Toilet Training, Part 1: If I Had a Witty Name For This, I Would Have Called The Post By That.
March 21, 2011

The thing about cloth-diapering is that cloth soaks up moisture.  And moisture makes me nervous.  Even the word makes me nervous.  It sounds like the sort of word that is just WAITING to sprout out fuzzy molds and poisonous mushrooms, you know?  So several times a week since the day of her birth, I have stripped my child naked for a few hours and let her run around like the wild thing she is.

Inventive as always, I call this Naked Time.

Charlotte thinks Naked Time is exhilarating.  She loves it.  Just saying the words to her will garner you the World’s Biggest Grin and probably an ear-piercing shriek of joy.  After all, nothing says I LOVE YOU SO MUCH like total deafness.

Me?  I have never been quite so excited by Naked Time as my daughter.  Don’t get me wrong: the adorable factor of a naked toddler butt running in circles around the house at the speed of light is off the charts.  And BE STILL MY HEART naked toddler butts doing bunny hops across the lawn are ridiculously cute.  But my experience has generally been that if I dare to blink during Naked Time, a certain small naked mobile hellion will choose that fraction of a second to poop.

Or at least that’s how it went for the first year or so of Naked Time.  A few months ago, though, things started to change.  Charlotte began mimicking my bathroom behavior – she would pull her pants down, pretend to sit on the toilet, unroll a lifetime stock of toilet paper, and imitate wiping herself.  Then I noticed that she would sign DIRTY to me a few seconds before having an accident.  She quickly became consumed by an obsession with poop, underwear, and the toilet.  Pretty soon, I was able to hold Naked Time AFTER a shower which, just for the record, was my worst nightmare twelve months ago.

About two months ago, when the two of us spent the day in the company of older children, Charlotte took it upon herself to investigate each and every child’s undergarments.  When the final verdict was that they all wore underwear, she began spending every waking hour with visions of Hanes dancing in her head.  So I struck a deal with her and the deal was this: if she wants to wear underwear then she has to use the toilet.

I call this Underwear Time.  (Stop applauding my originality; you’re making me blush.)

Over the past several weeks under the Underwear Time system, my daughter has chosen to put on underwear at least three days a week and the number of accidents she has had is still in the single digits.  There has been no bribery, no praise, no rewards, no dilly-dallying, no exploiting the toilet for attention, not really much in the way of acknowledgement at all honestly, and with this in mind, it has occurred to Donald and I that it may be TIME.  Time for me to cancel all social arrangements for a few days and encourage our daughter to engage in Underwear Time full-time.  Time for me to make approximately five million trips to the bathroom during daylight hours.  Time for me to become intimately familiar with every public toilet in the greater Los Angeles area.

Which sounds great on paper and all, but I have a feeling that by the end of this, I am going to want nothing more than to get really and truly drunk.


At least she looks thrilled!


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  1. By Courtney L @ Bundle of Wonder on March 21, 2011

    We are in the process of getting a new bathtub because the old one just grossed me out.  The surround wasn’t even the old tun so water got trapped and no amount of cleaning could keep up with it.  I’m a little OCD and I just couldn’t take that tub any longer!  It always felt dirty to me and I loathed giving Harper baths in it.  What does this have to do with potty training?  In a roundabout way, it does for me.  I let her run around naked every so often, but we’ve had one unfortunate accident that involved poop and me bending over that tub for an extended amount of time.  I never wanted to do that again.  (Well, deal with poop everywhere or look at that tub).  Plus, I wanted it to be warm out so she could frolic in the backyard naked.  Spring is upon us, though it’s not quite warm everyday.  We’re starting to take it slow.  I’m happy to see that we’re doing things similarly and it’s worked well for you!  I just keep a potty in the room that she’s running around naked in just in case.  And yes…naked baby butts are ADORABLE.

  2. By Courtney L @ Bundle of Wonder on March 21, 2011

    Erm, sorry.  Can I add an edit to my last post?  It’s supposed to say, “The surround wasn’t even with the old tub…“  What I posted before didn’t make sense!  Sorry :(

  3. By monica @mom in training on March 21, 2011

    Yay!  good luck, please keep us updated. I am going to take an extra day at Memorial day weekend and try and get potty time into permanent potty time.  She’ll be 25 months, so hopefully ready. We talk about it a lot and she thinks Panties are the bees knees.

  4. By Alicia S. on March 21, 2011

    Toddlers in underpants to me is like what babies in cloth diapers are to most women. I get all giggly when I see my little people in rocketship or flowerpetal undies! :-P

  5. By Cynthia Krajcarski on March 21, 2011

    Good luck Sarah! We just toilet trained Isla at the end of February… It took us 3 DAYS. We just said no more diapers, underwear only. The first day was a terrible mess and I wanted to give up, but by the afternoon of day two we were accident free.

    She’s had a few accidents since then, but it’s so awesome to not have to wash diapers anymore. I highly suggest buying a toilet seat for Charlotte and getting her comfortable with sitting up high on a normal toilet. Isla still won’t poop on a normal toilet.

    If you would like any tips, you know how to find me!

  6. By Sarah Christensen on March 21, 2011

    Cynthia - I think this is where Naked Time has come in handy.  Charlotte knows that she HATES being wet in her underpants or naked, and when it happens it completely distresses her.  We’re only a couple hours into Day One, but she already pooped in the toilet without any fuss.  So.  Fingers crossed!

    My big worry is night-time and out-in-public toilet training.  How do you even begin that?!

  7. By on March 21, 2011

    Get yourself some of those antibacterial wipes to use on the public toilets.  Wipe the seat clean, wait a second for it to dry and plop her little butt on there. You may have to help her balance until she is used to the bigger seat.  My boys were once a day poopers, first thing in the morning. That made potty outside the house much easier.  I’ve known parents to pick up a sleeping child for one last potty run before the parents go to sleep but I never did. The kids seem so out of it when you disturb their sleep this way. And I just remembered, y’all do the family bed so a nighttime accident gets all of you wet. Limit fluids after dinner?
    Good luck, the end of washing diapers is a glorious day.

  8. By Melissa Laibacher on March 21, 2011

    Good luck!

    We are not actively training yet, but Ace has started to acknowledge what is going on in his diaper (lol), so he might end up being potty trained before he starts to speak properly.. haha
    He’ll tell us quite often when he pooped and last night he informed us for the first time that he had just peed into his diaper.

    Hopefully your experience will be as quick as Cynthia’s…
    (I am so jealous by the way..:P)

  9. By on March 21, 2011

    pretty amazing, that little girl of yours!

  10. By Leslie Crane on March 21, 2011

    Oh. My. God. I didn’t even think about night time until I read these comments. Now I am afraid, very afraid. We just got a potty and I put James on it before bath and sometimes in the morning just to get him used to it. He’s peed on it a bunch of times but i think it’s more a fluke than anything (he’s just 16 months). Is there anything else I should be doing at this point in time?

  11. By Molly on March 21, 2011

    How old is Charlotte now? My Gracie is 16 months and I can’t imagine her being anywhere near ready (but is she?)...so many questions!!!!!!

  12. By Sarah Christensen on March 21, 2011

    Molly - Charlotte is 20 months old.  I think every kid is different.  Some are ready at 16 months, some at 20 months, some at 36 months.  You’ll know when it’s time for you two!

    Leslie - We still co-sleep so I am beyond terrified of nighttime toilet training.

  13. By Jasmine on March 21, 2011

    I have wondered how toilet training will go over with a girl. I hope having used cloth diapers it will be an easier transition!

  14. By Jill on March 21, 2011

    I think it’s awesome that you just let natural things take their course and VOILA! Your baby wants to potty train on her own. :P

  15. By on March 21, 2011

    It’s so much easier when you leave it up to them and it sounds like she made the decision so yippee! My daughter had no interest in the toilet for quite some time. Being wet or dry or naked made no difference to her. We didn’t do much except offer her the chance when she wanted to sit on her potty and when she was almost 3 she made the decision to wear big girl underwear and that was that. No issues at all. So, we are doing the same with our son. He loves sitting on the toilet but nothing else. And that’s fine with us. He’ll do it when he’s ready.

  16. By on March 21, 2011

    Oh. My. You are just amazing! You are soooo on the right track!!! Yippy!

  17. By Mary @ Parenthood on March 22, 2011

    Hi Sarah,

    We half cosleep and I gotta tell you, night time training is way easier with child next to you!  At least with my child!  She doesn’t like wetting herself so she tries to wiggle to the bathroom (but can’t wake herself up enough yet to actually go!)

    We got cloth training pants “special panties” that help in the event of an accident.  Limiting fluids here would mean night time weaning, which we recently discovered with the help of a clueless ER doc would mean having to feed darling child in the middle of the night.  Besides, I’ve struggled with dehydration all my life so limiting fluids seems like trading a minor problem for a major one to me!

    Going pee right before bed helps, as does taking child to potty when we go to bed (happens to be the next time she has to go)

    Keeping the room warm helps too.  But nothing helps more than co-sleeping in my experience.  Mind you, we achieved our potty training with the help of stickers for pooing on the potty, because she had decided that she didn’t want to (after using the potty FINE since 5 months. Oy.). Bribery? Sure.  But very, very effective.  We only needed the stickers for a couple of weeks.

  18. By Cynthia Krajcarski on March 22, 2011

    Sarah - We started toilet training Isla on a Thursday and our first outing was on Tuesday night. We were out for a few hours, and only at my grandparents house. I brought her toilet in our car, and told her to tell me if she had to pee… We have a van so she would be able to pee on the toilet in the van. I brought the toilet into my grandparents house too.

    Since then I’ve bought a little toilet seat for her to put on top of a normal toilet. She’s pooped a few times in a big toilet, but still prefers to poop in her small toilet. She’ll even hold it in if she can, which sucks. In 4 weeks I’ve managed to get her to poop on a public toilet one time. Luckily we’re never out long enough to encounter poop while we’re out and about. She usually poops once in the morning and once in the evening, so we schedule things around that.

    We didn’t have our first real outing until this past week, we went to the zoo for the day. I brought along her toilet seat in our diaper bag and I usually have to squat in front of her while she’s sitting on the toilet so that she can rest her feet on my legs and I can hold her hands and talk to her. She did hold in her poop until we got home, I kept trying to get her to poop on the public toilet, but she kept fighting me so I didn’t force anything.

    As for night time, we stopped giving her liquids two hours before her bedtime. Depending on how much milk Charlotte has before bed, you might want to think about cutting that bed time snack. She would wake up when she had to pee and we couldn’t get it through to her that she had to come to wake us up to go pee, so she wet her bed every morning for the first week. One morning she came to us to pee in the morning and we rewarded her with a toy, since then she’s been accident free. You’ll probably have less hassle with this because Charlotte still sleeps with you. You might want to use some towels under Charlotte until she doesn’t wet the bed anymore. Remind her to keep the bed dry, and hopefully she’ll remember when she wakes up. Instead of starting your day, sleep in until Charlotte wakes up, then you can meet her toilet needs right away instead of possibly causing her to have an accident.

    During nap time, Isla and I started napping together when I was toilet training her, so that I was there when she woke up to pee. She held it in when she slept, so that was a nice surprise. The minute she woke up I took her to the toilet to pee. I would make her sleep on a towel the first few naps, but she never needed them.

    Also, try getting her to slip her pants on and off. Isla’s still can’t pull her pants down properly, so she’s not as independent as we’d like. I don’t mind though, I don’t feel completely obsolete. I also have to wipe her bum when she poops, so I’m still useful in that way too. Isla also doesn’t like to poop if I’m in the bathroom, she likes to be left alone… It’s super cute, but a bit of a hurdle when we’re in public since she likes to have me there when she’s on a normal toilet.

  19. By on March 23, 2011

    Don’t forget to pee pee proof your bed! (im sure you have already done this…)  There is nothing worse than waking up because you rolled over into pee.. but its worse to know that your mattress is ruined as well!  :(  I speak from exhaustion… and experience. Good luck!!


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