All it takes is a little bit of gumption and little bit of confidence. (If you're lacking in either, I have plenty to spare - borrow some of mine.)
If you're reading this because you have a baby or young toddler, the very best time to start is Right Now. Today. That's because the biggest barrier to baby pottying is your mindset, and the quickest way to change that is to take action. The sooner the better. This page is for you!
If you're pregnant (congratulations!) read this page as if you have a newborn at home. Or take a look at the online classes for advice on starting the day your baby is born (including using a potty in hospital).
If you have an older toddler (18-24 months plus) you can still use baby-led pottying concepts to kick start potty training. This page focuses on the first catch and getting over the mental hurdle of using a potty with a child deemed culturally "too young". By the time your toddler is 18 months, that's not so much of a concern and you'd be better off going into pottying with a visionary game plan. For that, you need to understand how your toddler will learn to take responsibility for their own toileting or it's going to be frustrating for everyone.
Remember the basic premise of baby-led pottying? To use a potty rather than a nappy.
It's not difficult and you could start right now without reading any further! But I've written this section in case you want to get started without doing too much creative thinking. I've done this before, I've helped a lot of people, and I know where the stumbling blocks are - even for parents with the best of intentions!
When friends or bystanders saw me potty my babies I'd get one of two gobsmacked reactions: "How did you know?!" or "That was lucky!" They're both the right response. Sometimes, I knew for sure. Other times, I was guessing - but my guesses were pretty good because I made my own luck.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Pottying prep is quite simple, and you'll get many opportunities a day. So you have pretty good odds of 'being lucky' in this game.
In four simple steps.
1) Psych Up: Change the way you think!
2) Predict: When are you expecting your next opportunity?
3) Prepare: 'See' exactly what you're going to do and how you're going to do it!
4) Practice: Every time you practice that counts as prep for the next time around. You'll learn something, your baby will learn something, and your little team will get luckier and luckier.
Think of this page as your preparation check list. By the time you've read to the end you should be eagerly awaiting your first opportunity. Which brings us to...
Recognise the next opportunity when it comes along!
You'll have many opportunities every day, but to get started you need to focus on one.
One. Specific. Well Defined. Opportunity.
That way your prep can be specific too. It won't take up much space in your brain, and you'll have a decent chance of success.
Skip to the First Pottitunity Cheat Sheet Quiz.
I'll guide you through your options as if you were at one of my workshops, and you'll come out the other end with a tailor-made cheat sheet, all ready to offer your first pottitunity!
Create your own personal cheat sheet.
I'll guide you through your options as if you were at one of my workshops.
Change The Way You Think
After a feed, on a bench: the perfect time to save a nappy. Easy. And worthwhile.
(One week old, with help from the four year old.)
9 Million Disposables
go to landfill every day in England and Wales.
That's 3.28 billion per year.
You can start baby pottying because it makes perfect sense and help the planet at the same time.
Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity
With so many opportunities to practice your pottying you can become very lucky indeed!
1) Psyche Up
3) Prepare (visualise)
For One. Specific. Opportunity.
When it comes to trying something new, the first step is to believe it's worthwhile. Especially if you'll need to adapt your routine or broaden your opinion of what's 'normal' (or even possible).
Pottying is easy! You don't need to buy anything fancy. You don't need to rearrange your whole life. But you do need to decide to give it a shot... and then you do need to remember to try it out.
If you're unsure about making that decision, you can always review the benefits of baby-led pottying before you get into the nitty gritty.
If you're going to struggle with the remembering, I have a couple of tricks that will help you at the end. Keep reading!
Do you already recognise when your child is going to soil themselves and start to gather your cleaning gear in anticipation?
Or give your baby nappy free time and hope that she wees on the changing mat because it'll extend your wash cycle?
Plenty of people are already tuned in to their baby's rhythms!
So. Are you prepared to give it a go?
Pottying IS A Good Idea
Worth making changes for.
At least for your first pottitunity.
How else will you try it out?
Everyone Remembers Their First Catch!
If you can remember to give it a shot, you might remember it forever.
How do you know when your child needs to go?
There are two ways to approach this. The first is to take your child's cue: either from his signs of discomfort (signals) or his deliberate attempts at communication (signs). The second is to use timing: in relation to other things (after a nap, after a feed, at convenient times) or relative to the last catch (or miss).
Once you get going, you'll probably use a combination of everything.
But to get started, you need to focus on one specific opportunity, so I'll give you a few choices to narrow it down.
The subconscious mind controls sphincters during sleep, so babies will natually hold for as long as they can. From the very early days they'll stir or wake to wee, and if you respond to them, it will reinforce this innate behaviour.
This makes 'on waking' a fine opportunity to try for your first catch.
You wear your baby in a sling, your baby has several naps a day, or you can be at your child's side as they start to stir.
If your baby isn't used to waiting for a potty offer, she might wet her nappy as soon as she starts to wake up. This isn't a problem, but to start with you need to know that it's happening! So one way or another, you need to be there as she starts to wake up.
The gut is one long tube. When you put something in the top, it stimulates peristalsis and makes it more likely that your child will feel an urge at the other end. Plus, both babies and toddlers tend to be happier and more willing to co-operate (with your latest hair brained scheme!) when they have a full tummy.
You can think of a feed / meal time that isn't too chaotic, you have time to set up in advance and you can organise the feed so that your child has a bare bum (you need to know whether you missed a wee during the meal).
If your baby or toddler has a regular bowel movement, aim to catch it. Be that first thing in the morning, right after his bath, or when you get home from the school run. If you can predict when he's likely to go: plan for it.
You can make the prediction.
(If your child always 'wakes up' with a dirty nappy in the morning, they're probably awake before they poo. If you're prepared to be at their side when they stir, you can catch it.)
If you can tell that your child is about to soil themselves, you can step in. Reconise 'the look'? Hear the fart? Smell something suspicious? That's your cue!
You don't mind flying by the seat of your pants. You'll need to prep in advance, of course, but then you'll have to spring into action on a split second's notice - and you'll need to be calm and confident even though you've never done it before. This is something that all baby pottiers respond to, but it needn't be your plan for your very first attempt! You might prefer to practice in a less frantic situation. If you're all action: go for it!
You need to decide which one will be best for you so that you can be thinking about it as you read the next section.
On waking, After a feed, By prediction, or By reaction?
Pick one. (You can change your mind later...)
When? After A Meal!
Eating moves everything along the gut, so after dinner is a great time to try for your first catch.
(Eleven months old).
When? After A Sleep!
Babies will hold as long as possible while asleep and often come to or stir when they release. So 'on waking' is another great time to try for your first catch.
(14 months, nappy free nap time on a cotton covered waterproof mat.)
When? On Cue!
If you recognise the signals and can react quickly, it's the perfect way to get your first catch.
Three weeks old, mouth forms the small 'oooh' shape of concentration just before a bowel movement.
By the time you've coupled all your possible locations with your possible holds / positions you have a huge variety of pottying options to choose from. Which is wonderful when pottying is a way of life but to get started, you need to be specific. You need to imagine yourself making an offer at the time you chose above.
One Offer. Requiring one location and one position.
So once again I'm going to give you some options to choose from.
Two days old, in arms over a small potty - yawning and ready to sleep again!
Four and a half months over a sink - Dad is aiming by capturing everything! Mum usually manages with just a finger, but she's taking the photo...
You have a baby baby (newborn to four or five months), or you have a content older baby and think they'll go with it.
This is easiest on the floor. If you're not good at getting up and down from the floor, pick another.
Get Specific: If you have a potty, test it. If it's too big it's difficult to get in a comfortable position over it. If you're going to be using a bowl, get it out and test it - can you trap it between your knees? Can you hold your baby comfortably over it?
Sinks are a great choice of pottying small babies because they're a good height and prefectly designed for liquid spills.
You haven't started weaning, you prefer to stand, you think your baby would like to look at themselves in the bathroom mirror.
Get Specific: Know which sink you're going to use. If you want to put a bowl in the sink to protect it, know which bowl / tub and keep it ready - within reach of the sink. If you can't reach the loo roll easily, put another roll near to the sink.
Four and a half months - just learning to balance on a potty.
Eight months on a throne potty. His feet don't touch the floor so he can't escape!
Your five month old can sit with support, your baby can sit by themselves, your crawler is easily distracted by simple toys or books, you have a toddler.
Get Specific: If you have a potty, put it out ready. If you're buying one, don't go mad. Pick a small cheap potty from a supermarket / chain store / charity shop. Potties get trodden on and dropped and toddlers change their minds about what they like. Do not get attached to your potty - cheap, cheerful and easily replacable. See my guide to choosing a potty for your baby if you need more ideas / information.
Your baby always poos in a standing or supported standing position.
Get Specific: Know which toilet you're going to use. If you're going to be kneeling in front of your child, make sure you'll be comfortable.
Don't make it a big deal. Pick whichever one best fits your situation, and if you don't like that one, pick another.
You need a mental image of yourself doing this, so be very specific.
Held over a potty, Held over a sink, Sitting on a potty or Standing on the toilet?
Ten days old using a top hat potty (with a bit of help from Dad).
Five months - sitting on the potty without support. From here on it's plain sailing!
Sixteen months - traditional hold. When outside I like to position her low to the ground and support my elbows on my knees. My forearms clamp under her arms to support her body.
Now that you know when you're going to offer the potty, and you know how you're going to go about it, you need to give yourself the very best chance of success - that means having easy access to everything you need (including that little bottom) and being comfortable with how to get into the right position.
1) Get easy access to the bottom in advance. If your baby wears a poppered sleepsuit, take his legs out and unpopper his vest before your opportunity arises. So feed him with no nappy on, or have him nap half clothed. Use trousers rather than dungarees (especially if you put a shirt or jumper over the straps).
2) Have your supplies to hand. Potty, loo roll, pile of books or simple toys (nothing electronic), muslin for your bare-bottomed child to sit on while eating, blanket to keep your half naked baby warm while you milk feed.
3) Practice in advance. Have a dry run with your baby. Flip them into position and back into a cuddle while fully clothed. Flip... and back, flip.... and back. Do this a few times until you feel confident that they're supported and comfortable. With toddlers striving for independence, explain what's going on and start using a potty sign.
Having a bare bum in advance of your first pottitunity will make everything easier.
(Ten months old: What can really go wrong in the bathroom?)
Hopefully I've helped you plan out your first pottying attempt so that you can carry it off with aplomb.
You decided that baby pottying was worth a shot.
You chose a time: On waking, After a feed, By prediction, or By reaction
You chose a location and position: Held over a potty, Held over a sink, Sitting on a potty or Standing on the toilet; and
You thought about making it easy for yourself: Bottom exposed, distractions to hand, potty, muslins and loo roll all set up.
Now you just need to go ahead and do it!
If you can remember to give it a try you might remember it forever...
I know this page was a bit higgledy piggledy. That's because baby pottying is so flexible, it's hard to be prescriptive. Which is a great thing once you're up and running, but kind of complicated when you're just starting out.
But help is at hand!
If you'd like a tailor-made cheat sheet emailed to you in a smart-phone-friendly format, whiz through those questions again on the First Pottitunity Cheat Sheet Quiz. It's FREE and you'll have an easy reference in the palm of your hand exactly when you need it.
If you would prefer to see how it all fits together you can watch me do it. Sometimes it makes all the difference in the world to witness a daunting activity done in a casual way (and I do it with narration, so you know what I'm thinking too).
Take the FREE First Pottitunity Cheat Sheet Quiz to get a tailor-made cheat sheet emailed to your smart phone.
A perfect reminder in the palm of your hand.
Nothing left now but to get started!
Go Forth! Potty Your Babies!
Best of luck to you! Both the mysterious kind, and the sort you make yourself ;)