F woke up with a wet bed. First time since the amazing transformation this past month where he decided to wear underwear. It felt like a miracle. New Year’s hopes and dreams come true. Wait until you hear how it happened.
I just couldn’t bring myself to write about toilet training until now. Didn’t want to jinx it. Now with the wet bed this morning, I’m safe. Can’t blame the blog for any future wetting-messiness. You’re off the hook, SeattleMamaDoc.

There is some new data suggesting there is an ideal time for initiation of toilet training. A recent study suggests half way between age 2 and 3 years is the golden age. Ditch the diapers between 27-32 months, the urologists say.

Finally, a data-driven answer to the question of “When should I toilet train little Jane?”

So F wet the bed this morning. Not a big surprise. And pretty typical for the beginnings of toilet training. But a first for us since the miracle of toilet training graced our home.

This all started after F’s 3 year-old check up. Yup, it just took seeing the doctor. Who would have known? At the visit, F’s pediatrician turned to him and said, “Did you hear what Mommy and I were talking about? It’s time for you to use the potty. When you get home, no more diapers. Just use the potty.”

Believe it.

I’m not kidding. My son lives with two doctors, also known as his parents, who have most certainly offered up this kind of “permission” for a year. If someone had told me that F’s pediatrician was the one with magic word candy, we would have been to the office much earlier.

Previously, most pediatricians, baby sites, and books have said something like, “There is no set age when toilet training should begin.” This is what I’ve been saying to patients for years. This study disagrees.

The Data

The study published in the Journal of Pediatric Urology in December got lots of attention because it was one of the first studies to discuss when to toilet train as opposed to how. The study looked at over 200 kids who were either potty trained on their own timeline (child-oriented approach) or when their parents decided it was time to dump the diapers (parent-oriented approach). To avoid daytime drips, little pee squirts, and those accidents kids have on their way to the potty, research found the best time to toilet train was between 27-32 months of age.
Researchers said, “Initiating training later than 32 months was associated with urge incontinence (peeing on the way to the potty) in our study; however, training prior to 27 months may not be beneficial and has been shown to only lengthen the overall training process.”
The reason to avoid these little accidents is not just the inconvenience of washing 4 loads of laundry and changing 2 sets of sheets each day. This matters because urge incontinence is associated with dysfunctional voiding (when children are unable to coordinate peeing at the “right” time and have difficulties advancing with toilet training). Dysfunctional voiding can put children at higher risk for bladder infections, scaring of the kidneys and long-term kidney damage. So, urologists feel there is compelling rationale to protect all those pee parts by avoiding the risks.  Toilet training earlier than 32 months may help.

So there it is, the time to start potty training is about 2 ½ years of age.

Justifying my mistakes: this study wasn’t even published when F was 32 months of age! Even if it had been, I don’t know if he would have agreed. When I read this study about a month ago, it felt like another “whoops” of parenting. F was bout 36 months at the time and he’d blown past 32 months without even considering using the toilet. Since I had bought in to the child-oriented approach (waiting for F to be “ready” to train) I’d been tapping my watch for about a year. Waiting.  And then the dreaded “zoiks” once I saw the study.

Researchers suggest that once children show signs of toilet-training readiness, then it’s time to initiate. Apparently, you just have to cross your toes readiness happens by about 32 months.

We live, we learn. When O turns 27 months, I’ll be the one in the bathroom all day waiting for success and science to ring true.  But maybe I’ll swing by his pediatrician’s office first. I’m counting on the magic word candy working next time, too.

Tips For The New Timeline Of Potty Training

  • Consider buying a small potty and keep in an accessible area once your child is 18 months of age
  • Watch for signs of toilet training readiness
  • Talk, talk, and talk potty. When you or any one in the house goes pee, talk about it.
  • After 27 months, if your child is showing signs of readiness, consider getting some underwear or training pants for your child to use.
  • Celebrate successes.  Ignore failures.
  • Never punish your child for wetting or having an accident.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if you’re worried. You never know if they have magic word candy, too.