This post was originally posted on October 2, 2018, and has been fully updated on March 24, 2020 to include an audio (Podcast) version, a video (YouTube) version, and to include some basic updates. Enjoy! xx Andrea
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How do I send my toddler to daycare or preschool without diapers?
Toughest. Thing. Ever.
Today I'm going to share with you what we did, provide you with some tips, and give you a few handouts that will help you make the same steps with your 1 year old to 3 year old child.
Day One: How we sent Branson to preschool without diapers
Our kids returned to preschool on September 4th - all 3 of the youngest - and we sent Branson, 18.5 months, to school without diapers for the first time.
Before summer, we sent him to preschool in a disposable diaper backup even though he was out of diapers at home.
I did warn the teacher at that time that there would be no more diapers come September, and now the time had come!
Day 1 was a huge success.
Preparing for the Transition
I did a few things to help make this a smooth back-to-preschool transition. I hope these can help some of you, too.
1. We took him out of diapers at 12 months old.
One of the biggest indicators of success is taking your child out of diapers early.
If you're reading this and your child is still less than 18 months old - great! - start Elimination Communication in some small way, today, if you haven't already.
With my 3rd child, Cooper, we waited to take him out of daytime diapers til 17 months, even though he hadn't pooped in one since he was very small (see when we took each of our kiddos out of diapers here in this blog post).
I knew that this was why Cooper resisted so much at preschool (and was a pain to night train, too).
So, with B, we did something dramatically different (and more in alignment with what we did concerning our 1st and 2nd children).
We took B out of diapers at 12 months old during the daytime, at home, and on some outings - he's had plenty of practice, and we've worked a ton on his communication.
2. I communicated with the teacher before school started.
I spoke ahead of time with his teacher about the class' daily schedule (9am-1pm) and we decided on some easy transition times that worked for B's usual timing, some good transition times when they change diapers anyway, and what worked best for her ease as teacher.
As time has gone on, we've adjusted that schedule based on the actual day-to-day reality, and things have stayed steady.
3. I sent the proper back-ups + provided a toilet seat reducer.
I also gave the teachers a new toilet seat reducer that matches the one we have and use at home (the WeePod by Prince Lionheart).
4. I did a foundational pee + provided an update.
Upon arrival today, we pottied B for his "foundational pee" and updated the teacher that he'd already pooped this morning.
I also showed her the extra backups and gave her the choice of what to use (she chose just TinyUps with pants over).
5. I pottied him at pick-up + got an update from the teacher.
Upon our 1pm pickup, the teacher and I briefly reviewed the day and what worked/what didn't.
It was a success in that, although he did have one "miss" or accident (she was unable to wrangle class well enough to do the pre-playground pottytunity), he went through an entire day of preschool without diapers at 18 months old.
However, I have to admit something to you.
FULL HONESTY: Yes, I almost did the easy thing that morning! I almost sent him in disposables along with a pack of diapers to make it easier for Ms. Laura. I felt like I was asking too much (even though she had also ECed Cooper in her class 18 months ago).
But, I chose to be BRAVE instead.
Point is: It doesn't matter how many wet pants you have in the day...what matters is that your baby is learning...and that you are following your values system when it comes to diapers or not.
Day Two: Disaster
On day two of coming back to preschool, things did not go as well.
Apparently Branson resisted the potty and screamed and the teachers backed off, and he had a ton of wet ones all day.
But the resistance scared the teachers and they were at a loss about how to go forward.
Here are the modifications we made based on what they told me had happened:
1. I told them to take his pants and undergarments off COMPLETELY at every pottytunity.
Branson often dislikes having his pants and undies on his ankles as he sits on the toilet. So, I offered this modification, having known his tendencies at home.
2. I demonstrated how I give "privacy" to Branson while he goes.
Often our babies will resist the potty when we do not give them privacy. Remember, this is their deal, not ours! Their body, not ours.
So, I showed them how I pop B onto the toilet and then I move away from him, talking to the others inside the classroom (his bathroom is at the end of the classroom, with a closing door between), not paying attention to B, occasionally grunting a little cue in case he has to poop.
As I spoke to them outside the door, B peed.
I told the teachers that he (and most kiddos) does not like when someone is sitting right next to them, holding them or protecting them on the toilet. Most prefer you to turn your back, wash your hands, talk to someone else, etc.
3. I advised that they do not talk to B about pottying...at all.
When taking B to the potty, I asked the teachers to not say where they were going ("we're going pee"), and to not say anything about it when they set him down on it.
I advised that they matter-of-factly just take him, with not conversation, just as we do at home.
The outcome? It worked!
Day Three: huge success
On day 3, the teachers were able to adjust the above 3 things and they had zero misses the whole day.
The modifications we made, which stemmed from open conversation (and my awareness of his potty rhythms, behaviors, and preferences at home), clearly worked.
(Had they not worked, I would have made more suggestions the next day.)
They worked SO well that...this happened:
The Weekly Challenge: Dealing with different teachers every Friday
We used to only have Mon-Thurs care at our preschool, but a lot of us work-at-home-moms requested Fridays and our generous director granted it!
But...it's a mixed-age class (15 months to 5 years old) and the teachers rotate through every week.
What does this mean for being diaper-free at preschool?
Well, that you can't just rely on working with your one or two teachers...that you actually have to train THE WHOLE STAFF.
I have to be honest: I was scared.
But, I stuck with my values and our plan and I came up with a simple way to teach the teachers every Friday morning.
How I taught the teachers, weekly
Here's what I did:
1. I demonstrated pottying Branson during our foundational pee, upon arriving, to one or both teachers.
I told them about taking his pants off completely, how to give privacy, and to just not ask or talk about going to potty beforehand, ever.
2. I told them to take him at transition times, as if he were a 2 or 3 year old who was potty training still.
Because most of the teachers were not from B's usual class, they all dealt with diapered and potty-training 2, 3, and 4 year olds every day.
So, I made it very relevant to them, explaining that they can take him just like they'd take an older child who is learning the same thing.
Examples of transition times include before going to the playground, after lunch, etc.
3. I told them that he will not normally signal, but to stick to the transition times.
Most teachers think that the child is not trained if they don't tell them every single time that they have to go. (Most parents do, too!)
(Some even think early potty training is harmful, especially if the child doesn't signal willingly. That is BS.)
But, honestly, does your child tell you clearly every time she is ready for a nap? How about a snack or water?
Nope...usually these unspoken needs translate into erratic behavior, and we parents eventually catch on (esp with sleep!).
With pottying, it is important to tell teachers that the lack of signals doesn't mean he isn't aware, he's just got a lot going on right now (especially at school - hello distractions!).
Since B sometimes tugs at his butt, and sometimes says "poopoo," I told them that these occasionally happen, but not to count on it.
Luckily, the teachers at our preschool are fairly open to early potty training - due in part to the fact that I've been having them EC my babies there for the past 3 years. :)
4. If he starts to poop, tell him "wait" and take him to the potty.
I had a babysitter a few weeks ago allow my son to finish pooping before she changed his cloth training pants.
(Um, I was VERY UPSET. She clearly didn't listen to the training I gave her just that morning!)
She was kindly and promptly asked to never, ever come back.
Many teachers will also wait for your child to poop, then change them. It's not their fault - just an ingrained habit!
So, I made it clear that, if they see him start to push, they should say: "Wait." Then transport to the toilet.
5. I told them that it didn't matter how many wet ones he has, but what's important is the learning he's going thru.
Since he's been out of diapers at home since 12 months old, he's used to being in a cloth backup (ie: undergarments).
But, it's not perfect, and there are distractions!
So, I make it very laid-back...it's not about the # of wets, it's about the learning, which we are dedicated to continuing at school and at home.
6. I showed them his back-ups inside his wet/dry bag.
Quick overview of the tools of the trade, and what to do with wet ones...and we were done with the quick 5 minutes of mini-training!
7. I followed up with them upon pick-up to see how everything went.
It's always nice to thank them and ask for feedback of how he did...so we communicate when I pick up and offer the final pre-car-ride-home potty.
The results of training different teachers every Friday?
Every single week since school started back up (that's 5 so far!), he's done GREAT with all the other teachers.
Like, sometimes even better than he does in his regular Mon-Thurs class.
(So, if you're wondering how something like this can possibly work...it can! We are proof.)
Now let's discuss a few...
Our Improvements: Little tweaks along the way
Every day we do the foundational pee, the check-in, and upon arrival, the final pee and the check-out.
We check in with the teachers before and after school, and we adjust the gameplan when necessary.
We've found that he had hand, foot, and mouth disease (thanks to EC...the spotted butt was discovered!).
We've also found out that he was majorly constipated another day (causing him to have non-stop accidents for two days, then a huge poop at home).
We've taught B how to sit on a big public toilet, unassisted, and told the teachers they can now easily potty him while at the gym.
We've continued to send back-ups and to be encouraging and positive with the teachers.
Branson has absolutely done wonderfully! And the teachers feel great, too.
Some tools for YOU.
Ok. So, I don't have a minicourse on Daycare and Preschool yet...that is in the works!
But I don't want to leave you hanging.
You can grab my TWO tips handouts (one for you, and one for your teacher) here:
I hope those of you who don't have these handouts yet will find them useful.
Now I want to hear from you! In the comments, please share what you will do today to become (more) diaper-free at preschool or daycare.
I look forward to hearing from you in the comments. (This is a safe, safe space, so feel free to be transparent!)