Inside: Why you should wait on underwear when you start potty training your toddler.
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Dinosaurs. Peppa Pig. Thomas the Train. Princesses. Superheroes.
All have one thing in common.
Those friendly characters can incentivize strong-willed toddlers to do something.
But here’s the thing. Even fairy princesses and flying heroes can fail to magically keep away a spiral of pee and poop accidents in the early days of potty training.
There’s a sneaky physical issue that comes up when the diapers come off. Jamie talks about it in Oh Crap Potty Training as it’s fundamental to the blocks of learning how to use the potty.
I want to focus on it here, because it’s the one simple reason why you should wait on the underwear when you start potty training your toddler.
Here's why to wait...
even on those adorable character undies you know your toddler wants to wear.
You'd think that toddler underwear (with rainbow unicorns or zooming cars) would be enough incentive for your little one to use the potty.
And get the reward of wearing cute *big kid* undies.
Many mamas think this is the best way to potty train. It does make sense to us grownups that this would work.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
In Oh Crap Potty Training, we recommend skipping toddler underwear as the reward carrot for catching pee or poop.
We see a pattern of fewer accidents when you wait on the underwear.
So here's how to set up for success.
It helps to steer clear of toddler underwear altogether for a while, when you start potty training your child. Why?
At first, your toddler is learning how to use the potty and the sequence of steps..
So you want to have your child bottomless to remove all barriers.
So you can see what your child does when he or she pees.
So your child can physically see what happens after the pee is released.
And then your toddler starts to connect the dots from knowing *I peed* to *I have to go pee* and starts using the potty to catch the pee.
How long has your child been wearing diapers? Two years? Three years?
To put it simply, their whole life.
Since birth, your little one has been in a diaper. And all that your child has known is that feeling of pooping in a snug diaper. So if you stick on undies right after taking away the diapers, what tends to happen?
The snug feeling of the toddler underwear is so similar to the snug feeling of a diaper.
Often what we see is the underwear can act like an automatic trigger and the child poops in his pants.
Because of the muscle memory of the diaper.
Because the child is still *unlearning* that sensation of pooping in a snug diaper.
That's why a core part of Oh Crap Potty Training is the middle step of the child being in pants commando, waiting on the underwear.
Skipping the underwear for a short while is an effective way to bridge the transition.
Your child is going from..
using the potty bare-bummed
using the potty in pants commando
to being potty trained fully clothed
Here's another bonus of adding in that commando step in potty training.
It's simply easier for toddlers (especially on the younger side) to push pants down, rather than pushing pants and underwear down at the same time. For many kiddos, this is the first time they're tasked with pushing their pants down and pulling them up independently.
It takes time to master that skill.
A pants dress-up party is always a great way to help move the process along, so that your toddler figures how how to position his hands and fingers to push down his pants.
Related: Once you start potty training, the pants should just be elastic waistbands. You want to skip all pants with zippers, snaps, and buttons for a while. Leggings are awesome. Overalls and jumpers should be set aside.
That feeling of *I can do it myself* is a huge motivator for the child to use the potty.
That pride is key.
And when you remove some of the barriers in the beginning, like that snug-fitting toddler underwear, it helps your child learn the process easier with success. It helps your child do it all by himself.
That's what you're looking for — that self-initiation.
After all, underwear is simply another layer of fabric. This is not a permanent thing that your child will be running around commando — promise. We're talking a few weeks, tops.
After that muscle memory of the diaper has passed, and your child is catching their poops and pees in the potty like a rockstar, then it's a good time to add in the additional barrier of toddler underwear.
Related: Here are my picks for the best toddler underwear for newly potty trained toddlers. You want to look for cloth training pants.
Then, it often does feel like a *really big deal* for your child, who gets to start wearing toddler undies after potty training has clicked. They may be little but they're so aware. And toddlers know when they are doing it and know when they're messing it up.
Save the undies for when your child is further along the potty training process, for when it's clicked. Then it will feel like a major win for your kiddo.
You'll see that *I did it* look on your toddler's face, and that's gold.
That's why in Oh Crap Potty Training, we always say wait on the underwear. You'll be better set up for success when you create a bridge between the diapers and the underwear.
And Peppa Pig will appreciate not being peed on.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs