' is enough for us right now.
There's a lot to be said for tackling daytime and night potty training at the same time, and to be honest, it makes so much sense with the ethos of the whole thing to just say bye bye nappies altogether. However, for us as a family right now, considering River still LOVES his bottle of milk before bed and seems to drink a lot of water with his dinner, it just doesn't seem like the right time. I'm perfectly willing to concede that maybe it's me who isn't ready for this bit but hey. We've all just got to do what we can, right?!

5) Firm doesn't mean mean! My parenting style has never shied away from heaps of kisses, cuddles, praise and affection. So it was certainly not going to stop now. 

6) Don't look back!
River takes everything in (as do most toddlers) so once you've made a thing of saying, 'bye bye nappies' don't be tempted to say 'Oh maybe he's just not ready" and get them back out of the cupboard. Because sometimes a day of a regression and lots of accidents is part of the journey and you just need to dig dip into the patience stores and go back to day 1 naked toddler watching. Also, accidents are a really important part of the process. 

7) Don't rush anything. Wait until your child is ready to navigate clothes and ready for little outings before you move onto that. It's worth really mastering the basics with lots of home naked time before you move on so as to build a little muscle memory and gain some confidence. 

8) Keep things consistent and patient.
Deciding to totally rearrange our home on Day 6 was probably not the best thing for River's potty learning. Even though by day 4 River knew what to do, we had a few little setbacks on Day 7 and then over the Christmas period when excitement levels and distractions were high. If you get setbacks, I'd say to revert back to Step 1: naked home time, lots of watching and lots of confidence building again to get them back on track.

Don't be scared of ditching the nappies - it REALLY really shouldn't be a stress for you and definitely not for your child. Enjoy the process, make it fun, be relaxed and spend the money you're saving on nappies on....yourself?! You deserve it.