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5 Little Reasons Why Potty Training May Look Like A Big Mess

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Inside: Here are 5 common reasons why parents see potty training accidents happen

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When I first became a mama, we lived in a Brooklyn neighborhood that was a short walk from a special baby shop stocked with carefully-curated supplies and shopkeepers who helped with the hows, whats, and whys of everything from cloth diapering to babywearing. (Still feel so much gratitude for having that support back then!)

And here’s what I did — I got support for one thing I was struggling with.

I pretty much exclusively carried my daughter for those first months. I had a fabric carrier, a ring sling, and later, an Ergo buckle carrier. But learning how to safely maneuver a baby in a piece of fabric wasn’t something I picked up in an instant.

So I stopped in the shop (almost daily in the beginning) and the owner would graciously check if I had my daughter in a nice deep squat, shared tricks of how to adjust each carrier for nursing, and later helped me master other ways to carry my little one.

My confidence in knowing what FELT right and what felt like I needed to adjust something came from learning that little checklist from the shop’s babywearing experts.

A simple checklist.

Of what to adjust, what to look for (like being able to kiss your baby’s forehead in a front carry) — that all helped me take it on and venture off on my own!

It’s the same idea with potty training when it's not going right. You want a checklist!

What could be the why for seeing potty training accidents with your child?

What are the simple things that you want to be sure are in place?

Here are 5 things to check off your list if you’ve started potty training, and you're seeing potty training accidents.

5 little reasons why potty training may be looking like a big mess

1. Staying in the house too long

First things first. If you've read Oh Crap Potty Training then you know about the blocks of learning in potty training.

It's important to set up a solid foundation FIRST in potty training to stack success.

You don't want to rush into doing big outings the second day (steer clear of the trampoline park and Chuck E. Cheese your first week of potty training!). That means you're not expecting your child to go right off to music class after a couple pee catches that first weekend of potty training.

BUT I often talk to parents who have been stuck indoors for many days after starting potty training their toddler.

Get out in the sunshine! It helps the potty training process.

And guess what the vibe is in the house? Stir crazy! Pressure pit! DONE with potty training!

So watch that you're not adding in pressure by staying home too long.

Here's more on how to avoid the pressure in potty training.

Related: When you get outside for those small outings with your potty training toddler, here's what you'll want to bring with you. (Another list to help with outings!)

potty training cheatsheets

2. You're all running sleep-deprived.

Did you swipe the sleepy diapers and are night training right now? And are your nights looking like a mess? If you're spending the night chasing time to try to catch a pee and seeing regular accidents, then you're probably feeling frustrated AND exhausted.

It also likely means your child is running underslept.

Even a loss of 20 minutes of sleep can lead to an overtired toddler and wonky behavior.

And that can definitely mess with your daytime potty success. With stacking success and building that solid foundation in potty training. When night training is looking like a disaster, that can be part of the why for seeing potty training accidents in the daytime.

Note: Here's my night training guide to get back on track with night training your toddler!

If you feel like you're going to crash from lack of sleep, your toddler is likely running sleep-deprived, too.

3. You added in toddler underwear right away.

Did you add in underwear a few days after starting potty training?

Are you seeing pee accidents in the pants or poops in the underwear?

Adding in the underwear too soon can be a key why for seeing potty training accidents.

I share more here on toddler underwear and when to add in that barrier to avoid potty training accidents.

You want to be sure your toddler is skilled at getting pants up and down on their own.

Be sure you've practiced that dressing/undressing skill as that often leads to more potty training accidents if your child can't do their pants on their own.

5 often-missed reasons why potty training may look like a mess

4. You're celebrating after every pee and poop.

What happens when you do a happy dance, sing, praise in a big cheerleading voice, call Grandma, and your child has just done a poop?

It starts to not feel normal.

It starts to feel like *this thing*. That praise has pressure attached to it. Your child suddenly feels like they have to perform as you displayed a BIG reaction.

For some children, that can lead to this feeling of *uh oh I have to do this again?* or being worried about making a mistake.

It's natural to feel happy when you see potty wins! But steer away from the cheerleading kind of praise.

What we really want is to do is keep the process of going pee and poop in the potty normalized.

Peeing and pooping in the potty is something that we all do.

So instead of the cheerleading, simply describe what your child did right:

Nice work, your poop slid out in the potty.

Keep in mind, if you're seeing poop accidents on the regular, you're likely looking at a poop issue. Jamie has a Pooping Solutions course that talks through how to work through a poop issue, or I work with parents in one-on-one consultations.

5. Teeth. Namely the second year molars.

Teething, especially those second-year molars, can derail potty training — along with the poop. So if you're seeing potty training accidents but the child knows what to do and you're not sensing behavior, check to see if your child's second-year molars are about to show up.

The molars could be throwing things off. Sometimes those molars affect the poop and bring on surprise (sometimes funky) poops that land in the pants. Sometimes it's just affecting the pee, as the child feels more discomfort when teething, which can lead to more resistance, more behavior, and then, more accidents.

So try to keep your toddler as comfortable as possible if you see signs of the second-year molars about to pop through your toddler's gums.

Now that you've got your checklist, you can head into potty training knowing what to look for to avoid the common pitfalls for seeing potty training accidents.

And before you know it, your child will be big enough for piggyback rides.

Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs


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