Why we gave up potty training after two months

I had it in my head I would write a post about our potty training “journey” (sorry, I hate that phrase!) but I haven’t yet, because we’ve never really got there. I wanted to do a round-up post of “this is what we did” or “this is how we did it” like some other bloggers I know have. Turns out, we might not be doing it again for quite some time yet. We tried. We really, really tried! I had days where I thought we were nearly there. But we got ourselves in a right mess. So instead I’ve chosen to write about why giving up potty training is sometimes ok. In fact more than ok, sometimes it’s the right decision for your child.

Our story so far…

As I briefly mentioned in my recent weekly round-up post, we have given up potty training on the advice of our health visitor and GP. In fact we gave up at the start of October, after starting properly in August. That’s right, we gave it a crack for eight whole weeks. During that time we had three days where Miss Belle was dry. They were usually days where we were out and we had lots of loo breaks. We had days out where she used the travel potty perfectly, even at a birthday party and full day out at the Aylsham Show. We had days where she asked to go. She was ready, I thought.

The first fortnight was horrendous when she wore actual clothes and in hindsight I think I should have just given up then. But I persisted after she gradually had fewer and fewer accidents and was asking (albeit on and off) to use the potty. We had days where she just seemed far too busy playing to ask and we’d have constant accidents. She goes to Nursery just one day a week and she always had accidents there too. Again too distracted playing to ask. Even if she’d asked at home that morning or night.

The big problem

After about five weeks though Miss Belle developed a real poo problem. She kept holding them in and making herself chronically constipated. In terms of the exact details of what that means, I won’t go into the mechanics. But, give it a Google and you’ll see it’s a really horrible thing. She ended up with a really sore bottom twice. It was the worst nappy rash she’s ever had. She’d be in tears and scream in pain when I tried to clean her with cotton wool and water. In addition to the bad nappy rash she was so uncomfortable constantly straining or holding it in. It was so so stressful to watch. I felt completely helpless. We tried everything, prunes, prune juice, squash to get her to drink more. Nothing seemed to work.

For some unknown reason she suddenly just did not want to go on the potty. It’s weird because until that point she’d been ok either going in her pants (delightful!) or if she was nudey rudey (naked) going on the potty. Even in the middle of the living room in front of my friend and her two children! She’d be so proud and tell anyone who’d listen, even her teddies. She wasn’t scared of it for weeks, so what happened?

I don’t know why this fear started, but it started on a weekend in early September when my parents visited. Maybe she didn’t want to go in front of them. It then seemed to always get bad when she was at Nursery on a Wednesday. We’d then have an awful few days and turn a corner by the weekend, only for her to get in the same situation the following week. A rubbish never-ending cycle.

Over a three-week period we had several trips to the doctors and I called the health visitor twice. One was less helpful than the other. Likewise with the GPs of whom we saw three. It was only the last health visitor I spoke to who said absolutely to stop potty training for at least a month while she gets over this fear. The GP has given her medicine which the last one recommend she continues to take for a couple of months. So that’s what we’re doing as that’s what is clearly best for her.

Here’s the thing.

I feel like a failure.

I feel (awfully) like I have to defend Miss Belle’s capability too. Like she’s a failure! I know, what a shockingly awful thing to say about your child and of course I don’t really mean it. She hasn’t failed at anything. She’s just had some problems. But I feel like I have to apologise for her not being potty trained yet. Then I feel so guilty, because of course it’s not her fault at all. There’s that annoying phrase that well-meaning people say to me… “they’re all different”.

But she’s now 2 and 10 months.

I get a sort of silent internal rage when I hear of people with children under two saying their child is showing signs they’re ready. Why isn’t my child potty trained yet? She’s older.

But, (and I don’t know if this is completely unrelated and I’m looking for excuses), Miss Belle walked late at nearly 21 months. She is probably the least “physical” child of her peers. She will regularly ask to go in the pushchair as opposed to get out of the pushchair. And getting her to walk any great distance is like pulling blood from a stone. She is slowly getting more confident and able in her classes though, which is lovely to see. But maybe the potty training thing is kind of related to physical abilities?

She can’t pull her own trousers up or down which I’m sure is why she was pretty much always dry when she was naked, but when I put trousers on her, she would never take herself off to go on it in the same way. When I mentioned that to the health visitor she said that children should really be able to do that before you start potty training. So, I suppose it’s my fault again for starting too soon?! That’s something we’re now working on every day. I’m constantly asking her to put her own trousers on and pull them up. It’s a daily battle, but one that I hope I will win, especially as I’m going to have my hands full with a new baby come January.

She clearly knows what its all about

Of course, Miss Belle being Miss Belle, (or Mary Mary Quite Contrary as my mum calls her,) since we’ve stopped, she’s since asked to use the potty and used it a few times. In fact this morning, she asked to be nudey rudey and “do potty time”. She asks to sit on the loo when I go, even though she doesn’t do anything. She’s asked to wear pants. One time she even pulled her nappy off. It’s all this that makes me think yes she is ready. I went with it on both occasions, feeling I had to be led by her. The first time she wore pants she just wet herself within an hour. The second time, she needed a poo and had the look of fear she had previously and immediately asked for a nappy. So here we are, still in nappies.

I’m now 31 weeks pregnant. Getting bigger. More tired. I’m now very aware that if we do it before the baby arrives it’s gong to be hard on me (unless she does it in like a week, which I doubt). And more than this, I’m aware there’s a high probability even if she gets it, she might regress as soon as the baby arrives. For attention, or because she’s unsettled.

And with the baby due a week after her third birthday, this means that in all likelihood I’ll now be potty training her when she’s well over three. We will all need time to get used to being a family of four. I’ll need time to get used to looking after a newborn again. It could mean we have this break for several months. One lady I bumped into at playgroup a few weeks ago said she gave up and tried six months later. I think that’s where we’re heading.

Do I feel peer pressure?


Am I slowly resigned to the fact that she’ll just be one of the ones who does it when she’s older? I guess so. But, I hope, for all the right reasons.

As one lady I used to work with said to me a few weeks ago, she’ll be all grown up before I know it. So what if she wears nappies for a bit longer? I’m pretty sure she won’t be in a nappy when she’s 32. Of course I want her to get it soon and my biggest worry is we won’t get over this poo fear she has. But I want her to be happy and not in any pain. She’s still my baby and I’m in no rush to do anything that is going to stress her out.

Or me, for that matter.

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