It’s natural to fear the day your baby is ready to potty train. Even though you’re excited for him or her to reach such a major milestone into childhood, the task can seem daunting and messy. In addition to your natural reservations about the process, you’ll feel a lot of pressure from friends and family members about when your child should be ready. Your mother might tell you that you were already potty trained by the time you were one while your coworker explains that she didn’t get her son on the potty until the week before kindergarten started. Since this is such a common debate among moms and family members, I decided to do a little bit of research into the truly appropriate time for potty training to begin. Interestingly enough, both your mom and your coworker are correct. Every child will be ready to potty train in his or her own time based on a set of other developmental milestones.

Obviously, you’ll want to make sure your child is potty trained before he or she starts school to avoid any embarrassing or inconvenient situations. However, you’ll also need to wait for him or her to reach certain developmental milestones before it’s time to start the process. In order to potty train, you’ll first need to make sure that your baby can walk steadily. Potty training without the ability to walk will be impossible. You should also monitor your baby’s bladder and bowel movements. If he or she can hold in their urine during naps and then urinate a fair amount when it’s time, that’s another good sign that your child will be ready soon. The physical ability to remove and put on pants independently is also important. There are also a few behavioral signs that your child is ready to potty train. If he or she can follow your directions willingly and sit in one place for up to five minutes without fussing, potty training will be much easier. Your child might also start using the correct words and telling you when a bowel movement is happening.

You’ll need to wait for these signals that your baby is ready to potty train no matter what the in-laws say, but keep in mind that recent studies show children who have learned by age two will have less instances of wetting their pants in school when they are finally trained.

Source: Carol Joinson et al: A Prospective Study of Age at Initiation of Toilet Training and Subsequent Daytime Bladder Control in School-Age Children. Developmental Behavior and Pediatrics Volume 30 Issue 5 pp. 385-393 October 2009

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