This post was originally posted on July 23, 2018, and has been fully updated on April 21, 2020 to include an audio (Podcast) version, a video (YouTube) version, and to include some basic updates. Enjoy! xx Andrea
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New parents in the western world are constantly wondering: when can I begin potty training?
(Some don’t even realize that, with the right information, they can even begin potty training their baby.)
In this article I will share what ages are best to begin potty training your child.
We’ll look at options for the first year of life (yes! you heard me right), the 12-18 month range, and 18 months and beyond.
Which potty training age is TRULY most beneficial to your child's health?
There is a lot of crap out there on the internet about potty training, pun absolutely intended. It can boggle the mind.
And there are a lot of marketing-fueled lies circulating (with the primary aim of selling more diapers).
So. Because the current society is so convinced of certain mistruths, we need to push those aside right now.
Before we dive into which potty training method works best for each age range (super-detailed info below), let’s first get something crystal- clear:
Early potty training will NOT damage your child in any way.
There is no scientific study that actually proves that early potty training will harm your child (contrary to Dr Hodges’ marketing influence, which is based on a study that doesn’t say early potty training will damage them, but that incomplete emptying of the bladder will. Read more about this misinformation here.)
Late potty training (starting at 2 years old and up) CAN potentially damage your child, in many ways.
(Read this article that compares and cites all the science that proves this, inarguably.)
• If your child is already over 18 months old, get educated and begin potty training this week.
• If your child is less than 18 months old, it can only BENEFIT your child to begin TODAY, in some way, big or small.
The science supports it.
Again, I will break the ages down further, below, so keep on reading.
And the most healthy time to begin?
Early, early, early. As early as birth.
(As early as wherever YOU are when you read this post.)
Establishing healthy potty use and attitudes from an early age is beneficial to your child, on so many levels.
Parents: YOU get to choose, from birth, whether to train your baby into using the diaper as a full-time toilet, or using the toilet as a full-time toilet.
Full permission granted to choose what works for you (and a little bit of learning might be necessary so you can feel confident executing this decision!).
Okay, now that this myth is completely disproven, we can confidently move in to answer the question: “At what age can I potty train my child?”
How to decide which age to begin potty training your child
There are 3 different age ranges where you can comfortably begin toilet training your child. It just so happens that the ranges begin right at birth, so the decision really just comes down to:
(1) educating yourself about the options,
(2) deciding what you and your family value as far as infant hygiene and healthy toileting habits go, as part of the big picture of raising a baby,
(3) considering your level of motivation to give your baby the best start possible on all levels: feeding, sleep, pottying, and engagement with people and nature, and
(4) considering your mental and physical wellbeing, level of support, and positive encouragement from others.
Let's take a look at these 4 aspects now.
1) Educate yourself about your potty training options
I think that the biggest block people have about starting potty training is not knowing where to begin, which is #1 above: education.
Below I'm going to break up the different toileting start ages, define each for you, and then direct you to the top resources on each topic. From there, you can make the decision of what is right for you.
(If you're motivated to begin right away with one of the below methods, you can leave this blog post through one of the below links...and never come back!)
After this, we'll cover #2, family values about toileting and hygiene.
Before we type-it-out, here is a nice image that shows you quickly which method works for which age:
Top method for starting potty training at 0-12 months
The method you would use for starting potty learning with babies 0-12 months is called "elimination communication." It is a way of tending to your child's natural instincts for cleanliness by learning and responding to the signals, rhythms, and preferences of your baby.
It is not hard to do, and you can do it part-time! And the earlier you start, the sooner you integrate this into your life and it becomes your "normal"...no potty training usually necessary.
Best method for starting potty training at 11-16 months
To start potty training with 11-16 month (likely) walking babies, which is actually considered by Montessori school of thought to be the "sensitive period" (the BEST time!) to begin toilet learning, you would use either pure EC or a hybrid of EC/potty training.
This is a time period where you can both begin and wrap up toilet learning all within one developmental stage!
Or, grab my book which comes with the hybrid EC/potty training plan as a bonus download. In it, you can learn about starting and using "pure EC" (which is what I've always done with my babies to practice and wrap up EC) and you can also learn the hybrid plan, which is great for more "advanced" babies or parents who have to get the kiddo into daycare asap.
Top method for starting potty training at 15-20 months
To start toilet training a 15-20 month toddler, you've already mostly passed the EC window (although you can give it a whirl if you've got a super laid-back, not-yet-walking baby!)...and you're now sitting at what's called early start potty training. But, don't you dare feel bad! You will now spend less time potty training/doing EC and more time teaching the final pieces of independence. Like ripping off a Band-aid, potty training at 18-24 months is a much more rapid process than EC (and it should be! Toddlers crave mastery at this stage, and being lax or hands-off about toilet training at any toddler age is a disservice to your wonderful toddler!!).
Or, if you're ready to learn the best way to train, today, and be out of diapers within days or weeks (not months), then grab my potty training book here.
Best method for starting potty training at 20 months and up
For this, you'd also do the same as the previous age range, but it's not going to be called early potty training...just your regular ole run-of-the-mill potty training (but pls don't use a boot camp or gradual plan!). Again, do not feel badly! The earlier you begin, the sooner you'll be done, and you do NOT have to wait for readiness signs or fear that you'll harm your child by doing the training too early. That is all BS funded by the diaper companies.
Or you can (and should, if you don't mind me saying so!) potty train with my popular book and get this thing done already. Full permission granted.
Alright. Now that we've covered #1, let's quickly cover #2-4 of the decision-making process for when to start toilet learning, birth thru 24+ months.
(2) Decide what you and your family value as far as infant hygiene and healthy toileting habits go, as part of the big picture of raising a baby.
Have a chat with your spouse, partner, or BFF.
Do diapers make sense, or is toileting (even part-time) going to be more in alignment with your baby-raising goals of health and happiness for your little guy or gal?
Do you understand the benefits of early toileting, and how it can positively influence your baby for his/her entire lifetime?
Have you looked at the science supporting early toilet training?
Consider what your family values in this department, which you may never have discussed until today, and then make a commitment to doing something about it starting right this moment (even a paradigm shift in your mind will be a big step!).
Integrating this decision into your family values is a sure-fire way to make sure it doesn't slip thru the cracks.
(I mean, do you let feeding your baby fall thru the cracks? Nope. Because you value it and understand it.)
(3) Consider your level of motivation to give your baby the best start possible on all levels: feeding, sleep, pottying, and engagement with people and nature.
Okay, so we just looked at our family values and had a talk with our significant people about what rank toileting has in our overall baby-raising plan.
Now, consider your motivation levels.
Are you completely sold that this is gonna be in everyone's best interest?
Do you want to save money? Time? Messy cleanup effort? The environment?
You are motivated to feed your child, provide adequate sleep, and help her/him engage with people and nature.
What is your level of motivation to help your child go to the bathroom in the proper receptacle? Give it a good honest look.
(4) Consider your mental and physical wellbeing, level of support, and positive encouragement from others.
Do you have post-partum depression? Well, I've been thru that multiple times and can tell you that EC actually helped me get thru the baby blues and helped me connect with my baby during those dark times.
Are you recovering from a C-section birth? You can totally start observing and cueing along with your baby, even if you can't yet support her/his weight on your own.
Could EC or early toilet learning make you feel better, more connected, more useful at this point? Yes!
Take an honest look at where you're at, and then surround yourself with education and support.
You can begin potty training at any age so long as you have these things in place.
(Btw, my books both come with private support groups - full of positive encouragement! - run by my Certified Coaches to help you thru any hiccups in the process...we've got you covered in case nobody in your town gives a flip about early toilet training!)
So, now that we've looked at how to decide when to begin potty training your child, let's next look over a few dangling facts and then an exact starting point.
Some quick reassuring facts (for those of you who are skimming)
Which is the best time to potty train your child? Whatever age your child currently is. That is the best time to start the learning...now!
What is the current average age of potty training completion in the US? 36-38 months average.
What is the current age of toileting independence in the rest of the world? 12 months average.
What was the toilet training age in 1957 in the US? 92% of children were toilet trained by 18 months of age.
What would happen if we reduced the toilet training age by 1 year (from 3 to 2 years old)? The diaper companies would lose approximately $8 billion/year in revenues.
Ok! We’re on the same page now. Next up...
Where do you begin?
Scroll back up to where I cover the different start ages, above, for the details on free and paid resources you should begin with, or you can start with my free guides:
What supplies you'll need to begin potty training today, at any age
Lastly, I'm a practical gal, and I love sharing the tools that I've found to be the BEST of the best for easy pottying, including clothing, potties, and "back-ups" (diapers and alternatives) for EC and early potty training.
And, remember, I'm here for you, and so are our network of coaches!
You can begin potty training at any age, starting as early as birth. It just looks a little different at each stage. Go Diaper Free is here to educate you, no matter where you are on that spectrum.
And, no shame mama/daddy! You are where you are right now, given what you've learned so far. Now you know some more stuff about what age is best to begin potty training, so get educated and get started today. We're rooting for you!
Now I'd love to hear from you: in the comments below, please share WHEN you are going to BEGIN some sort of potty training in your house!
This is a no-judgment-zone, so feel free to be transparent and honest, even if you're struggling with this! xoxox