So we did it…and we live to tell the tale. We potty trained Lake in 3 days. Now, to be fair, as I am typing this post almost a month later we are having a rough couple days of regression and accidents. But for the most part Lake is completely potty trained.
We followed the 3 day method of potty training, which essentially means you do a 3 day boot camp where you focus on nothing else, which allows you to be super consistent throughout the 3 days. No mixed signals, no breaks in a diaper, no confusion. After all, these are 2 year olds! The supposed ideal window for the 3 day method is between 22 and 26 months. Based on my experience, this was a perfect window for both of my kids. We used the same method for Adam and he was more or less trained in a day and a half. The reasoning behind this age range is based on the ability to handle the concept and communicate with you when they need to go (not necessarily in words) without being old enough to be defiant which can result in a power struggle. If they are older or younger it can still work, it just may take a few days longer. I also want to point out that neither of my kids were “ready” in an obvious way. They didn’t show interest in going on the potty, they didn’t care about being a big kid. I just followed the advice of experts that said said this was the right time to try. I also knew that summer would be a good time to work on getting through the accident stage which is bound to happen regardless of when you do the initial training. There are hundreds of variations on this method based on books and articles written by doctors, psychologists, and moms which you can find all over the internet. The version we chose is based on consistency, patience, and love. Here is the run down if you are interested in trying this one with your babes!
~ Clear your schedule for 3 days. Plan on not leaving the house, or having your baby leave the house, for 3 days. For as much of this time as possible try to have it be just the two of you, you will need constant attention on them all day with no distractions. Most people choose to do this over a weekend, but our house is quieter during the week with Adam at school and Alex at work so we chose Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. If you are lucky, by day 3 they will have the hang of it and you might be able to venture out for an hour here and there, but it may not work out that way so be fully prepared for 3 full days.
~ Patience, patience, patience, love, love, love. These 3 days will push you to the edge, you will get frustrated and exhausted. But you can’t get frustrated with your baby. It will only make them upset and not want any part of any of it. This method is based on love, support, and positive reinforcement.
~ Treats for rewards. This is a rewards based process. At this age they have zero incentive to be potty trained. They most likely don’t care about being a “big kid” or wearing fancy underwear instead of diapers. For these 3 days their incentive is praise, pride and treats. I used M&Ms and stickers. I wouldn’t recommend candy rewards if you are doing any sort of method that takes longer than 3 days or you will end up feeding them M&Ms every day for months, but by the time we got through day 2 she wasn’t even asking for them or expecting them.
~ Potty chair or potty seat. I used a little potty chair for Adam (this was my favorite). But Adam took a little bit of time transitioning from his potty seat to a real toilet so I decided to forgo that step with Lake and skip right to a potty seat on the toilet. I took her to Target a few days before starting and she chose this one. She also sees Adam using this type of seat so she thought it was really cool. It’s also nice to have a travel potty chair for the back of your car (gross but necessary in LA) and public restrooms which might be intimidating for them at first. This one is great because it has disposable bags for quick and painless clean up. Plus it folds up and fits in your diaper bag.
~ Cute undies that your baby will be excited about. Like 20 pairs if you don’t want to constantly be doing laundry throughout those first few days. When you are potty training young, it’s hard to find the right size. Most start at 2T and they are usually a big 2T. I found my favorite set when we were in London, they fit the best because they are 18-24 months. I have yet to find them in smaller sizes here. I also bought pullups for naptime and bedtime. They look and feel more like underwear than diapers. Many experts will tell you it’s just as easy to train them for naps and bedtime at the same time, but I was fine waiting with Adam until his body did it naturally. Within six months he consistently woke up dry after naps and within a year at night. Then we were able to ditch the pullups.
~ Lots of extra fun drinks. We don’t normally drink juice in our house, but for 3 days you want them drinking all day so you have lots of trips to the potty and training opportunities. The more the better. So we stocked up on organic apple juice, real fruit popsicles and yogurt smoothies. Don’t expect to have time to make your own smoothies, it will distract you from the real task at hand. In fact, we ordered in every meal for the first 2 days. The minute you turn around to cook something you might miss a peepee opportunity.
~ Paper towels and cleaning solution. Keep them next to you at all times. I also like having flushable wipes in the all the bathrooms. Much easier cleanup on the babes.
~ Day 1. We woke up and had breakfast as usual. Then we rolled back all the rugs in the house, no use freaking out over the vintage kilim, you will have enough to worry about! After breakfast as Adam was getting ready for school, we announced that Lakey was ready to be a big girl and go peepee on the potty. She got to wear big kid underwear like Adam (hers have Anna and Elsa on them) and throw all of her diapers in the garbage. This was a fun step for her. She walked into her room, grabbed all the diapers left in the box, and threw them in the garbage herself. She was very proud. Then we all walked into the bathroom and told her this is where she should go potty now. We dressed her in only undies and a tshirt s I could always see if she was having an accident, even a small one. I don’ recommend them being naked, they need to be able to feel the uncomfortable feeling of the wet underwear. Of course this time of morning is utter chaos so she had her first accident within minutes and I didn’t catch it right away. So I promptly kicked Adam and Alex out of the house for work and school and we got down to business. Every time she started to go, I would rush her into the bathroom and say, “no, no Lakey, we go peepee on the potty.” That first morning was accident after accident. Tiny puddles all over the floor every 10-15 minutes. Each time, we ran to the toilet to try to get her to “finish” on the potty. Mostly to no avail. I would say, “Lakey we go peepee on the potty, not in your underwear, it feels yucky to go in your underwear.” By the time lunch rolled around 4 hours later I had washed and dried her undies too many times to count and even moved on to some of Adam’s. She just didn’t get it. But we powered on. I continued to say “Lake tell mommy when you need to go potty.” About a thousand times an hour. This is opposed to asking the question, “Do you need to go peepee?” By telling her to let me know, the power was in her hands. If you are dealing with a potential power struggle, this can go a long way. It let her know that I trusted her and that it was up to her to tell me when it was time. This also means to not force them onto the potty to “try.” Even if you KNOW they need to go. By “trying” every 20 minutes and just hoping they go like some methods suggest, it’s not training their body to learn when they need to go and holding it until they get to the bathroom. I don’t like methods that suggest putting potties all over the house for the same reason. They can and will learn how to hold it until they get to the bathroom. At one point towards the end of our first morning, Lake started with an accident and we make it onto the potty to have her finish with a couple drops. So I gave LOTS of praise and she got a treat. This was the first time she truly realized treats were involved and she was super excited. By the time I got her down for her nap I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I spent her naptime cleaning the floors and washing underwear, then it was time to pick up Adam for school. I woke her up from a deep sleep and immediately said lets go peepee. She sat down and went, a lot. Cue lots of praise and treats. On the way to school I continued saying, tell mommy if you need to go peepee and we can go peepee in the back of mommy’s car. She said once she needed to go so we pulled into a parking lot and she went. Lots of praise and treats. She made it through school pick up and all the way back home without going. And from then on she had a great day. She told me every 20 minutes or so that she needed to peepee and we did. Including going poop a couple times. Interestingly enough in those first couple days she preferred to be in the bathroom alone. So I would step out of the room and watch her through a crack in the door, she would go, then I would go back in and help her down. At the end of the night we put a pullup on for bed, she told me she needed to go one more time as I put her down, I took her to the potty, then she went to bed. Day 1 complete! It was rough and exhausting for both of us, but I focused on trying to be as patient as possible and loved her up giving praise whenever I could. I would even say, “Lake, is your underwear still dry? It is? Yay!” Any opportunity to make this a positive rather than negative experience seemed to help. We called Daddy and Grandparents when she successfully went on the potty. It was a really big deal.
~ Day 2. More of the same. We stayed at home all morning, she told me every 20 minutes or so she needed to go peepee and she would go. She continued to get treats and praise. By the afternoon she still had no accidents and was completely comfortable going on the potty. Feeling confident, after her nap in a pullup I put on her swimsuit and took the kids to the pool with friends. She went on the big potty at the pool both before and after swimming. When we use big potties I have her sit on the side of the toilet rather than the front, so the space on the toilet seat doesn’t get in our way. On the way home we needed to stop at the pharmacy for antibiotics for Adam, a trip I would have avoided if I could, and of course she had an accident while we were there. I wasn’t paying attention to her, it was the end of the day and she was tired, and it was just a big mess. We went home and she went on the potty, then went to bed in a pullup. It was a sad way to end an otherwise great day. But I ultimately knew it was my fault for pushing her. And luckily she bounced back quickly and it didn’t upset her.
~ Day 3. She stayed home allll day. No accidents. I ran some errands with strict instructions for our babysitter (and saint) who handled the process perfectly. There were no accidents, she told the babysitter when she needed to go peepee and poops, and forgot to even ask for rewards. This had already become her norm. She was a happy big kid and I was a happy mama.
Since these 3 days we have traveled on an airplane for 3 hours, driven on long car rides, been out and about running errands and she’s been a total champ. Yes, we have to go to the bathroom a lot, but she is comfortable going on any big toilet. And she’s already able to go longer stretches in between, sometimes one or two hours. I put a pullup on her for the plane, and when we landed it was totally dry. And she went potty as soon as we got off the plane.
I completely swear by this super consistent, super loving process. Is it exhausting? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely. If you have the ability to be home to just focus on potty training and you are within the ideal age range, it can totally work. If you have been trying to have your baby go on the potty occasionally, or trying a different method and would like to try this one, I would recommend stopping talking about going potty for a couple weeks before you start this one so that you can start fresh with no confusion. This method is all about consistency, so their tiny bodies can learn that EVERY time they go it should be on the potty. You seriously can’t leave their side until it clicks or it could delay the end result. It’s also a really great excuse to spend uninterrupted time with your babes, which is ALWAYS a good thing! Good luck!