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Potty training: When to try underwear

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Potty training milestone

Your toddler may be using the potty on a regular basis, but you haven’t quite dared to put him in underwear. It’s a big step, but you have to make it at some point.
Potty training boy

There are some clues to look for, and we have tips from moms who have made the leap.

Going from diapers to big kid underwear isn’t as easy as it sounds. Making that leap from Pull-ups or training pants to virtually no protection at all in the case of an accident can seem daunting, and understandably so. Your car seat, your couch and your mother-in-law’s carpet are at risk. When do you know it’s time to ditch the diapers and go forth with your child clad in undies?

Look for cues

Sure, your toddler goes to the potty at your request now and then, but you’ll want to wait until she shows signs of wanting to pee or poop on her own. Introduce the potty seat, but avoid pushing or rushing her. It will often backfire — parents report the best success when it’s their child’s idea. “We didn't try to get Bella to use the potty at all before she refused to put a diaper on,” explained Brittney, mom of one. “When she was ready, she was just ready. No battle.”

Listen to your child

Often, a little one will outright tell you that they’re done with diapers or don’t want to wear them any more. “When Ethan refused to wear a diaper and keep one on and said he wasn't a baby, I put him in underwear and he trained himself,” shared Ashley, mom of three.

Bring spares

Even if you’re not bringing diapers along with you, keep your diaper bag handy for spares — spare undies, spare pants, spare socks and possibly spare shoes. Toddlers can hold their urine to a pretty impressive level and when it releases it can create a small flood. “I always keep a wetbag in my purse,” said Amanda, mom of four. “Even though she doesn’t have accidents any more, it was valuable when she did have a few here and there because it kept the inside of my bag dry.”

Practice runs

If you feel your kiddo is ready, take small practice runs. Try undies around the house at first, then try a few trips outside of your house. Keep them short and keep close to restrooms — and keep in mind that big-people toilets with automatic flushing can be scary to a little one. Gradually extend your trips outside the home.

Keep your mind open

Keep in mind that your toddler is likely to have an accident (or a few) in this new phase of her life — especially if she’s absorbed in playtime or exploring a new place. Reminders and regular visits to the restroom should cut down on the chances, but don’t lose your cool if she creates a puddle. Change her and go about your day.

More on potty training

6 Best kept potty training secrets
The scoop on poop: Potty training myths revealed
18 Best potty training books and videos

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