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You know those moments when your husband has a genius parenting idea, and you’re like, “OMG, why didn’t I think of this!?!”

You’ve spent every waking hour with your child, yet somehow the idea never crossed your mind. You tell him how genius it is, and then somewhat regret not figuring out a way to take credit for this genius idea yourself. Well, this scenario played out when our daughter was 5 months old.

She was one of those babies who had the very obvious poop face. Red-faced, grunting . . . OBVIOUS

Husband’s genius idea: Why don’t we just hold her on the toilet since we know when she’s going to poop?

My reaction: Blank stare as I think through everything. Then come to the realization that there are no drawbacks, so why not start potty training!? 

Can I just say, this was one of the smartest ideas my husband has ever had! Our daughter was potty trained at 18 months of age. I strongly believe this was largely due to how comfortable she was using the toilet, and therefore, a huge success because of the fact that we introduced the bathroom and toilet to her when she was 5 months. 

I know what you are thinking . . . easier said than done. I’d argue that it’s just as easy to do.

Here’s our 10-step potty training method (starting from the early age of 5 months, up to official potty training):

Introduce the toilet early. 

If you have an obvious pooper, take advantage of it. Start as early as 5 months old. You don’t have to make it every time, but if you can make it to the toilet, do so. Rip that diaper off and hold your baby on. They aren’t old enough to fight it, and they’ll just go with the flow. This means they’ll be used to the toilet and not afraid of it when it comes time to potty train. This will be a huge win!

If you don’t have an obvious pooper, just place your child on the toilet every once in a while. Make it a part of your routine and just see what happens. The goal is just to get them familiar with the toilet and potty-training process. And don’t be afraid to let them see you on the toilet (as inevitable as it may be).

Potty train early. 

Potty training boys or girls . . . it doesn’t matter. Potty training can happen when you say it’s going to happen. I strongly believe that the parent is the one who needs to be readythe child’s readiness is only one factor. Potty train around the 18-20 month mark. They are old enough to understand, but not old enough to protest too badly. It’s the sweet spot!

RELATED: The Potty Training Tip That Saved Our Sanity (And Really Works)

Use the toilet, not a potty seat or child-sized potty. 

Start as you mean to go on! Don’t train, to retrain. Get them used to the toilet right off the bat. This way, when you are out, you can use public restrooms (much easier than toting around a potty chair and having to clean it).

Use big kid underwear.

This is where you give your child ownership in two ways. First, you can get them excited about the process by allowing them to pick out their own underwear. This immediately gets them involved and provides ownership over the process.

It also allows you to do dry underwear checks. This provides you and your child with an easy visual check to see if they are successful in making it to the toilet on time. (Even the tiniest drop of pee is noticeable on underwear.) Your child will start to show you their dry underwear, and check themselves. Again, this is ownership of the process. The more ownership they have, the more successful they’ll be!

Once you put underwear on your child, do not go back to diapers, pull-ups, or disposable training pants during the daytimenot for any reason! This will confuse your child and show that you aren’t really serious about potty training. Diapers during naps and nights are fine.

Show your child success.

On day one, take your child to the toilet every 20-30 minutes. The more pee and poo you get to catch in the toilet the better! They will quickly learn that that is the goal. Slowly work your way up to one-hour intervals. Do this for four days. By day four, only place your child on the toilet for events (before eating, before a nap, before an outing).

Provide ample time on the toilet.

Babies and toddlers are used to peeing in tiny amounts all throughout the day. Whenever they get the desire, they gono matter how small. This doesn’t just change when they go in the toilet instead. They still pee in small amounts and often don’t finish in one pee. Make sure you leave your child on the toilet for 5-10 minutes to catch everything. Feel free to have books to look at next to the toilet.

Reward your child. 

I started out not wanting to give treats as a reward. I was so wrong! Treats are the difference in being successful. A sticker chart is only motivating to a point. Find a small treat (we used Cocoa Puffs) and give it often. Give rewards for dry underwear, sitting on the toilet, trying to go, successfully going in the potty, and asking to go). Plan to phase out treats by day six or seven.

Plan for accidents.

Go into this knowing there will be accidents. Remember that your child is learning a new skill. Have a neutral response. Something like “Uh oh! Pee only goes in the toilet.” Don’t make them feel bad about it or make comments that might give them anxiety. Just make a neutral statement, and relocate them to the toilet (even if they already finished). At night, consider diaper-free options like Peejamas or non-cloth sheets for easy cleanup.


Be prepared.

Have towels or cloth diapers handy to clean up messes in every room you will be in, along with new underwear. Have your car stocked with clean-up supplies and a change of clothes for when you go out. Get a car seat liner or two to make cleanup easy when in the car seat. Make a rule that everyone tries to go potty before you leave the house. Know where you are going and if the place has a restroom. Scope it out the minute you arrive.

Leave the house.

Day one, stay home all day in just underwear. Day two, put pants on your child and leave the house for a small walk or to play outside (no car rides yet). Day three, take a quick car ride and have a short outing (no longer than 30 minutes in total). Keep taking outings and slowly make them longer and longer.

Praise for no accidents! By day seven, resume life as usual, going on any and all usual outings (assuming there are restrooms that are accessible). No diapers! Bring the treats with you. While you’ve phased these out at home, they are still useful when out of the home.

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Katrina Villegas

Katrina Villegas is a former process engineer and chemistry teacher turned stay at home mom. She is organizing her beautiful chaos one Babywise step at a time, and sharing her successes and trials along the way. When her daughter was just a few months old she started a blog: http://www.mamasorganizedchaos.com/. She's been recording her thoughts and stories, along with what she's learned, "how to" guides and more. You'll find everything from information on breastfeeding and cloth diapering, to using Babywise schedules, sleep training options, and discipline tips. She is also mom to a baby that earned her wings due to trisomy 13. You'll find raw, real emotions and how she's coping with her grief of losing a child. 

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