When it comes to the transition from nappies to undies, there seem to be a lot of crappy stories (pun totally intended).
I asked my Instagram followers about their experiences and responses included; ‘Piss all over the carpet!’ ‘Clean up in aisle one, actually!’ ‘Stressful!’ ‘Took forever!’ There were a few ‘we just waited’ and ‘yeah nah it was fine’ comments, but they were drowned out by the sound of mimi splashing all over the floor. Sticker charts, reward systems, travelling potties, training pants, accidents, arguments, resistance. The majority consensus from my Insta mums? ‘Toilet training sucks’.
But does it have to?
What would happen if you took an ‘at their own pace’ approach? If there was no rush, no stress, no technique except time. Would it work? Or would the transition be a shitty one either way? (yep, another pun, I can’t help myself).
Early on in Ziggys life, AJ and I read an article that cemented our decision to approach toileting the same way we’ve approached sleeping, eating, pretty much everything really. We are here to guide and support, but ultimately he will do it when he is ready.
Now, this could be a fluke, but when Ziggy eventually made the transition to undies full time, it was the easiest thing ever. Little fuss, no resistance, and only a handful of mishaps. However, it wasn’t as simple as ‘Nappy, Nappy, Undies!’ and there were a few times we thought, well, we’ve fucked this up. But here we are.
So, I thought I’d share how our journey went. Because you know, we’ve done this once, so that makes us experts now.
The first mention of toilet training came early. Ziggy was barely crawling when Nana asked if we were starting because he was able to sit, and that’s when she started with her children. I laughed. Toilet training? Nana the kid can barely crawl! We talked about what she had done, which sounded similar to Elimination Communication, but honestly I couldn’t be arsed. Holding him over the toilet/potty after meals or when he showed the right cues? Ziggy boobed 348,037,606 times a day – I’d never leave the house!
I was all for the ‘wear a nappy until you don’t want to wear a nappy any more kiddo’ approach.
Around 18 months old, when the ‘toilet training’ talk had started to ramp up in social situations, we bought a potty. It seemed the logical ‘beginning step’, it was $4, so we figured – hey why not? Let’s see what happens.
Nothing. That’s what happened. Oh Ziggy thought the potty was great; He wore it as a crown, he put his toys in it, he played with it in the backyard. But when we encouraged him to sit on it he wasn’t keen at all.
Which actually made sense. The toilet and what happens in the toilet had never been a mystery to Ziggy. He came to the toilet with AJ and I, passed me toilet paper, and tried to help me wipe. We’d tell him what was happening, and explain that when he was bigger, he would use the toilet too.
He’d never seen AJ or I sit on a potty, and we sure as hell didn’t pop a squat in the lounge like we were trying to encourage he do.
So the potty retired to the garden as a water play accessory, and that was the end of that.
A few weeks later, Ziggy had a new word. ‘Toila!’. AJ and I were so proud of our genius child. Was this it? Was he ready now? One and a half sounds about right for ‘toilet training’ doesn’t it? So, I sat him over the toilet.
He grinned, reached for the toilet paper, pulled as much of it off as he could, then he asked to flush.
He kept asking, so we got the little seat that sits on top of the adult seat and he thought that was great. He asked for ‘toila’ heaps over the next few days, playing with the paper and flushing. One time he even did a pee, and I clapped and excitedly told AJ how awesome our toddler was. This was it!
And then he lost interest.
We wondered what we should do next. Should we pursue this interest in the toilet? Start ‘training’ and sitting him on it regularly. He knew what it was and what to do on it – so was ready to use it? Or should we step back and let him take the lead?
We stepped back. He wasn’t interested, and I couldn’t be bothered remembering to hold him over the toilet throughout the day.
He was 20 months old when he next asked. After some ‘no nappy’ time, he did the world recognised ‘I need to pee’ dance, and he asked for the toilet. We paused our movie and off he went with his dad, down the hallway. A minute or so later I heard ‘yay!’ and clapping. We have a pee! But he was more interested in toilet paper and flushing, and the toilet fun lasted about another week, before he lost interest, again.
Over the next few months, if Ziggy was outside with no nappy on he would pee on the grass, but if he was inside it was a nappy. I was fine with that arrangement. It saved on a bit of washing, and watering the garden was a bonus. But that’s as far as we took it. I was pregnant, tired, and the last thing I wanted was the juggle of a newborn and a toilet training toddler.
But by the time Ziggy was two and a half, six months after Jagger was born, with many of our friends at the sticker charts and reward systems, stage, the nagging voice in the back of my mind started up. ‘Wait till he’s ready aye Em’, ‘How’s that going for ya hey Em?’.
Why wasn’t he interested? He understood the concept. He was happy to pee on the grass, telling me ‘mum, I can feel the mimi coming’ but if he was inside, or if he needed a poo, he wouldn’t sit on the toilet. It was nappy or nothing.
Had we created a nappy dependence?
And then, he started showing an interest in undies. Well, he’d get into AJs underwear drawers and hang them around his neck. But hey, we’re opportunists, and we decided to use this interest and see if we could migrate them from his neck to his bum. We took him undies shopping, letting him choose the patterns. We got a pair of absorbent undies, hoping an in-between option would interest him.
Yeah. Nah. Our conversations would go a little like this.
‘Hey Ziggy, would you like a nappy, or undies?
‘Would you like undies or nothing?’
‘Would you like to wear undies?’ (No option for you kid, this is it).
‘No!’ he’d reply and run away, bare butt flashing in the sunshine.
It felt like we were taking one step forward and three back.
And so we dropped it. As nice as it would be to have 50% less nappies to wash, we didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. The last thing we wanted was to create negative associations around his bodily functions. I had read about kids holding it and getting constipated and I’d already sucked snot from his nose, I didn’t need to add ‘digging shit out of his bum’ to the list too.
He would get there eventually (or so we kept telling each other).
But then he was 3, and AJ and I were questioning our decision to ‘let Ziggy determine the pace’. He was one of the oldest kids at Kindy in a nappy. Most of his mates were in undies and I was keenly aware of his big nappy bum, especially when his nappy leaked.
Society was getting to me dammit.
One day, in a rare flash of brilliance, I walked out of the bedroom in my undies and a singlet.
“Mum, what are you doing?” Ziggy asked.
“I’m having an undies day,” I replied, “do you want an undies day too?”
“Yes!” he replied, eager to join in the fun.
Off came the nappy and on went the undies.
“Make sure you tell me if you need the toilet aye mate” I said.
And he did. He did! HE DID! It wasn’t even a thing, he just came to me and said ‘Mum, I need a mimi’ and off we went to the toilet. And that was that.
Seriously that was that.
Over the next few days, as Ziggy asked for the toilet every time he felt the urge AJ and I kept looking at each other, nervously laughing at how easy it was. Surely this was going to end soon?
But a week later and he was still in undies. Two weeks. Undies. Three weeks. Undies. He asked for a nappy once and I put it on, because I didn’t want to make an issue of it, and when I changed it we were back in undies.
It’s been over a month and Ziggy is an undies guy. No arguments. No clean ups. No issues when we are out and about. There was one mimi in the carseat after waking up from a nap, and a couple at Kindy in the early days (he told me ‘all kids have accidents aye mum’ and we had a chat about accidents not being something he ‘had’ to do), and that was it.
Okay, that’s not quite it. He wears a nappy overnight, he hasn’t quite got aiming under control, and he jiggles dry with great enthusiasm sending pee flying down his legs, but, considering that a month ago he was in nappies full time, it’s incredible how easy this has been.
So yeah, I think I’ve cracked this parenting business. Don’t bother stressing about anything and simply wait it out.
It’s working for the first child, although, now that I’ve called attention to it, the parenting gods are probably going to shit on my parade with the next one aye.
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Thanks, totally keen for this! My boy is almost 3 and no serious interest yet and lots of anxiety so definitely don’t wanna make it into a thing!
Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Makes me feel better hearing your 2 steps forward, 1 step back journey and knowing it all turned out fine in the end! Too much pressure to capitalise on the initial expression of interest “or else it will be too late” they tell you! xx
Thank you! Zig is now 4 1/2 and I can count the ‘accidents’ he has had on one hand 🙂