When do I start? How do I know my little one is ready? As one of Australia’s leading washable and reusable companies, Conni knows just how baffling the toilet training transition can be. With advice from parents, grandparents, friends and books, it can become very conflicting. In some instances, these methods have also been proven to be detrimental to the toilet training journey.

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But never fear! We have continence nurse and toilet training rockstar from Continence Geelong Monica Harrop here to answer some big questions we constantly get when it comes to toilet training.

How will I know my child is ready? What are the signs?

  • Walking and can sit for short periods.
  • Becoming generally more independent when it comes to tasks, including saying ‘no’.
  • Interested in watching you go to the toilet. This can be a little uncomfortable for some but is a great way to introduce things.
  • Has dry nappies for up to two hours. This shows they can store their wee (which automatically empties when in younger babes or newborns).
  • Tells you in words or gestures when they do a poo or wee in their nappy. If they can tell you before this happens, they are ready for toilet training.
  • Begins to dislike wearing a nappy, perhaps trying to pull it off, can pull their pants up and down and has soft formed bowel movements.

One thing to note is that not all of these signs need to be present for your child to be ready.

Are there signs that tell me my child is NOT ready?

  • Showing no interest in the toilet
  • Rarely initiating any form of toilet recognition
  • Nappy wet all the time

Don’t start toilet training too early. Children usually reach two years of age before they can recognise and respond to toilet signals such as a full bladder. Premature toilet training will only frustrate you and upset your child because they can’t do what you ask of them. A child usually masters the daytime toilet well before they can keep their bed dry at night.

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What are some tips to help the toilet training process?

  • Stop using nappies during the daytime and put your child in underpants.
  • Continue to use a nappy for daytime sleep.
  • Dress your child in clothes they can easily manage. For example, trousers with elastic waistbands instead of buttons and zips, In warmer weather, consider leaving them bare-bottom at home
  • Give a gentle reminder at regular intervals throughout the day if they need to go to the toilet, however, don’t nag.
  • Don’t make them sit on the toilet or toilet for long periods, because this will feel like punishment.
  • Teach them to wash their hands every time they go to the toilet. Use a special soap fust for these occasions. They like to flush so let that be their job.
  • If your child is showing the ready signs, they will learn quickly. However, they may continue to have accidents at various times. Don’t lose patience or heart.
  • If they refuse to use the toilet or toilet, don’t force it. Leave it until they are willing to try.
  • If one week goes by without any success, postpone all attempts and try again a few weeks later. Remember it is not a race or a test.
  • Praise success. You could try rewards, stickers, stamps, small treats.
  • Reduce praises as skills are mastered
  • Be casual about accidents - take an “oh well, it doesn’t matter’ attitude.
  • Don’t try at stressful times, such as when you have a new baby.
  • Timing the trips to the toilet is also key for effective toilet training. The best times to sit your child on the toilet or toilet are: when they get up in the morning, straight after a meal or snack, after their afternoon nap and before they go to bed.
  • Watch your child carefully to make sure the bowel motions remain dot and regular because hard poo can make toilet training more difficult. If that's the case, encourage foods that keep bowel motions soft such as pears and kiwi fruit. Always ensure children drink lots of water. Discourage sipping fluids and encourage big drinks.

When are motivational tools good to use during toilet training?

  • When the child lacks any interest in even starting the process but you feel they are ready
  • All children can usually be encouraged and motivated by some type of reward
  • Rewards or motivational tools have been shown to work, you need to ensure that these are within reason.
  • Some children don’t care about the success and this can be a challenge.
  • Try a variety of rewards, and use the ones your child responds to best. Before you start, plan exactly what your child will be rewarded for, and ensure your child clearly understands what behaviour is being rewarded. Try not to overuse a reward.
  • Some rewards that motivate typically developing children - like stickers or stamps - might not interest a child with ASD. Work out what rewards your child likes by presenting a variety of rewards for a few seconds and watch your child’s response
  • Once your child has made some progress on a particular step, stop using food, activities and toys as rewards. But keep using verbal and nonverbal praise.

Why do so many kids seem to have trouble with getting the number 2’s worked out?

  • This is very common. Children stand or sit or crawl around and do their poo in their nappy. It is a different sensation having to sit on the toilet and one that many children struggle with.
  • They may ask for a nappy, or hold on for days if the nappy is not given; do a poo in their pants, or wait until they are in their night nappy to poo. Parents often find these situations difficult to deal with and feel their child is never going to get out of nappies. Be reassured that issues with poo are common. Here are some ideas you can try to help your child move to do a poo in the toilet. Why this may be happening for your child there are several reasons why your child may not be doing a poo in the toilet.

The child may:

  • Have a poor understanding of what they are meant to do on the toilet
  • Be anxious or fearful about sitting on the toilet.
  • Fear ‘letting go of poo. This can be a very real fear for children. It is not well understood but seems to have a lot to do with poo being solid and the child seeing it as part of themselves being flushed down the toilet. Let your child know you can see they are frightened but help them to understand that the poo is happy to go into the toilet; it’s only rubbish the body is getting rid of.
  • Haven’t learnt to poo standing and do not want to know how to poo on the toilet
  • Be constipated or have difficulty in passing poo
  • Not like the smell of their poo.

When it comes to night time training, are you supposed to get the child up throughout the night at regular intervals? Or do you just let them sleep through?

  • We don’t recommend waking the child They need to learn to wake themselves
  • More important to ensure they have a good bladder capacity that will get them through the whole night without needing to wee. 

To decide whether your child is ready to go without nappies at night, consider signs such as:

  • If your child wakes up every morning with a wet nappy, they’re not ready to stop wearing nappies at night. if you stop using night-time nappies at this stage, your child will wet the bed.
  • If their nappy is usually dry in the morning, or it becomes wet only just before your child wakes (the nappy will be soaked and the urine warm), they may be ready. If your child tries to go to the toilet during the night or calls out for your help, you could try night-time toilet training. Make a trip to the toilet a part of your child’s bedtime routine. Casually remind your child to get up in the night if they need to go to the toilet.
  • If your child wakes up for any reason during the night, ask them if they want to go to the toilet before being tucked back into bed.
  • Avoid pressuring your child. they’re keen to master toileting and anxious about disappointing you.
  • If your child is dry in the morning, give gentle praise, but don’t be concerned if they’re wet.
  • Don’t get angry or frustrated at your child for wetting the bed. if the extra washing bothers you, buy pull-ups.

We have day-time toilet training down pat. night-time training not so much. What do we do?

Don’t assume that your child can keep their bed dry just because they can manage their toileting when they are awake. A child usually masters daytime toileting before they can keep their bed dry at night.

Many children under the age of five years still wet in their sleep and one in 10 younger primary school children do too. It can help to think of staying dry at night as completely separate from daytime toilet use.

Regroup, take a rest from the toilet training and patience! Don’t be disappointed, wait for your child to initiate the need to start again.

When's too young to start toilet training?

  • Your child needs to be between the ages of 18 months and three years before they are mature enough to recognize the urge to go to the toilet.

We’re not seeing a lot of progress and it’s starting to make toilet training a negative experience. Should I give up?

  • It is important to stay relaxed and positive. Use positive verbal and body language
  • Also, be aware that it’s not uncommon for toilet training to sometimes regress; there may be a new sibling in the house, your child may be sick or the timing might not be quite right.
  • Stay positive, praise behaviour you want and ignore behaviour you don’t. all clean-ups need to be no fuss, no frills and remember, it is ok to take a break from toilet training if things get too stressful for you or your child.

What is a continence assessment? When do I need to start looking into a continence assessment or seeing a continence nurse?

A continence assessment is with a nurse consultant who will undertake a detailed assessment and develop an individualised plan to assist with toilet training challenges as well as ongoing management of continence issue education and support for families and carers.

If children aged 4 years and over and experience regular incontinence (day wetting, bedwetting or faecal incontinence), advice from a health professional is recommended.

The continence nurse can teach the parents and the child about the common bladder and bowel control problems experienced by children and how they can be managed and/or treated. If you are worried and have any concerns about your child seek advice.

We hope that some of the answers to these questions help you and your little one toilet training. If you would like to chat with Monica further, we’ll leave a contact us link here: www.continencegeelong.com.au

Reference: continencevictoria.org.au/PDF