Common Baby Potty Training Problems and Solutions

Toilet training is considered to be one of the most significant developmental milestones for toddlers, indicating their compliance with societal customs. The average age to start toilet training in the 1940s was 18 months. However, this has changed to approximately 21–36 months. It’s been suggested that this is due to the use of disposable nappies and the widespread availability of information about child-oriented techniques.

On the other hand, children in many non-Western countries and in developing countries seem to achieve bladder control in early infancy. This usually happens when diapers are not available. Additionally, they don’t often wet clothes or the bed and caretakers ‘let them pee’ when they think they need to and when the child indicates a need, shifting our perspective at what age should a child be fully potty trained.

You took the choice of a potty seat as seriously as you took choosing the right baby bottles but still no luck. Wiping away another accident, you keep wondering if there’s something wrong with your baby or your baby potty training technique.

Why Is Potty Training so Hard?

baby sitting in a potty in the bathroom

In the Western world, the average age for a child to be toilet trained is approximately 30 months, with most children trained by 36 months. In addition, parents try to do baby potty training at night between ages 4 and 5 while most children are fully potty trained by the time they’re 5 to 6 years old.

Interestingly, a study including 47 Vietnamese infants at the ages of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months, 38 (82%), 43 (91%), 46 (99%) and 7 (100%) were potty trained by their mothers. The use of super-absorbent diapers differed among the children but most of them did not use any diapers at all. At the age of 9 months, just one child still used diapers during the day, while at 12 months none did.

Whether you’re following Western principles or the footsteps of Vietnamese women and trying to excel at baby potty training at an early age, challenges lie ahead and it’s your choice which one you and your baby are going to face. Contrary to their Eastern counterparts, Western mothers will surely wonder is it bad to potty train too early. Toilet training too early can make the process more difficult than it needs to be for both of you. By causing frustration and tension, your child will link negative feelings to potty seat use. Forcing children to do something they’re not ready for can actually impede their development.

Every child is different. Forceful intentions won’t get you anywhere. Even if the Vietnamese technique is top-notch, not every child will catch on so quickly and vice versa. Some children will be more curious, fearless, explorative, adventurous and bold and you’ll never have to beg them to try something new.

Instead of bossing around, help your child understand that toileting is up to them and that they are in control. The feelings of confidence can boost them towards independence and control. Moreover, the more you insist, the more your toddler will resist. Remember that you need voluntary cooperation to achieve your goal, not a power struggle.

When it comes to actual physical preparedness and matured physiological abilities, toddlers can hold their urine and feces and release at will usually after 15 or 18 months. Some signs that might indicate your munchkin is close to ready is the longer period of diaper dryness and their reactions when they pee naked. Once they learn urine comes out of their body and they stop looking around, your toddler might be making the connection between what it feels and what happens.

When children are emotionally ready to learn, they want to use the potty seat. When voluntary desire appears, toilet training stops and toilet learning begins. When using the toilet is his idea and not yours, you’re in the clear. Do not be fooled by early signs of readiness. Sone 2-year-old are ready while some children are not ready until 3 or 4. Importantly, every child is unique regarding readiness and willingness for baby potty training and parents must be reminded and reassured of this. Patience is key.

Sometimes children are hesitant to use the baby potty because they do not want to give up their nice familiar diapers. Perhaps they’re hesitant about growing up. Whatever the reason, the more they’re pushed the scarier it gets. Here are some tips on how to deal with the most common baby potty training challenges

Toilet Fear

picture of a baby girl beside a potty in a shape of a toilet in the bathroom

Children can develop fears related to the toilet or the bathroom when they start potty training. It’s not rare for children to refuse to sit on the potty chair because they are afraid that they will fall in the bowl. Another common fear is the fear that they’ll be sucked into the toilet when it’s flushed. If children are afraid of the toilet, it’s best to try a small baby potty that sits on the floor.

A small potty is less intimidating than an adult-sized toilet. Moreover, gravity will work to your child’s advantage with a small potty seat with feet flat on the floor, as it will be easier for them to have a bowel movement. Toilet seat attachments adjusted on top of the adult seat are often unstable.

Any subsequent movement or worse, your child falling off, will only worsen fears.

After using a small potty seat, the child can slowly adjust to the adult toilet by helping to empty the waste or assist in flushing. Eventually, the child will realize that flushing is safe and will probably even enjoy the process.

Use of the Toilet at Home Only

picture of a woman sitting on the bathtub beside a baby girl who is sitting on a potty

Many children refuse to use any potty chair other than their home toilet or “mom’s” or “dad’s” toilet. One reason might be the size of public toilets and the “scary” sound of the automatic flusher. To achieve baby potty training outside of your home, start with a familiar person like a friend’s or grandma’s house.

If you need to take your child to a public restroom, bring a travel potty or child toilet seat cover.

If the child only wants to use the toilet of a particular caregiver, try having two people take it to the bathroom. Next time, have the new person stay in the bathroom while the primary caregiver stands in the doorway. The more comfortable the child gets, the easier the primary caregiver can rest.

Regression Back to Diapers

picture of a girl baby with dippers in her hands

Many parents stress over their child taking a step back and wonder if a regression in potty training is normal. It’s normal for fully-trained children to regress to diapers during a time of stress.

A classic case is the birth of a new sibling. The child is envious of the attention surrounding the new baby and diapers are a way to shift the focus back to him or her. Other examples of stress associated with regression to diapers are the change from the crib to a bed, a new care provider, moving to a new house or loss of a loved one.

It’s imperative you withhold any anger or negative attention toward the child. Instead, allow the child to wear diapers for a few days. Also, make sure you pay them more attention.

Having the older child help with diaper changes and feedings of the new sibling will help alleviate some of the stress and instil the positive association of becoming a “big boy” or a “big girl.” As the stressful situation dissipates, the child can be encouraged again to use the baby toilet.

Nighttime Wetness

picture of a baby crying in a bed

In spite of being completely toilet trained during the day, some children continue to wet themselves at night. In fact, nocturnal enuresis (nighttime wetness) occurs in 20% of 5-year-old children and 10% of 6-year-old children. Spontaneous resolution of nocturnal enuresis then occurs at a rate of 15% per year.

Nocturnal enuresis during the toddler and early childhood years is usually caused by small bladder size, inability to recognize the need to pee and muscle relaxation during sleep. To calm concerns in most parents, reassurance from the pediatrician that nighttime bedwetting will eventually resolve itself is all that’s needed.

If a child has a history of staying dry at night and then suddenly regresses, a more thorough history and physical examination is warranted. Other strategies to help prevent nighttime wetness include having the child urinate immediately before bed, limiting


picture of a baby with toilet paper all over in the bathroom

Although frustrating, accidents are a normal part of baby potty training. Some happen because the child does not get to the baby toilet in time. Others happen out of pure forgetfulness. The play is still more important than the mess that will need cleaning up.

Regardless of the reason for the accident, parents should stay positive and treat the accident lightly. The stricter the scolding, the bigger the chance your child regresses back to diapers. Always keep a dry change of clothes when you go out. A timer can serve as a reminder if accidents are becoming more regular. Moreover, assess if your child is constipated.