Until a month ago, I had enjoyed a potty-training-free life with my toddler. We had cloth diapered my son for all 2 years, which gave me little monetary incentive to potty train him now, as we spend pennies per week washing his diapers. I had listened to all the frustrations and complications my friends had experienced and were currently going through with the process of potty training their toddlers. The more I heard, the more I dreaded the process myself. But with a new baby also in diapers, I needed a quick and effective method to help my 2 1/2 year old learn to use the potty. Having two kids in diapers wasn’t the most exciting picture for the year ahead. I was already doing too much diaper laundry…
The 3 Day Potty Training Method
A couple of my friends had tried and recommended the 3 Day Potty Training by Lorna Jensen. It was a quick read (about 1.5 hrs) and everything she said made complete sense. I decided to give it a try.
My toddler was 28 months when I started this method. I knew that if we didn’t try it now while my youngest was still under 3 months of age, it would only become more difficult to give the potty training the attention needed to make it successful. Worst case scenario? We try it and it doesn’t work out and he goes back into diapers. I owed it to him to at least give him a real chance to prove he was ready for this big step.
I should also note that I noticed a clear developmental milestone in my child that signaled he was ready for potty training. At around 25-26 months he began to understand the concept of a timeline a bit more. “You can go outside AFTER you wash your sticky hands.” This was definitely KEY to the success of our potty training. I could explain “WHEN you have to pee, tell mommy and we will go to the potty.” And “You may have a jelly bean AFTER you pee in the potty.” It would have been very difficult to potty train without this time concept. For this reason, it is my suggestion that waiting until your child has crossed this development milestone will lead to more successful potty training. Lora Jenson suggests a child can potty train as early as 22 months. That, of course, is up to you!
In preparation I did everything I could to make these 3 days of being cooped up with a free-roaming peeing, pooing toddler as smooth as possible.
- For weeks before we started the 3 days, I emphasized that poop was yucky and he helped me flush the poop down the toilet like I always do using cloth diapers. We read books about potty as well.
- I had all the stuff: loads of undies in fun prints that would get him excited about wearing big boy undies; a potty chair; stepstool, extra bedsheets. I also decided to get a couple types of training pants for night time use, just incase he was successful in potty training 100% during the day and not at night completely. I didn’t want unsuccessful night potty training to put an end to successful daytime training. I was totally willing to use pullups at night if he could wear undies successfully during the day. I grabbed 1 Blueberry Training Pant and 1 Charlie Banana Swim Diaper/training pant, as well as a pack of Earth’s Best Disposible Training Pants. I Figured we would see what worked best for us and get more of whatever that was later. I also liked the idea of the washable training pants working a lot like undies should we need to go on a longish car ride and I need to make sure that if there was a potty accident in the car, it didn’t get everywhere.
- I decided to impliment a reward system that used a pillbox (from the dollarstore). Fun stickers cover up the days of the week and inside is a portioned reward surprise for successfully using the potty. I figured this way there would be no argument about how many candies (you get what is in the box you open) and it would also be fun for my tot to open the pill box and find the surprise.
- I also put together a reward basket for when he successfully went poo on the toilet. I decided to wait to tell him about this basket of goods until he showed signs of needing to go poo. Going poo has usually been something he doesn’t like doing, so I needed a stronger reward for that than candies.
- I planned super easy meals for the 3 nights that wouldn’t require my full attention.
- I ran all my errands prior to our 3 day potty lock-in and cleared the calendar.
- Last, but certainly not least: I covered my couch in old towels *just incase* and made sure I had a couple rolls of paper towels on hand.
The night before I re-read the book, did some yoga to get in a zen mindset and tried to enjoy a good night’s rest (assuming the next week would be full of multiple bedsheet changes, jumping out of bed as soon as I heard my toddler begin to wake in the mornings, and late nights doing pee-pee laundry). I reminded myself that if this worked, it would be so worth it to not have 2 kids in diapers at the same time. THAT, my friends, would be my reward.
What Really Happened: The Diary
We started on Memorial Day when daddy was home from work. This proved to be an excellent choice, as I have already had to utilize his help juggling the kid’s needs while we start potty training. In the morning I explained to my son that today he would start wearing big boy underpants and using the big boy potty. We took off his last diaper and I explained that diapers are for babies. I told him to give the rest of the diapers in his drawer to his baby brother. He was happy to do so. He then put on a pair of big boy undies while standing up. He kept wanting to lay down like when I change his diaper, but I asked him to stand up to put on big boy underpants. In the bathroom I explained that when he had to pee, let mommy know and he would use the big boy potty.
He peed his first pair of underpants within 20 mins of having them on. Through the first half of the day, I sounded like a broken record repeating the potty reminder and my son piddled on the floor and went through about 8 pairs of underpants. Every time I repeated my montra he would say “OK!” very emphatically. I never asked him if he needed to pee, I simply reminded him every 15 minutes and rushed him to the bathroom to sit on the potty every time he started to pee. After the first accident, I showed him the reward pillbox full of candies and explained how to get one. The next time he started to pee his underpants, we rushed him to the potty and he actually peed in the toilet a little. So then he opened a reward box. For a kid who never eats candy, other than some chocolate chips when we bake cookies, this was an amazing incentive. But I was consistent and only gave him a reward when he actually peed in the toilet (never for just sitting on the potty after having an accident).
For nap time, I had briefly sat him on the potty before putting him to bed (he didn’t pee) and I put a cloth training pant with some absorbency on him. He ended up wetting the bed completely after a 3 hr nap. I’m really not sure if he wet himself while sleeping or if he peed right when he woke up. I ran in there as soon as I heard him, but my son is usually a happy, quiet waker and will lay quietly for awhile before making any noise.
The rest of the evening went pretty much like the morning had gone. Before bed, he sat on the potty for a minute, didn’t pee and then I put a pullup on him. I was already at the end of my rope with patience and I needed a full night’s rest. My newborn would be waking me at least twice and both of them would be up early with the sun. There was no way I was going to be woken up multiple times a night to change bedsheets, pjs and put a toddler back to bed.
I did a load of laundry (that included 12 wet toddler boxer briefs, a soaked bedsheet, blanket and other items), put my infant to bed and passed out. I was more exhausted than after normal day with the kids, I was beat.
I woke up trying to feel positive, but secretly dreading day 2 of potty training bootcamp. I felt like the pee castapo and my sidekick (husband) was back at work today. I repeated the explanation of wearing big boy underpants to my son and we started our day. The first accident happened just like the ones from the day before. But then something changed. The next time he needed to pee, he actually told me! We went to the potty. I was very excited. He sat down. No pee. This happened three or four times in a span of 15 minutes where he would say “pee!” “OK!” would smile, “let’s go to the potty.” He would sit and nothing would happen, so I’d ask him if he was done. Yes. Ok, then let’s put your underpants back on. After these false trips to the potty, he had a huge accident that had a trail all the way to the bathroom from my attempt to carry him to the potty mid-stream. This whole routine happened yet again just 45 minutes later.
By now my inner self was almost in tears. My 2 month old was going through a growth spurt this day and he was nursing every 1 1/2 to 2 hours, needing me much more than usual and certainly much more than I could give him on a day like this. My house was a disaster because I wasn’t cleaning up after our messes like usual as we went about our day. I started doing calculations about how much pullups cost and starting to rationalize to myself that maybe we could just go back to diapers or have him learn to use the potty wearing pullups…
Then it happened. “Mommy!…. pee!”. We run to the potty. He sat down. Nothing. I turned on the facet to a tinkling sound and sang a little made up song about peeing in the potty to make it fun. Then he peed in the potty! What I really wanted to do was a touchdown dance, but instead I reighned in my excitement and simply congratulated him, we hi-fived and then I invited him to open a treat window from the pillbox. Success. Best of all, the next time he needed to pee it all went in to the potty AGAIN. We called daddy on the phone to brag about how he peed in the potty… he loved this.
Naptime rolls around and same as Day 1, I put him in the reusable training underwear. He woke up wet, but not as wet as the day before. The rest of the day he only had one accident and used the potty three times!
The morning of day three I woke up an hour before my toddler. I was highly optimistic at this point and excited to start the day, as I had some really fun craft projects and toddler science exploration projects planned for our day. It is very unusual for us be to stuck at home so many days in a row, so both of us were getting a bit irritated by the cooped up feeling and I had hoped some projects would help pass the time.
When he woke up, his pullup was a little damp, but not soaked like it usually is when he was wearing diapers. I didn’t ask him in the morning to go pee, I just said “let’s go potty so you can put on your big boy undies”. It seemed a natural transition from the night time pullup to the underpants to see if he had to pee. He didn’t, so I had him hop off the potty. 20 minutes later he was playing trains while I made breakfast. He started to pee and said “pee!” Midstream, he stopped peeing and we ran to the bathroom. He finished peeing on the potty. The rest of the morning he used the potty and didn’t have any accidents. We did art and science projects together. I still reminded him about letting me know when he had to pee, but not as often; maybe every 35 minutes.
I figured out his patterns and his signs that he needed to pee. For about 45 minutes after going to the potty, it was very unlikely that he would need to go again. I started being more vigilant and reminding more once it had been about an hour since he had last peed. This seemed to be a good groove, because I could let him have a bit more freedom (so I wasn’t stalking him) for at least a half hour after successfully using the potty.
However, the dreaded poo entered the scene on this evening. He was definately witholding because he didn’t want to sit on the toilet to go poo. He was clingy and irritable in the evening for this reason. Many times he asked to go to the potty to poo-poo, but sort of chickened out once he got there and either sat with nothing happening, sat and went pee or changed his mind. We didn’t force it and tried to make light of it by telling him that everyone poops, even mommy, daddy and baby. The next morning he woke up with a slightly damp pullup and a full BM in his pullup. He had gone poo in his pullup before making any noise to let me know he was awake. I wasn’t too worried about this, as my kid predictably has a BM every 2-3 days and really does let you know when it is going to happen. We can work on it as he gets more comfortable with the potty. And I will be serving up lots of go-go foods to encourage an easier passage…
Day 4 we actually stayed home the entire day as well. It seemed my newly potty trained tot was still practicing his ability to get to the potty on time. I didn’t want to have him regress just for one outing were I wasn’t certain where the potty would be at any given location and I certainly couldn’t stop on the freeway for him to go pee. We stayed home, and he used the potty like a star all day. He had one small accident after his morning pee but I think this was because he was playing outside in the yard and didn’t realize how to handle the situation of having to come in the house and tell me. The rest of the day was 100% dry underpants. The pair I put on him at 9am that morning was the pair I took off when he went to bed. Awesome!
Another bonus to Day 4 was after his nap when he woke up and shouted “mommy, pee!”. I rushed into his room and took him to the potty. He peed (a lot) and his pullup was totally dry! That night before bed he used the potty. A half hour after putting him to bed he shouted “mommy, daddy, pee!” He got up to go potty and then went back to bed. The ability already to wait during naptime to pee and then to get up to use the potty while drifting off to sleep is impressive. He might be night time potty trained sooner than I thought!
It has been 3 weeks since my son started this method to potty train. All that has learned has stuck and it didn’t take him any time at all to learn to “hold it” until we found or reached a potty. On Day 6 he went out with daddy and grandpa for two and half hours, all while drinking a full sippy cup of water. He didn’t ask to go pee while out and made it to the potty at home with dry underpants. I was very impressed! He voluntarily “trained” himself not to pee during naptime already and is nearly there for night time potty training. Typically he has a slightly damp pullup in the morning but does wake up and go pee right away. I am willing to compromise and let him wear a pullup at night so that he and the rest of the household can get a good night’s sleep. I figure night time potty training will come with practice and time (and as his bladder gets bigger to hold 10 hours of pee). Also, he will need to be in a toddler bed so he can go to the bathroom when he feels the need. Right now he still sleeps in a crib.
It has taken a bit longer for my little guy to feel comfortable going poo on the potty. For the first two weeks he would go in his pullup in the mornings. However, during the third week he just kept holding for about 4-5 days. I was so close to having to use a supository to make him go so he wouldn’t become distended. A few hours after I had decided this would be a good idea, he danced around refusing to go poo on the potty again and then stopped and made a poo face. Rushing him to the potty resulted in half the BM in his underpants and half in the toilet. He seemed very relived to experience pooing in the potty and how it was OK.
What we learned from the 3 day method:
- It really does work!
- It can be frustrating when you are in the middle of Day 1-2. A positive mindset and consistency are key. Remember that once your child is potty trained you won’t have to deal with any of the nonsense of potty training again. You won’t have to teach them in a long drawn out frustrating manner. Also, remember that up until this point, you have “taught” your child to go to the bathroom in a diaper. It is going to take practice (i.e. peeing on the floor) for them to relearn the process for going potty and get in tune with their body’s signals that they need to pee.
- Your toddler is getting in touch with their body and paying attention to the sensations of having to urinate. How cool is that!? Remember how cool that is as you wipe up a trail of pee-pee, it will make your knees hurt less.
- Go over with all the adults who will be in contact with the child during the 3-4 days exactly how to word things and exactly what and what not to do or say. This will help the child understand the process if everyone around them abides by the same expectations and reward systems.
- Your house will likely be a mess. If you are a neat freak like me, this can add to the frustration. Just know that this is going to happen and be ok with it. Plan on cleaning up during naptime and just before you crash for bed.
- Add a “Day 4” onto this method as a safety net. You might not want to rush out with a newly potty trained toddler. Or plan a low key playdate at a friend’s house who has a potty seat and another child of similar age so your child can show off their new potty skills for one of their peers.
- You really do need all those underpants. I started this process with 23 pairs and have had just enough to make it through while doing wash twice during the 3 days. I purchased some pairs that are a size too big for my toddler. Those ones were put away for later now that he is accident-free.
- When I do this again with my youngest I plan on doing take-out meals for those three days. Even just having to throw together an easy meal that was already premade was too much to handle. Next time I will have my husband pick something up on his way home from work each of the three nights.