A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing The Best Potty For Your Baby or Toddler
Quick links: Small cheap potties (my top recommendation), How many potties do you need?, Potty chairs, Two-in-one potties, Top hat potties, Novelty potties, Toilet seat reducers / inserts, Travel potties, Summary.
“Which potty should I buy???”
This question comes up a lot on my facebook groups. I think it feels like an important decision at the time – but the most important thing is to get a potty of some sort as quickly as possible. (To that end, there are loads of Amazon links in this page.)
Make the decision and move on.
Don’t let deliberations over potty properties stop you from getting started! If you’re in any kind of a dither, get the cheapest one you can find in your local supermarket and put off your expensive decision for another day.
As luck would have it, I recommend the small, cheap ones anyway.
Several times a week I recommend someone buys a small cheap potty and cracks on with their pottying. Here’s why:
1) They’re small and cheap.
Sounds obvious, but has big benefits.
Small means they take up less space around the house, in the boot of the car, in your emergency bag for that trip to the place where you hate to use the toilets, swimming bag etc. Handy.
Cheap means that you can have more than one and not be precious about them. If your life is anything like mine, they’ll get dropped and stepped on and accidentally left behind at motorway rest stops in foreign countries. Let that happen to a charity shop potty, not a £30 branded treasure.
2) They’re low to the ground.
This is important!
As humans, we’re biologically designed to poo in a deep squat position – heels flat on the floor, knees up by your shoulders, bottom comfortably suspended just above the ground. An impossible position for me to get into, but babies and toddlers sit like this all the time. They naturally sink into a squat whenever they want to reach the ground. It’s how they play, how they pause, and, for a lot of them, how they poo when left to their own devices.
Sitting in an upright sitting position – as we do when using a standard sized toilet – makes it much harder to ease out a poo. Our large intestine has a kink near the bottom that doesn’t straighten out unless the thighs are against the torso, so you’re fighting biology to poo any other way.
If you have a child who is prone to constipation – get them into a squat. If you merely want your child to avoid constipation – also get them into a squat. And the best way to do that is to let them use a low potty for as long as possible.
My kids used one until they started school (at age 4) and beyond. At school they used toilets – of course, out and about they used toilets (and had done their entire lives) but at home, by choice, they would use a potty. In the bathroom, next to the toilet, they’d still choose a potty. They switched to the toilet for wees long before poos because a low potty is comfortable place to poo for a long long time.
(If you do every have a brush with constipation, it’s extremely helpful to know the size, shape and consistency of every poo your child does. This is much easier if they use a potty rather than the toilet.)
So far, so good, but now a couple of caveats:
Check The Wee Guard
It’s probably not very high. This is a problem for boys and girls with chunky thighs, but you can overcome it by teaching them to lean forwards when they wee. My 8 year old daughter can use a potty without spilling anything using this technique. It’s harder for boys, but you can sit them backwards for a bigger splash guard or teach them to lean forward too.
Or… you can buy a potty with a high splash guard. I like this tippitoes one because it has a low back to counter the high front. If you have a high front and a high back it can be difficult for a small child to get on and off independently.
Check the shape.
Oval potties are best because there’s enough room to sit down and stand up and manouver in between even if you’re very unsteady on your feet. Mothercare went in for square based potties with a spherical bowl for a while, but my chunky kids used to get wedged in them. They look nice but they’re for skinny babies only!
What Not To Worry About
Don’t worry that the rim! Everyone worries that if the rim is too narrow the potty will be uncomfortable. Yes, it might leave a red mark – but you get a red mark every time you sit on the loo, you just don’t notice because you don’t look in the mirror every time you stand up. You can’t feel them. They don’t bother you. But they’re there.
This really hit home for me when we were camping this summer. We spent four weeks travelling France and Switzerland with the tent and we saw a lot of different toilets. Most of them didn’t have seats at all. Now, I’ve been camping in France since I was knee high to a grasshopper so no toilets surprise me, but it did set me thinking. I talk about it in this short video (turn on subtitles if you need to keep quiet):
Where To Buy a Cheap Low Potty
Chain stores and supermarkets. If you’re in the uk: kiddicare, boots, asda, tesco, wilkinsons, your local chemist, the charity shop – the list goes on. Failing that, or if you never want to leave the house again, Amazon has many millions to choose from including the Pourty – a well designed, sturdy, low, wide walled potty, designed by a British family. I met them at the Baby Show last year. Lovely lot. If you’re in two minds, support them. (But watch out, because that low back only works if your toddler always faces the right way, and my experience of itty bitty babes using potties independently suggests they’ll sit any which way and not give a hoot 😉 )
One in every room you regularly use, one in the car, one at the grand parents’ place… Stock up 😉
Not strictly necessary, especially if you’re a ‘potties belong in the bathroom’ kind of person, or you’re starting with a two year old, or you only have one child… but if you’re starting with a baby and have older siblings to entertain – don’t skimp. Bag a few bargains at the charity shop and scatter them liberally throughout your home.
Potty chairs. I think these came to Britain from America – certainly, I’d never heard of a ‘potty chair’ until I started hanging out in online ec groups back in 2007. But they exist, and they look a bit like a chair – with a high back and sometimes sides. (The victorians used something very similar, actually, kind of like a mini commode.) Handy if you want to keep your child’s feet from touching the floor so that they can’t escape… but not very ergonomic for the squat.
Lots of toddlers like them because they can get on themselves – the high sides give them something to hold onto while attempting to sit down. Small potties require reversing or clambering which can be altogether more difficult. Swings and roundabouts as always!.
Famous in ec-ing circles is the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair – loved by families around the world for it’s sturdiness and the removable bowl that can be used as a lap-potty. But be warned – it’s a sizeable beast!
While I’m doing Baby Bjorn, I might as well mention the Baby Bjorn Little Potty or bblp as it’s long been known on ec forums. All in all, it’s not that little. If you’re in the UK, it’s a bit bigger than a standard supermarket potty as recommended above. If you live where vast potty chairs are the norm, then yes, it will seem small by comparison.
I used a top hat potty with my baby babies, but they’re not readily available these days. Instead most people use an old enamel children’s chamber pot, a small mixing bowl, or the insert from a larger potty. Using the insert is an inspired idea – it’s like having two potties in one and makes the larger potties practical right from the get go. All the issues with ergonomics still apply when you get to using the larger potty, but if you’re not bothered about that, this is a rather nifty system.
Sit with the insert between your thighs and pretend it’s a top hat potty. The IKEA Lockig potty is very popular. It’s much bigger than a supermarket potty (typically, babies potty train at around age 3 in Sweden – though there is a strong nappy free movement gaining ground all the time). Even the small IKEA Lilla potty is considerably taller than a standard uk one.
The Hoppop Donut potty was also popular for its insert and it does look funky – but if you need that (very low) splash guard to be in just the right spot, your toddler doesn’t have a hope of managing himself.
Then of course, there’s that perennial favourite the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair – pictured above.
I wouldn’t touch these with a barge pole – not when the simplest potty works just fine.
I think that if you’ve got to bribe your child onto a potty using gimmickry, you’ve gone wrong somewhere along the line (and probably ought to take one of my classes 😉 ). If you think they’re fabulous and kitch and would make wonderfully humilating photos for facebook, then go for it, but if you’re looking for a practical tiny toilet – steer clear.
Potties with Inbuilt Ipad Holders…
Worth a laugh on social media, and I bet you feel lost if you forget to take your smartphone to the loo with you, but seriously, chuckle and move on. (If you’ve not given much thought to the effects of screen time on the under twos – it’s well worth a slice of your attention.)
Got a little lad who likes to wee standing up? Or wants to copy his older brothers or his dad but isn’t tall enough to use the toilet? You need a mini urinal! These either suction-cup onto your bathroom tiles / kitchen cupboard / fridge or hang from the rim of the toilet, depending on the model. Great for little boys who want to wee like the big boys.
If you choose the suction cup model, look for one with a removable bowl or you’ll be re-sticking it to the fridge door 6 times a day.
Some people swear by them. I don’t. I’m not keen and never have been. I think a potty provides a much better position and encourages independence – but you might have other priorities. Some people want to get beyond the potty emptying phase as soon as human toddleringly possible! Others like the extra height for it’s prison factor – sit a child on a proper toilet and they can’t get up and run away.
I like to use toilets, but without the adapter – the better prepared my kids are to use toilets we find wherever we are, the better. I have four children and no spare hands. I’m not carrying a potty or a toilet seat reducer with me, no matter how small they may be. I’ve heard many toddlers (and preschoolers) complain about using a toilet without their own personal toilet seat reducer, and that’s not a situation I want to find myself in.
The benefits of a toddler suspending themselves in the toilet bowl (which seems unsavoury, but isn’t as bad as all that) are a) it puts them into the squat position (hooray!) and b) the wee stays in the toilet. Perch them on a reducer, they sit with thighs at right angles, wee squirts out parallel to the floor and misses the toilet altogether.
But, if you’re going to get one, this is my favourite toilet seat reducer. It’s a tippitoes and it’s really well designed. With my eldest (before I realised that I’d get trapped into carrying gubbins everywhere) I tried everything. Under-the-seat toilet seat reducers, plonk-over-the-hole padded seats with handles, padded folding travelling seat reducers, the potette, the potette plus – everything that was on the market at the time. And hands down, the best reducer was the one hanging on the backs of the doors at my local farm: the tippitoes. Since then, Pourty have brought out a toilet trainer that addresses all of my annoyances so theirs should be in the running too.
5 Things to Look For In A Toilet Seat Reducer
1) Narrow seat at the front. The width of a std toilet seat is already the length of a young toddler’s thighs. If you add the extra width of your padded seat, they’re not going to be able to bend their legs…
2) Secure. Rubber grip that clings to the seat rather than plastic insert that goes in the hole – and rattles around as your baby moves.
3) Hygienic. Sits on top of the seat rather than underneath (ugh!)
4) Has a wee guard that sticks up at the front but also extends down into the toilet bowl – otherwise they’ll manage to squirt between the std loo seat and the bowl and you’ll get wet trousers or end up kneeling in a puddle. I don’t think the tippitoes has this because it hangs tidily against a wall, but the Pourty definitely does.
5) Will hang on the wall / back of the door – or you’ll be tripping over it for years. Use a 3M removable hook – they’re ace.
More on Squatting and Helping Posture when using Toilet Seat Reducers
That deep squat position that’s so helpful in keeping toddlers regular – how can you get that using an adapter seat? Well… you can’t. But you can help by making sure their feet are on something solid. A step stool can help, or you can invest in a Squatty Potty. This is a fancy step stool that tucks neatly away under your toilet bowl and lets all the family lift their feet a tad to put themselves into an easier position. I bought the standard version for my standard uk loo, but should have bought the tall version because my kids can barely reach it.
Of course, you could go the whole hog and get a pedestal squat toilet like this (no need for a trainer seat then!):
but you’d need to be a) able to squat properly and b) committed!
When I first needed a travel potty, the choice was the potette or a folding padded seat reducer. I used the original potette for 18 months, then failed with the padded folding thing (too flimsy!) and finally had training seat success with the potette plus (nice and sturdy but takes up a lot of space in your bag).
Back then, the potette used bags – much like disposable nappies – which defeated the whole purpose for me so I didn’t buy any. Instead I used a takeaway container under slipped under the potty. It was a flakey system, but it did the job.
Now of course, you can get reusable silicone liners for the potette plus, which is… a plus. (ba-ba-da-ching!)
With all subsequent children, I used an airtight 470ml lock & lock box. Small enough to fit in my bum bag and discrete enough to use anywhere. You might have more luck with some sort of bottle for boys, but for baby girls (as long as you ‘point them downwards’ this is great. (Btw, I tried cheaper brands and they leaked! Never skimp on an airtight box, that’s my advice.)
With babies Two to Four, when out and about it was the tupperware tub and then the toilet, with nothing in between. By then I had no spare hands and always carried my smallest child so didn’t have a pushchair to cart around enormous potties. But, if space isn’t an issue for you, there’s now a sealable porta potty on the market. It’s called My Carry Potty. It’s big and bulky but it does the job and those that have it love it.
I’ve always been tempted by the collapsible silicone dog bowls and concertina camping bowls, but I wondered what I’d do with the contents and no lid… Try them out and let me know how you get on 😉
Don’t dwell on it. Remember, if you’re doing baby-led potty training / baby pottying / ec then the most important thing is to get started! Don’t let your potty buying decision get in the way of you practicing using whatever you have to hand. If you’re potty training a toddler, then the simple low potties are great option. Buy something that you have room for (!) and won’t mind seeing around your house. And bear in mind that bearing down works best in a deep squat.
What have I missed?
I’ve never met a baby pottier / ec-er who didn’t have an opinion on potties. Now’s your chance to wax lyrical. Agree or disagree, make your points in the comments so that the next person to read this article can decide whether they’d rather listed to you than to me 😉
Let’s go mainstream!