There are many theories regarding nappy weaning and it is done in different ways in different parts of the world. In Russia, it is customary to wean children from nappies while they are still babies.
The common opinion in my childhood was that from the moment you start weaning, you take the nappies off once and for all, and do not put them back on again (except perhaps while sleeping). This is how I was weaned and this is how I was taught to do as a kindergarten teacher for toddlers. Even today it is customary to wean toddlers this way.
In my early years as a kindergarten teacher I weaned children as I was taught to do. Over the years I have gained confidence and realized this way of weaning is not right in my opinion. In this article I will provide potty training tips for toddlers and will explain how I practice weaning myself.
The emotional side of potty training
The physical part of weaning from nappies is pretty simple. In a relatively short period the toddler learns how it feels inside his body before he has to pee or poop, and manages to hold on to this physical need until he reaches the potty or toilet. A very young child will need help with taking off his pants and sitting down, but the overall mechanism is quite simple.
The more challenging side of weaning is the emotional side.
The child is in complete control here. The pee and poop are his, come out of his body, and only cooperation on his part will result in him peeing and pooping in the potty or the toilet and not on the floor.
Its very easy to fall into power games with a toddler over weaning matters, which can lead to impatience and anger. That may create a difficult experience for both the toddler and yourselves (his parents) and turn the whole thing into kind of a nightmare. In extreme cases, this can create an emotional injury in the toddler that he will carry with him for a long time.
Signs it’s a good time to start potty training
Not so long ago babies and toddlers used to wear cloth nappies. Those had to be changed very often. There used to be no washing machines. Every evening you had to boil the dirty cloth nappies of that day and wash them. The process required a lot of time and energy. Today the situation is a little different. We have washing machines, there are disposable nappies, or high-quality reusable nappies that do not need to be changed as often. The cost of nappies is affordable to most as well.
The convenience of using nappies today and the understanding of the emotional implications that are connected with the weaning process, call us to allow the emotional side to play a bigger role in deciding when to begin weaning. Personally, I like to wait with weaning a toddler until he is already able to properly communicate. Weaning a very young child will mean you will still have to be very much in charge. I personally prefer to wait for the toddler to be old enough for him to take the responsibility over the whole thing on himself, with just very minor help from me. In short I believe it’s nearly always better, for both toddler and his parents, to wait a little and start when the toddler is 2 or older.
I would recommend to choose timing when no other major changes have been accruing in the toddlers life, as he should feel wrapped up and safe. So starting a new kindergarten, weaning from breastfeeding and such, will probably not be a good time for that.
Another aspect is – you, his parents. Children and parents are very emotionally connected to each other. Anything you, as parents, go through, will be noticed by your toddler and affect him. Parents on the verge of divorce, serious illness, prolonged absence, and any other extreme situation, will be a good reason to wait with the weaning process.
On the other hand, weather, which is always considered a significant consideration in weaning, does not matter so much to me. When a toddler is ready, we begin the weaning process, even if it’s January and it’s raining outside. I will soon explain how we go through with the process and it will all be clear.
As far as the toddler is concerned, he will sometimes show signs of taking interest in what comes out of him. He may start visiting the toilet often. Check what you are doing when you go there. If you offer him to sit on the potty he will be happy to try it. These are clear signs of readiness.
Sometimes these signs will not show up, and then we will consider waiting a little longer. But in general a child who is already communicating well and not going through any major changes in his life, is probably ready to try starting the weaning process.
I intentionally emphasize try because sometimes we will begin the process and realize that it is better to wait a little longer. In that case we will return the nappies and forget about the whole thing, until we feel it is worth trying again. From the way I understand things, it does not confuse the toddler. I believe it’s better to wait a little longer and go through a smooth weaning process than start too early and have it drag on for a long time.
The Playing stage
Before we really start weaning a child, I always recommend parents to play with their toddler around it for a while. Go together and buy a potty. Let him walk around naked at home for short periods of time. Maybe ‘water’ some little bush in the park. And bring the subject into your conversations. What’s important is to keep the whole thing easy and fun, for both the toddler and yourselves.
I believe toddlers do not get confused if they are switching backwards and forth between wearing a nappy to not wearing one. I guess observing many children and reaching this conclusion, made me change my views regarding weaning altogether.
And so, you can take off the nappy and let him run around the house naked for an hour, and then go back and put a nappy on.
Why put it back on? Maybe because you have already cleaned 2 puddles of pee and got tired, maybe you just bought a new sofa that you really want stainless for at least a week, or maybe you want to go shopping and don’t feel like having him miss in the middle of the shop. Remember – you are important too. Remember – your mood affects your child, therefore try to make sure you keep it a good one.
The option to take off and put on the nappy allows you to create a very relaxed and fun atmosphere around the whole thing. It allows the whole process to be much slower, and most importantly – it respects your toddler. He is dealing with learning a new skill that demands a lot from him. It demands a lot from you too. Doing it in a relaxing way will keep you at ease. Now, the compliments your toddler will receive from you when he succeeds will be real and genuine. Children know very well when we compliment them and really mean it, and when we’re just saying the right words.
Starting for real
After you have been playing with the idea for a while you might find your toddler will lose interest. This could indicate it’s best to wait a little longer before starting. Most times a toddler’s first interest will only be a sign that he will be ready soon, not yet.
I always start the weaning process with taking the nappy off for a short time. Normally between breakfast and lunch. These are 2-3 hours when I know for sure he is neither hungry nor tired.
Learning to control your bowl movements requires a lot of concentration from the toddler at the beginning. He is not accustomed to recognizing these physical signs, let alone be responsible to follow them through.
Up until now he has lived happily without paying much attention to the mechanism within him. Even if he did, it was just for fun. Now he is suddenly required to pay attention and take control.
Imagine your soul purpose in life is to happily follow your desires, until one day you’re told that from now on you will have to learn to control yourself and sometime stop this very interesting thing you’re busy with for the sake of going to sit on a potty! What a waste of time.
It takes a lot of inner strength and control to learn to do that. So first we take the nappy off for a short period every day. After a week or two he will either start getting the hang of it – and we will start extending the length of time he is not wearing a nappy, or he will not seem to care or understand what is going on at all, in that case we will put the nappy back on and wait with the weaning a little longer.
As you can see the process is actually simple. The key here, as I see it, is to be very observing and make sure your child and yourself are really ready. By moving forward with the weaning process slowly, you show respect to your toddler’s efforts. You take care of your own energies and patience, and by doing so you can keep the whole process positive. I believe both you and your toddler deserves that.
Keep an eye out for the option your toddler is not ready. It really is no problem to put the nappy back on and try again at a later stage. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a never ending weaning process. That will surely lead to frustration and negative emotions. When the time is right it will be quick and simple.
One last thing – please remember it never goes exactly according to plan in real life 🙂
I hope you found this useful. Please don’t use this as a step by step guide, but rather let the main idea sink in, and make your own final decisions regarding your child. At the end of the day, every child is different and you know your child best.
If you wish to ask anything, or share your experiences, please do in the comment section below. I will be happy to hear from you.
Enjoy them, Nirit.