Is it ok to start potty training “early” and how early is too early? What about “readiness”? And how long should the process take?
Today we'll also explore the decision facing us: do we do potty training, early potty training, or this thing called “elimination communication?”
What age you can start, what to expect and what tools you need for a successful experience for you and your child.
You will hear:
- at what age you should start potty training
- choosing your method: Elimination Communication (EC), early potty training, or potty training
- how potty training looks at different ages
- permission for you as a parent to choose when to start, including
- how to decide when you as a parent are ready
- benefits of potty training early vs. waiting
- timeline for completing elimination communication and potty training
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- At What Age Can I Potty Train My Child?
- The Easy Start Guide for EC
- The Hybrid Plan (transition between EC and Potty Training, free download with The Go Diaper Free Book)
- The Go Diaper Free Book
- The Tiny Potty Training Book
- Connect with Coaches for extra support
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
This is episode 169, At what Age can I Start Potty Training? You can find the show notes at godiaperfree.com/169
Hey there. Welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I'm Andrea Olson, your host, author, and mom of five babies, all easy from birth, all out of diapers by walking.
So today we're going to talk about, at what age can I start potty training? And oftentimes we think that it's supposed to be two years old, but if you're following me on Go Diaper Free, you're probably very aware that you can start at birth. But I also want to clear up some things today for you and also your friends who may not know about EC yet, or may not know that they can do early potty training yet. I want to clear up some things so you can share this with them. That would be the biggest gift you could ever give them.
Over the last few days I spent some time with a lot of other entrepreneurs, and nobody in the entire room had heard about what I've done, nobody. That was 130 people, and between all of us we probably had about 400 babies. So everybody's family, people. And if they had known about when they could start potty training, they might have done it differently. Every single one of them said, "Where were you 20 years ago?" And then we had a lot who had babies who were currently young and they got my book and my potties and stuff and they're starting now.
So I just wanted to cover this topic because I think a lot of times we just don't get the right information because the people giving us the information as I spoke about recently with Our Common Enemy, the people giving us the info are the diaper companies in their exquisite marketing, not actually people who care about our babies.
So you can start, and I want to also really hone in on today, when say your child's 14 months old, for example, or three months old, for example, which method should you use? At what age should I start potty training? But also, which method goes with which age? And I do have a blog post on this that I want you guys to check out. I will give you the link for it, but I really, it has a little infographic on it. And the infographic itself is really interesting because it shows exactly what. So anyway, let me get this link for you right now, and that's going to be, At what age can I potty train my child? And should I do EC or potty training? I'm not going to read this blog post at all. I'm just going to be talking about it.
Okay, so on this blog post, if you just go to godiaperfree.com and you click on the blog and you just look for, what age, you can search for that. It's also just been reposted recently, so it should be towards the top. We've got an Italian version and a Spanish version also, thanks to our coaches, but it talks about which age we should start.
So my first answer is this. You can be in potty training, any kind of potty training at birth. And I started potty training all of mine at birth, but it wasn't really potty training, it's called elimination communication. So some of you who are listening or watching this today, you already know about EC. Some of you only know about potty training and maybe you have another baby. Maybe you've been sent to this from somebody who knows your child's in diapers and they want you to know your options.
So during the first year of life, the method you'll be doing is elimination communication or EC, and you can get my free easy start guide at godiaperfree.com/start. And that will give you a really easy one page overview of what the signals are, what positions you use, what are the four easy catches. And just in general how to do, you're going to need to do some observation time maybe. But it will give you a little bit of an overview of things. At the 12-18 or 12-17 month range really we're doing a hybrid of potty training and EC. So with my book Go Diaper Free, which is for zero to 18 month babies, we've got this download that comes with it, that's the hybrid plan. And this I basically learned from a potty training guru of about potty training. And I took what I was doing with EC and I combined the two together to make this hybrid plan.
So it comes as a free instant download with my book, which is available at godiaperfree.com/book. And the reason I'm telling you about these resources is because if you don't have time and you don't want to listen to this whole presentation, then just jump straight into the free guide or jump straight into the book. That's for the first 0-18 months, including the hybrid plan, which is a combination of potty training and EC. Now, 18 months and beyond, and really as early as 15 months, depending on how agile your child is. But you'll know if you know like, "Hey, EC might actually feel a little bit elementary for this one. Maybe we need to do something a little more advanced." That would be the hybrid plan in the book, or just potty training.
If you're doing potty training, especially with my book between 15 and 18 months, you're going to notice that things might take a little bit longer, it's going to be a little bit more gradual. But it still shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks or a month to get over that first hurdle. And then all you're doing is independence.
Potty independence is like teaching how to push and pull down pants, how to wipe, how to do the entire potty routine, all of that. So we don't expect potty independence to happen right away with these younger children, but we do expect the potty training experience with an 18 month and older child to take an average of seven days. And I do have a book for that, godiaperfree.com/pt book, or in any of my social media accounts or anywhere you find me, you can easily find my book by looking at the link in my bio or wherever you happen to be finding this.
But if you go directly to the website, you'll find that there are two books. The one for 18 months and up is going to get you through that potty training experience. Half of the book is troubleshooting, the other half is just the plan. And it's not that complicated. You read the beginning part, the pep talk. Then you go and schedule your potty training experience. And then you do the deed by following exactly what the book says, it's very straightforward. That's an average of seven days, all right? No, you're not going to be done then though.
Full independence is when you haven't thought about whether your child needs to go potty for maybe four hours at a time, then you know they were fully independent. And that comes, within the Tiny Potty Training book, as well as the Go Diaper Free book you've got a lot of information on what I can teach and when.
And so during this independent stage, after we've already done the potty training plan, we will focus on teaching, on what to do with accidents, troubleshooting. We will also focus on sticking to it. Staying with it is the most important thing you can do. And that is really literally what our grandparents did is they stuck with it. And if you don't go back to diapers, you will figure out ways to be done, no matter what the challenges are.
Now, as you all probably know, both of my books come with support from the coaches that I've trained personally to help all of you if you hit a bump. So just so you know, that's there. You don't need to know how to potty train to potty train, and you can literally start at any age. It's just the method that you use is going to be different for each of them.
Now, which potty training age is the most beneficial to your child's health? That is going to be all of them. Early potty training is shown by science to not damage your child in any way. In fact, all of the studies that show that potty training can influence your child negatively, can give them health issues like medical constipation, UTIs, massive insecurity, self-esteem stuff, aversion to the potty, fear of the toilet, fear of all of that is two and three years and later. So if you're at two or years old and you're listening to or watching this, know that if you start now, you will finish earlier. The earlier you start the earlier you'll finish. And you didn't know before, but now. Your child can get damaged if you wait.
This is the opposite of Dr. Hodges. And what he teaches is, because he, this is the thing you guys. Dr. Hodges is all over the inner internet saying, "Oh, you should not do early potty training. And oh, EC can't be done part-time for a working mom," and all this other BS. He says that because he is trying to sell his product. Sure, I have a product to sell too, but I'm not lying to people to sell my product. He's basically telling everybody that you have to wait until three years old to start potty training. This is based on one study that doesn't even say that early potty training will damage them. He treats people who have children who are medically constipated. And what he doesn't get is that if you do EC or early potty training, you're not going to get medical constipation. It's only when you are waiting so long that this actually happens.
So if you start potty training at two and you get medical constipation, which causes leakage of urine because there's a ball of poop stuck in their colon and the rectum, then yeah, you probably have done something wrong. And maybe the answer isn't what Dr. Hodges says, which is, "Wait till three." Maybe the answer is you should have started earlier, but you didn't know. So either way you slice it, there are solutions for everything.
On my website in that article that I mentioned, there is a link to the article that we have all the citations and all the science that proves inarguably that early toilet training does not damage your children. The most healthy time to begin is really as early as birth or anytime you hear about it. And you get to choose, you're the parent. You don't need to let the diaper companies tell you when you get to potty train, "Oh, your child's not ready or whatever." That's actually all based on fake science, which we have a lot of in our world right now.
You get to choose from birth whether to train your baby into using the diaper full-time or into using the toilet as a full-time toilet. It is literally just down to a choice. "Okay, after I make that choice, Andrea, how do I do it?" Well, zero to 12 months you definitely just want to do EC. 12 to 16, 18 months you can do EC and use my hybrid plan that comes with that book, Go Diaper Free, 18 months and up you want to do potty training. You want a quick resolution because toddlers are all about finishing and mastering things. They do it over and over until they master it. Either way, no matter what you do, you have to have the right mindset. And that's something that I really value in our teachings at Go Diaper Free is that it's always about, if you believe you can, you can and you do.
So how to decide? You want to educate yourself about the options. So I just mentioned the two free guides that I have. Those can help you. If you wanted to get both guides you could, you could figure out which one's best for you. But again, I like to stick to ages. If you're zero to let's just call it 16 months, let's go get the free easy start guide and let's figure that out. If you are at 16 months and up, let's go ahead and look into potty training. The other thing I want you to look at is, what do you and your family value about as far as hygiene and responding to your child's needs? So are you responsive or are you sitting them in front of an iPad all day?
I have a feeling a lot of people watching me on Go Diaper Free are not sitting their children, their 12-month-old, their 18-month-old in front of an iPad all day. I have a feeling that a lot of you are more interested in natural parenting, and the big picture of raising your baby includes holistic health.
If I can assume that and if I'm correct, then what do you value about toileting habits and hygiene? Knowing that our baby's signal to go to the bathroom from birth, that is what they do. The third thing to decide, to help you decide at what age you should begin potty training is your level of motivation.
So you want to give them the best start on all levels, feeding, pottying, sleep, engagement with people and nature, all of that stuff. But are you highly motivated to do that, or are you just kind of skimming by? By the way, if you're skimming by, you can use EC and potty training as a way to really connect with your child and really become confident as a mom or dad. So consider that this could actually make you more motivated to be an even better parent.
And then the last thing is just, consider your own wellbeing. If you're really agitated all the time and angry all the time and you weren't before having a baby, look into ruling out postpartum depression, I definitely had that with two of mine. If you're okay and you're doing all right and you're getting a shower occasionally, and you're really aware of your needs and trying to take care of yourself as a mom, now we're not totally there. I'm not totally there, but we're working on it. We're okay. And you have support and you've got positive encouragement from other people. Maybe it's just me giving you encouragement through my social media or whatever. But if you feel okay enough, then you can potty train at the age that your child is right now.
But why is this important? Why do we need to potty train? Why can't we just leave them in diapers and potty treat them later? Well, if you're following me, you don't believe that, I know that already. But if you're watching this because somebody shared it with you, you're listening because somebody shared it with you. That means that we have a possibility, we could talk about this. Why would you train a zero to 12 month baby when you could just wait? Well, you avoid diaper rash completely. You save tons of money in diapers. I saved 10 grand over five babies in diapers. You help them with earlier mobility, earlier communication. You have a just more pleasant smelling house and baby, and you really connect deeply on this really cheerful level with your baby.
Why would we potty train a walking baby 11 to 16 months old? Because in Montessori school of thought, that's a sensitive period for toilet training. So you are literally hitting them at that exact developmental moment when they need mastery of this. And once they get that in the bag, their behavior is normalized. They're calm, collected, cool, and very strongly confident and self-esteem is up. And they're now freed up to go on and learn the next thing. If we're at 15 to 20 months training a young toddler, because that poop is only getting bigger, that's my main reason why I would want to potty train that early, but it's also just easier. It is way easier to do it before 20 months. If you're hearing me right now before 20 months, if you're doing regular potty training is way better than waiting after.
"But Andrea, what if my toddler's already after 20 months?" That's fine. You are the victim of a diapering culture. And the big enemy is the diaper companies, not you. You're not wrong, you didn't do anything wrong. But what you can do is the earlier you start potty training, the earlier you'll be done. It shouldn't be drawn out.
There's this misnomer I'm going to talk about at some point about gentle parenting. And it means that you just, "Oh, let your child guide everything." No, when your child's a teenager, will you let them guide everything regarding drug sex and all that stuff? No, you will want to guide them. This is your first chance to guide your child before any of that crazy teenage stuff happens or is on the radar. You get to guide them now. And now that you have this information, you can use those resources at Go Diaper Free and get your child out of diapers.
And again, the reason is, human babies never used diapers before a couple 100 years ago, they are born with hormones and instincts. They want to be clean and dry. This is how all mammals were created by our creator. And so ignoring that and having them go in the diaper once you know that it's possible to have them using the toilet, even if they're wearing a diaper as a backup, but you know it's possible, but continuing to just encourage them to go in their diaper is going against our species and the way that we were made. So, and it's fine, a lot of us are overwhelmed, but what I'm saying is, if you look at this picture of baby, walking baby, young toddler and toddler, all of these ages you can do some small part of EC. At the minimum it's an exposure technique. And I think it's a really valuable one.
Even if you just do the wake ups or just the poops or just the diaper changes, those are three of the easy catches, that's totally fine. So I encourage you to go ahead and get my easy start guide, which is at godiaperfree.com/start or the potty training one. If you click on that, you'll see a little link for, if you're over 18 months, go get this other one. And again, those are free and they help you wrap your mind around this thing.
But even if you started EC and started potty training and you're feeling insecure like, "I started too early or at the wrong time or with the wrong tool," I hope that today I have cleared that up for you. I hope that today I've provided some clarity for your friends that you share this with. And speaking of which, please go and share that right now, share this with one person.
Because all those people that I hung out with the last few days are like, "Oh, I wish, where were you 16 years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago?" If they would've known about other options like EC and early potty training, they would have done it. And they would have had a totally different experience with their children. And I wish that upon all of your friends. So please share this with one person today. Thank you guys so much for tuning in.
By the way, think about it this way. In 1957, 97% of American babies were completely done with potty training by 18 months old. So if you have a child who's between 12 and 18 months old, you can totally potty train them, or you can use the hybrid plan. It depends on how you feel about your baby and how advanced they are or not. But I just wanted to throw in that stat real quick. And I think you'll do great because everybody before you've done great.
So where to go to take action, godiaperfree.com/start is the easy start guide, godiaperfree.com/book is my book. And that is for 0-18 month babies. And I literally made everything so simple and visual. It comes with a video library. It comes with the audio book, it's a professional audio book. It literally leaves no stone unturned, but it's not too long. It's not too much, I just teach you what you need to know to do it. Especially as a first time mom, this will make you a better mom all the way around, by the way. So congratulations on your baby if you're a first time mom listening to this.
And what you basically can start with on a sort of microscopic level is the four easy catches. Those are in my book. They're also on the free easy start guide. Once you get one catch in the potty, you'll be like, "Oh man, once you get a catch, you'll never go back." And it's very, very true. So just be prepared to be amazed with the four easy catches. That's wake ups, every poop or try to poop, and at every diaper change and before or after putting them in the car seat or the bed. I mean, before and after anything I need to usually go to the bathroom, before you're about to do something. So yeah, that's the starting point. Good luck with that. I look forward to seeing all of you there very, very soon.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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About Andrea Olson
I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 5 children (all under 10 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)