I thought about titling this post “How We Potty Trained Luca,” but our potty training journey is not yet over. In this blog post, I’m going to talk all about why we decided to potty train when we did, how we potty trained, the obstacles we hit, and where we are today, four weeks later.
For timeline’s sake, here are the milestones:
- Sunday, November 3 – day 1 of potty training at home
- Wednesday, November 6 – sent him to school in a pull-up (per teacher’s advisement)
- Thursday, November 7 – kept him home from school, went commando
- Friday, November 8 – sent him to school, wearing a pull-up (per the teacher’s advisement)
- Monday, November 11 – sent him to school commando
- Week of November 17th – started self-initiating 50% of the time
- Sunday, November 24 – put him in underwear
- Today, December 3 – self-initiating 60-70% of the time
How We Knew Luca Was Ready for Potty Training
Frankly, we went on our parental guts. We knew it was time. He was asking a lot about the potty, wanted to sit on it, went pee a couple of times on it, and was always asking, “Dad pee pee? Mama pee pee?” and would go through our whole family, asking if they peed. He was clearly understanding that bodily function. He wasn’t telling us that he was peeing, but he always told us when he was making a poo (in his diaper.)
While him telling us about his need to poo was happening for a couple of months (prior to starting potty training), it was only a couple of weeks of him asking us about pee and showing interest in the potty. We knew at that point, it was time. I bought this potty, this potty insert, this travel potty, and this travel potty insert (seems like a lot, but we’ve used it all!) and I knew I was going to use the Oh Crap! potty training method (a bunch of friends were successful with it, so I wanted that support network as I was going through it) and I was ready.
There are a few “signs” of readiness for potty training, according to the Oh Crap! method. Luca hit all of them except the verbal ones. He can’t speak in complete sentences and his phrases are only 2-3 words right now, so that was my only hesitation. However, he’s extremely smart and can communicate anything. I knew in my heart he was ready, especially because he WANTED to use the potty (unprovoked!)
On November 2, we had a wedding in the city. We didn’t get back until 3am. The next day was a Sunday and that following Monday and Tuesday he had off of school for parent/teacher conferences and, per the Oh Crap! method, it’s recommended to have a 3 day window when your child can be at home, so this was our only window before 2020! We woke up, decided to do it, and we began! I literally read the book AS we were in the trenches of potty training (I don’t advise this, but I’m #justbeinghonest!)
How We Potty Trained Luca
I’m not going to outline the entire method (if you want to learn more about it, you can buy the book!), but basically it goes like this: you let your child run around naked (at home, haha!) for 2-3 days (some kids need less, some more) so that they can see themselves peeing/pooping and understand their own body signals and so that you can learn theirs (their “pee pee dance”) and get them to the potty when they need to go. For those first few days (which are CRAZY!) you are prompting your child to go. You say, “It’s time to go potty!” and take them to the potty when you think they have to go. The key is this: over-prompting can lead to a child’s resistance to using the potty (toddlers famously don’t like being told what to do!)
We learned his “pee pee dance” on the third day and then things starting clicking, because we were able to see when he had to go and immediately get him to the potty. The first week, we had the potty in the living room, where we were playing. Then, he preferred to go in the actual bathroom, so we put the potty there. Sometimes, he used the potty insert on the big potty and sometimes he used his little potty, it was random, and sometimes giving him the choice made him want to go pee on the potty more. When our nanny took him out, she brought the travel potty for when they were out at the park and he had to go and there was no bathroom in sight.
After the naked stage, you move on to the commando stage, which is where you put pants but no underwear/diapers/training pants on underneath. This is so that when they have an accident, they realize a) it doesn’t feel good and b) they don’t want to be embarrassed. So they learn not to pee their pants and let you know when they need to use the potty, in fear of wetting themselves. This is supposed to be for 2-3 weeks and once you feel confident in their potty training level, you go straight to underwear! No diapers, no training pants, no pull-ups.
As for the commando stage, the first few days of being commando, you’re supposed to only go on small “outings”, like no more than 10-20 minutes. Then, you slowly work up to longer outings or a full day out. For example, we let him go commando and run to the store downstairs or we’d take a walk around the block. Just little trips to build his (and our) confidence!
We did commando for 3 full weeks, and after that, we felt comfortable enough putting him in underwear, because he didn’t have any accidents for about 10 days or if he did, they were small ones. He looks so cute in tighty whities now!
Obstacles During Potty Training
During potty training, we hit some obstacles. Luckily, there was no difference in difficulty for pee or poop – he did both of them just as easily from the beginning (although he was always more amazed by his poops and still is, haha!):
He’s a camel
The toughest part for us is that Luca really has no set time when we know he needs to go potty, because he’s a camel. Meaning, he can hold it for a long time. Like, really long – one day he held it for 4 hours! The first 3 days were frustrating, because he only wanted to go when he REALLY needed to go and then, of course, it was too late. LOTS of accidents in the beginning. What worked for us best in this situation was prompting him at times that were motivating and we knew he must have to go, because he had drank a lot of water and it had been awhile, etc. For example, if we were leaving to go somewhere fun, we’d say, “Okay, first we put on our shoes, then we all go potty and then we go out.” He was happy to go potty so that he could get outside. Other ways were before an activity, like, “Let’s play Playdoh! First we go potty, then we play.”
In general, Luca has to go potty every 1.5 hours, depending on how much he drinks (that’s also tough, because frequency of potty time depends on how much liquid/food intake, just like with us adults!) Anyway, the point is this – after a few days in the trenches, you’ll learn your kid too!
Having to hold his penis down
This may be TMI, but for those boy moms about to go through this, I figured I’d share. With Luca’s anatomy, when he just sits to go potty, the pee stream sticks straight up in the air. Thus, we have to hold down his penis so it shoots in the potty (the potty guards never block it completely.) This is hard, because it makes it so that we always have to hold his penis when he pees, and it’s tough for anyone else but us (teachers, the nanny, etc) because they of course feel uncomfortable doing that.
Going to school
Speaking of school, this was another obstacle. In the book, they very explicitly instruct you to not use training pants or Pull-ups but to go commando after the “naked phase.” We spoke to the teacher about this and she felt like Luca wasn’t ready for this because he showed a resistance to using the potty when they’d try to take him at school (they were doing this when he was in diapers, just as part of their daily routine when they’d change his diaper, they’d ask him if he wanted to try the potty.) I didn’t want to make the teacher feel uncomfortable, so I sent him in Pull-ups. This was kind of a bummer, but I dealt with it, made it the weekend, had him commando all weekend and then told the teacher (he went 4 days without a single accident) that he was ready. And he has only had 1 accident at school since then!
Play vs. potty
If Luca is playing, it’s virtually impossible to tear him away to do potty. He’ll get hysterical and throw himself on the floor, even if he drank a gallon of water an hour prior. He just never wants to stop playing, he rather pee his pants and just ignore it. We’ve learned to manage this by offering him another play activity that’s more exciting. For example, “Are you done with playing cars? Do you want to play blocks instead? Yes? Okay, let’s go potty first and then we’ll get your blocks.” That usually does the trick!
Potty Training Now – How We’re Doing
Well, we’re 30 days in! About 10 days ago, Luca was in a bit of a regression, which I later realized was primarily our fault. We got cocky with his potty ability and forgot to prompt him. He had a couple accidents back to back for a few days and I was worried. After we started prompting him again and paying more attention to the clock and going back to basics a bit, he stopped having accidents and then, miraculously, he really started self initiating (telling US when he needs to go potty) and that’s the next stage – him prompting us, not the other way around.
Potty training moving forward is going to be all about waiting until he starts self initiating while continuing to prompt him. I know he’ll get there and what I’ve realized is that it’s not just something that we’ll do and it’ll be over with. It’s a process! And I’m okay with that. I am so, so happy to be out of diapers with him and he feels so triumphant when he uses the potty (he loves to flush the potty after he goes!) It’s great to see him with this sense of pride at such a young age, I’m really proud of him.
After the consistent self initiation, the next stage will be naps and nighttime, which we are currently putting him in diapers for. 80-90% of the time, he wakes up dry and we take his diaper off and go to the potty (sometimes he asks for it right when he wakes up!), so I don’t think it’ll be that difficult, but we chose not to do this because he’s still in a crib and we didn’t want to put him in a toddler bed just for the sake of potty training. Enough life transitions for one time!
Here are a few pointers if you’re going to do the Oh Crap! potty training method:
- Try to really figure out that pee-pee dance on the first day, it’ll make your job a lot easier.
- Try your darnedest NOT to overprompt. We definitely overprompted on the second day and it was a disaster – a lot of hysterical resistance. We didn’t know his pee pee dance and we didn’t know he was a camel just yet.
- Don’t overload your child with liquids or else his pee pattern will be unreliable/unpredictable and you’ll be left scratching your head.
- Buy your child some new toys or plan some new activities to make staying in your home for 2-3 days more bearable. For us, Luca is extremely active and he’s not the “sit and color” type, so it was tough keeping him inside for 3 days – we were all going stir crazy! In retrospect, I wish I had planned some activities (like sensory bins or something) that were new to occupy him. Thankfully, our Lovevery block set came that weekend and that provided endless hours of fun! If I didn’t have that, I would’ve been SOOL.
- Don’t worry if you have to break the Oh Crap! method rules a bit for your situation. You know your baby best! For us, we put him commando on the first day for 10 minutes because he got the hang of it and we just HAD to get out of the house. It was fine! We also sent him to school in pull-ups because we wanted to respect the teachers’ wishes.
- Try to find a friend who is going through it at the same time as you so you can text each other/vent, haha!