3 ages to start potty training

Can you really potty train from birth? What about a six month old? Or should you wait till at least 18 months? We reveal three different approaches


Views differ radically on when the best time is to start potty training. Many mums will find their mums recommend potty training as soon as possible, certainly by the age of one. These days many people are more leave it later, some not starting until their child is three. Others opt to start as soon as their child is sitting up unaided, or even from birth.


We explain three methods for different ages:

  • Toilet training from birth
  • Potty sitting
  • Out of nappies – cold turkey

Toilet training from birth

When do you start? Birth to 4 or 5 months.

The philosophy: If parents condition a baby to go in his nappy in the early months, he must later ‘unlearn’ this. ‘Infant pottying’ or ‘elimination communication’ is about parents listening and responding to their baby’s signals. It requires patience and gentleness but can be very rewarding for both you and your baby.

How long does it take? About two years, but most babies will have reasonable control by 12-18 months.

What do you have to do?

  • Observe your baby’s elimination patterns and body language.
  • Following your baby’s cues, hold the infant over a potty or other receptacle. At the same time, give an audible signal, such as ‘sssss’.
  • After a while your baby learns to relax his muscles on receiving these cues, remaining dry and clean between most sittings.

The pros

  • Enhances child-parent bonding through early communication.
  • By cutting out on nappies, it saves money and helps the environment.

The cons

  • Less suited to a colder climate since being aware of your baby’s bodily functions is easier if your baby’s bare-bottomed or in minimal clothes.
  • Requires a lot of hands-on attention and patience.

Who is it suited to? A parent who’s the primary carer for at least two years, or a working parent with a trustworthy, reliable helper.

For more info visit Diaper Free Baby

Potty sitting

When do you start? As soon as your baby can sit up unaided, usually around 6 months. Younger babies are the least resistant to sitting on the potty and once a child becomes mobile, training can be trickier.

The philosophy: Your baby can potty train as soon as he can sit without help. Experts who support this approach believe that ‘late starters’ are more prone to bladder problems and bed-wetting later in life.

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

What do you have to do?

  • 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 cloth rather than disposable nappies to speed up the learning process.

The pros

  • Enhances non-verbal communication skills, believed to aid language development.
  • Reduces the number of nappies used.

The cons

  • High level input from parents/carers.
  • Requires regular eating and drinking schedule.

Who’s it suited to? Parents who enjoy working to a regular schedule, with time to devote to their child’s non-verbal communication and taking their child regularly to the potty.

Out of nappies – cold turkey

When do you start? From 18 months, but usually at 2 to 3 years. Your child needs to be able to communicate his need for the potty verbally and participate more actively in the toilet training.

The philosophy: Potty-training will only work when your child’s ready. Some children can start as young as 18 months but others may not have the physical and cognitive skills until they’re 4 years old. When potty training is started too soon, the process takes longer and is often met with resistance and rebellion.

How long does it take? Sometimes days, but usually anything from one to five months.

What do you have to do?

  • Encourage your child to sit on the potty to get used to it before training starts in earnest.
  • Stop putting your child in nappies during the day. Some parents use training pants to avoid accidents, but this may send a confusing message to the child. Results may be quicker with a ‘cold turkey’ approach.
  • Once in knickers, encourage your child to sit at regular intervals, starting every 15 minutes, and increasing to longer intervals as the days go on. Within days many parents find their child is taking the initiative.

The pros

  • The process is completed quicker, even though it’s started later.

The cons

  • Toddlers are more prone to contrariness and the process can become a battle of wills, or an opportunity for negative attention seeking.

Who’s it suited to? Parents or carers of children who are aware of bowel and bladder movements, willing to follow simple instructions and who can communicate their needs.


For more info visit our Wee Can Do This potty training campaign

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