Can you potty train an 8-month-old baby?

While most parents don't start toilet training until children are at least 18 months old, some start from as early as 5 to 8 months. And it's more common than you may think...

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We all know that parenting is full of milestones and new stages. One of the most challenging (and messy) is toilet training. For the majority, we usually embark on this with our willing or unwilling toddler, somewhere between the ages of two and three.

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But not everyone. Some parents decide to go a different route – using a practice called elimination communication, aka assisted infant toilet training, where you can start training your baby to use the potty from BIRTH (yes, you read that right).

And while that seems pretty extreme, and probably not something many of us (in the UK at least) would probably think about trying, we did find a fair few mums on our forum talking about potty training from around 5 to 8 months.

Early potty training – before the age of 1

One mum, Tinkerbell1980, kicked things off by sharing that her baby was now 8 months old and she’d decided it was time to start potty training him. Initially she had a few shocked replies: “I actually just looked at your past topics to see if it was a typo and you meant 18 or 28 months or something! I didn’t know you could potty train so early,” declared Baby_B.

But gradually, some of our mums started to reveal that they had potty trained that early too.

“My LO is 5 months and we bought a potty when she started sitting unaided at 4 months,” cosmosucks told us.

“We mostly wanted to get her used to sitting on it but she took to weeing in it really well and so we now use it as often as possible, and she will in fact pat her nappy when she needs to go (and will frequently go 3/4 between nappy changes just patting nappy for potty, so lots of potty trips but totally dry nappy at change time).”

Wowbabies continued: “DS [Dear Son] was sitting unaided from 5 months so from 6 months I bought a potty and a couple of times a week would just get it out and let him sit on it (normally before bath time).

“He’s 14 months now and we have it out most nights before bath/bed and last week he did his first wee on the potty, most likely a total fluke, but I gave him lots of praise anyway and he sat there grinning like a Cheshire cat, bless him.

“I’m not expecting him to be fully potty trained any earlier than most other kids, I just think it’s less of a task when it comes to that time if he’s already used to it and getting the hang of it before then.”

Potty sitting at around 6 months

Wowbabies’ method is often called Potty Sitting, which you start as soon as your baby can sit up unaided, usually around 6 months. Younger babies are often less resistant to sitting on the potty compared to toddlers.

The philosophy: Your baby can potty train as soon as he can sit without help. Experts who support this approach claim that ‘late starters’ are more prone to bladder problems and bed-wetting later in life, but there’s no evidence to support this.

How long does it take? On average, around 10 months.

How can you help your child succeed?

  • Learn to observe the signs that your child’s about to go, and focus on his patterns.
  • Take your baby to the potty at regular intervals, until he can communicate his needs and be taken to the potty as required.
  • Teach your baby sign language and gestures that are repeated each time he uses the potty.
  • Use reusable rather than disposable nappies to speed up the learning process.

Mums themselves were potty trained early

“Apparently my mum started with us kids at 6 months,” continues Wowbabies, “and by 18 months we were dry in the day, and she said she just did that by just getting the potty out a few times a day and putting us on it, ignoring any accidents and praising anything that did go in the potty.”

Wowbabies’ experience of being potty-trained early herself by her own mum seems to be quite common among our forum mums that were doing it early too, but, if you’re thinking it all seems a bit soon – don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Gsmummy55 said: “I have nothing against early potty training but it’s far too much hassle for me. At age 2-3 they can tell you in clear terms if they need a wee/poo, can make their own way to the potty, sit on it & do it. Has it really ever been the norm to potty train by age 1?”

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Although it’s not become the norm to potty train so young, there are certainly a few mums trying it out. Still, other parents remain sceptical about the process: “At this age it is not true potty training,” said Maxnjacksmummy, “but all about ‘timing’ training and it is fluke if you catch them at the right moment or not.”

What the experts say

We spoke to children’s bowel and bladder charity ERIC who were aware of elimination communication (also known as infant potty training), but advised this needs to be done only with very young babies in order to work.

When it comes to actual potty training, the charity told us:

“To start potty training, children need to be physically ready and able to follow instructions. Every child is different; they learn to walk and talk at different times and they learn how to use the toilet at different times too.

“However, most children are ready to be potty trained between 18 months and 3 years.

“In order to potty train, your child’s bladder needs to be able to hold urine for approximately 1.5 hours, their bowel shouldn’t be constipated (this means they shouldn’t be pooing less than 4 times a week or more than 3 times a day) and fluid intake should be good.

“Potty training is also aided by development of independent skills and understanding of the task. This is obviously something which is not the case at 8 months of age.”

The bottom line

If you want to to potty train early, the elimination communication/infant potty training method an work – but you have to start really young (between birth and 4 months) for this to be effective.

Waiting until your child is 5 to 8 months has worked for some mums, but, as ERIC advises, it’s likely that, if you’ve missed the early window to train by elimination communication, most children will be ready at a later stage, ie, 18 months to 2 years.

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