Potty training isn't always plain sailing. Our health visitor answers your potty training problems...
Q. My toddler has been out of nappies for a few months, but will only poo in the nappy we put on him at bedtime. Is this normal?
A. This is a common problem for many toddlers. Maybe he’s got used to the sensation of doing a poo in the nappy and going in the potty feels strange.
Try sitting him on the potty with the nappy on if necessary and let him poo then. Always keep him relaxed while on the potty by singing a song or reading a quick story.
Encourage him to rock back and forwards while singing “Row, row, row the boat” as it’s good for encouraging easier bowel movements. Also, keep some party blowers in the bathroom and get him to blow on one when he’s trying to poo, as it’s impossible to keep in a stool while blowing out! Finally remember this is a normal learning curve and your toddler will pass it when he’s ready.
Q. Is it normal for my 4-year-old son to still be in nappies at night? He has daytime accidents too.
A. It’s not unusual for some children to take longer to be reliably dry at night – most doctors don’t see it as a problem until around 7 years old. You just need to try and be patient. Don’t be tempted to restrict evening drinks (except fizzy ones). When you start to notice more dry nappies in the morning, and there aren’t any other major changes planned, try leaving the nappy off, and see how it goes. Make sure you have bed protectors and plenty of spare pyjamas and bed linen. During the day make sure you offer regular opportunities to use the loo, praise every success and don’t over-fuss when there is an accident so he doesn’t feel like he’s ‘failed’ to make the toilet.
Q: My 19-month-old son just won’t keep his nappy on. What can I do?
A: It seems a little early, but I wonder if he’s showing signs that he’s ready for potty training? If your tot’s also able to get his trousers up and down himself, then you might want to give potty training a go, especially as it’s summer so a good time to start. At first, see how he goes in pull-up style pants, but don’t push it too much, as he’s still pretty young.
I’m sure you’ve probably already done this, but you could check that the nappies you’re using fit well, as he could just be uncomfortable. You could try distracting him with his favourite toy when he starts to pull at his nappy, and try not to give big reactions when he manages to wiggle out of it.
Another option is to get a little sneaky with his clothes by buying trousers with button-up flies so he can’t strip off so easily. Failing all that, let him have time running around outside with a bare bottom and it might be easier to coax him into a nappy when he’s indoors.
Q. I tried potty training in the summer when my 2-year-old son’s peers were coming out of nappies. He’s the only one who didn’t get it. I feel like we’ve ‘missed the boat’ now. Help!
A. Just like all other areas of development, children vary in their readiness and willingness to use the potty. On average this can be any time between 18 months and 3 years old, so your little one is well within the typical age range.
When he’s getting nearer to being ready you may notice him becoming aware of when he does a wee, and will go quiet or stop what he’s doing. He may ask for a nappy change or even try and do it himself. If you wait until he reaches this stage, and start then his chances of success are greater.
When the time is right, a relaxed approach will ensure your son gains confidence quickly in using the potty. You must learn to ignore the accidents and praise the triumphs, and in the meantime, don’t worry about what other children are doing but use their experiences to help guide you when his time comes.
Q. I’ve been potty training my 2 year old for six weeks and making very little progress. I’ve started to wonder if he’s really ready yet?
A. It’s fair to say that the majority of children are ready to come out of nappies between the ages of 2 and 3, but when you’re trying to potty train that’s a big margin. If you’ve been trying for six weeks with no progress, it’s time for a break. Keep encouraging him to go to the loo with you so he can see what goes on, but leave his own potty training for now, until he’s more interested.
Ask yourself: does he seem aware he needs a nappy change – hiding when he’s done or needs a poo, for example? Does he use the right words to talk about wee and poo, so he can let you know when he’s ready to go? Does he show an interest in what others do in the toilet and want to look and see? Can he help with dressing and manage to pull his pants up and down? When the answers are yes, get the potty out again.
Q. My 3 1/2 year old is still in nappies at night, unlike his peers. Is this normal?
A. It’s completely normal up to the age of 5. Some time between now and then you’ll notice the occasional dry nappy in the morning, and as these increase in frequency, you can start leaving the nappy off. Stick to your toddler’s usual fluid intake, as restricting drinks just means the bladder adjusts to holding less. Aim to give him six to seven cups of fluid a day. Avoid caffeinated drinks, though, as these stimulate the kidneys to produce more urine.
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