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toilet training - how and when to start

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toilet training ??how and when to start

There is a very broad age spectrum of when children are out of nappies and these days it really doesn't matter if your child is not 'dry' before three years. It is up to you and your child to decide when to start toilet-training. However, the actual transition from nappies to pants can be traumatic for a child and it is important you do not become impatient during the process.

Many nurseries and playgroups insist your child is dry during the day before he is offered a place, although some daycare nurseries are more flexible, but check with your child's nursery so you can get your timescales into perspective! Most will be happy of you have at least started the process, rather than mastered it before your child starts.

It is now known that babies are unable to control their bowel and bladder before 18 to 24 months, and often it can be much later.

"It is not neurologically possible for a child to make the connection between having a full bladder and going to the toilet until he is about 2 years," says Mary Slevin, professional adviser at the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association. "Children under 2 years lack the maturity in their nervous systems. Having said that, it is possible to induce a reflex action by sitting a child on a cold potty".

These days the common view is very much that we should take our lead from our child as to when to begin potty training.

Some signs that your child may be ready for potty training are that:

  • He takes increasing interest in your going to the toilet and indicates in some way that he understands what you are doing by pointing to his nappy.
  • He removes his nappy himself.
  • He has a dry nappy immediately after his daytime nap.
  • He appears to indicate wanting to sit on the potty and uses it appropriately.

When he reaches this stage, if the weather is warm you could try leaving him without a nappy during a quiet afternoon when you are not out and about. If, as is most likely for the first few days or weeks, he has an 'accident', don't make a fuss, just take him to the potty and let him sit on it for a while so he can make a connection. It might be an idea to buy a few potties and have one in the bathroom, one downstairs and one in the garden. If your child can see these potties everywhere, and knows when they should be used, he may be more inclined to actually make use of them.

Most children are able to control their bowels before their bladders so if he has a bowel movement at a certain time of day or starts his routine of grunting and facial grimaces which tell you what is about to happen, try to pre-empt him by sitting him on the potty.

Above all, do not get cross, even if he has accidents when using the potty. It's not his fault. If he does manage to use the potty, reward him with hugs and smiles. He will soon get the message. Sometimes after you have started potty training, you'll realise instinctively that it isn't the right time for your child, in this case take a break of a few weeks, then try again. It may seem like it is taking forever, but bear in mind that your child will get there in the end.

Control over the bladder is much more problematic and even four-year-olds who have been without nappies for years still have the odd mishap, especially if they are involved in something exciting that they don't want to leave. Always take a spare pair (or three!) of pants and trousers when going out. Relapses in toddlers who have been dry for several months are also common, particularly if they have just had a traumatic experience, such as the birth of a baby brother or sister, or started at nursery. It is important not to revert to nappies, but continue with a bag-full of spare pants and a reward for the times he is dry; things will right themselves eventually.

The final hurdle in this long drawn-out process is being dry at night. It is not unusual for children to still be in night-time trainer pants by their fifth birthday. In fact some children seem perfectly happy to be dry all day but go to bed in a trainer nappy. Again, take your time and wait until he seems to be in a settled, happy patch. Suggest he tries going to bed without his trainer and see how he reacts. Many parents start attempting night-time dryness by taking their child to the loo last thing at night when they themselves go to bed. This is a useful stop-gap but shouldn't be practised too long or he will never learn to get out of bed to do it himself. Once he seems to have mastered the art of getting out of bed and going straight to the loo first thing in the morning, rather than wait for you to remind him, then you can drop the night-time wakings.

Try to be patient with your child, and not to make a fuss. He will eventually succeed in being dry; it is just a matter of time.