And multiple trips to the potty. And multiple times of wet underwear every day. And some amazing joys of a toddler learning to use the potty.
I seem to get the raised eyebrow when I mention that A. is wearing underwear and using the potty. “How old is she??? ” I’m asked incredulously. She is currently 15 months. When she was 12 months I started putting her in underwear at home during awake times. Why would I put my “baby” in underwear? She’s just going to go pee in it!
At first yes. As I mentioned in Cloth Diapers – Go For It! one of my reasons for using cloth diapers was so that A. would learn wet/dry. I’m not really sure this worked for her as she never fussed with a wet diaper. So my hope was that by wearing underwear A. would start the process of learning:
- I’m Wet
- I’m Going
- I Need to Go
Wet underwear certainly helps the child learn that they have gone pee/poo. My attempts at EC (Elimination Communication) didn’t pan out as successfully as I envisioned, despite gleaning all the little tips from my Montessori AtoI trainers of timing and glassy eyes. I figured if I was to step up my ability to help A. be successful at getting to the potty in time, I needed to figure out when she was naturally going pee. With wet underwear, this would certainly help me. I also wanted to catch the Sensitive Period for toileting (12-18 Months). I know from my Montessori training that underwear would aid in her motor development by not having a bulky diaper to impede her movement. It is recommended to switch to underwear once the child is crawling.
To start off I read Diaper Free Before 3 (about 3 times!). Super helpful book! I purchased some training underwear. I put extra cloths downstairs to clean up any extra messes that might occur. I already had a potty upstairs and downstairs that she was fairly comfortable using. I added some low stools for her to sit on so that she could become more involved in the undressing/dressing. We were ready to go!
I was already putting her on the potty at every diaper change so I just increased the number of times a day I was offering her an opportunity to use it. “It’s time to use the potty.” (I sign potty and say it verbally) I started putting her on the potty upon waking, before & after eating, before going out & upon the return home, and before bath. Or if we were at home for a long time I would keep an eye on her about 45 minutes – 1 hour after she had previously used the potty. By wearing underwear I quickly figured out some nuances. After breakfast means right away, do not even attempt to clean up. After lunch means after cleaning up and playing for a bit (about 15 minutes later). I learned that she doesn’t urinate a whole lot in the mornings but late afternoons/evenings she urinates quite frequently so I need to offer her more opportunities.
I was definitely gaining an awareness of her toileting needs by using underwear. I keep a neutral attitude towards wet pants. “Oh we need to go potty and change your wet pants.” I keep a neutral attitude, as much as possible, when she pees/poops or doesn’t pee/poop on the potty. “Oh you went pee.” “No pee this time.” Of course there are times when there have been a lot of wet pants that day and when she does go I’ll be so happy so I share with her “I am so proud of you for peeing in the potty.” I don’t give her any rewards or praise for going. I don’t give her any punishments, disappointment, or shame her for soiling her pants, nor do I refer to it as “having an accident.” I may give her encouragement such as “It must feel so good to have dry underwear and go pee in the potty.” As much as possible, I keep toilet learning matter-of-fact.
As I’ve previously shared, spending time together doing diaper changes is an important part of our bond. Changing that to toileting hasn’t been too big of an issue. We are in the washroom a whole lot more frequently. This route of toilet learning is exactly that – learning. It doesn’t happen overnight and I committed to spending a lot of time with A. to help her in this process. I really feel this is an important part of her development and giving her my time is important. I also feel like it is modeling that spending time on toileting is important. I don’t want her to ignore any urges she has to eliminate. I want to help her become successful at getting to the potty/toilet when she needs to eliminate.
Struggles. Yes underwear on my 1 year old has been filled with struggles. 6 wet sets of underwear and pants some days. Poopy underwear. More poopy underwear. [I’m quite thankful for purchasing Blueberry Trainers which not only contained the poop (including a getting over a gastrointestinal illness poop) but also have been easy to clean. Oh and cute, gender neutral patterns too! Because they have cotton interior and exterior, they allow the child to feel the wetness but due to the PUL in the middle, there are never any puddles.] There have been set-backs such as illness, immunizations, and a developmental leap. I figured there would be a set-back once she learned to walk (and there still may be as she’s not walking yet) but I didn’t think it would come when she learned to stand independently. A sudden resistance to using the potty was a surprise but by focusing on our relationship for a few days instead of focusing on the potty, we were back on track. There are constant surprises with this toilet learning journey.
“It is clear that toilet awareness is more than a matter of “dry pants” for the child.” ~Montessori From the Start
Surprises – and joys – that keep me motivated to stay on track. A.’s pooping habits have changed. Previously I would change a poopy diaper first thing in the morning. Occasionally I still do but it is becoming more frequent that she poops, most often in the potty, after breakfast. I’m thrilled that she seems to be gaining an awareness of her toileting needs. While not a lot, there have been a few times where she will come to me and fuss until I take her to the potty and then she immediately has a big pee. This is a huge step towards understanding her own urges to eliminate and I am so excited that she is gaining this awareness. There have also been days when her underwear has stayed dry all day. I think this is a combination of A. understanding that she is offered the potty at fairly regular intervals so will hold it or use it at those times and that I’ve figured out when she naturally needs to go. Long-term success is still a ways off but the short-term successes keep my heart warm that we’re on the right track. A huge joy for me is when A. pulls up her underwear. It is just adorable!
“The child’s nature is to aim directly and energetically at functional independence. Development takes the form of a drive toward an ever-greater independence. It is like an arrow released from the bow, which flies straight, swift and sure. …. While he is developing, he perfects himself and overcomes every obstacle that he finds in his path.
~ Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
Want to read more? Check out Melissa’s journey with her daughter at Vibrant Wanderings